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Sample Assignment: PSY 242W: Educational Psychology

PSY 242W
Dr. J. Levine

Analysis of a Movie

For  this paper you must choose one of the movies listed below and analyze its content using information presented in the textbook and/or class discussions.

All of these movies are set in schools and have education as their main theme:

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Dead Poets Society,

Dangerous Minds

Stand and Deliver

Freedom Writers

The Ron Clarke Story

The purpose of this assignment is for you to demonstrate that you are familiar with the material covered in this course and can apply your knowledge to actual behavior.  For example, if there is a scene in which a middle class teacher assumes that his or her upper class students are well prepared to handle advanced course work you may discuss this in terms of socio-economic status.  Or if a teacher gives her students money for every homework problem they solve correctly you can point out that this is positive reinforcement, extrinsic motivation, and continuous reinforcement.   You should, of course, also briefly explain what these terms mean. 

I want you to be specific.  However, you should also discuss any general or central themes.

The audience for your paper should be your fellow classmates.  This means you should assume they have some knowledge of the material, but are not experts.          

You should review the table of contents of the entire textbook (including chapters that haven’t been assigned) and your class notes for appropriate ideas to use in your analysis.

Your paper should be approximately 8-10 pages long, double spaced, done in a 12 point font.

When you mention a concept, fact, or theory you should include the page number (in parenthesis) from the textbook on which you found the information.  If you are using information that was covered only in class, provide the date instead of a page number. If you don’t know the date, write “class discussion”.  Hint:  If you have more than two paragraphs in a row without a page number being cited there is probably too much description (plot summary) and not enough analysis.

Staple the pages together and number them.

Do NOT write your name on the front of the paper.  After the last page of your paper attach another sheet that has nothing but your name on it.  This applies only to the completed draft and the final paper.

The paper is going to be developed in stages:   Fix all dates

1.  The name of the movie you plan on analyzing and a brief summary of the major theme of the movie is due on Oct. 2

2.  A mini-mini version of the paper in which you apply one or two concepts/facts to  a specific scene in the movie is due on Oct. 16

 Although stages 1 and 2 will not be graded, if you turn either in late, do not turn in either, or engage in plagiarism, your grade on the final paper will be lowered.

 3.  The first draft of the completed paper is due on November 13.   If you do not turn it in on time you will not receive the benefit of my helpful comments.

 4.  The final draft is due on December 5.  If you turn your paper in late, you will be penalized one grade for the first day late, and one grade for each two additional days late after that, including weekends, to a minimum of a  “D-“.   If you do not turn in the paper by the last class meeting you will receive an “F” in the course unless you have spoken with me and we have agreed on other arrangements.


I will grade your papers using the holistic approach.  This means that I form an overall impression of the grade the paper deserves after reading it thoroughly.  I do not have a formula for how many spelling errors you can have an still earn an “A” or the number of concepts you must apply to earn a “C+” or a “B-“.  I grade each paper as a whole (thus the term “holistic”).  Nonetheless, I can tell you what factors I take into account in assessing a paper.

  • The number of scenes (in the movie and your classes) that you analyze and the number of different concepts you correctly apply will have the largest single impact on your grade.  In general, more is better, but there is no magic number.
  • The greater the variety of concepts you use in analyzing the scenes the higher your grade should be. If you use 10 different concepts that are all out of the same module you’ve demonstrated that you’ve learned one topic very well.  What about the other topics and modules?
  • Applying some difficult or complex concepts is a definite plus, but you should apply all the concepts you can.  Telling me that some scene illustrates “motivation” is okay but explaining how it illustrates expectancy-valence theory is much more impressive.  (Which demonstrates greater learning?)
  • Applying some concepts from modules or topics that we didn’t cover in class is a definite plus.  It illustrates greater effort, initiative, and learning.
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, etc. are all important.  Excellent mastery of the written language in the absence of appropriate content will not earn you an “A”, but poor writing can cost you an “A” or a ”B” or a “C” .  A few spelling errors, one or two grammatical mistakes, or an occasional punctuation error can be overlooked.  But if a paper has many errors of these types or poor syntax (sentences are poorly constructed), it will have a negative effect on the grade.  Remember, this is a WID class; if I give you a good grade on a paper I am certifying that you can write well.
  • Writing Style.  If you write exceptionally well (complex and/or interesting sentence structures, excellent transitions, etc), your grade might be raised a bit.  If you write exceptionally poorly (thoughts are left incomplete, you don’t say what you mean, the paper is disjointed, etc), your grade might be lowered.  In my experience, most students have a writing style that falls between these two extremes.