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Se1101e Essay

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here, and can I say that I’m glad to know that there are people actually reading what I write, and that these information are beneficial to their module planning? It is my pleasure and motivation to know that such information are beneficial to you. I apologize for not responding to my inbox because I don’t sign in often (as you can observe from the frequency of my posts) and I don’t get any notifications either. If you really wish to get in touch with me, drop an email to lim.weijie@u.nus.edu. Yep, that’s my name =P

As I started on this post, I thought it might be good to write a post on my experience being a year 4 student; I’m writing this module review first, so you can check back later for my thoughts on being a year 4.

In this review, I will be sharing 4 main things: the who (the lecturer), what (the workload), how (to study for exams), and why you should take this module and why should you not.

Modules: PL4235, PL4880P, PL4224

Yep, I only take 3 modules this semester because I’m a Year 4 student doing honours thesis (HT). Each module is worth 5 MCs. As a psychology major, you are required to take at least 40 MCs worth of level 4000 modules to graduate with honours. 

1. PL4235 The Psychology of Moral Judgement

I knew I had to take this module when I first saw its module title. I had wanted to take it back in Year 3 Semester 1; back then I was doing iLEAD (aka. NUS Overseas College, Singapore), and the difficulty of juggling a full-time internship and doing a module in NUS does take a toll on me. I thought it was best to just leave it to my honours year, so here it is!

The professor for this module is Dr. Nina Powell, who is also my thesis professor (I’ll share my thesis experience in a separate post). This module is conducted in a blended teaching method, which is a fancy way of saying that students are required to ask questions and discuss issues in class, actively. I was participating actively in class and on the forums for the first 3 seminars - thereafter I’m just overloaded by other modules and non-academic commitments to bother with class participation. Besides, the class size of 48 students is not conducive for student discussion - imagine the diffusion of responsibility in class. I had always thought that honours modules would have fewer than 40 students (or better, fewer than 30 students, and therefore no bell-curve in the grading) and I was looking forward to that.. Unfortunate all of my modules have at least 45 students. 

The workload for this module is very heavy. A few friends dropped this module after the first seminar, because they learnt about the multi-components of this module and the amount of preparation needed for each seminar. We are expected to do 2-3 readings per week, watch an e-lecture, and be in class ready to engage in discussions. There was no set textbook for this class, although Dr. Powell recommended us to read The Quest for a Moral Compass as an optional, supplementary text. It is an interesting text to read for leisure, but not to study. I didn’t read it for my exams anyway.

2x mini response papers (15%each, with the possibility to do a third one and the best two will be considered); 6x online mini quizzes (open ended; 5% each, and only the best 3 will be considered - I believe most people get full marks for all quizzes); group presentation (15%); and a finals (40%). Dr. Powell also gives extra credit when you appear for one of her movie nights (yay!) and write a commentary on the movie (or you can choose to watch it yourself and then share your thoughts on IVLE discussion). 

There were three seminars set aside for presentations, and in those weeks we don’t have assigned readings. I liked how these presentation sessions are spread apart in alternate weeks, so that the momentum for the module is not lost - imagine having three presentations weeks consecutively and teaching just stopped for those three weeks..? 

I also liked how Dr. Powell did recaps for every seminar to reinforce “where we are now” and how things string together in the overall picture. You would really appreciate this, especially when it comes to the final seminar and she did an overall recap, everything made perfect sense and I appreciated how the module covered enough depth and breadth.

It is not difficult to study for the exams since Dr. Powell did recaps and an overall summary for us. It is important to see the overall big picture about morality, and then zoom in to the particular sub-topics, and see how they link with each other. Some big questions that are likely to appear in the exams would include “What is a moral intuition?”, or a question on the Social Intuitionist Model (SIM) by Jonathan Haidt. Dr. Powell always emphasize on our ability to be concise and formulate strong/cogent arguments, rather than going all over the place and not writing a good argument. Depth > Breadth. This applies for the mini response papers and our final exams.

Overall: It feels tough when you are in it, but overall it is worth it, and I will take it again. Participate actively in class so that you get the most out of it - I tried at the first few seminars, but slowly kept quiet in the subsequent seminars… diffusion of responsibility is real. 

Take this module if: You have always been interested to learn about the psychology of moral judgement, or just want to be more conscious about yourself - the way you judge people in your every day life.

Don’t take this if: you want a regular lecture kind of seminar where you merely download what the professor tells you. Morality is something we need to talk and discuss and not everything has an absolute answer - sometimes the prof cannot give you a definite answer, but she will give you her perspective and you are free to disagree with it. If you cannot tolerate such argumentative psychology, or the uncertainty in learning something that does not have a definite cause/origin, then don’t do this. 

Predicted grade: A-; I am quite confident in my approach taken in finals :)

Final grade: B+

2. PL4880P Psychology of Religion

This is my second-most favourite module this semester. The lecturer was Dr. Reddish Paul, a part-time lecturer. All my life (or for the most part of my life) I’m wondering why people believe in a religion and what kind of psychological role does religion play in people’s life. This module catered to my interest and more.

The workload was very manageable and it is a good module to take to buffer your heavier modules. Similar to PL4235, the module covered sufficient breadth and depth, and each seminar builds on the previous seminar, and you find that with consistent reading and following up on the seminars, you can quickly and easily gain mastery of the module content. There were three consecutive weeks of student presentations, which effectively means that I switched off listening for three weeks, and that was a good time to catch up with my other modules (hehe). There were two assigned readings per week. Classes follow a lecture-class discussion format, where the prof will do his lecture and insert class discussions in between. It helps to do your readings before the lecture so that you understand what the prof is teaching and recap your knowledge during the lecture. 

Assessment is straightforward: class participation (5%; I got a 4 out of 5 despite being very quiet in class); short answer mid-terms (15%); group presentation (20%); essay (30% - this is a “follow-up” to your group presentation. You write on a topic covered in your presentation, but in-depth, and insert some original thoughts and arguments to it); finals (30%). Dr. Reddish emphasizes originality in thoughts in our presentations and essays, so it is good to inject some of your perspectives backed up with evidence/examples, to score above average in his assignments. 

Also similar to PL4235, I appreciated how this module is well-planned and taught. Everything makes sense at the end of the module, and you gain new insights to why people believe in religion and the role that religion play in our society. We don’t - and I emphasize don’t - try to dispute the existence of God; whether or not God exists is not covered in this module - this is a theological study. We learn about the cognitive mechanisms and evolutionary explanations for why people believe in god/gods. We don’t study any religion in particular, but try to find similarities across all religions. There is a bias towards Abrahamic religions because they are more well-researched. 

You may encounter aggressiveness from students studying history or anthropology when discussing the psychology of religion (PoR) with them because they value the distinct history and theology of each religion and how the religions differ from one another, while PoR do not make this distinction. It is perfectly fine, in PoR, to not know in-depth about any religion at all. Studying this module will not make you a less religious person - if you are one, but it makes someone who is irreligious (or an atheist) understand why people are religious at all.

Finals is easy to study and prepare because there already is a mid-term to test us what was taught in the first half of the module. Therefore, I merely needed to study another 4 more seminars in depth and recap what I studied before mid terms to be ready for finals. Be prepared to give examples and write a good argument in your essays!

Overall: I really really enjoyed this module - it feeds my need to understand how religion works on a psychological level. The workload is light, the module covers sufficient depth and breadth. 

Take this module if: you are interested to learn why people believe in gods or supernatural agents. This module complements well with PL4235 and I recommend taking them together in the semester :)

Don’t take this if: you are not interested to learn about the psychological aspect of religion; you are expecting to dispute about the existence of gods.

Predicted grade: B+; I’m pretty average throughout the class, and I think I wrote well for the finals.

Final grade: A-

3. PL4224 Child Abnormal Psychology

First I would like to say that this is my worst module for the semester. Through this module, I realize that I am not one who likes to study all the different mental disorders, the treatments, the assessment techniques and stuffs… In fact, after taking PL3257 Introduction to Clinical Psychology, I decided that clinical psychology / abnormal psychology is not the path I want to take (abnormal psychology is also one of my worse core modules). 

The lecturer was Dr. Lohsnah Jeevanadam; I didn’t know how to address her by name, so I just called her “Prof”. She’s a good lecturer, and also a private practitioner herself, so she is highly qualified to teach this module. She shares with us case studies based on her clinical experience, and I especially love to hear about her stories.

The workload was heavy because of the textbook. Each chapter is about 40-50 pages long, like how we usually study for our core modules. Each week we go through one topic, or one chapter from the textbook, but some weeks we have two chapters to read. We learn many types of mental disorders that children may face - this module is like abnormal psychology applied to children and adolescents. 

The greatest takeaway from this module is appreciating how children can be diagnosed with mental disorders from very young ages, and how symptoms are manifested differently than they would be in adults. For example, symptoms of depression in children may include being easily irritable and throwing tantrums.

Assessments include: mini quiz (10% - 30 MCQs), case study presentation (25%); reflective paper (25%); finals (40%). 

Reflective paper… this is my first assignment ever that I did not do citations/references since it says.. reflection right? who do we cite? I’m satisfied for my grades for the reflective paper though - 37.5 out of 50. Not sure how I fare against the rest of the class, but I’m satisfied.

We were required to study almost everything that were taught for the exams, but tested only on very specific topics -.- The case study was a test of application of what we know about the techniques of assessment and simple diagnosis (with justifications). And then we need to write 2 essays that were very topic-specific. For example, I did two essays on Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder, and Depression, respectively. The last question asked what is a “healthy family” - which was briefly discussed in class in one of the seminars, although it is a constant theme throughout the module. The case study was also about ODD/CD/trauma - so in essence, we were tested only on 3 different types of disorders in the exams when we studied for 504938209348 types. 

Overall: enjoyed the seminars, but disliked the readings. As heavy as a level 3000 core module - e.g. developmental psychology. I stopped reading the textbook after week 7, and had to catch up on 7 chapters worth of reading in one week for the finals - grueling. Be consistent!

Take this module if: you are on the clinical pathway; you would like to learn how childhood experiences play a role in affecting our psychological growth.

Don’t take this module if: you are sure you want nothing to do with clinical psychology; you don’t like reading textbooks.

Predicted grade: B; I left the examination hall just before the 15 mins mark. I did my best in writing whatever I could (: and I think I’m pretty average in everything I did for this module.

Final grade: B+

Ending words: at this point in time as a year 4 who has his grades hovering securely between 4.0 and 4.5, the priorities in school is not about studying hard to keep push up his grades, but to study smart enough to enjoy what he is studying and maintaining his second-upper honours degree. Therefore, this year 4 is no longer interested in the nitty-gritty grade comparisons, but to look at what he can do beyond studying. This mindset led me to focus much time to share with people what I know about coffee, and learn more about the world of coffee and its industry. Two words can define my second-last semester: social and coffee. “Social” in many senses: the loss of close friends around me, the gain in new friends and acquaintance, and the search for a social goal in life and in business; “coffee” just explains itself =P I’ll share more about my Year 4 life in a later post (:

Check out my other reviews:

AY2014/15 Semester Two (Part II) Review:  IEM2201E, PL3283B, PL3232, PL3233

AY2014/15 Semester Two (Part I) Review: SSU2001 College 3 Capstone Experience

AY2014/15 Semester One (Part II) Review: GEM2906, SSU2003, MNO3330

AY2013/14 Semester Two Review: PL3234, PL3236, PH1102E, PH2110, SE1101E, IEM1201T

AY2013/14 Semester One Review: PL1101E, PL2131, EL1101E, PH2111, GEM1906

How is it going to be possible for me to do charity work, well running a company, well finishing 4 essays, then writing 2 more essays.. etc

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