1997-98 Hunt Award Research Report
Psi Chi Membership and Factors Related to Excellence in Scholarship
Mark O. Millard
Colorado State University
The study was conducted to evaluate factors related to excellence in scholarship of psychology students. The sample was composed of upper-class psychology students gathered from five universities in the Psi Chi Rocky Mountain region. The study used a standard battery of survey questions, along with several attitude scales in an attempt to assess the academic and extracurricular satisfaction, achievement, and involvement of psychology students. It was also of interest in the study to compare Psi Chi Honor Society members and non–Psi Chi members. It was hypothesized that the psychology students who were active in Psi Chi would be more involved in extracurricular and academic endeavors. In addition, the Psi Chi students were expected to be significantly different in areas of satisfaction and achievement than the group of non–Psi Chi students. Results indicated that the Psi Chi students were significantly more satisfied with their psychology programs than the comparison group of non–Psi Chi students. The Psi Chi student group was also significantly higher on all seven achievement measures, as well as six out of eight involvement measures.
Psi Chi provides undergraduate psychology majors with the opportunity to enrich their college experiences. For example, Psi Chi encourages student participation in undergraduate research and presentation projects. Recent survey evidence suggests that such experience helps with skill development and career advancement (Carmody, 1998). Young and DaPrada (1998) surveyed a sample of former students who had been in Psi Chi and participated in a campus psychology convention. Results of their survey suggested that membership and participation were positively related to pursuit of an advanced degree and achievement. Furthermore, Bean and Bradley (1986) surveyed a sample of university students, and found not only that a significant association between academic performance (as measured by grade point average [GPA]) and satisfaction existed, but also found that academic integration and memberships were significant predictors of satisfaction as well.
The current study intends to investigate student satisfaction, achievement, and involvement by comparing samples of Psi Chi psychology students and non–Psi Chi psychology students. Student satisfaction with their undergraduate psychology programs will be of interest, as well as satisfaction with assistance in learning about graduate school. Involvement in undergraduate study, and graduate or professional development activities will also be of interest. In addition, achievement will be addressed, including achievement or attempts at achievement in students’ psychology programs and extracurricular activities. The two groups of students, Psi Chi members and non–Psi Chi members, will be compared in terms of satisfaction, achievement, and involvement. It is expected that this study will lend insight into the position Psi Chi plays in helping psychology majors enrich their education.
Participants were 152 upper-class psychology students from various states throughout the Psi Chi Rocky Mountain Region. Participating institutions included one large public university, one medium-sized private university, two medium-sized state universities, and one state college. There were two comparison groups: psychology students that were members of Psi Chi National Honor Society, and psychology students that were non–Psi Chi members, (55 members, 97 nonmembers). Participation in the study was voluntary.
The measurement instrument consisted of an eight-page survey composed of a variety of forced-choice, open-ended, and Likert-scale–based questions. There were two main parts to the survey. The first six pages were for all participants, and the last two pages were for the Psi Chi members only. Specifically, the survey was comprised of a series of demographic questions, a 21-question satisfaction scale (which was to develop the 12 satisfaction measures), using a 7-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. This scale was completed by all participants, and was used primarily in measuring students’ overall satisfaction with their psychology programs. A 15-question psychological knowledge section was adapted from an exercise in a psychological tests and measurements course. The exercise included developing knowledge questions about independent domains of topics in psychology. All questions in the psychological knowledge section were selected by using the appropriate testing and measurement procedures. An academic information section asked participants about certain aspects of their professional development, and involvement as students. Only the Psi Chi member group completed the remaining sections, which included a section aimed at gathering some general information from the Psi Chi member participants, and a section that was comprised of a 16-question satisfaction scale, using a 7-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Non–Psi Chi students were recruited from upper-level psychology courses in the large public university. Psi Chi students were recruited with the help of the Psi Chi advisors at each of the five schools. Students were given the surveys during the first 20 min of class. They were told that it would take approximately 10–15 min to complete. Participants were asked to hand in their survey when they were completed, and were in-structed that they were free to stop filling out the survey at any time. Surveys were mailed to the Psi Chi advisor from each school. The advisor contacts were asked to maintain APA research and ethics guidelines, and were instructed to hand them out in a similar manner. After the surveys were completed, they were mailed back in a self-addressed, stamped manila folder.
A brief summary of the entire sample will be followed by a discussion of the three comparative factors of interest in the study, satisfaction, achievement, and involvement.
All 152 students sampled were psychology majors. Forty-seven participants were juniors and 105 were seniors. The sample was comprised of 38 men and 114 women, with a mean age of 23.4 years. Ninety-seven of the participants were in the non–Psi Chi member group and 55 were in the Psi Chi member group. Of the students sampled, 5 (3.4%) reported African American as their ethnicity, 2 (1.3%) reported American Indian or Alaskan Native, 3 (2.0%) reported Asian or Pacific Islander, 125 (83.9%) reported Caucasian, non-Hispanic, 12 (8. 1%) reported Hispanic, and 2 (1.3%) reported Other as their ethnicity.
Participant satisfaction was determined by a series of 12 questions taken from the satisfaction scale. The results of the analysis showed on the whole that the Psi Chi member group was significantly more satisfied with their psychology programs than the non–Psi Chi member group. Specifically, of the 12 satisfaction measures there were nine statistically significant measures of satisfaction in the study, using independent-samples t tests (see Table 1). Psi Chi participants were more apt to find their psychology professors helpful with their classes, and perceived that the advising in their psychology program is more helpful than the non–Psi Chi participants. In addition, the Psi Chi student group believed more than the non–Psi Chi group that there were many opportunities to do research in their department, and that there were many opportunities to get graduate school information. Also, the Psi Chi participants felt more prepared for the transition after graduation. The Psi Chi participants also felt that their psychology courses offered more of an intellectual challenge than the non–Psi Chi participants. Another interesting finding was that the Psi Chi participants believed more than the non–Psi Chi participants that research opportunities have helped their chances for graduate school, and that there is less trouble getting graduate school info. Finally, the Psi Chi students were more satisfied with courses taken in their psychology program than the non–Psi Chi students. The two groups did not differ significantly in their satisfaction with the psychology courses offered at their school, they did not differ significantly that their psychology courses are better than those at other universities, and they did not differ significantly when asked if they would make changes to the curriculum in their program.
There were seven measures of achievement in the study. All seven of the achievement measures yielded statistically significant differences using either an independent-samples t test or a chi-square test. The Psi Chi participants were significantly different with regard to both cumulative GPA, t(149) = 4.48, p < .000, in which the Psi Chi participants had a high mean of 3.55 (SD = .248), while the non–Psi Chi participants had a mean of 3.24 (SD = .480), and psychology GPA, t(126) = 4.27, p < .000, in which the Psi Chi participants had a higher mean of 3.76 (SD = .200) and the non–Psi Chi participants had a mean of 3.45 (SD = .488). There was also a significant difference on the 15-question knowledge score, t(149) = 2.43, p = .016, with the Psi Chi participants’ mean of 12.7 (SD = 1.69) being higher than the non–Psi Chi participants mean of 11.9 (SD = 2.04). The Psi Chi students were involved in more honor societies per student than the non–Psi Chi participants, t(144) = 7.152, p < .000; the Psi Chi students’ mean was 1.47 (SD = .66), higher than the non–Psi Chi students mean of 0.48 (SD = .89). The group difference in number of professional organizations was also significant, t(145) = 4.87, p < .000. The Psi Chi participants, who were involved more in professional organizations, had a higher mean of 0.45 (SD = .64), while the non-Psi Chi participants had a mean of 0.075 (SD = .30). Finally, a chi-square test indicated that the Psi Chi participants had more honors program participation, X2(1, N = 152) = 8.076, p = .004, and planned on doing a senior thesis more than the non–Psi Chi group, X2(1, N = 152) = 5.197, p = .023.
Involvement was based upon eight measures. Three independent-samples t tests were performed, and showed a significant difference for the following: Membership in honor societies, t(144) = 7.152, p < .000, with a Psi Chi group mean of 1.47 (SD = .66) and a non–Psi Chi group mean of 0.48 (SD = .89), and number of professional organizations, t(145) = 4.87, p < . 000, with a Psi Chi group mean of 0.45 (SD = .64) and a non–Psi Chi group mean of 0.075 (SD = .30). There was not a significant difference in the total number of independent study credits that each group reported, t(63) = –1.236, p = .221; the Psi Chi member group had a mean of 4.45 (SD = 4.08) and the non–Psi Chi group had a mean of 5.66 (SD = 3.75). Finally, a chi-square test indicated that the Psi Chi participants had more honors program participation, X2(1, N = 152) = 8.076, p = .004, and planned on doing a senior thesis more than the non–Psi Chi group, X2(l, N = 152) = 5.197, p = .023. The Psi Chi group also attended professional conferences more than the non–Psi Chi group, X2(l, N = 152) = 38.254, p < .000. There were no differences between the groups with regard to having independent study credits, X2(l , N = 152) = 2.259, p = .133.
One final interesting result that is encompassed within the involvement factor included the reasons that were given for not being a member of Psi Chi (see Table 2). In this question, students were asked to state whether or not they were a member of Psi Chi. If they were not a member, they were asked to indicate the reasons why they were not a member of Psi Chi.
The current study was interested in identifying the satisfaction, achievement, and involvement of a sample of psychology students, as well as in comparing Psi Chi members and non–Psi Chi members.
The satisfaction factor in this study was created using 12 questions from the satisfaction scale on the survey. The Psi Chi student group showed significantly higher satisfaction results compared to the non–Psi Chi student group on most of the satisfaction measures. These measures were general satisfaction questions about the participants’ psychology programs. For example, “Advising in my psychology program is helpful,” “There are many opportunities to do research in my department,” “I feel prepared for my transition after graduation,” “I am satisfied with courses taken in my psychology program,” and “Many opportunities to get graduate school information.” Although some of these statements are not directly related to Psi Chi, a goal of many honor societies is to get the student involved in extracurricular activities, as well as to foster achievement. These results show that the Psi Chi student group had higher achievement results, was more involved, and was more satisfied than the non–Psi Chi student group. This evidence would thus support the contention that higher achievement and more involvement in activities like Psi Chi led to students being more satisfied with their psychology programs and professional development activities.
On all seven measures of achievement, the Psi Chi student group showed significantly higher achievement results compared to the non–Psi Chi student group. Given that these measures are good indicators of student achievement, this accurately shows that the Psi Chi student group has a significantly higher rate of achievement. With regard to these measures, the significant differences could indicate support for the other factors discussed in this study, specifically, satisfaction and involvement. As Bean and Bradley (1986) found, a significant association existed between academic performance (as measured by GPA) and satisfaction. For the purposes of this study, both cumulative GPA and psychology GPA were used in constructing the achievement factor. Since the Psi Chi students are more satisfied and get involved more in psychology and extracurricular activities, these factors seem to play into the achievement result of the Psi Chi student group by fostering higher achievement results. The conclusions drawn for the results of this study indicate that the Psi Chi students are more satisfied with their psychology programs and have higher achievement results. Likewise, these students are also more involved in their psychology programs and in extracurricular activities such as honor societies, thus supporting the intention and mission of Psi Chi and other honor societies like it.
The involvement factor was based on eight measures. The results showed that the Psi Chi student group was more highly involved in their psychology programs and extracurricular activities. However, there was a problem with these results. In selected cases, qualified non–Psi Chi students provided somewhat contradictory reasons for why they were not Psi Chi members. This may indicate that for some students there are conditions in place that prevent or discourage them from getting involved, even though they are satisfied and are high achievers.
In conclusion, further studies directed toward understanding and developing the relationship between these three factors of satisfaction, achievement, and involvement could yield interesting results in the area of academic success. The exact relationship between these three factors is out of the scope of this study; however, there seems to be a supportive relationship between the three factors with regard to excellence in scholarship. The results of this study do indicate that all three factors appear to play some sort of role in academic scholarship. Another interesting, and possibly troubling, confound is the effect that GPA might be having on student satisfaction. Although Bean and Bradley (1986) found that the effect of satisfaction on GPA was nearly twice the size of the effect of GPA on satisfaction, a future research study—looking at satisfaction but controlling for GPA using a matched sample—might make more sense of this relationship. Other areas of interesting research might be to sample students from colleges and universities in other regions of the United States in order to get a broader and larger sample with a less homogeneous ethnic distribution. Another interesting study would be to sample Psi Chi advisors and psychology faculty to assess their opinions of Psi Chi and to gauge their involvement in Psi Chi. One final topic of exploration is in the area of Psi Chi recruitment. It was interesting to see many qualified psychology students participate in the study, who for one reason or another, were not Psi Chi members. Focusing a study on this student population could produce some interesting results.
Bean, J. P., & Bradley, R. K. (1986). Untangling the satisfaction-performance relationship for college students. General Hospital Psychiatry, 57, 393–412.
Carmody, D. P. (1998). Student views on the value of undergraduate presentations. Eye on Psi Chi, 2(3), 11–14.
Young, J., & DaPrada, T. (1998). Twenty-five years of the Hunter College psychology conventions: Some theoretical and practical issues. Eye on Psi Chi, 2(3), 15–17.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Millard was recently graduated from Colorado State University with a BS in psychology and is a member of Psi Chi. He has worked as a research assistant at the Research and Development Center for the Advancement of Student Learning for the past three years. He plans to study human–computer interaction in graduate school. Mark expresses special thanks to Dr. Ross Loomis, Dr. Nancy Karlin, Jeff Wayman, Dr. Janette Benson, Dr. Karen Ford, and Dr. Susan Amato for their assistance.
Questions regarding this report should be addressed to Mark Millard, 220 Peterson Street, #1, Fort Collins, CO 80524. E-mail may also be sent to Mark Millard at email@example.com.