Department of Psychology

Learning Goals and Assessment Strategies

Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program in Psychology
Department of Psychology
Rutgers University-Newark

Approved March 2013 by Graduate Executive Committee

The overall goal of the doctoral program in the Psychology Department at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ is to provide rigorous, high-level, and research-focused training to graduate students in one of four core sub-disciplines of Psychology.  Upon completion of the Ph.D., students will be prepared for a variety of professional outcomes including advanced post-doctoral training, academic faculty positions, or applied/industry positions. Specific objectives for our program are instantiated by the following specific learning goals. Students’ progress towards meeting these learning goals are assessed bi-yearly through two related formats:

Format 1: Midyear student activity report (SAR). Midyear SARs are semi-structured instruments completed by graduate students in coordination with their advisors. Once a student and advisor have approved the final report it is submitted to the Graduate Program Director for review and filing. Any problems in a student’s SAR are “flagged” by advisors and if needed a meeting with the student, advisor, and Graduate Program Director is held to discuss and work towards a solution. Midyear SARs are completed at the close of a fall semester and submitted prior to the start of the spring semester.

Format 2: End-of-year SAR plus faculty review. End-of-year SARs follow the same format of the midyear SARs with some additions. End-of-year SARs are reviewed first by the Graduate Program Director and then in a meeting of the entire Psychology faculty. Problems noted in the SAR are discussed by the faculty as a whole and action steps for addressing problems are developed conjointly with all faculty. If needed a meeting with the student, advisor, and Graduate Program Director is held afterwards to discuss the outcome of the review meeting and work towards a solution. End-of-year SARs are completed at the close of a spring semester and submitted prior to the final faculty meeting of the spring semester (usually mid- to late May).

Learning Goal 1:  Attain broad scholarship in five aspects of Psychology:  Developmental Psychology; Social Psychology; Perception/Cognition; Neuroscience; and general experimental/statistical methodology.

Broad scholarship is hereby intended to mean the acquisition of general knowledge in a subdiscipline of psychology through the successful completion of graduate-level coursework emanating from our four training areas (i.e., core courses in Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Perception or Cognitive Psychology, and Neuroscience) and our foundational training sequence (i.e., Behavioral Science Research Design and Analysis, and Multivariate Methods in Psychology).

To assess Learning Goal 1, student evaluations include review of the following:

  • Academic course selection, to ensure that distributional requirements are met;
  • Grades in academic courses, to ensure that students are receiving passing grades.

To assist students in meeting the objectives of Learning Goal 1 in a timely manner, the Graduate Program in Psychology will:

  • Ensure that all content core and statistics/methods courses are offered on a regular, rotating basis (typically, full sequence offered across every two-year segment);
  • Evaluate each student personally via the two formats described above;
  • Work to ensure adequate funding support for every graduate student to cover five years of tuition remission and stipend provision via fellowships and assistantships.

Learning Goal 2:  Attain research expertise in one of four areas of Psychology:  Developmental Psychology; Social Psychology; Perception/Cognition; Neuroscience;

Research expertise is intended to mean deep knowledge of the content areas, methods, theoretical traditions, and empirical literature within an area of psychology; it also refers to the acquisition of area-specific research skills including study design and implementation, measurement, statistical analysis, and writing.

To assess Learning Goal 2, student evaluations include review of the following:

  • Research productivity of the student in the form of conference presentations and submitted/published articles;
  • Progress towards identifying and competing for external research funding;
  • Successful preparation for and/or completion of the Qualifying Exam (taken by students as they enter their third year of our program);
  • For students admitted to doctoral candidacy, progress towards proposing and completing dissertation research.

To assist students in meeting the objectives of Learning Goal 2 in a timely manner, the Graduate Program in Psychology will:

  • Ensure that students are working with advisors effectively through end-of-year discussion;
  • Ensure that qualifying exam committees and dissertation committees reflect sufficient scholarly expertise and area-specific depth and skill to support and guide students properly through the exam and dissertation procedures;
  • Provide students every opportunity possible to apply for outside funding, submit manuscripts for publication, and secure support for travel to scientific conferences.

Learning Goal 3:  Develop teaching expertise in Psychology.

Teaching expertise in Psychology refers to the persistent skill of presenting academic material in Psychology in a manner that is appropriate to the audience being taught. Although training in teaching skills and pedagogy is not part of our doctoral curriculum we will strive to ensure that students receive an adequate level of exposure to a number of aspect relevant to the acquisition of good teaching skills.

To assess Learning Goal 3, student evaluations include review of the following:

  • Any performance measures available through students’ assignments as Teaching Assistants, potentially including but not limited to formal evaluations collected from undergraduate students and course instructors;
  • Formal course evaluations collected from undergraduate students for any courses taught by graduate students.

To assist students in meeting the objectives of Learning Goal 3 in a timely manner, the Graduate Program in Psychology will:

  • Ensure that all students have an opportunity to serve as a T.A. for at least one year;
  • Ensure that all students have the opportunity to teach their own course sometime during their graduate career;
  • Provide careful guidance and feedback to students on their teaching and general oral presentation skills across a number of settings including but not limited to: lectures in their own courses or T.A. sections, presentations made in graduate seminars, presentations made during end-of-year research presentation sessions, and presentations made in the context of dissertation proposals and defenses.

Learning Goal 4: Entrance into the job market.

The purpose of a doctoral education is to secure meaningful employment that makes use of the skills and abilities developed and refined during the course of graduate training. We gauge our success in providing that training ultimately by the success of our graduates in obtaining such employment, whether it is in academic research or teaching, public service, the nonprofit sector, or private industry.

To assess Learning Goal 4, student exit interviews or surveys will be collected by the Graduate Program Director and, to the degree possible, records kept of successive positions of all graduates.

To assist students in meeting the objectives of Learning Goal 4 in a timely manner, the Graduate Program in Psychology will:

  • Conduct critical reviews of each student’s CV as students prepare to enter the job market;
  • Alert student to specific job opportunities when they become available, and provide students with key weblinks to information hubs for job opportunities;
  • Provide regular workshops for students on different aspects of the job-seeking process, including mock interviews, professionalism, and dossier preparation.