Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
  • APA Recommendations
  • Ohio Transfer Module
  • TAG
  • Transfer Assurance Guidelines
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    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
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    OER Adoption Guide for Introduction to Psychology


    This OER Adoption Guide, sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education, provides teachers of Introduction to Psychology in Ohio with a collection of free, openly accessible online resources for use in your course.  The authors of this guide have reviewed and compiled free online readings, resources, and activities for Introduction to Psychology. Further, these resources are aligned with the learning objectives outlined in the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Transfer Assurance Guides (TAG) for Introduction to Psychology so that they meet the needs of instructors teaching general education courses in the Ohio Transfer Module.

    What is the Ohio Transfer Module and the Transfer Assurance Guide (TAG)?

    Originally created in 1990, the Ohio Transfer Module is a subset of general education courses guaranteed to transfer from campus to campus in the state of Ohio. This benefits students by ensuring their courses transfer - saving them money and time to degree if they change institutions. Faculty panels have determined a core set of learning objectives, or Transfer Assurance Guides (TAGs), for courses identified in the Ohio Transfer Module. The TAG specifies learning objectives to guide how individual instructors teach the course, ensuring key points of consistency for students no matter where they take the course. These objectives are periodically reviewed, with the most recent update in 2016; see Ohio’s Transfer Assurance Guide (TAG) for Introduction to Psychology for more information.

    APA’s Recommendations for Strengthening Introduction to Psychology

    Informing the 2016 review of the core learning objectives for Ohio’s Introduction to Psychology course was a task force report from the American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) on Strengthening the Common Core of the Introduction to Psychology Course (APA, 2014) as well as a subsequent American Psychologist article on the task force recommendations (Gurung, Hackathorn, Enns, Frantz, Cacioppo, Loop, & Freeman, 2016). These documents present a case for a “common core” in the Introduction to Psychology course to ensure the structure reflects the modern - and future - discipline:  “No longer simply a collection of independent domains based on historical or administrative distinctions, psychology in the 21st century appears to be becoming an integrative multilevel science” (APA 2014, p.7). While they do not prescribe a specific format or structure for the course, these documents offer faculty guidance in terms of what choices to consider in designing and implementing their courses.

    The APA recommendations are a guiding framework for all Introductory courses to increase consistency and better reflect modern psychological science, which is no longer a collection of siloed topic areas but a more interdisciplinary and interconnected discipline. In this framework, the same for majors and non-majors alike, potential content is represented by clusters of topics or “pillars” within the model, not individual areas of focus traditionally represented as unique chapters in Introductory texts. Further, the framework emphasizes a reduced emphasis on building the knowledge base and an enhanced focus on skill development and cross-cutting themes.

    The APA task force issued the following recommendations for strengthening the Introductory Psychology course:

    1. Five clusters of topics represent pillars within the discipline, and all five pillars should be represented in the course by at least two topics from each pillar:

      1. Pillar 1: Biological (e.g., Neuroscience, Sensation, Consciousness)

      2. Pillar 2: Cognitive (e.g., Cognition, Memory, Perception, Intelligence)

      3. Pillar 3: Development (e.g., Learning, Lifespan Development, Language)

      4. Pillar 4: Social and Personality (e.g., Social, Personality, Emotion, Multicultural, Gender, Motivation)

      5. Pillar 5: Mental and Physical Health (e.g., Abnormal, Health, Therapies)

    2. Research methods should be a foundational theme throughout the course, integrated throughout the course and not isolated to a single chapter

    3. Cross-cutting themes representing values relevant to all areas of contemporary
      Psychology should be covered for each topic area included in the course.  These themes include:

      1. Cultural and social diversity

      2. Ethics

      3. Variations in human functioning or individual differences

      4. Applications to everyday life or societal problems

    4. The course should have an explicit emphasis on integration across the pillars to reflect that behavior is the product of influences from multiple pillars or domains (e.g., biological, cognitive,social).

    The APA Recommendations in Ohio’s Introduction to Psychology TAG

    Ohio’s Psychology TAG panelists adopted the APA recommendations in 2016 with a goal of supporting a common core while still affording faculty flexibility in their courses. The objectives are summarized below, with accompanying rationale.  Objectives 1-5 are considered to be “required” for transfer assurance in all Ohio Introduction to Psychology courses.

    TAG Learning Objective 1: Describe psychological theories, principles and concepts relevant to the following topics (A minimum of two topics under each pillar must be covered including the essential topics marked with an asterisk):

    • Pillar 1: Biological (Biology of Behavior*, Sensation, Consciousness)
    • Pillar 2: Cognitive (Memory*, Cognition, Perception, Intelligence)
    • Pillar 3: Developmental (Learning*, Lifespan Development*, Language)
    • Pillar 4: Social and Personality (Social*, Personality*, Emotion, Multicultural, Gender, Motivation)
    • Pillar 5: Mental and Physical Health (Abnormal*, Health, Therapies)

    Rationale: Following the task force’s recommendation regarding content, the TAG outlines the five pillars and corresponding topics within each. To enhance consistency across courses, the TAG specifies 7 required topics.. Thus, faculty are asked to ensure some topics are included in their course (noted above with an asterisk)  but additional topics can be determined based on faculty choice, according to their individual or institutional preferences, to complete each pillar. More than two topics per pillar may be included if desired, but at least two per pillar is the minimum. This ensures a broad, integrative, consistent base of content in all iterations of the course across Ohio.

    TAG Learning Objective 2:  Describe and evaluate various methodologies used in psychological research.

    Rationale: Consistent with the recommendation for research methods as a foundation in the course, methods is represented by its own objective.  Methods should be discussed as a foundational theme across the course and not be limited to a single chapter - for example, instructors might cover methodological approaches or issues unique to each topic throughout the course.

    TAG Learning Objective 3: Apply basic psychological principles to human history, current events, and daily human experience.

    Rationale:  This objective reflects the cross-cutting theme of Application recommended by the APA. It ensures students will be encouraged to apply psychological science to the contexts of their lives as well as to address social or contemporary issues.

    TAG Learning Objective 4: Recognize diversity and individual differences and similarities (e.g., gender, ethnicity, race) in a variety of contexts.

    Rationale: Objective 4 addresses the cross-cutting themes of social and cultural differences as well as variations in human functioning.  Thus, in each topic area instructors should seek to incorporate examples of individual differences as well as social and cultural variation.

    TAG Learning Objective 5:  Assess and critically analyze theories, research methods and findings (outcomes), and applications developed by psychologists and made available through textbooks, newspapers, professional and lay periodicals, and the Internet.

    Rationale:  This objective has been a part of the TAG since its inception and creates the opportunity for students to engage with psychology in multiple formats and contexts.  In doing so, students are gaining experience to build critical thinking skills that can continue to benefit them long after the conclusion of their psychology course

    TAG Learning Objective 6: Recognize ethical considerations as applied to conducting research and professional conduct

    This objective is also consistent with a cross-cutting theme recommended by the APA task force.  While this is the only objective that the TAG does not require for all Introduction to Psychology courses, it is strongly encouraged and can be addressed in every topic and pillar of the course.

    Using this Guide & References

    Using this Guide

    The guide is organized according to traditional units or chapters. For each topic, the guide provides an overview of the topic, key learning objectives, suggestions for incorporating the cross-cutting themes of social and cultural diversity, variations in human functioning, ethics, applications, and research methods.  Each unit provides recommended resources including free, open-source readings and supplemental content including videos, activities, and teaching resources,

    Integrating these resources into your course may benefit students by alleviating the need for a paid textbook, but has the added benefit of helping you to better align your course structure with the APA recommendations and better advance a view of psychology that is contemporary, integrative, and broadly relevant.


    American Psychological Association. (2014). Strengthening the common core of the introductory psychology course. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, Board of Educational Affairs. Retrieved from

    Gurung, R. A. R., Hackathorn, J., Enns, C., Frantz, S., Cacioppo, J. T., Loop, T., & Freeman, J. E. (2016). Strengthening introductory psychology: A new model for teaching the introductory course. American Psychologist, 71(2), 112-124.