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My profile as project supervisor

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This page has recently been updated (9 January).

This page is to hold my profile as a project (research dissertation) supervisor on MSc courses. (I am not currently supervising any of the undergraduate projects.)

General areas

My general interest is in education at university level: what makes a difference to students' learning? My web pages as a whole illustrate my range of interests within this. I wrote 4 papers, which indicate some particular interests. There are some examples of such topics below. Nowadays, I am particularly active in education in / about computer science (see here), in connection with the Centre for Computing Science Education (CCSE), and will supervise projects in that area, and can probably get you access to classes in that school.

I used to teach a course on Positive Psychology. I still sometimes think of projects I want to supervise in that area. Recently I've supervised a number of projects on (see further down for more details):

However I have quite often supervised projects in areas I knew nothing about, if the student has come with a specific idea and does not require detailed technical knowledge from me, but general support and someone to discuss their ideas with. (An example was theory of mind in ravens in Edinburgh zoo; another was drinking and sociability in sports club members vs. other students; another was perceiving someone's personality traits from a photo of their bag.) In fact these have been some of the best projects I've supervised. But I am NOT usually interested in supervising clinical psychology projects.

Below, any references I mention briefly can probably be found in my large list of education-related references.

Specific topics 2021-2022

Specific topics 2020-2021

  • I have now supervised several projects on "Green Space" phenomena. However it seems clear both that it is fairly easy to obtain SigDiff results in this area, AND that we still understand little about what causes it (the colour, the "naturalness", the fact that most of us most of the time seem interested but not stressed in such environments, .....)? A recent project showed that pictures of nature show reliable positive effects: actual nature exposure doesn't seem to be the heart of it.
  • Informing students about what they have to do on each course, or for each assignment. How is this best done, from the student's point of viewpoint? Should just the deadlines and final product be specified? Or should a set of steps be laid out? Or several alternatives sets of steps be given, so the student both has a plan given them, but also it is clear they have some choice of plans? The project could produce alternatives for a course, and survey students about which they think is best.
  • Student discussion (sometimes called "constructive interaction") has been shown to improve learning by improving understanding. But we still know little about how much students do, and what are the conditions under which it improves learning.
  • A study of students learning computer programming. Programming can be seen in three different ways: as a hobby, as about reasoning carefully about how the program works, and as engineering: how to write code that works to do a useful job, with plenty of safety factors that will make it robust when used incorrectly or in difficult situations. These three views cause some problems in courses that teach programming because different students take naturally different views; courses usually allow only one view; but students generally know all three are important. Surveys of students about this could be useful to teachers and valuable to the research literature.
  • Procrastination. I recently supervise two projects on this, and published research is not in agreement. Is delaying finishing work always bad? or can it be part of a beneficial plan? E.g. a student finishes her work quickly; then pauses and does not submit it; then gets comments from other people and improves it?

    Specific topics 2016-2020

    Specific topics 2015-16

    Specific topics 2014-15

    Specific topics 2013-14

    A lot of my interest currently is focussed on discussion, and its role in student learning. I have a page on discussion. Projects on this might include:

    Specific topics 2012-13

    Specific topics 2011-12

    Specific topics 2010-11

    Specific topics 2009-10

    Still wider general areas

    In the past I have done research in HCI (human computer interaction) and related topics. I have supervised a PhD on nutrition labels on food packages; and 2 PhDs at the Art School: one on education in the Art school (including a study we did with a maxi student), and one on a theory of individual differences in approaches to design.

  • Emojis, and their use in communications like email.
  • Password security: combining psychology considerations with software design approaches.

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