The End of Perception

I'm sad to report that at the last Department of Psychology council meeting, despite my arguments, my colleagues voted to kill PSYCO 365: Advanced Perception. Not only that, but PSYCO 267: Perception is also not long for this world. A moment of silence, please.

I like to think of Advanced Perception as "my" course. One year, I took it as an undergraduate (it was PSYCO 466 back then); the next year, I was a graduate student and TA for that same course. Back then it was taught by Dr Charles Bourassa. When he retired, I was assigned to the course. Since 1995, with only two exceptions in 1999 and 2000, that course has been mine, all mine. At first, it looked very much like Dr Bourassa's course (steal from the best, right?), but I gradually shaped it into something that I wanted, adding topics like face perception, synesthesia, and perception and art. It wasn't easy--there's no textbook that's really appropriate for a 300-level course. I tried using one, but it was generally loathed by students, so over several years I assembled readings here and there to support my lectures. I like to think that I was successful in shaping Advanced Perception: my evaluations steadily improved from "meh" when I first started out, to Honour Roll with Distinction in the past three years.

Unfortunately, with a reassessment of the "streams" of courses available in psychology, it was proposed that, because no 400-level course in perception existed, Advanced Perception had to go. The motion passed by a wide margin.

But--wait. There is a loophole. I can teach the course (modified a bit--maybe including a term paper requirement) as a "special topics" PSYCO 403 course. Not only that, but the Department has a policy that any special topics course that is continually taught over a number of years will get rolled into an official numbered course, and put into the UofA Calendar. Heh heh. So maybe it's not dead after all--maybe the hundreds and hundreds of hours I put into doing secondary research won't all be wasted. There is a downside: instead of being able to accommodate 125 students (with lots more wanting to get in), I'll only have 30. Sorry, everybody.

And what of PSYCO 267? The Department wanted to do away with the perception course stream, so that means that Perception is also a goner. But--wait. It's not being killed outright, it's being renumbered to PSYCO 367. That means it will have to be modified--no multiple-choice-only exams, and I'll have to review appropriate textbooks--but it will live. It seems a bit strange to retain this course, because it's sort of "stranded": there's no 200-level perception course (the prereq will be PSYCO 275 or PSYCO 259 258, the newly renumbered Faculty of Science Cognitive Psychology course), and there's no (official) 400-level perception course. Oh well, whatever. The other change will be to downsize it from 200+ to 125. I generally like teaching smaller classes, but there's no way to accommodate the strong demand that PSYCO 267 currently generates. Sorry, everybody.

If you're reading this and freaking out about your course planning for next year, relax. These changes first have to be approved by central admin, and then they won't go into effect until 2013-2014. So I still have a bit of time left with two of my favourite courses.

Cherish your loved ones, you don't know when they may be taken from you.

Why aren't you studying?

Update: These changes won't take effect until the 2013-2014 Calendar year, so Advanced Perception will still be offered as PSYCO 365 in Winter, 2012 and Winter, 2013.

Update: The Faculty of Arts course PSYCO 258: Cognitive Psychology will NOT be renumbered to PSYCO 259, but starting in Fall, 2013 it WILL be a Faculty of Science course.

Update: PSYCO 403 (LEC B2): Advanced Perception is offered in the Winter, 2014 term.


behavecology said...

Feels like the passing of an era - I took both 267 and 365, and in fact I took 365 from you! I doubt that you'd remember me, because I don't think I stood out in that class, but you might like to know that thoughts from that class occasionally bubble up to the surface even now; I was doing some work recently on an image recognition system for automating data collection in lab work on birds, and then for some reason I ended up spending an entire afternoon reading Marr. :-)

Between the shuffles you're reporting here and other things I've heard, it sounds like the Psych department is undergoing a bit of upheaval...

Anonymous said...

Goodness, what is the department doing?! I think at least one of the reasons so many want to get into your classes is because you're a terrific prof! 'Tis truly too bad the classes have to be smaller; fewer students will have the opportunity to take them.

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

@Anonymous: Aw, gee, thanks!

I have concerns, too. I prefer teaching smaller classes, rather than bigger ones. (This term, perception got bumped up to 250 from 214. Grr!)

On the other hand, I want to get as many students interested in psychology as possible. If I'm teaching smaller, higher-level classes, I won't be able to do that as much.

Amanda said...

This news makes me sad. I took both PSYCO267 and 365 from you, and I have to say they were the most memorable courses I had taken in my undergrad psych degree. Definitely two courses that were contstantly recommended and talked about amongst the my peers!

Anonymous said...

Of all the much more useless psychology courses out there (cough*281&381*cough), they decided to get rid of both perceptions, something that is actually relevant in our life. I can't say I understand, or agree. However, I am very relieved that Psych 494 was not on that list. I worry sometimes about the stand-alone higher level classes, as there is less demand for them, etc. And those are often the classes that students deem "best class in my whole degree". So at least it is not all a loss. KARSTEN LIVES ON!
Are you going to pick up anymore courses? Or are you going to be confined to 104, 258, and 494?

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

@Anonymous: Oh, I'll still be teaching--even though Vice Deans tend not to favour Faculty Lecturers.

The Department would be happy if I taught "lots and lots" of 104s, but lots and lots of anything isn't good for me. Even pie.

There's something else I've been asked to work on (sorry, don't want to spill the beans yet).

One of the trends is to create a "capstone" end-of-degree experience for students, something that takes everything they've learned and puts it all together (like a thesis in the Honours program). I'm happy that students in 494 have been describing their experience that way--even if they don't use the word "capstone."

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