OCCAT ensures experiential learning
Melinda A. Green, associate professor of psychology
Experiential-based learning activities abound at Cornell College, where One Course At A Time allows for classroom time to incorporate this type of teaching. On a traditional academic calendar, the professor may have 50 minutes three times per week to effectively teach a subject. At Cornell we have up to four hours per day to immerse students in one subject. Professors can use this time to teach the foundation of the material and then incorporate experiential learning exercises to reinforce the concepts. The learning and memory literature shows experiential learning leads to long-lasting memory traces. I feel privileged to teach on a schedule that allows me the flexibility to include many of these types of learning experiences.
For example, while learning about neural communication in my Biological Psychology course, students monitor their brain activity via electroencephalography. This exercise allows students to witness the changes in neural activity accompanying various behavior patterns. Students also study their cardiac reactions to various psychological states via the use of electrocardiography. In addition, students use electromyography to study skeletal muscle activation patterns in various behavioral states. Next, students get the opportunity to apply these research methodologies in their own original research proposals which are based on the existing primary literature in biological psychology and behavioral neuroscience.
The OCCAT calendar also allows students time to extend their learning beyond the classroom. For example, many of my brightest students seek out rigorous research opportunities in laboratories around the country via programs like Cornell Fellows. Unlike students attending institutions with a semester calendar, Cornell students can devote one or two months entirely to these research opportunities. This allows them to work alongside some of the leading researchers in the country. Students can experience what it's like to be a full-time research assistant in a nationally recognized laboratory, working to contribute to the knowledge base in an area about which they're passionate while honing their abilities. Cornell students return from these experiences with skills that inform their classroom perspectives as well as their professional aspirations.
Students also get the opportunity to conduct original research as they collaborate with their faculty mentors at Cornell. My research team in the department of psychology examines a variety of biological, psychological, and sociocultural predictors of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. Each year I work closely with students to examine original research questions. We publish regularly in peer-reviewed journals and present at local, regional, and national conferences. Through these collaborations students gain the valuable skills necessary to excel in graduate and professional research. Many of my former students have secured professional research positions or have been accepted to graduate programs with a strong research component.
On a personal level, the close student-faculty relationships created by ongoing research collaborations frequently last far past graduation. Student-faculty research is one of my favorite activities because it allows me to provide the highest level of mentorship and forge lasting relationships with my students.