James Madison University

Curriculum Objectives

The JMU Psychology faculty have attempted to develop a major that follows the best practices guidelines suggested by the American Psychological Association with respect to curriculum objectives and creating a developmentally coherent curriculum.

Overall Psychology Major Learning Objectives


The Department of Psychology has adopted the learning objectives recommended by the American Psychological Association.  Students who complete the JMU Psychology Major program and other coursework required for their bachelor’s degree program will meet the following 10 learning objectives:

Goal 1: Knowledge Base of Psychology.  Students will demonstrate familiarity with the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in psychology.

Goal 2: Research Methods in Psychology. Students will understand and apply basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretation.

Goal 3: Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology.  Students will respect and use critical and creative thinking, skeptical inquiry, and, when possible, the scientific approach to solve problems related to behavior and mental processes.

Goal 4: Application of Psychology. Students will understand and apply psychological principles to personal, social, and organizational issues.

Goal 5: Values in Psychology.  Students will be able to weigh evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and reflect other values that are the underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.

Goal 6: Information and Technological Literacy.  Students will demonstrate information competence and the ability to use computers and other technology for many purposes.

Goal 7: Communication Skills.  Students will be able to communicate effectively in a variety of formats.

Goal 8: Sociocultural and International Awareness. Students will recognize, understand, and respect the complexity. of sociocultural and international diversity.

Goal 9: Personal Development.  Students will develop insight into their own and others’ behavior and mental processes and apply effective strategies for self-management and self-improvement.

Goal 10: Career Planning and Development. Students will emerge from the major with realistic ideas about how to implement their psychological knowledge, skills, and values in occupational pursuits in a variety of settings.

Curriculum-Specific Objectives


Students who complete the undergraduate psychology major will achieve each of the following 25 objectives through various components of the curriculum.

General Psychology (PSYC 101)

  1. Students will be able to summarize basic theories, concepts and principles of the field of psychology, and how they are influenced by various factors, such as biological, cognitive, developmental, environmental, and social processes.
  2. Students will be able to describe the empirical nature of scientific inquiry, and summarize basic research procedures used within the field of psychology.
  3. Students will be able to summarize key ethical issues encountered in conducting research and making use of research findings.
  4. Students will be able to recognize the key components of critical thinking, and apply critical thinking skills to scholarly and popular media.
  5. Students will be able to recognize the historical and cultural influences on basic psychological processes, research findings, and psychological theories.
  6. Students will be able to describe the relevance and practical application of psychological knowledge to their everyday lives.

Methodology Sequence Courses

  1. Students will be able to demonstrate basic research skills in psychology including: research design, data analysis and interpretation, analysis of ethical issues and application of ethical principles related to psychological research.
  2. Students will be able to use critical thinking, skeptical inquiry, and when possible a scientific approach to solve problems related to psychological phenomena.
  3. Students will be able to demonstrate information competence and the ability to use computers and other technology for research purposes.       
  4. Students will be able to effectively report empirical research in written form using APA-style and in an oral presentation format.

Natural and Social Science Core Content Courses

  1. Students will be able to explain major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings and historical trends in a subset of subfields in psychology.
  2. Students will be able to describe how basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretation are applied in various subfields of psychology.
  3. Students will be able to use critical and creative thinking, skeptical inquiry, and when possible the scientific approach to solve problems related to behavior and mental processes.
  4. Students will be able to recognize, understand, and respect the complexity of sociocultural and international diversity and their impact on behavior and mental processes.
  5. Students will be able to describe key terms and concepts and summarize important issues in the area of specialization.

Upper Level Specialty Content Courses

  1. Students will be able to summarize how the concepts and issues from the area of specialization relate to content in core methodology and content courses.
  2. Students will be able to demonstrate critical thinking about specific issues related to the area of specialization for the specific course.
  3. Students will be able to apply psychological principles to critical issues within the area of specialization for the specific course.

Capstone Courses

  1. Students will be able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information from primary sources to address psychologically relevant issues.
  2. Students will be able to demonstrate effective written communication skills using APA style to prepare empirically based reports, literature reviews, theoretical papers, and/or program evaluations.
  3. Students will be able to demonstrate effective oral communication skills at the individual level using one or more professional formats (e.g., individual paper/proposal presentation, participate as a member of a symposium, etc.); participation in class discussion alone is not sufficient.

Sociocultural Awareness Courses

  1. Students will be able to describe the sociocultural contexts that influence individual differences.
  2. Students will be able to explain how individual differences influence beliefs, values, and interactions with others and vice versa.
  3. Students will be able to explain how privilege, power, and oppression may affect prejudice, discrimination, and inequity.
  4. Students will be able to recognize prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviors that might exist in themselves and others.