Multifaceted thinking: increasing students’ curiosity about the nature of human nature

Donald, Janet Gail
McGill University,

Studying psychology is both liberating and daunting. In psychology, interests extend from the neurophysiological to the social, from pure science to application in all areas of human endeavor, and from the early development of infants to the management of corporations. Psychology is a social science field whose logical structure ranges from the hard or highly structured to the soft or complex. To understand psychology as a discipline, I first explore its development as a social science, and the various origins of its subfields. Psychology professors are members of an extended family with a lived experience of diversity. Students may enter psychology in order to understand themselves, but must quickly redirect their attention to the theoretical frameworks and scientific evidence that supports those frameworks.

To witness how students learn to think like psychologists, I examine student experience in an introductory course, then turn to a more advanced course on thinking to investigate how concepts are learned in psychology. Psychology professors representing different subfields contributed to the analysis of the thinking processes that students are expected to develop in their courses; 40 students were interviewed to understand their perceptions of the learning process. The major instructional challenges in psychology programs are how to link scientific knowledge in the discipline with students’ interests, then how to help students learn the process of research and enter the community of researchers.