School name: Washington State University, home of the Cougars!
Type of college/university: R1, though my position is as instructional faculty.
School locale: Pullman, WA. Pullman is a small town in eastern Washington state. It’s surrounded by rolling wheat fields and gets plenty cold during the winters.
Classes you teach: My primary teaching responsibilities include our statistics course, an enjoyable course on pseudoscience, Psychology of Women, and Social Psychology.
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
Looking back on my entire teaching career, I can’t point to one piece of advice that I received that really helped me develop as a teacher. The piece of advice I gave my husband, who has recently become a professor himself, was to think first about the reputation he wants to have, and then teach according to this reputation. I would have loved to have that advice when I was starting out.
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
I’m not sure I can point to a single book or article that has shaped my teaching, but I am a devoted reader of every issue of the Teaching of Psychology. I’ve learned many interesting techniques, new strategies, and student issues that constantly push me to try new approaches in the classroom.
Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
My favorite subject to teach is statistics. Statistics is a course that students mostly dread and is a course that can easily be taught in a way that perpetuates students’ dread. Every semester that I teach statistics, I challenge myself to make the course and material approachable and to teach it in a way that reaches the most students.
Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
The in-class activity that I’m most proud of is titled Fantasy Football League: A z-Score Activity. It came about in a moment of panic, when my usual z-score activity failed and I had to quickly think of another activity to use in its place. The Fantasy Football League requires students to draft a fantasy football team consisting of one quarterback, one running back, one tight end, one wide receiver, and one kicker. Using the players’ fantasy football stats, which can be obtained from any sports-related website, students compute z-scores for each of their players and then compare their players’ performance to the other students’ players. By the way, the kicker is usually the best player on the team! I think it’s a fun and relatable way to introduce z-scores.
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
Because I’m constantly challenging myself to improve my teaching of statistics, I regularly modify my course. In the past, I’ve found that allowing open-book, open-note exams works well. Now that I’ve revised my course again to accommodate a much larger class (upwards of 160 students per semester!) I find that the old-school method of hand writing lecture notes to be amazingly effective. I find that it forces me to be precise in what I convey and how I convey it, and students appreciate it (probably because it slows me down).
What’s your workspace like?
I try to keep my office well organized and organize it frequently which I think is a carryover from my home life. At home I have a 2-year-old and nothing is ever fully clean or organized. At my office, I actually have control over how neat or messy it is, and I lean toward neatness.
Three words that best describe your teaching style
Approachable, Challenging but fair, Enthusiastic.
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
Promote psychology as a science through approachable enthusiasm.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m far more introverted than my students probably think I am and I’m fearful of public speaking. I had my students participate in an in-class activity where we correlated scores on the Big 5 introversion/extraversion scale with the number of times the students “flipped” a Necker cube. Because the class was small, I contributed my data to the data set. Once the students knew I was participating, a bet began among the students to guess my score on introversion/extraversion. The students all guess that I was far more extraverted than I actually am (my score nearly bottomed out on the scale)! My students were shocked!
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I have three books on my bedside table, one called Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wells, an American Academy of Pediatrics tome about child development through 5 years of age, and a How-To book on crocheting. The novel is my for-fun book, the child development book is so that I can read up on why my child is doing what he’s doing, and the crochet book is so that one day I can actually pursue a hobby!
What tech tool could you not live without?
Only one??? I can think of four: my iPad, my laptop, my wireless remote control, and a document camera.
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
I’m probably a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to hallway chatter. In addition to being incredibly busy at work, I also have a busy home life with my 2-year-old son. So when I’m at work, I work and don’t socialize much. When I do chat with colleagues, it’s usually about teaching.