- By Ian Bradley
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ADVANCED STUDY IN BEHAVIOURAL DISORDERS
COURSE SYLLABUS: 2018-2019
Professor: Dr. Ian Bradley
Psychology of Work
Class Time: Wednesdays 1-4 pm
Classroom: MC room 735
Office Hours: Wednesday after class or by appointment.
Teaching Assistant: Alexandra Barnabe
PSYC 491D is designed to provide undergraduate students with exposure to the practice of clinical psychology. It will provide the perspective of a volunteer in either a clinical or educational setting that addresses problematic behaviour. This field experience will be discussed and expanded upon in a 3-hour weekly seminar that will also include student presentations and group projects.
The field experience requires 5 to 7 hours per week in a clinical or educational setting that hopefully peaks the interest of the student. The sites that I have reached out to reflect a range of clinical populations, interventions and organizational cultures. Some placements are charitable organizations with their own funding; others are located in the public health or public educational spheres. Populations range from pre-school to geriatric.
The currently available sites are listed in a document entitled Volunteer Site Options, where a brief description of the site as well as a key contact person at the site can be found. If a student cannot be accommodated for the required 5-7 hours per week at one site, then a second site will be added to reach the time commitment of the course. The sites are organized in three categories: confirmed for this year, previously accepted a student but not contacted this year, and never used or contacted. Under unusual circumstances, students can look elsewhere, i.e., for a site not listed in the Site Options for a placement, however, the following criteria should be applied in such a search:
#1 Safety, both physically and emotionally, is essential since you can’t learn if your security is threatened (e.g., rule-out working in prison)
#2 Practical: The field placement has to be contained within the bounds of your other academic commitments. Therefore consider the following:
– hours demanded by the site
– travel time involved
#3 Professional supervision for your work
– ideally by a psychologist, but if not, by a nurse, social worker
#4 Learning potential: Defined in a variety of ways including learning
– about an organization and how it runs
– about a clientele or problem
– how a professional works
If your desired site meets the above criteria, please discuss it with me before making a final commitment.
Understandably, many organizations that accept volunteers do so with a specific purpose in mind. For example, some might want you to provide homework tutoring for special needs students or provide accompaniment for a chronic mental patient. What an organization wants and how you fulfill those needs are certainly important. In fact, keeping any specific organization on my list of approved field sites depends upon how you fulfill those organizational needs. So, it is important that you represent McGill, the Department and the course competently and diligently.
Of course, there are other beneficiaries of your work besides the organization, including the clientele served by the organization. But hopefully, the main beneficiary will be you. The meetings on Wednesday are designed to help you formulate and share those learning experiences; even “bad” experiences can be valuable. A weekly written log will help keep both Alexandra and I up to date on your progress and address any problems that might arise.
Also, remember that you are uniquely trained. You offer skills and competencies that volunteers from the general public or other professions cannot match. Therefore, you should always consider what you, as someone trained in psychology, might do beyond the original mandate of being a volunteer. I believe that success in the competitive workplace derives from adding value; in fact, part of your course evaluation depends upon this.
For example, could you make a suggestion about some new program?
Since you are an expert at searching the literature, could you provide your site with interesting and relevant articles?
You are also critical thinkers, therefore if you develop a program such as movie club for teenagers in your school placement, why not consider describing your procedures in a manual. Such a manual could add to the permanent intellectual capital of the site as well as a spring-board to the work of the next volunteer.
You are also somewhat experienced with measurement and assessment of behavior, therefore consider the possibility of evaluating an existing program or perhaps develop a client needs assessment to guide the development of future programs.
There will be two introductory meetings where we will discuss and facilitate the process of acquiring a site placement. Because volunteering represents a foray outside the structured university world, we will treat it as somewhat of a job. In fact, you will be asked to bring your CV as if you were applying for a job at the volunteer site. Job interviewing and search strategies will be discussed. We will also chat about that scary transition from the structured world of predesigned courses and clear methods of success to the more ambiguous world of work. Here’s how Tim Urban wrote about it:
For most of us, childhood is kind of like a river, and we’re kind of like tadpoles.
We didn’t choose the river. We just woke up out of nowhere and found ourselves on some path set for us by our parents, by society, and by circumstances. We’re told the rules of the river and the way we should swim and what our goals should be. Our job isn’t to think about our path—it’s to succeed on the path we’ve been placed on, based on the way success has been defined for us.
For many of us our childhood river then feeds into a pond, called college. We may have some say in which particular pond we landed in, but in the end, most college ponds aren’t really that different from one another.
In the pond, we have a bit more breathing room and some leeway to branch out into more specific interests. We start to ponder, looking out at the pond’s shores—out there where the real world starts and where we’ll be spending the rest of our lives. This usually brings some mixed feelings. And then, 22 years after waking up in a rushing river, we’re kicked out of the pond and told by the world to go make something of our lives.
There are a few problems here. One is that at that moment, you’re kind of skill-less and knowledge-less and a lot of other things-less:
But before you can even address your general uselessness, there’s an even bigger issue—your pre-set path ended. Kids in school are kind of like employees of a company where someone else is the CEO. But no one is the CEO of your life in the real world, or of your career path—except you. And you’ve spent your whole life becoming a pro student, leaving you with zero experience as the CEO of anything. Up to now, you’ve only been in charge of the micro decisions—”How do I succeed at my job as a student?”—and now you’re suddenly holding the keys to the macro cockpit as well, tasked with answering stressful macro questions like “Who am I?” and “What are the important things in life?” and “What are my options for paths and which one should I choose and how do I even make a path?”
The class meetings will involve discussions about your weekly experiences plus presentations and group supervision.
The presentation topics will follow your development as a volunteer. Thus, the first presentation will introduce your site, the second, a problem experienced by the clients at your site, and lastly, an intervention that is either delivered or could be delivered by your site.
For example, if you select to volunteer at a school program for special needs children, your first presentation would describe the school, the second might focus on dyslexia and the third, a typical remedial program for reading disabilities. The style of all the presentations, each lasting about 15 minutes, will be informal with lots interruptions, comments and fun. The class will be split into two groups; one led by the Alex and one by me.
In addition, you will have two additional presentations focused on things that I consider neglected in your McGill education – organizational factors and making money.
For the first issue, you will select one aspect of your organization to discuss. This could involve staffing and recruitment issues, financing for your organization, or more broadly, the climate or culture associated with your site. It is my personal experience that these organizational factors – most of which are never discussed in professional programs – are the major driver of professional satisfaction or dissatisfaction. For example, in my own career, I learned that whether a psychologist can function autonomously or whether the psychologist is directed by a psychiatrist or manager and is subsequently treated just like any other “para-professional”, was an extremely important organizational factor in determining my happiness. These issues will be identified and discussed in class.
For the second topic, you will spend two classroom periods working in small groups to develop a profitable business based upon psychological principles. I want to try to convince you that psychology is a vast field that can be successfully used to earn a living by solving problems.
More will be said about these presentations in the evaluation section of this document.
The volunteer experience has many advantages including the fact that probably not too much will be expected of you, therefore you will be free to observe and critically analyze. The disadvantage is that “not too much will be expected of you” therefore supervision might be scant. As a result, each Wednesday you can talk about your week’s activities in class. This discussion will be aided by weekly logs that ask you to note not only what you accomplished during the week, but more importantly, what you have learned. Besides the group discussion, you will receive individual feedback on each log from Alex or myself.
The logs for the previous week must be submitted electronically by 5 pm Tuesday.
Evaluation: % of grade
Factor Details Term A Term B Attendance/logs Three or less class absences &/or failures to submit logs (10 marks)
Four or five class absences or failures to submit logs (5 marks)
Greater than five no shows/failures of submit logs (0 marks)
#1 Site Description
#2 Clinical Problem
#4 Organizational Aspect
Group Project # 5 Entrepreneurial Assignment 10% Site improvement #6 Written demonstration of steps taken to improve the site or the volunteer experience 10% Site Evaluation Report from site evaluator plus judgment of instructor considering unique contribution to the site 15% Totals 40% 60%
#1 Site Description:
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some variables to consider:
Physical Aspects: location, structure
Labour: staffing, qualifications, number of professionals
Clients: who, number, referral channel
Mandate: what are their goals,
Interventions: how do they try to achieve these goals
Challenges faced by the organization
#2 Clinical problem
Talk about a clinical problem tackled by your organization. The presentation could be broadly based such as a review of learning disabilities or specific; e.g, an in-depth view of dyslexia. Check the topic with me beforehand.
Describe an intervention used by your site. Again, check the topic with me beforehand.
#4. Organizational aspect.
As stated above, there are many interesting aspects of any organization involving staffing, recruitment of clients, evaluation of progress in clients, work climate, retention of workers etc. With my guidance, choose and present one. The presentation should include generic as well as site specific information.
#5 Entrepreneurial assignment:
Three weeks before the end of the term A, each small group will be given raw material from which they will select an entrepreneurial application of psychology. The raw material will comprise the printed newspapers of that day. Hopefully, this will demonstrate that creativity can derive from any source.
Over the next two weeks, the groups will use class and other time to complete their work that will be presented to the entire class on the final day of the semester.
This aspect of your grade will depend upon the documented steps you took or suggested to improve the site or the volunteer experience. Did you add to a manual, research a protocol, or improve a procedure?
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MUST UNDERSTAND THE MEANING AND CONSEQUENCES OF CHEATING, PLAGIARISM AND OTHER ACADEMIC OFFENCES UNDER THE CODE OF STUDENT CONDUCT AND
DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES (see www.mcgill.ca/integrity for more information