College of Doctoral Studies begins review of PhD in Psychology Program

January 28, 2014 / by / 12 Comments

By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau


Michael Berger

As the first students in Grand Canyon University’s PhD in psychology enter their dissertation phase, the College of Doctoral Studies has embarked on a comprehensive review of the three-year-old program, its four emphases and 35 courses.

“We generally like to give our programs a higher-level review every three years,” said Dr. Michael Berger, the college’s associate dean. “In addition, much has changed in the field, from instructional design and strategies to the technologies available to us to provide the classes, and so it’s time.”

A team of representatives from the college, instructional designers and psychology practitioners outside GCU met for the first time this month. They will assess the Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology, and its specializations in Integrating Technology, Learning and Psychology; Performance Psychology; Cognition and Instruction, and Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

The team will review, among other data, the program’s objectives, assessments of student success, curricula, instructional materials, and feedback from faculty, learners and others. The PhD in General Psychology currently has about 1,000 students.

One of the major elements in the review will focus on whether a residency program should be offered within the PhD, Berger said. Currently, residencies are required only of students in the Doctor of Education (EdD) degree programs.

“In talking to potential and current learners, we have learned that some want a collaborative place where, for a week, they could come and talk face-to-face with other learners as they begin their dissertations,” Berger said. “The possibility of attending a sort of dissertation ‘boot camp’ to work on those skills is something that learners have responded to very positively in our other programs.”

A little more than a year ago, the college launched two new emphases in the PhD in General Psychology to keep pace with the advances in technology and psychology.

Scholars in the emphasis in Integrating Technology, Learning and Psychology look at how students interact with technology, from social media and multimedia to tablets and apps, and how it impacts their learning and information absorption, Berger said.

Those in the Performance Psychology specialization study how individuals in high-pressure arenas, such as athletics, start-up businesses or performing arts, function under the stresses of these positions and how they can be enabled to excel.

Recommended changes to the doctoral program are expected this spring, with any implementation in the fall of 2014, Berger said.

Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or [email protected].

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12 Responses
  1. Sally

    I am currently in the Cognition and Instruction Ph.D. program and would be interested in seeing the recommendations that evolve from this review. I love the idea of a residency program and think the boot camp idea is great because the dissertation itself poses high-levels of anxiety so a boot camp may alleviate some of that and help students organize and prepare. However, I do have to mention that DR. Ann’s class was helpful in putting things into perspective and was encouraging to students in their doctoral journey.
    Sally M.

    Jan.29.2014 at 4:09 pm
  2. Stephanie Gregg-March

    I think the boot camp is a great idea. I am currently in the program and I would love the opportunity to meet with faculty and fellow students yearly.
    Plus, I would like to meet my dissertation chair. Working in Higher Ed, you hear horror stories of disconnects between students & chairs. Not to say that would happen at GCU, but it would be a comfort to get to know the GCU faculty. :)

    Jan.29.2014 at 4:39 pm
  3. Russ

    My concern is with the implementation in Fall 2014. This already raises anxiety levels as I enter the last year of the program. Will changes apply to new students or new and current? Will those past a certain point be exempt from these changes? A residency would be good as long as it is valuable to the student, and is a time to learn, not a time to be academically stressed as with some residency courses that label them “intensive.” If I know that if I travel to AZ and after a week I leave with an outline for my dissertation, to include what statistical tests to use, then I’m all for it.

    Jan.29.2014 at 7:46 pm
  4. Joseph Housey III

    I am a current student enrolled in the Ph.D. I/O Psychology program, and I think it is a great idea to have a residency component of the program. I would like to have more direct guidance from faculty with my dissertation process before getting to dissertation courses in order to complete my dissertation and program on schedule!

    Jan.29.2014 at 11:20 pm
  5. Philip Ampadu Oppong

    This is an impressive idea and a good innovation. Though I do not know how much this will cost, if it becomes part of the program, I think every student will plan for it and participate in it. It will be a useful program and very beneficial. We will have the unique opportunity to interact with fellow students, faculty members and dissertation committee members as well as GCU partners on the program.

    Jan.30.2014 at 5:59 am
  6. Michael Berger

    Hi Russ,

    For revisions such as these, we would make moving forward into the new version optional for learners who are well established in their programs of study. The new program would apply for learners starting their doctoral journey in Fall 2014. Those already in the Ph.D program, especially those past the first year, will be allowed to continue in their existing Program of Study.


    Jan.30.2014 at 12:07 pm
  7. Shelly Sustaire

    I think the residency idea is essential and will help learners feel more connected with classmates, instructors, and other scholars in their field. As I am just entering my studies in I/O Psychology, I look forward to benefiting from a residency in the future. I hope the proposed program is implemented and is successful.

    Feb.01.2014 at 5:13 am
  8. Joe Spitzig

    Exactly what are the reasons for considering the addition of a residency? Is a residency the only way the intended purposes can be achieved?

    One question in the back of my mind has to do with how a dissertation committee is supposed to be formed, and how a chair is to be selected. So far, the only professors to whom I have any exposure are those who have taught the courses I have taken. Some of those are adjuncts, I believe, and I do not know whether they are eligible to serve on a dissertation committee or serve as chair. Who is there to pick from? How can a student tell which professors to ask to advise or serve on the dissertation committee? Do these kinds of questions relate to the purpose of the proposed residency?

    I am about two years into the PhD program in General Psychology with Emphasis on Cognition and Instruction. On one hand, I can see some benefit in face-to-face interaction with faculty and classmates. Personality does not always come across very well in the discussion boards, and complete reliance on text-based communication lacks the dimension of personal presence, the interactive dynamic of which can enliven program engagement. On the other hand, traveling to attend a residency would add a cost factor that may be prohibitive for some of us (it is certainly a serious concern to me).

    Inasmuch as those who have already enrolled in the program have committed themselves with the understanding that no residency would be required, adding a residency requirement after the fact would raise serious ethical and legal concerns. It seems to me that the terms under which current students decided to enroll must be honored.

    One approach that may enhance participation by adding a semblance of interpersonal involvement would be to incorporate the use of such interactive technologies as Skype (I think there are other providers as well). I am not sure what technical issues such an approach would raise, or how live, on-line participation should contribute to a student’s grade, but it seems to me that it should be explored.

    Please keep us apprised of developments on this topic. Thanks.


    Joe Spitzig
    (513) 731-1955
    Skype: giztips

    Feb.04.2014 at 3:01 am
  9. Jennifer Pacheco

    I am just about half way through the PhD in Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. I believe that it would be helpful to have a week long residency program. The additional support would be welcome and the opportunity to network with faculty and fellow students would also be beneficial. Although I still have my current class and seven others to complete before beginning the dissertation phase, the time is passing so quickly and I know that the research phase is right around the corner.

    Feb.09.2014 at 9:59 am
  10. Theodus Luckett

    My name is Theodus Luckett and I am currently in the EdD in Organizational leadership. I have attended 2 residencies and they were extremely helpful!! GCU are doing great things and I personally believe that all doctoral learners should be required to complete 2 residencies. They are extremely helpful!

    Feb.20.2014 at 5:55 pm
  11. Gene Buchman

    I am about halfway through the PhD program in Cognition and Instruction. Lack of a residency requirement, which would be very difficult and costly for me to fulfill, was one of the reasons I chose GCU. Optional residencies may or may not be a good and cost-effective idea, but adding a residency requirement would be a drastic change to the nature of the program and one which would eliminate a lot of otherwise highly suitable students. I strongly counsel against such a move.

    Feb.20.2014 at 6:47 pm
  12. Alicia Wells

    Dr. Berger, you stated in your comment above that you would “make moving forward into the new version optional for learners who are well established in their programs of study,” and that would apply “especially those past the first year.” I am starting the program just this month as an online student. However, in addition to being an online student based in Tennessee, I am also a single mother, a full-time worker, and a care-giver to two disabled and aging parents. A boot camp in Arizona, while it might be beneficial and a lot of fun, would be a real hardship for me. One of the reasons I chose this program was because I could complete it without being required to leave Tennessee. Is this going to be an issue for me as a brand new student? I need to know now, while there’s still time to leave.

    Mar.04.2014 at 5:06 am
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