The direct learning element is a requirement for all tracks of the psychology major beginning with the 1997-1998 catalog. There are basically two types of courses that will fulfill this requirement: field experience and research experience. As the name suggests, these are not lecture-based courses. Rather, you actually get hands-on training and experience in delivering services, conducting research or both. The department considers these experiences to be crucial in developing students of psychology; further, they are very important, and likely necessary, for getting into graduate school in psychology.
The courses that fulfill the "direct learning" requirement are:
- PSY 275 & 375: Undergraduate Research
- PSY 439: Field Experience in the Teaching of Psychology
- PSY 440: Field Experience in Behavior Analysis
- PSY 447: Field Experience in Geropsychology
- PSY 448: Geropsychology Independent Study
Field experience (PSY 439, 440 & 447) is basically work for credit. It gives you applied experience working in the field of psychology with specific populations. For example, in PSY 447 you work with older adults; in PSY 440 you work with profoundly developmentally disabled adults, moderately developmentally disabled adults and children, autistic children, mentally ill adults, or in an organizational setting; and in PSY 439, you work as a proctor to aid students enrolled in PSY 101.
Research experience (PSY 275, 375 & 448) is helping graduate students and professors do psychological research for credit. You will learn how to plan, design, implement experiments and analyze data, etc. as it is actually happening. You could engage in a wide variety of activities depending on the lab.
Both experiences are very useful activities, and it is recommended that you take part in both while an undergraduate, as time permits. How that time is spent also depends on what your later goals are: some graduate programs would like you to take more applied experience before you enter their programs (often terminal masters programs), while others would like you to have done a lot of undergraduate research (typically doctoral programs). Also, it can never hurt to get information from the programs to which you intend to apply for graduate school and see what they would like you to have done as an undergraduate.
As mentioned above, these are not lecture classes; you actually work with the population for a particular number of hours per week. Also, since these are variable credit courses, you can choose sign up for one, two or three credits. The formula is as follows: for fall and spring semesters, for each credit you sign up for, you are committing to three hours per week of work or research. So, if you sign up for three credits, you would have to work nine hours per week for the semester. During the summer, since the semesters are shorter, you work more hours per week. However, the total number of hours you will work over the course will be the same as during the regular semester.
Register for classes
So, how do you get signed up? If you look in the course schedule, you will notice that these courses are listed, but they required instructor permission to register. In all cases with direct learning courses, you will have to speak with the professor before signing up.
To sign up for research experience: Unless you already have a relationship with the professor you want to work with, the best resource is the bulletin board on the north end of the fourth floor of the Mack Social Science building. It says "Psychology -- Research and Field Experience Opportunities" and has flyers on it. Each flyer is from a professor who needs research assistants in his or her lab. So find one that sounds interesting to you and make a call. If you end up working for that professor, that professor will let the psychology department know you have consent, and it will be entered in MyNevada. Another good way to find a research assistant position is to look at the faculty. It lists the professors and their research interests, and allows you to email the professors directly.
To sign up for field experience: Look up the course number in which you are interested in the course schedule (note that there are several sections of PSY 440). The footnotes in the course schedule tell you what the specific topic and/or population of that section of field experience will be, as well as the name of the professor who runs that project. Then, you will have to contact those professors in order to find out what you will be doing, and whether they have slots open for more students. These professors also will let the psychology department know you have consent, and it will be entered in MyNevada.
Finally, don't be confused by the footnotes in the course schedule for 440: when it says "course meets first few weeks only", that only means that the time published in the course schedule is only for the first meeting or two. After that, you will set up an individualized training and work schedule for the rest of the semester.