PSY 101: Self-Paced, Personalized, Interactive and Networked (SPIN) System of Instruction

Since 1994, Psychology 101 (Introduction to Psychology as a Social Science) has been taught using a variation of the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI). The Self-Paced, Personalized, Interactive and Networked (SPIN) system is a technologically advanced system of instruction. The class is run out of a Learning Lab (Effie Mona Mack, rooms 108 and 110) on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Students come to the Learning Lab to participate in required discussion groups and take quizzes on a Web-based system. All quizzes are taken on computers and are graded immediately. This system of testing offers students immediate feedback on their performance. The course shares many of the original PSI components:

First, it is self-paced. Students come to the Learning Lab according to their own schedule. In other words, class time is not predetermined and students progress at their own pace based on weekly deadlines. Accordingly, students are required to complete a chapter quiz and a discussion per week. Quizzes may be taken up to nine times during a given week, and the highest score will be calculated toward the final grade in the course.

In addition, students may advance at a faster than normal pace through the course. In other words, if a student has reached 87 percent or higher on a chapter quiz, they are allowed to move ahead to the next quiz.

Further, for each of the assigned chapters, students participate in a 90-minute group discussion that is conducted by an instructor, who is an advanced graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the University. Each group discussion is designed to provide additional opportunities for discussion of the material covered in each assigned chapter. The low ratio of interaction (i.e., one instructor and 20 students) allows for active interactions between the instructor and students. This system of instruction enhances learning and performance on the assigned quizzes and tests.

  • SPIN also employs undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs). The department of psychology offers a course in Teaching of Psychology (PSY 439) that is designed for students serving as 101 UTAs.
  • UTAs have three roles:
    • The first is to clarify quiz questions. Students who wish to challenge a question's answer can discuss it with a UTA and the UTA makes a decision.
    • UTAs also review information with students that may be particularly challenging.
    • Finally, UTAs work with students who moved ahead of the scheduled deadlines. They hold individual discussions reviewing chapter information.