In this issue

Internationalizing the psychology curriculum

Mentoring student research to study strategies that promote international content and perspectives within the discipline of psychology.

By Richard Velayo, PhD, Sarika Persaud, Lucio Forti, Wallis Back, Ranya Marjieh, Michael Trush, and Suchun Dong

At Pace University's Psychology Department (New York City campus), one of the recently developed course offerings for its psychology undergraduate and graduate students is a “mentored lab” course. This course, which may be taken for a maximum of two semesters, allows students to be involved in faculty research as research assistants, but with the benefit of obtaining credit towards their degree. Such hands-on and active learning experiences have become highly sought after by students who wish to continue in their psychology education at the master's or doctoral level.

Richard Velayo, PhD, professor of psychology at Pace University, is one of the instructors involved in this mentored lab initiative. His research group called Internationalizing the Teaching of Psychology (IToP) team focuses on exploring and assessing strategies that help infuse international content and promote a global perspective within the discipline of psychology at the higher education level. The essential requirements for this mentored lab involve a weekly meeting with the principal researcher/faculty and other research assistants/students involved in the research, and a 10-page experiential final paper. In addition, each student member develops a proposal or research project related to one of the following subtopics:

  • identifying effective pedagogical strategies to internationalize psychology courses 
  • developing of an assessment tool for an internationalized psychology course
  • applying Internet-based technologies (IBTs) as teaching and research tools to help infuse international content.

Their projects are presented at an upcoming research psychology conference. Some of the psychology conferences in which the IToP team has presented include the annual meetings of the American Psychology Psychological Association, Eastern Psychological Association, Greater New York Conference on Behavioral Research, Hunter College Psychology Conference and Pace University Psychology Conference.

There are currently five students actively involved in Velayo's mentored lab class. Each student is actively undertaking research projects of interest to them, which tie in one of the topics related to the IToP team research subtopics (as mentioned above). At each weekly meeting, students provide the entire team with updates about their individual work and discuss preparations for presentations (e.g., poster, paper, symposium) at an upcoming conference.

(From left to right): Sarika Persaud, Richard Velayo, PhD, Wallis Back, Ranya Marjieh and Lucio Forti. (Not in photo: Suchun Dong and Michael Trush).

(From left to right): Sarika Persaud, Richard Velayo, PhD, Wallis Back, Ranya Marjieh and Lucio Forti. (Not in photo: Suchun Dong and Michael Trush).

Below are brief descriptions of each of the student-initiated research projects:

“Incorporating an International Perspective in the Classroom Through Web-based Technology: Best Practices and Demo”
Lucio Forti

Recent advances in technology have contributed toward an increase in the availability and usage of Web-based collaborative tools in higher education. Previous research has examined how Internet-based strategies can be used to cultivate critical thinking, engagement, discussion and improve learning outcomes in the classroom. This presentation will focus on a summary of best practices gathered from the current literature for instructors seeking to leverage technologies in order to incorporate an international perspective in psychology courses. Challenges and potential barriers to success will also be explored as well as how to navigate the plethora of choices in collaborative tools available online. A brief live demonstration will highlight how strategies can be applied as well as how to find additional resources for those interested in exploring how an Internet-based strategy can be integrated into a course. Directions for future research aimed at examining tools and pedagogy will be discussed.

“Shamanic Healing Techniques: An Exploratory Case Study on Its Implications to Western Approaches to Therapy”
Wallis Back

There is a growing interest within modern Western society to explore implications of ancient Eastern practices and traditional Shamanic healing techniques. Preliminary research has emerged on the benefits of mindfulness practices such as mediation and herbal alternatives to pharmaceutical medication. However, there lacks psychological research, on the how spirituality and the significance of incorporating non-Western therapeutic approach into the psychological healing process. A review of the current academic literature on the post-psychological effects of a traditional Shamanic “ayahuasca” ceremony and the perceived importance of a deeper sense of spiritual connection, suggest a viable means of integration into Western therapy. In addition, a personal explorative case study will be conducted in order to assess pre and post quantitative measures of neurotransmitter levels, quantitative measures of anxiety, depression, spiritual connection and overall subjective well-being after participating in a traditional Shamanic ayahuasca ceremony in Peru.

“How are Graduate Psychology Programs Becoming Internationalized? A Side-by-side Comparison of Programs in Transpersonal Psychology and Cross-Cultural Psychology."
Ranya Marjieh

This literature review and critique provides a comparison of curricula between transpersonal psychology and cross-cultural psychology graduate programs — two programs deemed to inherently infuse an international psychology perspective in the education and training of the graduate students in each of these programs. In addition, a listing of graduate programs that offer these two graduate degrees, with relevant background information, history, similarities and differences in curricula will be presented. Moreover, descriptions of how these two programs differ in the way they integrate an internationalized perspective will be provided. Suggestions and implications for further for curricular reform will be incorporated in the report.

“An Investigation Into The Use of Active Learning Approach To Teaching Graduate Psychology Courses in China”
Suchun Dong

Psychology in China has received unprecedented attention in recent years. At the same time, there an increasing number of graduate schools provide psychology programs to train students to be psychologists. However, the approach to teaching that professors tend to utilize in these programs to encourage students' active learning in China remains unclear. The current study will collect and analyze graduate program training information from 10 selective official graduate school websites in China, interview 20 Chinese psychology professors via email about their training plans and teaching methods and will also conduct an online survey regarding program evaluation, sent to 50 psychology graduate students in China.

“Memory for Concept Pairs as a Function of Participant Culture and Bimodality Type”
Michael Trush

This Internet-based study will commence with the participant providing consent, and completing demographic information, including the culture(s) that they most closely identify with. Participants will then be encouraged to select a recall strategy they deem will be most effective in remembering visual concept pairs. Participants will randomly be assigned the presentation in a visual-textual format or the visual-textual presentation with an auditory component, in which the name prescribed to each picture will be presented via audio. Following the concept pair presentation, the subject will be presented with one of the two associated concepts, and tested as to which image appeared alongside the testing item. The participant will be asked to select the associated pair from five multiple-choice options. Lastly, the subject will complete the Cultural Orientation Scale, to determine their orientation towards either a collectivistic or individualistic culture, and if they tend towards a horizontal (egalitarian) or vertical (hierarchical) nature. Descriptive statistics and correlations will be run in order to determine the relationships between, memory strategy, culture and bimodality type.

These student-initiated research projects exemplify what could be an effective strategy to get students to develop a more international perspective about psychology and a greater appreciation of how the psychological constructs we learn need to take into consideration the cross-cultural and cross-national contexts in which it applies. There is tremendous value in involving students in the process of internationalizing the teaching of psychology. More importantly, it is essential to prepare them for a society that is increasingly becoming global.

For more information about this presentation and of the IToP team, please contact Richard Velayo, PhD or Sarika Persaud (Velayo's graduate research assistant).