Disentangling course identity: How does ‘Psychology and Sociology’ differ from ‘Psychology’ and ‘Sociology?’ (2014)

Stefanie Ashton Wigman, David Siddens, Lynne Spackman & Diarmuid Verrier

BSc Psychology and Sociology students will be invited to participate in a questionnaire on course identity and belonging. A sub group of this sample will later be invited to be interviewed on this topic, in order to generate more detailed responses. This project is currently in progress and the findings will be ready to be discussed at the Learning and Teaching Conference.

This study will provide us with information of key issues to target with interventions intended to improve perceived course identity and student satisfaction; we expect some of these issues will be specific to the course, and others will be relevant to other courses, particularly other joint or dual honours. Promoting course identity may also have a positive impact on academic performance. For example, a strong group (course) identity is essential for the development of an effective ‘in-group’. The sense of belonging that comes with being part of such a group is associated with higher self-esteem and (academic) commitment (e.g., Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 1997). It is proposed that a strong course identity would engender a strong community of practice. A community of practice is a way of enhancing learning based on collaboration (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Communities of practice are defined by the knowledge dimension of social learning and Hughes (2010) suggests that knowledge-related identity congruence is fundamental for learner engagement.

We will conclude by making suggestions for future research within this topic area, and identifying the ways in which we anticipate that this project’s findings and resources could be related to and used to examine course identity for other courses.