TCC Faculty Add Intensive Research Projects to Psychology Curriculum

TCC psychology professors Dr. Jen Ivie and Dr. Alicia MacKay pose together outside.

Intensive undergraduate research projects are providing Tulsa Community College students with hands-on experience collecting and analyzing data. Nearly 40 students are participating in the research projects this semester, spearheaded by TCC faculty, Jennifer Ivie, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychology, and Alicia MacKay, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology.

“The students came up with their own research questions and designed their studies. They went through the Human Subjects Protections training and the Institutional Review Board application process. They got approval, and they collected their own data,” Dr. Ivie says.

Following the projects’ pilot season in Fall 2023 Introduction to Psychology courses, the curriculum has expanded to encompass Behavioral Statistics courses. The new cohort of students from the Metro and Southeast campuses are completing their projects in groups of three and four students—this time, with a research theme.

“They must choose a project around the topic of ‘music’ in Intro Psych. They can do quasi-experiments, correlational research, or whatever they want, because the point is for them is to learn the research process, and for our statistics class to learn how to analyze data,” says Dr. Ivie.

Students are actively conceptualizing research topics, gathering data, and formulating hypotheses. While students take charge of data collection, in Introduction to Psychology Drs. Ivie and MacKay complete data analysis to ensure accuracy in research outcomes.

TCC psychology students stand next to their research presentation board.
From left: Rigoberto Gonzalez, Felipe Granados-Cortez and Matthew Clemens

Student Rigoberto Gonzalez participated in the group projects in Fall 2023, working with classmates to design an experiment to test human memory. Gonzalez described the process of conceptualizing a research topic, hypothesis, and conducting research.

“We made two different slideshows that cycled through words. At the end of the slideshows, the test subjects had to write down the words they remembered from the slideshow,” Gonzalez says. “It took us weeks to get approval to do human research, and we had to get the subjects to sign consent forms. It takes a lot of planning and collaboration.”

Drs. Ivie and MacKay were motivated to add the projects to their curriculum by new guidelines from the American Psychology Association that emphasize early research experience for students majoring in Psychology. But no matter a students’ major, they say the projects are an excellent addition to a college transfer or job application.

“We realize most of our students in the Introduction to Psychology class are not Psychology majors, so we want to show them the skills and the benefits they're going to get from this project outside of our class,” Dr. MacKay says.

Although Gonzalez is majoring in mathematics, he said he applied his research topic to his major and learning how to conduct research was a valuable experience.

“I want to be a mathematics teacher, so it was interesting to learn about because memory plays an important part in education. Most of mathematics requires you to memorize formulas and patterns,” says Gonzalez.

The second cohort of students to complete research projects will work on them throughout the semester, culminating in final presentations in front of classmates and TCC leadership during finals week. These presentations offer students an opportunity to showcase their findings.

“When they presented their research at the end of the semester you could tell how proud they were of themselves, and that was the most rewarding part,” said Dr. MacKay.

The integration of research projects equips students with valuable research skills while adding to transfer and job applications. Through these initiatives, TCC students learn how to contribute to the continuously evolving landscape of psychological inquiry.