New! The Giving Away Psychology Project (GAPP)


By Jerry Rudmann
Executive Director of Psi Beta

Psi Beta membership can be much more than receiving a certificate and the right to wear Psi Beta honor cords, stole, and/or medallion at one’s graduation ceremony. Effective chapters provide members with activities that promote learning typically unavailable from traditional classroom instruction. These activities can be thought of as experiential learning activities that promote leadership, teamwork, research, civic engagement, as well as a deeper knowledge of psychology. The Giving Away Psychology Project (GAPP) is an example of a high impact experiential learning activity. GAPP’s primary purpose is to help bridge the gap between psychology’s knowledge base and the application of that knowledge to help others thrive. Participation in GAPP is a highly enriching experience for members and promotes the value and appreciation for psychology and Psi Beta on campus and in the community.

Background –  GAPP grew out of Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project (HIP). The Heroic Imagination Project’s primary goal is to empower ordinary people to take effective action in challenging situation. In 2013, several Psi Beta chapters purchased rights to the HIP module on the bystander effect. Teams of Psi Beta students then formed and presented bystander effect workshops that were received well by several high school and college classes. Aside from the bystander effect lesson, HIP offers lessons on several other topics (e.g., growth mindset, prejudice and discrimination). The participating chapters found the bystander effect lesson content to be excellent. Psi Beta highly recommends that chapters consider purchasing the Heroic Imagination Project modules directly from the Heroic Imagination office. The HIP website URL is and they can be contacted at You will not be disappointed. Also, we will share project support planning check-sheets and forms developed to support HIP presentations conducted previously at Irvine Valley College. Please note that training the teams, scheduling presentations, and evaluating the impact on the audiences is a significant commitment that requires additional work.

The Giving Away Psychology Project (GAPP) differs from HIP in several important ways. GAPP’s topics focus on the application of cognitive strategies to help students, especially first-year college students, thrive rather than just survive in college and beyond. A second difference is that GAPP lessons intentionally combine service learning with applied research. Each GAPP lesson includes set of pre- and post-measures and an evaluation plan to provide the Psi Beta presenters with research experience. Finally, GAPP lessons are provided at no charge to active Psi Beta chapters with the agreement that chapters using the lessons will submit their data to a national aggregate database created by Psi Beta’s national office.

Here are brief descriptions of the GAPP lessons available and/or undergoing pilot testing for release to chapters in the near future. First-year freshmen enrolled in introductory psychology courses are the target participants, but the lessons can benefit many others.

A. Academic Self-Efficacy – The “treatment” includes having students complete the Study Skills Inventory, watch several short video clips, complete an academic efficacy scale, then create a WOOP plan in which they commit to behaviors that should help them perform well in their introductory psychology class. This workshop will become available in November 2017.

B. Effective Interpersonal Communication – The treatment includes mini-lectures, video clips, and small group exercises about key aspects of communication (e.g., non-verbal, listening, assertion, and making small talk). This workshop will become available by February 2018.

C. Expert Learning – Students are taught ways to use the six cognitive strategies shown by research to improve learning and memory. This workshop will be available by April 2018.

As mentioned earlier, aside from the curriculum used for HIP or GAPP presentations, a lot of background tasks are involved in preparing student teams, scheduling their presentations, and evaluating the impact of the presentations.

Here are some tips derived from pilot testing conducted by the Irvine Valley College (CA) Psi Beta chapter.

1. Screen Students Who Serve on Your First Team – Have tryouts for identifying students. Eventually, most students will do fine with practice. Three types of students have been problematic for forming strong presentation teams: 1) the overly shy, self-conscious student who is not yet ready to speak in front large audiences; 2) the student who goes “way off script” and presents his/her own material, despite requests to avoid doing that; and 3) the student who uses more time than allocated, therefore denying a team member sufficient time to present their part.

2. Schedule Practice Sessions – Once the team has been formed, and after they’ve completed required background reading on the topic, they should deliver a few practice presentations to live audiences. We’ve found it easy to recruit students to serve as pilot audience members. We prepare the audience by telling them it is a practice session and we hope they’ll offer constructive feedback to the presenters at the end. The practices audiences have always been very helpful and supportive.

3. Target Introductory Psychology Students – Many students enroll in Introductory Psychology during their first year in college. [The Office of Institutional Research at Irvine Valley College found that 45% of the students who enroll in Introductory Psychology sections are in their freshmen year. This population is perfect for all the GAPP topics, since they include academic success strategies.]

4. Schedule a Room, Day and Time for Presentations – The presentation must, of course, be scheduled at a time when all four team members are available. Rather than sending teams to visit classes, we’ve found it much easier logistically to schedule the presentation at a time when all team members are available and invite participants to attend at that time. In other words, the audience comes to the presentation. Another approach is to train a roster of Psi Beta students to serve as presenters, develop an availability schedule showing days and hours in which each team member is available, then recruit team members available to present to regularly scheduled Introductory Psychology classes or classes at local high schools. [Going off campus to local high schools may present some challenges. See #13 below.]

5. Have Participants Apply to Attend – We recommend using Google Forms to create online application form. This allows you to capture the applicant’s name, email address, and the course for which the student may be earning extra credit for his or her participation. The application process allows you to monitor the number of sign-ups and to prevent having too many participants report for a presentation.

6. Acquire IRB Approval – GAPP is a form of applied research in which data are gathered from the participants, and the findings may be presented at a conference. IRB approval is recommended.

7. Use Name Plates – As participants arrive, the team can give them 8” X 5” index cards. Each participant is instructed to fold the card in half lengthwise, use a marker to print to print his or her first name and to set the “nameplate” on the front of the desk. The side having the student’s first name should face the front of the classroom so presenters can see their names. The nameplates send audience members an expectation they will pay close attention, and make it easier for presenters to call on members of the audience.

8. Don’t Let Presenters Bunch Up – Once the presenters introduce themselves to the audience, team members may have a tendency to stand together in a group at the front. This can look really awkward. Only the current presenter should be up front. The others should sit along the side or back of the room.

9. Use a PowerPoint – We’ve found it essential to use a well-designed PowerPoint to help structure the presentations. Individual slides can display discussion prompts and links to video clips. Both are helpful for smooth and engaging presentations. Psi Beta will make a PowerPoint for each GAPP topic available for chapters to adapt and use.

10. Team Must Work Together to Facilitate Small Group Discussions – Each GAPP presentation includes points at which the audience members are asked to form into groups of four and engaged in a discussion about the topic. It is helpful for the team members to circulate around the room to help the small groups to form and stay on topic. Audiences will vary in terms of enthusiasm. For particularly UN-enthusiastic audiences (rare, but it sometimes happens), team members can join the small group discussions to keep them moving along and encourage participation.

11. Advisor Should Help Team with Data Analyses and Interpretation – Each presentation generates a lot of data. The Psi Beta team will need a faculty advisor to guide them as they prepare, analyze, and draw conclusions from the data.

12. If Good Measures Can’t Be Found, Create Them – Very likely, one or more faculty advisors has the expertise needed to create and psychometrically validate measures. Chapters can also work together to acquire larger datasets by sharing data.

13. High School Visits – Sending a team to a high school can be an excellent way to promote the college because the teams consist of highly successful honors students. However, you’ll need to get the team to the high school, find a high school teacher (usually someone who teaches psychology) who will make class time available for a presentation, require parental or guardian approval if you are gathering research data, and be ready for technical issues unless you bring along your own laptop, projector, and video clips. Also, some high schools lock down Internet access, so playing YouTube videos may not be possible unless you find a way to download a copy of the clip so Internet access is not needed.

14. Treat Team Members Well – Serving on a GAPP team can be an educationally enriching experience for the presenters, but also requires a significant amount of their time and work. As a way to acknowledge our teams, we found a way to provide them with blazers having Psi Beta insignia. Polos or t-shirts is another option.

15. Protect GAPP Curriculum and Materials – The GAPP curriculum, PowerPoints, and all supporting forms and training documents have been developed expressly for Psi Beta chapters. Please do not distribute any GAPP materials to anyone, on or off campus, who is not affiliated with Psi Beta. Doing so will compromise and confound GAPP’s research component. All GAPP presentation materials are proprietary and copyrighted.

16. GAPP, the APA (2.0) Guidelines, and the Psychology Department’s SLO Assessment Effort – As mentioned above, GAPP is designed to be a high impact experiential learning program for Psi Beta members. Departments may want to include a description of their chapter’s GAPP activities in their SLO and Program Review reports.

Below is a summary of GAPP’s outcomes in relation to APA’s Guidelines.

Goal 1 – Knowledge Base in Psychology

• 3a&b – Describe applications of psychology to everyday life and psychological factors that can influence the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

Goal 2 – Scientific Inquiry and Critical Thinking

• 1b – Use psychology concepts to explain personal experiences.
• 4d – Replicate or design simple scientific studies (e.g., correlational or two-factor) to confirm a hypothesis based on operational definitions.

Goal 3 – Ethical and Social Responsibility in a Diverse World

• 1D – Complete an IRB application that adheres to ethical standards.
• 3f – Accept opportunity to serve others through civic engagement, including volunteer service.

Goal 4 – Communication

• 2Bb – Deliver brief, complex presentations within appropriate constraints (e.g., time limit, appropriate to the audience).

Goal 5 – Professional Development

• 2A – Design deliberate efforts to produce desired self-management outcomes (e.g., self-regulation, hardiness, resilience).
• 2d – Describe self-regulation strategies (e.g., reflection, time management).
• 4A – Collaborate successfully on complex group projects.
• 4Dd – Assess strengths and weaknesses of team performance on a complex project.
• 5D – Actively seek and collaborate with a mentor [the chapter advisor].

While all GAPP presentations will include measures chosen or developed to assess the impact on the participants, an additional set of measures is being assembled to help assess GAPP’s positive impact on the Psi Beta team members. These measures will be shared as they become available.


Print article Print article