How Much Have Assignments in Psychology Courses Changed Over Time? A Descriptive Study

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Christine Harrington


Researchers have demonstrated formative assessments are valuable, yet little is known about whether faculty are requiring formative assessments.  The purpose of this study was to determine the average number and types of assignments required in psychology classes, and to determine if there have been changes in assignments over time.  I conducted a descriptive study of psychology syllabi published on the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Project Syllabus website.  I compared assignments in 63 syllabi published in 1999-2005 to assignments in 66 syllabi published in 2016-2022. Exams and papers were the most required assignments.  Recent syllabi (2016-2022) had more assignments and were more likely to include projects and extra credit.  Faculty were also less likely to require exams and more likely to require formative assessments such as quizzes and drafts in recent years.  Fewer than half of all syllabi reviewed included formative assessments as requirements.  Assignments have changed over time, with faculty using more varied assignments and more formative assessments in recent years. Faculty are encouraged to go beyond the exam and find other ways to assess learning and to require numerous formative assessments.

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