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Saturday, March 28, 2015

History of Psychology as a discipline in Christ University 1444202

History of Psychology as a discipline in Christ University                        1444202

Psychology as a discipline has existed in Christ University since the beginning of this institution in 1969 as an affiliated college under Bangalore University. It was the smallest department then, with just one teacher and about fifteen students. The department offered just two undergraduate programmes with psychology as one of the subjects in the triple major system, PSEng (Psychology, Sociology, English) and PSEco (Psychology, Sociology, Economics). The reason why psychology has been one of the first departments is that as a discipline it was able to collaborate with both secular and spiritual aspects. One of the objectives was also to help students from Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram to obtain a degree, therefore a subject like psychology was useful.

Until the 1990s there were mostly male students, with very few female students. By the late 1990s more number of girls enrolled, which could be because of changing trends in society and a greater acceptance of psychology as a helping profession. In 1998, two more new undergraduate programmes were started – FEP (Functional, English, Psychology) and JPEng (Journalism, Psychology, English). By this time there was a shift in focus towards the interdisciplinary nature of psychology in terms of its application in other disciplines. The pedagogical practices were mostly lectures, and projects for students. Teachers would even make notes for students and the references were mostly textbooks in psychology such as those by Munn or Morgan for the syllabus prescribed by Bangalore University.

Around the same time (1998) a practical lab was started with various psychological tests and experiments. Students from the first to final semester had practicals and would be trained in administering, scoring and writing reports of the assessments. The department started having a lot of activities which were student centric, to help them learn/ imbibe the spirit of healthy competition and to further their understanding of the discipline itself. This was when Silhouette (intra-department fest) began – an initiative that included activities like street play, exhibitions, and research paper presentations for students of all psychology classes to compete with each other and celebrate psychology through both academic and creative endeavours. Teachers supervised the activities to enable an experiential learning process and also to inculcate the spirit of unity in the class. The activities of the department are usually conducted by the elected members (final year UG & later on even PG) of psychology association in collaboration with faculty members. This association is the largest student body in the deanery which is managed by the president, vice president, secretary, joint secretaries and class representatives. The association also conducts Young Psychologist Competition (since 2008) for UG students across the country to participate and discuss their research work.

2004 was an important year in the history of Christ University as it was conferred Autonomy by UGC. Some changes in syllabus were made across many departments, psychology included. Many reference books and text books were added, along with more interactive teaching methods like seminars for students. In 2005, a Master's programme in Psychology (clinical) was started. Back then even Bangalore University wasn't offering this, and the department felt that there was a need in society with a growing demand for clinical psychologists. This led to the establishment of the Department of Post Graduate Studies in Psychology. Existing faculty and some new faculty members constituted this department under a PG department Coordinator and the Head of Department (UG & PG). By this time psychology as a profession and discipline was gaining more and more popularity as a useful subject that informs most other disciplines. The number of students kept growing and so did the department. Psychology books in the library increased enormously, and department started film clubs and internships for PG students to enhance learning. A dissertation was also a requirement for this degree. 

In 2007, a second Master's programme in Counseling Psychology began, again due to the felt need in society. There were only about four other colleges offering this in Bangalore at that time. In 2008, it was another milestone and turning point for the university when it was declared as a Deemed to be University. This was a catalyst for major changes in the university after which it has grown by leaps and bounds, and so has the discipline of Psychology. It was at this point that the UG and PG departments were combined as one, a move that was made by university across all departments. At this point in time major revisions in curriculum were made in UG and PG courses to bring them up to date. Courses on qualitative research, skill based training courses, supervised practicum/ research labs and many electives like addiction counseling, workplace counseling, disability and challenge were introduced at the PG level. There was a shift in pedagogy with an emphasis on research based teaching and learning, a lot of assignments were focused on reading and reviewing research articles. By this time the department had started conducting national level conferences (since 2007), and this was a way of meeting and interacting with professionals from various fields of psychology (academic- industry interface) which reflected a change in the way psychology was perceived. In fact the post graduate students were now given an option to choose the clinical track (internship) or research track (dissertation) as students felt they wanted to focus more on applied areas. In 2008, M Phil and PhD programmes were started in psychology.  The importance of research for any discipline is indisputable and so was it with psychology. Hence the department decided to make dissertations compulsory for all PG students. In 2009 a certified course on Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) was introduced for final year PG students and offered by professionals from UK. The response has been very encouraging and it still continues to be offered.

A course on History and Philosophy of Psychology was added for clinical psychology students in 2009. This was also the year when BA Honours in Psychology was introduced as an option for triple major students to choose psychology in the final year. This programme offers papers such as biological foundations, cognitive psychology, abnormal psychology, industrial psychology, research methods, health psychology and statistics, among others along with electives. A dissertation and internships are included, which makes it a suitable course for those aspiring to continue in the field of psychology. In 2010 another addition was a new combination at the BA level – PEP (Performing arts, English, Psychology). This new course brought about a new perspective and emphasis on applied aspects of psychology. In the same year, a PG programme in Human Resource Development and Management begun. After the first year of its introduction, major revisions were made to give students the best possible range of theory and practical skills. This programme has professionalization seminars every week where experts from the field come and interact with students. They also conduct events such as HR conclave which aims at academic-industry interface. These changes were incorporated to reflect the demands of the industry. Around this time department also started conducting programmes more actively for awareness on Mental Health Day, Disability Day etc. This not only creates more awareness among students but also provides an opportunity to interact with people from the industry- which is another way students learn about practical issues.

The department has evolved over time to suit the changes happening in the discipline and incorporated various revisions in curricula and pedagogy. The faculty members (over 30 full time & guest faculty) are people with different areas of expertise. This dynamic nature of the department has enabled various perspectives and collaborative teamwork to help them emerge as one of the strongest departments in the university. By the way, this department has grown to become one of the best and largest psychology departments (students and faculty) in India. This is possible because they are open to new ideas and consistently keep working on evolving better ways of teaching and learning. Some of the recent developments help to substantiate this. In 2013, a cognitive lab was started as this is an upcoming area in the discipline. It has also introduced an elective in clinical neuro-psychology. Service learning is another aspect that indicates a shift in pedagogy. Students of both UG and PG participate in the community and discuss their experiential learning in the class. This is also a way of sensitizing students, engaging with and serving the community. A clinic was also started in the department for consultation. In 2013 two new papers – health psychology and positive psychology were introduced for the regular BA programme in the final year. This change was clearly a revision made based on the evolving scope of the discipline in different areas of specialization. For BA practicals, students (in a group) usually conduct a small research study and use statistics to analyze their data. This year (2014-15) SPSS was introduced for them to keep them up to date with changing trends.  In 2014 a psychoanalytic reading group was started by few faculty members and students. A seminar (first of its kind) was organized on the work of a renowned psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakkar, about culture and psyche. This was made possible by the interest of this group which meets every week to read and discuss classical texts in psychoanalysis and has interactions with leading psychoanalysts in India through video conferencing. The response to this seminar was encouraging.

Throughout the academic year experts in different areas of psychology (regional, national & international) visit for guest lectures, seminars, workshops and conferences. National conferences are held every year since 2007 on themes such as changing fabric of intimate relationships, positive psychology, psychology and cinema, psychology of women, cognitive neuro-psychology and clinical hypnotherapy to name a few. An international conference was organized in 2012 and the next one to be organized in 2016. The department (as also the University) is now moving towards improving standards of teaching learning and becoming a world class institution, one of the goals being enhancing the research culture through interaction between faculty, UG, PG students and research scholars in projects. The faculty in the department have begun to take up more research such as monographs, major research projects and working papers. An outcome of these activities is that teaching has become more informed by research experiences. It also provides students with an opportunity to work with faculty at various stages of research. This kind of an environment is sure to take the department to greater heights as is true of the vision of this department – to promote high academic standards and scholarship in psychology, by creating an optimal and enriching learning environment, fostering ongoing professional and personal development and contributing effectively to societal needs.

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