Society for the Teaching of Psychology

February Presidential Blog

28 Feb 2014 10:19 AM | Jeffrey Stowell (Administrator)

Scientist-Educators Using Evidence-Based Instructional Practices

by R. Eric Landrum, PhD

2014 STP President

Active learning, flipping the classroom, student engagement, the student-as-producer model – it is sometimes difficult to know in today’s teaching environment what emerging pedagogical approaches are fads vs. meaningful trends. However, if you adhere to the scientist-educator model, then it is your obligation to explore, study, and reflect upon your personal pedagogical choices.  In this brief message, my goal to bring together two important concepts: the scientist-educator model and evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs).  Like the two great tastes of chocolate and peanut butter, each is pretty good on their own, but the combination provides for a powerful (and tasty) interaction.

The notion of the scientist-educator model emerged from the APA-sponsored National Conference on Undergraduate Education in Psychology held at the University of Puget Sound in 2008.  The efforts of nine working groups at this conference are chronicled in an edited book by Halpern (2010), and the scientist-educator model is credited to Bernstein and his team (Bernstein, et al., 2010).  Some of the key tenets of the scientist-educator model are presented here:

A scientist-educator treats professional work as an inquiry into the effectiveness of practice.  It is critical to be familiar with evidence-based practice in the teaching of psychology, identifying those methods that are appropriate to one’s own teaching.  Central to this enterprise is the systematic collection of evidence regarding the effectiveness of teaching and the use of these data to guide the development and refinement of both the conceptual understanding of teaching and its practice in an iterative, recursive fashion.  The scientist-educator reflects on the results of the instruction, makes that work visible to peers, and redesigns course conception, measures, and activities accordingly. (p. 30)

This iterative pattern of action is reminiscent of the steps involved in action research, which are planning, acting, observing, and reflecting, with new planning following reflection.  Of course the notion of evidence-based practices has been around for some time in disciplines such as medicine and clinical psychology.  Saville (2009) noted that similar to clinical psychologists using treatments that are based on the best science available, so too should teachers of psychology – thus the value of an evidence-based approach pre-dates the emergence of the scientist-educator model, but this new model powerfully reinforces the notion that the planning, preparation, delivery, and assessment of what happens in the classroom should be evidence-based.

So how does one go about finding the evidence that defines an evidence-based instructional practice (EBIP)?  Just as we would with any academic research topic, we look to the literature.  Although the acronym EBIP is not yet universally accepted, there are useful sources of evidence-based instructional practices that provide the details about the data.  Two sources that I recommend for starters would the book Evidence-based teaching (edited by Buskist & Groccia, 2011) and the article Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods by Slavich and Zimbardo (2012).  Both provide detailed overviews about the “evidence” in evidence-based teaching practices.  Thus, both depth and breadth are articulated in these resources.

But there are other, convenient sources as well.  I would encourage readers to take advantage of the resources provided by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) at our web  We have resources available which have been peer reviewed (through our Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology, or OTRP) as well as open-source resources, such as ToPIX.  Resources abound, such as the recently published ebook on Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum by Benassi, Overson, and Hakala (2014). This ebook is freely available as a PDF.

Just as our physician and clinician colleagues do, I encourage you to plan, act, observe, and reflect about your teaching and consider using EBIPs – as a scientist-educator, share your results with your colleagues, whether that be at a regional poster session, as shared resource on our website, at the APA convention as part a symposium, a presentation or poster at our Annual Conference on Teaching, or a manuscript submitted to our highly regarded journal Teaching of Psychology.  Our students deserve the very best instruction possible, and only through a scientist-educator lens will we ever know if that is occurring.


Benassi, V. A., Overson, C. E., & Hakala, C. M.  (2014).  (Eds.).  Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum.  Society for the Teaching of Psychology.  Retrieved from

Bernstein, D. J., Addison, W., Altman, C., Hollister, D., Komarraju, M., Prieto, L., … & Shore, C.  (2010).  Toward a scientist-educator model of teaching psychology.  In D. F. Halpern (Ed.), Undergraduate education in psychology: A blueprint for the future of the discipline (pp. 29-45).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Buskist, B., & Groccia, J. E.  (2011). (Eds.).  Evidence-based teaching.  New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 128.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Halpern, D. F.  (2010).  (Ed.).  Undergraduate education in psychology: A blueprint for the future of the discipline.  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Saville, B. K.  (2009).  Using evidence-based teaching methods to improve education.  Teaching and Learning Excellence.  Retrieved from

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G.  (2012).  Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods.  Educational and Psychological Review, 24, 569-608.  doi:10.1007/s10648-012-9199-6

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