Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

This is How I Teach

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Teaching shouldn't be a private activity, but often it turns out that way. We don't get to see inside each others' classrooms, even though we'd probably benefit if only we could! In order to help Make Teaching Visible, we've introduced this blog, called "This is How I Teach." We will be featuring the voices of STP members twice a month. Psychology teachers will tell us about how they teach and what kinds of people they are -- both inside and outside the classroom. 


Are you interested in sharing your secret teaching life with STP?

We’d love to hear from you!  To get started, send your name, institution, and answers to the questions below to the following email: howiteach@teachpsych.org.  

  1. Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
  2. What are three words that best describe your teaching style?
  3. What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

"This is How I Teach" is edited by Maggie Thomas (Earlham College) and Beth Morling (University of Delaware).

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  • 22 Oct 2014 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Earlham College

     

    Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College

     

    School locale: small town

     

    Classes I teach:

    Introduction to Psychology; Research Methods in Peer Relationships; Adult Psychopathology; Developmental Psychopathology; Senior Research

     

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    The best advice was actually the first time I taught a class. Someone told me that I wouldn't be particularly good at it that first semester, but that I would get better. That was really helpful. My first semester was OK, but I tried to do too much and there was a lot I wanted to change. Because of the advice I had, I didn't feel like a failure -- I just felt normal. Subsequent semesters were much better as I learned from my mistakes.

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    The courses I teach on psychopathology are my favorites. I always have students who are doing service-learning placements. Sometimes all the students are doing placements as a requirement of the course; sometimes it is an optional additional credit. They work 2-3 hours per week out in the community for most of the semester. I have them respond to journal prompts, lead discussions in class, and present on their experiences at the end of the semester. It's really satisfying to read their reflections and to see them change throughout the semester. I don't think there's a good way to demonstrate the complexity of real-world people and institutions within the classroom. Students learn a lot more when they are out in the community, but reflecting on their experiences in a structured way and making connections to class material.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    In Developmental Psychopathology, I developed a "case" for students to practice assessment on. Students are given a brief intake description of a child. In small groups, they talk about the case and what kinds of assessments they want, such as unstructured interview with the mom or behavioral checklist from the teacher. They have to ask for each assessment one at a time, take it back and talk about how the information has influenced their case conceptualization -- what they think is going on with this kid and his family. I have 15 or so prepared assessment reports for this assignment. We usually take a full class period to do it, and the groups never get all of the possible assessments. Then we talk about each group's view of this child, possible diagnoses, broader family issues, etc. Pretty much every time, the groups end up with different perspectives because they collected different pieces of information. I use this to show them that diagnosis is a complicated process and the kinds of questions we ask (assessments we get) can really change our perspective. The students almost always comment that the assignment was very difficult but also illuminating and enjoyable.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    In my introductory courses, I use a lot of quizzes. I post questions from previous tests into online quizzes that are completely non-graded. I also give quizzes with questions similar to the test in class, scored taken/not taken. Since I've started doing this, particularly the in-class quizzes, I've seen test scores go up. I believe this is largely from improved study skills. A lot of students have pretty bad metacognitive skills and overestimate what they know. The in-class quizzes give them firm evidence that they need to study.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    Controlled chaos. Mostly. Sometimes just chaos.

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Organized, Fast-paced, Applied

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    My first semester teaching in graduate school, I was teaching sensation and perception, and I pronounced "timbre" like "timber." A very nice, polite student waited until the other 300 students had left the lecture hall to come up and mention that it's actually pronounced "tam-ber." Oops.

     

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    They seem easily surprised. Most recently one of them was surprised that I was also a religion major in college.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Five Billion Years of Solitude

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    computer

     

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? 

    Probably too much chatter. We talk about food and cute/absurd things we've seen on Facebook. 

  • 05 Oct 2014 7:54 PM | Anonymous

    Editor's note: Amanda is the 2014 winner of the Mary Margaret Moffet Memorial Teaching Award! Congratulations, Amanda!

    Zionsville Community High School, Zionsville, Indiana. My town is a suburb northwest of Indianapolis with approximately 1,800 students. I teach AP Psychology Honors, Psychology, and U.S. History

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? 
    This question makes me laugh because most of the advice I received wasn’t great advice. Some examples include: “Work smarter, not harder,” and “You just gotta throw a lot at ‘em and hope some of it sticks.” I’ve learned ways to “work smart.” I prioritize. I avoid busy work for myself and my students. I assess what’s essential and not frivolous activities. However, I also know you have to work hard to be a successful educator. I put a great deal of energy into professional development, sharing with others, and using what I learn from them. 

    I also believe that it’s important to provide students with as much information as I can, but I also know students have limits. I don’t have to inundate them with an information overload. I want students to be critical thinkers and walk away with a clear understanding of the content. It’s not about being a minimalist, but it does mean I’m selective about what I “throw at ‘em.”. 

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 
    The book that shaped my work as a psychology teacher is one I wrote myself. Last year I compiled a Psychology teachers resource guide. It was a body of work I created over the past 16 years. It contained 50 lesson ideas that correlated to each of the National Standards for Psychology, AP Psychology Standards, and our local standards in Indiana. Not only did I “shape it,” but it “shaped me” as I reflected on what I teach, how I teach, what I assess, and how I assess. 


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 
    My favorite topics to lecture on are ones for which I have many mnemonic devices. I love not only teaching the content, but I also enjoy giving students techniques for recalling difficult material. When we cover the structures and functions of the brain, I have an extensive list of “memory tricks” to help them remember the content. It’s very gratifying when I have a student who has gone from high school Psychology and through graduate school who still remembers to think of the thalamus as “Thelma (thalamus) the switchboard operator who sends sensory information where it needs to go” or “Amy the emotional girl (amygdala)” and others in the long list of mnemonics we use.  


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    My favorite in-class activity is when students reflect on how the content connects to their own lives. Sometimes during the unit on Development, for instance, they’ll write journal articles, make a baby book, or create a Power Point or Prezi on how the theories to their own lives.
     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)
    Some of the teaching strategies I use include class discussion, daily reading quizzes, on-line lab activities, and chapter tests. I find that with the use of frequent assessments students retain more information. We sometimes do projects, but I find students getting wrapped up in making something look pretty, but it’s weak in content. I am enjoying our 1:1 student:computer ratio, and I’m deliberate about infusing meaningful technology into my teaching. One of my goals this year is to learn better ways to do this. 

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is often looks like a disaster zone, but I can usually find what I’m looking for! I like having what I need within arm’s length, and I use a lot of ancillary materials. I usually have a stack of papers to grade, and one that’s been graded and is ready to hand back. I’ve got my plan book – hard copy and on-line copy, folders for each subject and each unit, and usually a few empty Diet Coke cans. I have funny pictures of students, my daughter, and one of my brother and I when we were preschoolers eating corn on the cob at the Indiana State Fair – my diplomas, certificates, and thank you notes from students and parents. These things are my security; they are what makes me smile; and they are what keep me moving!


    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 
    Storytelling, humorous, interactive


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Help students become the best they can be. 

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had. 
    My disasters usually happen in U.S. History and not Psychology. For example, I interchange the words pregnancy and presidency all the time: “During Ronald Regan’s pregnancy….” The kids crack up when this happens, and I have no idea why I do this. Is it a Freudian Slip?  

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? 
    Early in my teaching career, I spent Spring Break in Okinawa, Japan visiting a friend of a friend whom I’d only met one time before. I was so excited, as I also teach U.S. History, to visit a location with such historical significance. Since I could only afford the plane ride, the friend let me stay in a comfortable guest room and was my personal chauffeur for the entire week – free of charge. It was my most unique and memorable spring break. I spent the plane ride each way grading Psychology research projects. 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure? 
    I’m not…What is this “reading for pleasure” of which you speak? Honestly, what I read for pleasure are cookbooks. I love trying new things, and cooking is my outlet at the end of a busy day.

    What tech tool could you not live without? 
    I’m learning to use Weebly, and we have Canvas as our course management system. I love both of these!

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?  
    We usually don’t talk about school in the hallway – when we’re talking to kids, it’s usually about a recent sporting event or extra-curricular activity.  

  • 21 Sep 2014 4:07 PM | Anonymous

     School name: College of the Holy Cross

     

     Type of college/university: Liberal arts college

     

     School locale: City of Worcester, MA

     

     Classes I teach:

     Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, Health  Psychology, Psychology of Stigma

     

     What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

     Create ways to empower students to become the “teachers.” If you want students to think deeply about a concept, create an opportunity for them to explain the concept to other students. And, if you want students to become more invested in the course, create spaces for them to be part of the process. For example, instead of telling students what the “ground rules” are for conversations about sensitive topics (e.g., racism), I ask the students to generate their own ideas about how we can engage in civil discourse. Nine times out of ten, they come up with the same list of items that I would have given them. But because I created space for students to become their own teachers, they take more ownership of the conversation and get more out of the class. 

      

    What book or article has shaped your  work as a psychology teacher?

    Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. It has inspired me to empower students to become be active participants in the production of knowledge rather than to treat them as passive recipients of my own knowledge.

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    Hands down, my favorite lecture topic is the social construction of prejudice. I ask students to watch “A Class Divided” - the Frontline depiction of Jane Elliot’s “Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes” experiment - before coming to class. We then recount the steps Jane Elliot used to create a new prejudice from scratch. First, she identifies brown eye color as a devalued characteristic, a stigma. That single social categorization now creates two classes where there once was one. Then, she commits a series of illusory correlations, inferring the brown eye color is associated with negative behaviors. Soon, she’s created stereotypes and prejudice that have a life of their own. And then the students are in on it. They begin to engage in confirmation bias, only noticing information that confirms their new stereotypes.

     

    Once we unpack these steps together in class, students start to see how prejudices are socially constructed. And, then the real fun begins. Because once students understand the mechanics of how a prejudice is created, they can start to see these dynamics unfold in their daily lives. Suddenly students start to question their own stereotypes based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. They start to notice racial bias in the media. And, from this space, we can then begin to unpack stereotype threat and understand how these stereotypes can threaten performance and well-being. In fact, you can even see evidence of stereotype threat in the underperformance of the brown eyed children when they are in the devalued group. The film provides such a rich starting point from which to launch into these topics and it is arguably one of the most dynamic conversations we have all semester!

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Lawrence, S. M. (1998). Unveiling positions of privilege: A hands on approach to understanding racism. Teaching of Psychology, 25, 198-200.

     

    In this activity, students are asked to construct a mobile and are randomly assigned to a low or high resource group. Because they work in separate rooms to create their mobile, they have no idea that the resources are unequal. But, when they all return to the classroom, the inequality is apparent. They see it. But more importantly, they feel it. I could lecture for hours about the social dynamics of inequality--how the low status group always notices the difference but the high status group is relatively blind to it, for example--but creating a way for students to experience it for themselves is so much more powerful. This simple idea--that creating ways for students to experience the lesson first builds incredible bridges for them to then understand it more deeply later--has totally changed the way I approach all my courses

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I use a lot of group work and think-pair-share in class. My exams are usually mixed format and always include an essay that requires application of course material to novel real world situations.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    Our building used to be a women’s dorm, so our offices are actually quite large. There’s enough room for my desk and a small table with chairs, which is really great for student meetings.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    I queried my students for this answer, and they say: engaged, passionate, and rigorous.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Engaging courses create lifelong learners.

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I hate to admit this, but the second time I was an instructor in grad school, I passed out one of the exams with the answer key stapled to the back. Yup. You read that correctly! I had accidentally given all the students the answers. Luckily, one of my more conscientious students raised her hand and asked if I had meant to do that. It was totally embarrassing, but I’m glad I got that epic of a mistake out of my system early on in my teaching career!


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    I was the first female competitive power-lifter at my high school and won my weight division in a regional competition. As my colleagues will tell you, those skills still come in handy when changing the enormous water cooler bottles in our faculty lounge!

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’m working my way through Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    The Internet, Dropbox, and power point clickers, in that order.

     

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? 

    Like most places, the chatter varies from the mundane (“The printer is jammed again?!”) to the meaningful (“Is higher education really ‘doomed,’ as the recent Atlantic article would lead us to believe?”). But, there is almost always someone laughing. And that sort of easy-going, collegial environment is a big part of what makes Holy Cross such a great place to be.

  • 10 Sep 2014 2:36 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Stonehill College

    Type of college/university: Small liberal arts college

    School locale: Easton, Massachusetts, a small town 30 minutes south of Boston

    Classes you teach: General Psychology; Child Development; Research Methods in Psychology; Advanced Research in Developmental Psychology; Capstone


    (Photo credit: Patrick O'Connor Photography)

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    I have learned a lot from reading the Lessons Learned: Practical Advice for the Teaching of Psychology series. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read the volumes cover to cover. However, the selected readings have been quite helpful in shaping how I teach courses and interact with students. In addition, Teaching of Psychology has been an invaluable resource for improving my teaching.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    My favorite course to teach is Child Development. The main reason that I love teaching this course is because it gives me an opportunity to share stories about my two children: Cameron (6-year-old) and Kennedy (3-year-old). In addition, we have a Child Development Playroom on our campus, and my students are required to complete two observational research projects. Often, my wife and children are the participants in the playroom! It is a wonderful opportunity for me to blend family life and work.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I enjoy covering children’s eyewitness memory. I assign one of Maggie Bruck and Stephen Ceci’s articles on the suggestibility of children’s memory. Then, during class we watch a short video on a recent criminal case that involves a young child as an eyewitness. Finally, we have a class discussion in which we apply some of the suggestible interviewing techniques to the case. I really love this class because it clearly demonstrates the application of developmental research to improve children’s welfare. Notably, my students usually agree with my assessment and often rank it as the best class of the semester.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    I rely on over a dozen different techniques. I present material via multiple media (e.g., YouTube videos, PowerPoint), provide a variety of in- and out-of-class activities (e.g., writing assignments, small group discussions, class discussions, reading assignments), and use multiple assessment tools (e.g., low-stakes quizzes, cumulative exams, papers). Taken together, this approach has been well-received by my students.



    What's your workspace like?

    It depends on the time of year. If it’s the beginning of the semester, my office is extremely neat and organized. However, if it’s the end of the semester, my office could be condemned.  





    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Passionate, fair, challenging


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Apply evidence-based practices to enhance teaching.


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    I don't like to get my hands dirty. For example, I eat donuts and pizza with a fork.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    People have time to read for pleasure?  Does Teaching of Psychology count?


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    The Blackboard Learn course management system


    What's your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? 

    I am extremely fortunate to be on the faculty at Stonehill College. One of the best aspects of my job is having the opportunity to interact with my talented colleagues, both within and outside of the Psychology Department. When we are not talking about work-related issues, we discuss music (Dave Matthews Band!), the Boston sports scene (Patriots! Red Sox! Bruins!, Celtics!), and our children (cute and smart!). It’s an ideal working environment.

  • 21 Aug 2014 5:23 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Sonoma State University

     

    Type of college/university: Public, teaching focused

     

    School locale: Sonoma County CA.

     

    Classes I teach:

    Social Psychology, Research Methods, Advanced Research Methods, Social Psychology of Gender, LGBT Psychology

     

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    Just because you “cover” it, doesn’t mean they have learned it.

     

    This came from one of my mentors - Cindy Decker Raynak- at the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. I know it sounds obvious, but I and many other instructors have a default worry that there isn’t enough time to “cover” everything. This approach leads to class sessions where instructors plow through concept after concept, show graph after graph, and summarize study after study. Students leave with their eyes glazed, wondering what will be on the test.

     

    My approach now is to think “what can I present that will invigorate the material? What will promote long-term retention of the concepts?” Sometimes I use examples from my life. Other times I ask students to generate examples from their lives. And sometimes I do present studies and graphs, but only if it helps them learn the material. This approach takes time, and I do indeed end up covering less material. But that isn’t what I am after anymore. My goal is for the concepts to be remembered and referenced years after graduation.

     

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    Actually, it is not a book or article but a series of youtube clips. Andy Field’s Statistics Hell website is a treasure of resources to use in class. But more importantly, there are videos of him teaching his undergraduate statistics course. His ability to teach advanced concepts such as bootstrapping and fitting models is masterful. I use many of his metaphors and examples in my research methods class and the students get it right away.


    Also, my graduate assistantship and post-doc at the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State gave me invaluable training that continues to blossom to this day. If you have a teaching center at your institution, check it out. They are an incredible resource.


     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    Benevolent sexism. It changes lives.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Self-presentation styles on social media. Students take out their phones/laptops and go on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - whichever they like. They look for examples of self-presentation styles (i.e., self-promotion, ingratiation, supplication, intimidation, exemplification). They then look to see the response – were there a lot of “likes” or re-tweets? Did it backfire and receive snarky comments? Which styles are most prevalent and why? (Self-promotion is always the most common.) The students are fascinated by this activity. 

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Frequent, lower stakes tests instead of exams. Every two weeks is a test on two weeks of material. They are just as challenging as an exam, only on less material. The research evidence overwhelmingly shows that this practice leads to better performance and deeper retention. You would think that the students would groan at more tests, but they don’t. They tell me that it is one of their favorite aspects of my classes.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    To off-set the chaos in my head, my space is clean and soothing. There is a little fountain, pictures of various nature scenes and soft lighting. By the end of the semester all civility and order is gone. Empty Diet Coke bottles, Altoids tins, and piles of papers. Each November there are reports that several forks and spoons go missing from the department kitchen. I can neither confirm nor deny this, but please do not open my desk drawer. 

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Learning while laughing.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Respect the students. Strive for connection. Don’t be boring. (*nine words)

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    An alarmingly large lizard ran over my foot while teaching. After I returned to the ground, I was told that the lizard was a “service animal for depression” and that “he liked me”. Since then, I set firm policies that prohibit lizards in class.

     

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    Few can match my skill and fervor for step aerobics. Its heyday may have come and gone, but I still rock the bench, waiting for the triumphant return of step to mainstream fitness.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Spark by John Ratey, which is focused on the neuroscience research about exercise. 

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Course management software. Gone are the days of those tiresome green gradebooks, bringing extra copies of handouts to class, and students wondering what their grade will be. 

     

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? 

    We share our grading woes. Grading papers can be tedious. To break up the doldrums we share some of our favorite writing mishaps. Below is the current winner.

    “Freud came up with the edible complex.”

  • 06 Aug 2014 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Samford University


    Type of college/university: Private, regional, masters-level University (although we have no graduate programs in psychology and operate more like a liberal arts college). We are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention of Alabama.


    School locale: Birmingham, Alabama.


    Classes you teach (current): I regularly teach General Psychology, Statistics for Social Sciences, Cognitive Psychology, Journal Seminar, and Directed Research.


    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    Ooh, so many to choose from. I’m going to cheat and list two, one early in my career and one later. First, when I was in grad school, I attended a training meeting on how to teach. The guy leading it was an older grad student who had taught 5-6 times (that qualified him as a teaching expert), but he did make one point that I always remember. Teaching involves lying to your students because you must simplify material to make it understandable to them. You have to omit detail and gloss over controversies. You have to meet the students where they are, then take them where you want to go. The critical outcome is that your students have a better, generally correct understanding than they had before they took your course. And make sure that the lies you tell students match the lies in the textbook.


    In mid-career I had the opportunity to participate in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) run by Lee Shulman. Lee taught me how to think of teaching as scholarly inquiry. All teaching should be driven by evidence of student learning.


    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    As far as books are concerned, The Activities Handbook for the Teaching of Psychology was a godsend when I was starting out. I have all four volumes. I also sifted through old issues of ToP. Going to conferences such as NITOP was also incredibly helpful.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    I guess my absolute favorite is Cognitive Psychology because it is my area and it is a chance to share what I love about it with my students. It’s an advanced course, so we can replicate a lot of studies as part of class. Statistics and General are close seconds. I like Stats because of the challenge of getting students over their math anxiety and I like General because I am showing the students what psychology really is and how interesting and useful it is.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I do one activity in General Psych that is a sentimental favorite because I learned it from my grad school mentor, Jim Jenkins. I teach research methods in General Psych about the second week of classes. I discuss descriptive methods, then correlations, and finally experiments. After explaining correlations, I discuss how correlation can’t establish causality. After some simple examples, I state that we’ve known for decades about the correlation between cigarette smoking and cancer, but, because it is a correlation, tobacco companies have always been able to claim that there is no established causal link between the two in humans. I discuss why this conclusion is correct because of uncontrolled extraneous variables. I ask the class to list some likely confounding variables between smokers and non-smokers possibly related to cancer. They come up with exercise, diet, pollution, genetics, stress, work environment, and others. Next I talk about experiments and their properties. I talk about the strengths of the method in addressing causality.  We go through some simple examples and then I pose the following problem: Say the National Institutes of Health gave you unlimited amounts of money to conduct an experiment to determine once and for all if cigarette smoking causes cancer. Design the perfect experiment for this purpose.  We go through the steps of experimental design. Who would be our subjects? They can’t be adults, too much has already happened to them. They can’t be people who smoke already, we don’t know their health backgrounds. We have to have to control for genetics. So the only solution is to use sets of identical twin babies. We have to randomly assign one twin of each pair to be a smoker and the other a control. Then we have to control all other variables. We have to ensure that they get the same diet, exercise, stress level and so on. When one baby smokes, we have to have the control baby do everything except inhale. Then 50 years later, we see which group developed more cancer. Of course, the students are APPALLED that we would even discuss taking babies away from parents and teaching them to smoke. It’s a perfect context to discuss the ethics of research and why this study would never be done. But if we can’t do it with babies, who can we do it on? Lab animals, of course, (and here I can discuss ethical principles of working with non-human animals).  So animal studies do show a causal link between cigarette smoking and cancer as well as other diseases, but now we have to worry about problems of generalization from animals to humans, and from lab studies to the real world. We discuss how the perfect experiment is really impossible to do. No one can think of all possible confounds, much less control for all of them. This give me a chance to discuss confounding and the importance of replication. This activity accomplishes a number of desirable goals for me beyond teaching research methods. It creates a sense of intrigue for students. They don’t know what outrageous ideas might be discussed in class. It shows the students that they have permission to think in unconventional ways in class.  It creates an atmosphere where students expect to contribute in class.


    I’ve done this activity for all the years I’ve taught General Psych. Perhaps it takes some finesse to pull it off without offending the class and it may not work for everyone, but I find it very useful.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    When done properly, formative assessments have tremendous benefits for students and teachers and virtually no downside. Formative assessments are brief, no-stakes or low-stakes activities that make the level of student learning and understanding visible to both student and teacher. Think-pair-share, exit problems, predict-observe-explain, in-class quizzes, conceptests or “clicker” questions, are all examples. The exam should never be the first time the teacher assesses student learning. But the formative assessment has to be designed and implemented properly and the results have to be used constructively by teachers and students. I see teachers sometime going through the motions without actually understanding what they are trying to accomplish with their assessments.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I’m happy to report that as of right now it is pristine, because I was forced to clear my office to get new floor tile. That being said, I’m terrible about taking the time to organize and file stuff away, although I do make honest efforts. I also seem to be under constant deadline pressures, but I know that is true of most all faculty. When I cleaned off the two foot high stacks of papers on my desk and credenza, I found stuff dating back to 1999. My office was pretty legendary for its stacks of piled up papers. Once it was empty, several people in the building came by just to look. I’ve taught generations of psych majors at Samford who never saw the top of my desk. I resolve to be more organized in the future.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, demanding, supportive


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    I’m happy you are here, let’s learn together.


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    So many to choose from. I’ve actually got a mental list of them that I reflect on often and continue to learn from. I’ve discussed several of them in my chapter for the STP e-book on teaching psychology through autobiography. But here I’ll describe one that really haunted me at the time. It happened early in my career.


    In the 1980’s, psychologist Nancy Wexler made a dramatic breakthrough in identifying a chromosomal marker for Huntington’s disease, which made it possible for the first time to test for the disease before symptoms developed. It was a dramatic story because Huntington’s runs in Wexler’s family and her mother died from it. Wexler then had to confront the question of whether she wanted to know if she carried the chromosome, a question that all members of families with Huntington’s now had to face.


    I saw this research as a great teaching opportunity for my General Psych course. It was clearly an important breakthrough, it had a great human element, and it showed psychologists in roles contrary to the popular stereotype. I explained the breakthrough to my class. Then, to make the story more personal to them, I asked them the following: If they had Huntington’s disease in their families, would they want to know? Would they take the test for the disease? I had them write down their answers and reasons and turn them in to me. In my enthusiasm, I didn’t consider the possibility that I would have a student who had Huntington’s disease in his or her family. Of course, I did. In her written statement, she said she and her sister had been grappling with that very issue, and she had almost burst into tears when I was discussing it. She found it demeaning that I would see what was going to be a life altering decision for her as an interesting academic exercise. I wrote her an apology and offered to meet with her but I never heard back from her. My first thought was that I should never have brought up a topic that might be affecting my students in such a personal way and I should take care to avoid such topics in the future. Over the next few years, though, my thinking changed. It was an important issue for students to learn about and to understand. Many topics we cover in General Psych are personal to students, from attachment to prejudice to behavior disorders. My fault was in not mentioning the possibility that someone might be personally experiencing what we were discussing and explaining the importance of covering it. I’m much more cognizant of doing that now.


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    They are surprised to learn that I used to teach ballroom dance. I was never a “Dancing with the Stars” type dancer, but I was a good social dancer and taught it for several years in Jan. term.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I recently finished reading Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy, a history of the African and European campaigns in World War II. I also listen to a lot of young adult fantasy and historical fiction with my son in the car. I enjoy it as much as he does.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Article databases. Young whippersnappers today have no idea how much time and effort is saved by using article databases. They never had the pleasure or the exercise of sifting through volumes of Readers’ Guides and the Social Science Citation Index.


    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most?

    Mostly we talk about students. We are a small department and we know our majors well. Often we compare notes on them, resolve advising issues, and discuss research projects we are doing with them; stuff like that. We do talk about teaching, and any problems that might have come up in a class.

  • 21 Jul 2014 8:33 PM | Anonymous

    School name:

    I just very recently started teaching at Ryerson University located in the heart of Toronto, Ont. The Psychology department at Ryerson University is very research driven, but my position is teaching focused. Prior to this, I taught for four years at Maryville University, a small liberal arts university located in a suburb outside of St. Louis, MO.


    Classes you teach:

    Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, Group Dynamics, Organizational Behavior, Community Psychology, Interpersonal and Intergroup Dynamics, Evidence-Based Leadership, Critical Thinking in Psychology, Statistics, Research Methods, Tests and Measurements, and Senior Seminar.


    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    The best teaching advice that I ever received is, “Bring your own personality into the classroom. Find what works for you and go for it.” This became particularly relevant when I first started teaching at a small liberal arts university a few years back. Up until then, I had taught large enrollment classes for a state school, so lecturing was considered perfectly acceptable, and I was good at it. However, at my new institution there seemed to be an unspoken bias against lecturing in favor of discussion.  Indeed, in observing some of my colleagues at work, they were masters at throwing out a question, letting it stew amongst the students, and then gently guiding the discourse to a logical conclusion. Rarely was a PPT slide used. I, on the other hand, was quite bad at this! For me, a discussion-only format felt like the world’s most painful staring contest. (Who would blink first, me or the students?) So, I went back to doing what I did best: I lectured from PowerPoint and used my humor, student-relevant examples, visual displays, activities, and discussion to engage students in the material. This format works well for me, so I have embraced it and never looked back!


    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    The book that made me think the most about my own teaching was Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. Although this book focuses on the teaching of American History, it made me realize the importance of representing psychology truthfully, through multiple lenses, and remembering to represent all of the members of our society when doing so.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    There are so many to choose from! I love teaching about sensation and perception. There are so many fun illusions and demonstrations; and for a short while I get to feel like a magician. I also love teaching about social influence and group dynamics. Again, there are so many fun ways to engage students in this material. I also really love teaching courses in Statistics. Students come into the class with so much fear. I enjoy the challenge of breaking down those anxiety barriers in order to help students appreciate the value of statistics.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I have developed an in-class role playing game designed to engage students in a discussion about issues of intersectionality, privilege, and oppression. In the game, students are assigned a character and then navigate life decisions and scenarios as that character. The consequences (good and bad) of each decision vary based on student’s own unique characteristics. As the game progresses, students are able to see how race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and SES interact to influence the opportunities that are available for some but not for others. For years I struggled with how to teach this material without students becoming defensive and shutting down. This new approach really seems to work and the discussions that follow the activity have been great!


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    I like any assignment that treats learning as a process, rather than an outcome. For example, I provide online quizzes where students can continue retaking the quiz (with a different set of questions for each attempt) until they feel as if they have mastered the material. When time allows, I also like to assign multiple drafts of the same paper so that students can engage in critical self-reflection, submit their papers for peer review, and receive feedback from me prior to turning in a “final” version of the paper. I want students to internalize that learning unfolds over time as a process and is not simply an end product of “memorization and regurgitation.” 


    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is best described as “functional.” To an outsider, my office probably appears impersonal. I guess my personality comes out in my behavior and social interactions, more so than it does in my material surroundings. =)


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Energetic, zany, & well-organized.


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Create passion, make it relevant & focus on process. (The ampersand saves the day! I used exactly 8 words).


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I am constantly saying or doing random things that are embarrassing. Indeed, I rarely go a semester (or even a class period) without tripping over something or saying something random and weird. Most of the time, the students and I laugh about it, shrug it off, and move on. But one time I really did embarrass myself. I was introducing SPSS to students in my statistics course. To illustrate the many user friendly features of SPSS, I had intended to give the example that, for any given study, I am typically bad at remembering how I coded participant sex. The labeling function of SPSS helps me keep track. However, what I actually verbalized was: “I am really bad at sex.” As soon as I realized what I said, I became embarrassed and tried to back track, but in the process I just made things far worse! “I did not mean to say, ‘I am bad at sex.’ I am not bad at sex! This is not to say that I am standing before you saying that I am good at sex. Although, I’m not saying I’m NOT good at sex either…” Fortunately, the students were used to me saying random bizarre things, so we had a good laugh about it. Still, I cannot believe that I announced to a classroom full of students that I was “bad at sex” and then went on to try and explain to them that this was not true! Definitely a “TMI” moment for all of us. =)


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    In the classroom, I am very lively, energetic, sociable, and outgoing. Outside of the classroom, I am introverted, preferring to curl up with a book, rather than socialize. In addition, in social situations where I do not know what to expect, I can be quite shy.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    My sons and I have started to read together some of my favorite books from childhood. We just finished Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and we are currently reading Two Old Women by Velma Wallis. Next up: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I consider access to PowerPoint, a course management system (and all of their bells and whistles), email, YouTube, and TED talks as “essentials” to my teaching. My teaching style would have to drastically change if I did not have access to these tools.


    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

    I am at a new institution, so I am still testing the social waters, but in my previous position the hallway chatter between my colleagues and me was always lively, fun, and silly. We were (and still are) very close and talked about anything and everything (including teaching ideas, family, etc.). We also liked to pull funny, silly pranks on one another. I love chocolate and was notorious for popping into people’s offices mid-afternoon just to raid their candy jars. In addition, as a fundraiser each year, I would make and sell tie die shirts for charity. My colleagues would dutifully buy one each year to support the cause. At my very last faculty meeting before I moved, my colleagues staged a surprise flash dance to the song Age of Aquarius while wearing the tie died shirts that they had purchased from me over the years. They also presented me with a HUGE Hershey’s chocolate bar. I was so surprised! I had no idea they were planning this. After years of helping to pull silly pranks on others, they pulled the absolute best one on me. =)


  • 03 Jul 2014 10:35 AM | Anonymous

    School name: University of West Florida


    Type of college/university: Regional Comprehensive University


    School locale: Pensacola, Florida, a military-friendly, tourist-oriented, and historically significant town (oldest American settlement in America) on the Gulf Coast {This “oldest settlement” is a controversial issue since the Pcola settlers got wiped out by a hurricane giving final honors to Augustine Florida for oldest continuous settlement in America}.


    Classes you teach (current): I’m returning to the classroom in the fall after ten years of service as a dean during which time I still taught honors introductory psychology. I will be teaching Honors Introductory Psychology and, for the first time, Positive Psychology.


    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    When you don’t know something, don’t fake it.  Turn it into a critical thinking moment and have the class speculate about how to answer the question.  If possible, come back with expert opinion in the next class.  This gem and many others from Bill McKeachie.


    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    The fabulous Teaching Tips by the fabulous Bill McKeachie.  I discovered the book in my first year of teaching and practically slept with it under my pillow.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    I most enjoy teaching intro and have done so for nearly every year in my career.  The reason I like it so much is that it gives me an opportunity to capture the most suited students for the major and also enlighten those who are not suited to the major to figure some other honorable ways to meet their career goals.  In this class, more than any other, students are capable of surprise and open to changing how they think.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I love an ice-breaker activity that I think I originally learned from Norine Jalbert. In intro I want students to understand the difference between describing behavior and inferring meaning from that behavior, a fundamental goal of intro that often gets neglected.  To do that, I provide a list of several multiple choice questions about me that they must determine the right answer to merely from observation and intuition.  An example would be, “Who has kissed me on the cheek? The Governor, Denzel Washington, Steve Martin, or a member of Monty Python.”  They must generate a hypothesis, commit to it by holding up a color coded for the appropriate answer, and then engage in vigorous defense. It is a great way to illustrate hypothesis generation, the nature of evidence, and confidence in judgment, as well as allow students a little glimpse into me and my eccentricities.  By the way, the answer is Terry Jones of Monty Python.  Twice!


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Although I enjoy traditional test construction, I prefer the long-lasting learning effects (“velcro learning”) offered by authentic assessment strategies. An example is the final exam I have historically given in intro psych.  I rearrange chapters so that I conclude the course with personality, abnormal, and treatment. The final takes place on the last formal day of class.  I recruit a former student from the class to role-play a famous deceased person with mental health problems of the person’s choosing (e.g., Sylvia Plath, Zelda Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson, Kurt Cobain).  The class serves as an interviewing body with the obligation of coming up with an explanation of how the problems derived, a tentative diagnosis, and a provisional treatment plan.  There are some reliable outcomes from this event.  The class explodes with questions. Despite my warnings, students get sucked into personal judgment rather than professional questioning. Someone usually asks if it is “okay” to do additional research.  Typically, a student volunteers for the next class’s experience.  Instead of meeting to take a final, the class returns to discuss why their answers didn’t agree and what that means about the nature of the discipline. We then switch to discussing the experience of the course itself, returning to the syllabus and talking about ways their thinking should have changed. This arrangement allows me to end the class properly, a pedagogical necessity I learned from Neil Lutsky.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I’m currently moving into a new workspace after surrendering the luxurious digs of the dean’s office.  As the most senior member of the psychology department, I was offered a double sized office with lots of project and discussion space, bookshelves, and rooms for cherished artifacts collected over a long and satisfying career.  I have what one of my colleagues calls the “I Love Me” wall filled with diplomas, plaques, and tributes. I also have a Mary Englebreit poster (“Don’t Look Back”) featured prominently to remind me about the excitement that looms head.  I’m exquisitely lucky, knowing how little space most faculty typically have.  I do not have a separate lab as most of my colleagues do since my scholarship doesn’t usually involve data generation.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Passionate, fair, funny


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    I am a disturber of the peace (see photo)


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    My favorite embarrassment story happened when I was teaching a large intro class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as an adjunct very early in my career.  My dread zone (we all have one) in intro is S&P.  Physics and I are just not on good terms and I always need to rehearse the basics to get through.  For some reason, this particular large class showed the spunk and curiosity that I claim to love but they peppered me with questions that I didn’t have the first clue how to answer.  For example, “Why do we see ourselves upside down in a spoon?”  I didn’t know we did, let alone know how to explain it.  “Why do car wheels appear to be turning the wrong way in movies?” They ultimately came up with an array of “stump the prof” questions to which I confessed both ignorance and amazement.  I promised to and did come up with viable explanations in the next class.  Because I am regularly the star of my own show on God’s comedy channel, that class just happened to be the class my brand new husband visited to watch me in action. Mortifying. It was an especially big Dufus Day but it certainly taught me not to be afraid of student curiosity.


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    This gets more surprising to students as I get older, but I’m a Big T Personality.  I like scary rides, have driven my own motorcycle, and used to be a glider pilot.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I just finished David Sedaris’ Naked. I am about to start The Book Thief.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Powerpoint.  I love being able to blend images with bulleted text to make the key ideas more memorable. Powerpoint has maximized the artistry of my teaching.


    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most?

    It saddens me to say that the most animated conversation tends to come about in relation to student misbehavior - the newest strategy for cheating, the most outrageous incivility, the often expressed wish that our current students could be as good as we were. We are such deluded romantics!

  • 20 Jun 2014 11:34 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Rutgers University

     

    Type of college/university: large research university

     

    School locale: city

     

    Classes I teach:

    General Psychology, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Personality Psychology, Advanced Topics in Social Psychology, Research Methods in Psychology, Soul Beliefs

     

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    The best advice I have received is not to talk at the students, but to is in the discussion. I do not “lecture” at them but include them in the process of learning.

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    I love teaching social psychology because the students are amazed at their biases and the manner in which they think. I usually ask students questions relating to thoughts about the self and attribution of others and the reality is never what they think. We tend to believe we are better than we really are, that we make logical decisions, and that we know ourselves. In class we challenge these “common sense” intuitions and realize that we don’t really know ourselves and there is really no reason to try to uncover our self-serving biases.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    One of my favorites addresses the debate of similarity and complementarity. I have students get together with a partner with whom they are not familiar (one is a confederate). I tell one person either to always agree with their partner or always disagree (depending on the dyad). Before the exercise, many indicate that opposites attract, but after the exercise the individuals who had someone agree with them enjoyed the conversation much more than those who had someone disagree with them.

     

    When we talk about the bystander effect, I have a student lay on the floor at the beginning of class to determine if anyone would help the student. Almost no one stops and we talk about why they did not try to help the student.

     

    I am able to recreate the Asch study by having confederates give the wrong answer on the line matching task. Inevitably, almost everyone agrees with the incorrect answer and we discuss conformity.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I usually give online quizzes every two weeks, 3 midterm exams, an application writing assignment, and clicker questions (participation points). Given that my class usually consists of 400 students, I am limited on essay exams. Some students do not like having to attend class, but I tell them it is not the grade, but the experience. I try not to lecture, but have a conversation with the students. Even in a class with hundreds of students, I will ask for input and discussion. Just the other day I had students come up to debate whether personality can be defined by traits or situations and then the class voted on the team that gave the best arguments. I usually have demonstrations and students come up on stage to break up the class. I also tend to ask controversial questions to get students thinking about issues and themselves.

     

    I recently started teaching an online class called Soul Beliefs, which was created by Dan Ogilvie and Len Hamilton. Students discuss the soul in relation to psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, and religion.   The course consists of weekly in depth discussion, weekly assignments, and take home essays.

     

    In my abnormal psychology class, students can perform an abnormal behavior and record the reactions of individuals around them for extra credit. These videos have become very elaborate with music and interviews with people who observed the behavior.


    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is organized chaos. It may appear disorganized, but I know where everything is located. I have many books and many piles of paper and everything is where it should be.   


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Passionate, engaging, though-provoking

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Involve the students in the experience!

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    We were talking about bullying and a student with awkward social skills kept waving his hand back and forth. A student behind the awkward student was making fun of him and, in a sense, bullying the student. I asked him if we realized the irony of the situation since we were discussing the topic of bullying and he stopped right away. I felt bad for putting him on the spot in front of other students.

     

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    They would be surprised to know that I am actually a person. In my class, when I talk about the series “Breaking Bad,” or any pop culture reference, they start laughing because they can’t believe that I may have the same tastes that they do. They would also be surprised to learn that I am a procrastinator just like they are.

     

    When I talk about my previous careers, I always get laughs and chatter. For example, I used to work as a private investigator and they cannot reconcile that occupation with the professor who is teaching their class.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain. My students would probably be surprised to learn that I am actually an introvert.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My laser pointer.

  • 05 Jun 2014 11:54 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Hamilton College


    Type of college/university: Liberal Arts College (~1800 students)


    School locale: small town – in the quaint village of Clinton, NY


    Courses I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Child Development, Educational Psychology, Lifespan Development, Statistics for Psychology, Cognitive Development, specialty course called “Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology”, Collaborative Research, Senior Project


    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    The best advice I’ve received is to just be myself when teaching, especially on the first day of class when you are establishing a rapport with a new batch of students. Talk openly and have a conversation. Make the students feel that you are talking with them and not just at them. On a similar thread, during the term, make the class your own – Intro Psychology a la Kara Sage. Even if great ideas can come from outside your own mind, always try to put your own unique spin on the topics to make your class memorable.


    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    For teaching activities, I’ve consulted Favorite Activities for the Teaching of Psychology, edited by Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. and published by APA. That book offered some creative ideas to increase the interactivity of Introductory Psychology in particular. I also recently read Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle and had this as an assigned book for my class this past spring semester (Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology). The book was extremely timely and thought-provoking, focusing on how engrained technology is in our lives; it led to many interesting and reflective conversations with students. Lastly, an article by Sana, Weston, and Cepeda (2013) has influenced my classroom policies on technology use – Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. It often surprises students to read and discuss how technology use in class might be distracting for not just themselves, if they are tempted to flip to that Facebook page for a moment, but also affects the learning of others around them. I’ve been trying out different course rules around technology use, and having students read this article at the start of the term led to a great understanding of why we might opt out of students utilizing technology in class, especially given the prevalence of media multitasking.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My favorite course to teach is "Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology" - a specialty course that encompasses aspects of many parts of psychology from developmental to social psychology, and most certainly the up-and-coming sub-discipline of media psychology. Discussing how pervasive technology is in our lives and the lives of Generation M (aka today's children) is such a relevant topic that fascinates both me and my students and also encourages skepticism since this a relatively new area of research. We spend most classes critically discussing recent research into such media and technologies as Facebook, virtual worlds, online gaming, television, and video games and the related effects on the person, from body image to self-esteem to friendships. There are a lot of anecdotes and thinking about how Generation M will grow up differently given that they are saturated with technology. There are also many discussions that borderline on the philosophical, such as if AI systems can ever be, or ever should be, considered human.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    A favorite in-class activity for Introductory Psychology is one titled Be the Neurologist. To help students learn about the various brain parts and their functions, they receive a list of brain areas and what behavior might be awry should that area have a lesion – for instance, touch sensitivity would be off if there was damage to the somatosensory cortex. Students are paired off and take turns being the patient (selecting one lesion) and the neurologist (conducting behavioral tests until they have enough evidence to substantiate a diagnosis). There is a lot of fun and laughter along with learning that comes with this activity, as the patient role plays the appropriate behavior and thus might showcase deficits in walking, talking, etc.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Over the years, I have determined that different techniques work better for different classes and that flexibility given a particular semester’s students is key. For Introductory Psychology, I blend some lecturing with interactive activities and videos to bring the content to life. An important goal is to establish that psychology is a science. The audience is typically freshmen with a handful of sophomores. For a topical course like Child Development, generally with a blend of upperclassmen enrolled, there is more discussion and reading of empirical literature for us to discuss. It is also interesting to focus on parenting and what lessons I can impart in that regard. For these courses that focus on development and education, including Child Development and Educational Psychology, an important learning technique is to offer hands-on experience with children. I have my students volunteer hours at a local daycare or school so that they can see “development in action” and we can discuss how the concepts from the course translate. Lastly, for a specialty course in an emerging field, like my Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology course, I utilize a discussion-heavy format where most class sessions are us (~20 students and myself) sitting in a circle and critically thinking through what the material for the day has to offer on our topic and extending that material with anecdotes, examples, and reflections.


    What’s your workspace like?

    Surprisingly neat and tidy! I am a very organized person, and I extend that to my workspace. I feel that it makes me more productive with getting tasks, like grading and reading, completed in a timely fashion. When I’m there, there is most often a large receptacle of coffee on my desk as well and perhaps a rubber duck or two (which I give out as prizes to kids who come into my lab and sometimes even my students). My bulletin board has a blend of personal and academic postings – from pictures of my honeymoon to printed copies of my publications.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Energetic, passionate, collaborative


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be yourself; Foster passion and critical/scientific thought


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I think the biggest disappointments come when I’ve put a lot of effort into developing a particular activity and it doesn’t seem to fly with a particular class, even if it worked well with other classes. I try out many interactive activities with my Introductory Psychology class in particular, and there is always at least one flop every semester that can be a bit of a downer. 


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    My students might be surprised to learn that I am a Zumba fanatic and have a secret aspiration to be a certified Zumba instructor. A perfect activity for de-stressing and just having fun! 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Based on a student’s recommendation, I am currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It presents one image of where technology could go in the future, and is an exciting and intriguing read.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    YouTube! In all of my classes, video clips are used as examples to bring concepts to life – let’s see babies babbling or cognitive behavioral therapy in action. The videos can really lift words off the pages of the textbook to illustrate concepts well.


    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?  

    Students are very frequently in my office space and in my colleagues’ spaces, so there is much discussion about their busy schedules, lives in general, and whether or not they are going to challenge me to a game of Settlers of Catan. There are discussions of random teaching ideas that ensue between my colleagues and myself. With one of my colleagues in my office ‘pod’, we sometimes sit at a little table with some treats and chat about academic and non-academic topics when the day is particularly stressful for whatever reason – helps us both unwind!

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