John M. Malouff and Ashley J. Emmerton (University of New England, Australia)
Some psychology teachers develop innovative teaching methods that could benefit other teachers. There are many options for psychology teachers who want to disseminate as widely as possible information about a new teaching method. This article describes a range of dissemination methods psychology teachers can use, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, psychology magazines, ERIC, teaching conferences, and teacher training courses. The authors suggest using a cost-benefit analysis to choose dissemination methods.
How Psychology Teachers Can Widely Disseminate Their Innovative Teaching Methods
Using teaching innovations to deliver psychology topics can help improve education by leading to more learning and to more interest in learning (Savelsbergh et al., 2016). Using teaching innovations can also help increase the work satisfaction of teachers (Gordy, Jones, & Bailey. 2018).
Recent teaching innovations involve different types of assignments for students, such as recording a video presentation explaining how to do something relevant to a course and uploading it to YouTube (Malouff & Shearer, 2016). Using an escape room to teach is another innovative method (LaPaglia, 2020). Because teaching is both an art and a science, the possibilities for innovation are great.
Innovation sometimes is forced on teachers by circumstances such as pandemics or wars. Usually, though, teachers innovate to try to find more effective, more efficient, more engaging, or more long-lasting ways to help students learn. The students helped by an innovation can be a subset, such as gifted students (Prochaska & Prochaska, 1983) or non-traditional students (Naz & Murad, 2017), who may face barriers to benefitting from traditional teaching and learning methods. Sometimes we innovate to satisfy our own curiosity or to make our work more interesting.
When these new methods seem to work, teachers often try to share them broadly so that others may benefit from the innovation. To help the most teachers and students, a new teaching method needs to escape the confines of a single classroom and a single school. Other teachers must become aware of the method and its potential value (Smith, 2012).
What modes of dissemination are available?
We identified and evaluated different methods of disseminating information about new teaching methods. The following is a summary of possible dissemination methods, with information on their potential effectiveness based on access statistics (numbers of views, participants, subscribers, or downloads) and engagement level (frequency of comments or interactions between audience and idea developer), along with guides on how to use each method successfully.
Twitter has about 330 million users each month (Lin, 2019). Teach Psychology (@getRAPT; n.d.) has used the social media platform Twitter since July 2013 to disseminate innovative teaching ideas, resources and articles for psychology teachers. This Twitter handle has 1,146 followers (at the time of writing) and has posted 1,279 tweets since the handle’s creation. A tweet can have a maximum of 280 characters, allowing only brief descriptions of new methods, unless one posts multiple tweets on a topic or includes links to further resources and articles. The Twitter Guide for Teachers (Pappas, 2013) offers advice for teachers on how to use Twitter effectively.
Facebook has a wide reach, with over 2.4 billion monthly users in 2019 (Wolfe, 2019). Teachers can create their own Facebook group about innovative teaching, or they can post their ideas on the page of any of a number of existing groups. We created a Facebook group called Innovative Teaching Methods (2020) to disseminate new teaching ideas. Over 3,000 members have joined in the past 15 months; members come from over 100 different countries and include school teachers and university professors. Members post links to teaching materials they have made and describe their novel teaching ideas. Pappas (2015) offered tips for educators using Facebook for teaching, as does the Facebook Guide for Educators (The Education Foundation & Facebook, 2013).
YouTube is a widely used platform, with over two billion monthly users generating a billion hours of viewing daily (YouTube, 2020). Channels focusing on innovative teaching methods such as the Edutopia (2020) channel, which has 125,000 subscribers, can reach a large audience. YouTube allows teachers to demonstrate innovative teaching methods. Users can give responses to new teaching methods using the comments function. For example, an Edutopia video titled Keeping Students Engaged in Digital Learning, published one week ago at the time of writing, attracted 86,553 views and seven user comments. Some comments offered additional strategies beyond those presented in the video. While YouTube tends to be more unidirectional in design than other social media platforms (with the focus on the video itself rather than the comments), the ability to easily share YouTube videos on other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter increases its reach. The Teach Thought (2016) website offers tips for using YouTube for sharing teaching ideas. Teachers can create their own video that they upload, or they can ask to be part of an established video series.
A blog is an online journal or information site. Teachers can start a blog on teaching or ask to post an article on an existing blog. E-xcellence in teaching (Society for the Teaching of Psychology, 2020) is a popular teaching blog which allows psychology educators to write about innovative ideas they have used. Obtaining permission to post a guest entry on an existing teaching blog can be much faster and easier than building up readership of a new blog. Blogs can be set up so that readers can request an email when the next entry is posted. Blogs typically allow comments from readers, creating a possibility of interaction with the author. Start Your Teaching Blog (Davis, 2014) offers resources and advice on how to blog effectively.
A podcast is an audio recording that can be downloaded from the Internet. Podcasts discussing innovative teaching methods, such as the Cult of Pedagogy podcast produced by Jennifer Gonzales, can be effective ways of disseminating ideas. This podcast is released twice monthly and averages over 100,000 downloads per month (23,000-30,000 unique downloads per episode; Gonzalez, 2020). The PsychSessions: Conversations about Teaching N' Stuff (Neufeld & Landrum, 2020) podcast consists of 140 episodes focusing on the teaching of psychology and interviews of top psychology educators. The podcast is available over multiple providers making it easily accessible. It might be possible to obtain a guest appearance on a popular teaching podcast. The alternative is to create your own podcast. Like YouTube videos, podcasts are largely unidirectional with limited opportunities for discussion and engagement. The New York Times (Daniels & Schulten, 2020) and Edutopia (Ramirez, 2016) offer advice on how to make a professional podcast.
There are online psychology magazines such as Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association, 2020) that feature, among other things, articles on teaching methods, lesson plans, and ideas for educators. This magazine is available in print and online, with the online version being free to access. Teaching magazines typically have lower standards for publication than teaching journals. There is advice online, e.g., from Freelance Writing (n.d.), on how to write effective magazine articles.
ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center (2020), puts online published and unpublished articles relating to teaching, with free viewing. ERIC reviews unpublished articles before accepting them, but the acceptance standards are lower than for education journals. We have documents in ERIC, e.g., on how to teach problem solving to college students. Most search engines include ERIC, which has video guides giving advice on submission and writing (ERIC, 2016).
National and international psychology teaching conferences and general teaching conferences provide opportunities for disseminating innovative teaching methods. The conferences may focus on teaching in psychology or teaching in general. Keynote speakers can reach hundreds of teachers; other presenters may reach only a handful of attendees. The standard for getting a proposal accepted for presentation can be relatively low, while keynote addresses are by invitation. For tips on giving conference presentations, see online articles such as that of Golash-Boza (2018).
Another option for disseminating innovative teaching methods is through massive online open courses (MOOCs). Education providers such as Future Learn and Coursera provide MOOCs to millions of users (Shah, 2016). Students engage with instructors through discussion forums. Some MOOCs are free for students. Tips for delivering MOOCs are available online (Morrison, 2014; Richer 2013).
Things to consider when choosing an outlet
We have described several ways of disseminating innovative teaching methods. When choosing one or more potential outlets, use a cost-benefit analysis. Consider how much time you need to devote to use or try to use the outlet, how likely your idea is to become available on the outlet, how many teachers and teachers in training are likely to learn of your method, and how persuasive the outlet is as a carrier of your idea.
We recommend using multiple outlets for disseminating new teaching ideas in order to reach the most teachers and future teachers. It is possible to provide a link to one type of outlet when using a different type. We suggest trying to use at least one free-online outlet in order to help maximize the number of teachers who become aware of the new method. Finally, we suggest using at least one interactive outlet so that educators can comment and make suggestions. That interaction can help improve a new teaching idea (Lewis, 2003).
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