What class? PSYC 203 Learning

Who teaches it? Professor Reggie Gazes, psychology and animal behavior

Learning is a general psychology course that has been structured anew by Professor Gazes. The class covers information about basic mechanisms of learning in motivating behavior. It focuses on how humans and animals learn and at the same time gives students a lot of practical experience through the service-learning component of the course. Students learn the material by reading and analyzing previous research studies on cognition. This year, the course was structured so that, throughout the semester, students work in teams to prepare, revise and carry out a training program dogs at the local nonprofit Mostly Mutts, a no-kill animal shelter.

Professor Gazes chose to incorporate service-learning in her class to make the material more exciting. She believes that service-learning is an important part of education and it gives students a reason to care about their environment and community while focusing them on the impact they can have now, instead of waiting until they finish their education. Professor Gazes was eager to see the outcomes of this course and hoped that it will greatly benefit the nonprofit Mostly Mutts and the dogs sheltered there. Using behavior modification methods learned in class, teams of students were assigned to individual dogs and worked to teach them to sit, stay and walk on a leash. Professor Gazes said many of the animals have not been socialized and have developed bad behavior. “Now, the students get to apply what they learn in the classroom with the dogs to hopefully help them get adopted.”

Jake Dixon, Class of 2018, spoke enthusiastically about his experience in the course. Jake found the class informative and rewarding and greatly appreciates that he was given the opportunity to engage in a real world application of the information learned in class. By using the behavior knowledge and training techniques from the course, Jake and his teammates are successfully training a rescued lab named Koby to sit, walk on a leash and keep from jumping on people. Mostly Mutts is benefited from this project because a handful of their dogs are becoming better suited for adoption. “Well behaved dogs are much more likely to be adopted, and by teaching these appropriate behavior skills, their probability of getting adopted only increases,” said Jake, an animal behavior major. Additionally, students will produce short videos showcasing their dogs’ personalities and trained skills. These videos will be featured on the Mostly Mutts Facebook page to help the dogs find people to give them forever homes. Although this is the first time that service-learning was incorporated to teach the Learning course, students like Jake hope that this becomes a recurring method in the future and it is encouraged for students in any field of study to take this class.

See videos made by students in Learning.