Unit plan: Intro to research

Below you will find a unit planner for an introductory unit for psychology SL and HL.  The goal of this unit is to introduce psychology and the concept of research methods - with a focus on the experimental method.

In this unit I have students think about their role as students at the school - and how their interaction with their teachers influences their learning.  You will see this in some of the readings and assignments below.

Although the other research methods are introduced, the more in-depth qualitative methods component of the HL course will be addressed in a separate unit planner.

The outline below reflects my own practice and is not in any way meant to be "the way" to do the unit.  The plans below are based on an every-other-day 80-minute block schedule.

For links to activities, you will find them under Teaching ideas.

Essential questions

1. What considerations must a psychologist make when setting up a research experiment?

2. What are the strengths and limitations of an experimental approach to studying human behaviour?

3. What is the importance of a representative sample - and how can one be obtained?

4. How can statistics be used to help us interpret data?

Key concepts

Causality: linear causality, domino causality, direct vs indirect correlation, bidirectional ambiguity

Data analysis: descriptive statistics, inferential statistics, significance, bar graph vs histogram.

Describing a study: aim, procedure, results, findings and implications

Ethics: anonymity, informed consent, debriefing, undue stress or harm

Experimental design: lab, field, quasi and natural experiments; null vs. research hypothesis, random allocation, independent samples, repeated measures

Evaluating research: demand characteristics, social desirability effect, ecological validity.

Non-experimental methods: observations, case studies, method triangulation.

Sampling: opportunity sample, random sample, snowball sample, self-selected sample, stratified sample, representative sample.

Types of data: Anecdotal data vs. empirical data

Validity vs. Reliability: internal validity and construct validity

Variables: independent vs dependent, controls, placebos, operationalization

Lesson planner

                   Activities and assessments
Lesson 1Intro to psychology. What is psychology?  Getting students to think about anecdotal vs. empirical data.  Read Dweck on praise.
Lesson 2What is a theory? A two-period lesson. The foundations of psychology - Freud vs. Skinner.  What is a theory?  Read Rosenthal & Jacobson
Lesson 3The vocabulary of research: aim, procedure, results and implications. Evaluating theories: TEACUP.
Lesson 4Introducing experiments Gold or rubbish activity.  Types of experiments.  Writing a hypothesis.
Lesson 5Sampling techniques  Operationalization of variables; choosing a sample.
Lesson 6Experimental designs  Designing an experiment as a class - independent samples vs repeated measures; control variables.
Lesson 7Hypotheses and sampling quiz. Lesson plan - Limitations of experiments: looking at some research on priming and then discussing confounding variables, demand characteristics and ecological validity.  Homework: A theory about pets.
Lesson 8In-class replication of the Stroop test. Introduction to descriptive and inferential statistics.  Significance.
Lesson 9A look at unethical experiments.  What makes an experiment ethical?
Lesson 10Summative assessment: The M & M study.
Lesson 11Introducing qualitative The nature of observations, interviews and case studies - introduction to triangulation.  Festinger and Ramachandran.
Lesson 12Final assessment on research methods.
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