Authentic Learning Experiences
Consumer Psychology (PSYC 495) is a course that Dr. Melissa Boyce introduced to the University of Calgary a few years ago. It explores different aspects of consumerism and how buying and purchasing products affect the way people think and feel. It is an upper-level course that is only open to students majoring in psychology. Only 40 students can take the course each semester. More information about the course can be found in the course outline. The course’s focus on marketing means that there is an opportunity for some authentic learning experiences for students. One example of this is the Marketing Campaign Group Project .
Survey Development and Ethics Approval
Students choose teams of 2-4 early in the semester. They have to select a product or service that does not have an extensive marketing campaign associated with it. Usually small businesses are chosen. Students then have to figure out the company’s target market and create a survey asking questions to potential consumers. These surveys are created to figure out what is important to the people who could buy this product so that the advertising campaign can be customized to their values. Dr. Boyce gives students examples of questions that might be valuable to ask. The surveys are written and sent to the Department of Psychology’s ethics board for approval, since human participants are required. The ethics board has to approve anything that will be asked, and how data can be used.
Market Research and Analysis
Once the surveys are approved, each group has to find at least 25 people in their target market to complete them. Students rely on friends, family or social media to find their market to survey. Following this, one lecture period is given as work time, where students use SPSS, a statistical analysis program used in the social sciences, to find the main themes from their research. They have some experience working with statistics and data analysis, because a prerequisite for PSYC 495 is a psychological statistics course (PSYC 312). Students have to see what is relevant to their consumers and their market. Using these data and other empirical sources, they determine six marketing strategies to be used to advertise the product. There is a lot of class discussion about creativity in advertising, so students challenged to be creative and consider many forms of advertising to develop their campaign.
Final Marketing Campaign and Paper
For the next few weeks, students use their data and knowledge of consumer psychology to develop effective advertising strategies that work for their target market. They show their campaign to at least six people that they initially surveyed and get feedback. Their ideas are refined and improved until the end of the semester, where they present their final campaign to the class.
The rubric shows that 85% of the grade is from a paper that outlines the entire project: details about the chosen product, the target market, research findings, the initial campaign and rationale behind it, feedback from consumers, and final products. The other 15% comes from a brief presentation of the marketing campaign. This is done near the end of the semester.
Students are not marketing experts going into this project, and some feel intimidated by the amount of work required for the project. Once they begin working on it, however, they have a great experience building their campaigns and applying their knowledge of psychology. Some students even send their market research and campaigns to the company whose products they used for the project.
This is a real-world application of skills and knowledge for students. They are not just completing a project, they are experiencing what working in marketing is like. Their projects are similar to something they could actually be doing as a career when they are finished school. Dr. Boyce says that some students enjoy the project so much they do end up taking jobs in marketing. Student learning becomes about more than knowledge with a project like this. They see the relevance and direct application of what they are doing, so they are highly engaged and excited.
To read about another assessment used in PSYC 495, click here