According to the syllabus, PSYC 289, also known as Psychology as a Natural Science, is one of the two first-year introductory psychology courses. This course “introduces the broad areas of biological bases of behaviour, sensation and perception, learning and memory, and variations in consciousness,” and is mandatory for students in AU’s psychology programs. It has no prerequisites.
Psychology as a Natural Science has eight timed quizzes, each covering one of the eight units and one final exam covering the entire course. The eight units exactly correspond to chapters within the physical textbook and the comprehensive study aid that students will receive.
The first unit, “The Evolution of Psychology: From Speculation to Science” covers how psychology developed over the years. This unit covers everything from psychology’s founder, Wilhelm Wundt, to significant influencers, such as John B. Watson, William James, Carl Rogers, B.F. Skinner, and Sigmund Freud. It also covers psychology’s job paths and its different research areas while helping students “develop study habits” and their “critical thinking skills.”
The second unit covers psychology’s research methods and procedures, including basic descriptive statistics (MATH 215 would help), experimental research, the scientific approach, descriptive/correlation research, the common flaws in research, and the “issues with internet-mediated research.”
The third and fourth units cover the body’s biological systems, such as the nervous system and the senses, with the third unit being one of the more information intense units in the course.
The last four units in the course look at how our brain works in various states, including asleep, drugged, awake, learning, dealing with memory or language, or solving problems, to name a few.
Dr. Andrew Chiarella, the coordinator for PSYC 289 “joined Athabasca University in 2009 after completing his doctorate in Educational Psychology at McGill University.” He is also the coordinator for two Educational Psychology courses, EDPY 200 and EDPY 310.
Chiarella gives a thorough description of the course, stating “psychology as a natural science (PSYC 289) is one of two introductory courses at AU, with the other being PSYC 290. It provides students with an overview of the history of psychology and the research methods psychologists typically use. As psychology consists of many sub-disciplines that focus on very different phenomena and that use different methods, this course just focuses on those from biological, perceptual, cognitive, and behavioural psychology. For a complete overview of the discipline students are encouraged to also take PSYC 290.”
Chiarella continues, “the course covers a lot of content over eight units; therefore, students should be ready to spend several hours per unit reading the text and preparing notes about the main topics in their own words. The study guide provides additional insight about the key topics. Study questions, learning activities, and self-tests are also included so students can ensure they understand the material and test themselves before moving on to the next unit.”
When asked who he could recommend this course to, he stated “the course is suitable for students from a variety of majors. Upon completing the course students should have a better understanding of how human behaviour and mental processes can be studied in a scientific way. They will also know about some of the more significant and well-studied phenomena and the theories used to explain them from biopsychology (neuroscience), perception, cognition (memory, language, reasoning), and learning. Students also participate in a research study (but they may opt out) and through that learn about how studies are conducted and the rights they have as research participants.”
When I requested feedback from students, Tina Martin and Kym Edinborough-Capuska gave me their opinions. Tina stated that “it was heavy on reading and memorizing definitions; however, it was not an overly challenging class.” Kym added “this was my first course with AU. I feel it gave me a good sense of what to expect from future courses, as well as a solid foundation for my degree.”
From personally taking this course, I agree with them both. Many nights were spent staying up late reading multiple information-intensive chapters and memorizing what felt like an endless number of definitions; however, I found nothing difficult to understand and the textbook was laid out very well. Within the textbook, students will notice bold text that highlights what is fundamentally important for the quizzes and the final exam, though to get above a passing grade you will have to read beyond those bold sections. Luckily, the course’s workload is small!
For those students interested in taking the other first-year introductory psychology course, PSYC 290, the course continues with the same textbook and study aid as PSYC 289—giving you the opportunity to get ahead on readings before your course contract start date.
Whether PSYC 289 is a requirement for your program or it is just a general interest of yours, it is an interesting course that will have you feeling accomplished when completed.