School name: Middlesex College (formerly known as Middlesex County College)
Type of school: Community College
School locale (including state and country): Edison, NJ (USA)
How many years have you taught psychology? I’ve been teaching Psychology courses since 2009 when I was in graduate school, so over 10 years.
Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Social Psychology, and Lifespan Development.
Specialization (if applicable): e.g. clinical, cognitive, teaching, etc. Research Methods and Health Psychology
Average class size: 30 students
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Every class and every semester of teaching is different. If something doesn’t go right one time, don’t change it immediately.
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? “What the Best College Teachers Do” by Ken Bain. I read it in graduate school and it totally changed my way of thinking about teaching.
Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. My favorite lecture topic is when I teach my Research Methods students about experimental designs and the difference between an IV and DV. I give them this example about stress and memory and lecture about the terms. Then we do a demonstration where I give them a list of words with some instructions on what to do with those words. Turns out, it’s a memory test! The students are shocked that I ask them to recall the list even though I talked about memory not 5 minutes before. It’s a lot of fun and they learn a lot about the terms that way.
Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. My service-learning Lifespan Development students had the opportunity to spend some time at a Veteran’s Home and interact with the residents living there. We developed a project revolving around age and gratitude (this just happened to coincide with Thanksgiving). We interviewed the residents and asked what they were most thankful for and recorded their responses on fake tree leaves. Then, we had the idea to do the same thing with the College community. We set up a Thankfulness Tree and asked students, faculty, and staff to write on the leaves. Then we analyzed the results comparing the differences in responses. It was a great combination of searching the literature, collecting data, and analyzing the results. Students had so much fun doing it, they didn’t even realize they were doing research!
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I have a very interactive classroom and I like to move around a lot. I definitely believe in rotating the types of activities we’ll do in class. Sometimes we’ll watch a video and discuss it, or sometimes we’ll divide up a larger group assignment, sometimes it’s think-pair-share, and sometimes it’s a recall activity where they share what they learned with someone else. I try to change things up to keep students guessing.
What’s your workspace like? Depends on what point it is in the semester, but my workspace reflects me. I’m fun and funky. I love the Beatles and Yoda, and that is immediately apparent. I also strive to create a more approachable workspace where my students and I will meet at a table in my office instead of a desk. It also gives us more room to stretch out in the space.
Three words that best describe your teaching style. Relaxed, inquisitive, and relevant.
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Enthusiastic commitment to teaching and learning.
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. In my Research Methods class, I did a factorial design demonstration using different flavored jellybeans. They were both red, but one was cherry flavored, and one was hot sauce flavored. Apparently, the hot sauce flavor was REALLY HOT, and students started spitting it out! The students who received cherry were so confused. Needless to say, I’ve changed flavors since then.
What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? When students understand the point of why they are learning a particular topic. I never create an assignment or teach on a topic “just because”. I’m always trying to get them to see the bigger picture. When they figure it out on their own, it makes me incredibly proud.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I used to do musical theater in high school and have a pretty decent singing voice. At home, I’m normally always singing with my kids.
What are you currently reading for pleasure? I have a book club with my best friends from high school! We are currently reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
What tech tool could you not live without? My clicker. I’m never near my computer because I’m always walking around the classroom.
What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? My favorite colleagues and I are always hanging out in each other’s’ classrooms before classes start. It allows students to know other professors and to see that we all like each other. Our hallway chatter is sometimes productive. One time we had this wild idea of holding a panel about the Salem Witch Trials from a biological, psychological, and historical perspective. We wound up actually presenting it to students and had them VOTE on what may have caused the trials (all in fun, of course)! Psychology won! That’s why you’ll see one of my photos with me and my witch hat.
Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes) I don’t think my teaching has changed much, just how it’s delivered has varied. What I do value is that I am still able to maintain close relationships with my students, and I feel like I still get to know them like I would face-to-face. I do, however, miss my colleagues. We often do virtual game nights, but it isn’t the same as randomly running into them in the hall and having a quick chat.