Course Introduction – PSYC 210 (Experiential Learning in the Celebration of Diversity)

Course Introduction – PSYC 210 (Experiential Learning in the Celebration of Diversity)

Are you interested in learning about other cultures? What about learning about your own culture in more detail? How about accomplishing both of these objectives, in the context of an exciting psychology course from Athabasca University?

Athabasca University’s new course, PSYC 210, is called Experiential Learning in the Celebration of Diversity and it explores the many aspects of different cultures and cultural diversity using three learning theories.

The first learning theory discussed, Adult Learning, refers to the way adults learn (in comparison, for example, with how children learn), using initiative, discussion, and self-direction. The second learning theory, Experiential Learning, emphasizes the hands-on approach for learning; and the last theory discussed in the course, Transformative Learning, consists of “the development of independent or self-directed thinking with respect to specific beliefs, attitudes, and emotional reactions”, explains course professor Bob Brandes, a practicing psychologist for over 21 years.

One of the most interesting aspects of the course is the way students are encouraged to learn about other cultures. Instead of passively completing readings from selected texts, Brandes has implemented a fascinating “hands-on” component which, he says, involves students taking the role of ambassador and “representing their birth culture to someone who has a different birth culture, and vice versa..” This reciprocal learning ensures that the student “would be learning about their own cultures and teaching different aspects of it to their partner [and] their partner would do the same”, says Brandes.

The course evaluation used for PSYC 210 is ingenious as well — the first course assignment involves students completing a Student Cultural Profile describing their ideas and opinions of their own birth culture prior to taking the course, and any changes to these thoughts after completing the discussion forum with their “ambassador” partner. This information is then worked into a mini research paper which applies several concepts taught in the course, for a total of 25% of the student’s final mark. Three essays on varied topics (worth 20% each) constitute 60% of PSYC 210’s course mark. These essays include diverse culture-related topics including “religion and religious ceremonies; food and cuisine; sports and leisure; literature; art and sculpture; music and festivals; folkways and mores; and myths, legends and fairy tales” writes Dr. Brandes. There is no lack of essay topic suggestions for PSYC 210! The final 15% of the student’s PSYC 210 mark involves the creation of a cultural web page, with the chance of having their page posted on the course website.

PSYC 210, Experiential Learning in the Celebration of Diversity, is a three credit course in Social Science offered by the Centre for Psychology. It is offered through individualized study, but has an additional online component to enhance student’s learning experience.

For more information on PYSC 210, visit the course syllabus at: http://www.athabascau.ca/html/syllabi/psyc/psyc210.htm and the course home page at: http://psych.athabascau.ca/html/Psych210/.

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