Society for the Teaching of Psychology

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 Apr 2014 9:36 AM | Anonymous

    School name: University of the Cumberlands

     

    Type of college/university: private liberal arts university

     

    School locale: We are located in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the United States (southeastern Kentucky)

     

    Classes I teach:

    I teach Research Design and Statistics, Learning and Cognition, I/O Psychology, Sport Psychology, Freshman Orientation Seminar, Senior Seminar, and various online courses.

     

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

    One of my teacher friends often reminds me that the good teachers are ones who can educate young minds without losing their own.

     

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

    McKeachie’s Teaching Tips is a resource I still consult often.

     

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

    Research Design and Statistics is my favorite course to teach. Many of my students refer to the course as “sadistics” when it begins. Often their fear is rooted in math anxiety. However, most of them beg for computation problems rather than conceptual problems as the course progresses. Moreover, most of them develop a much better understanding and appreciation of how numbers serve as tools to help address questions about human behavior. I see more cognitive growth in my Research Design and Statistics students than in any other course.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Although I have my “go to” activities and assignments that always go well, I do not have a favorite. In general, my activities and assignments are applied in nature. For example, rather than have students define change blindness I will ask them to give me an example of where they have seen change blindness in action this week. Moreover, I might ask students to do a change blindness “experiment” on their own, such as switch clothes in the middle of an event, report on how many people noticed the change, and give plausible reasons why the change was noticed or not.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Although it increases my grading load, I give students numerous opportunities to earn points during the semester. Students must provide some type of “deliverable” nearly every class period. By doing so I get a sense of which concepts need further explanation, students have ample opportunities to actively think about course material, and plenty of deliverables also minimizes situations where students beg for extra credit at the end of the semester.  


    What’s your workspace like?

    Because I have a heavy teaching load of face-to-face classes, online classes, and supervising independent research projects, keeping my workspace tidy often falls near the bottom of my priority list. I often quip that a cluttered office means a clear mind. Although I have never misplaced a student assignment or important document, I occasionally have trouble reading the notes I have written to myself. My handwriting skills seem to be decreasing with age.   


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Repetition boosts learning!

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Learning is an active and constructive process.

     

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

    A prospective donor to the university recently sat in on one of my courses. I was lecturing the students on the importance of proofreading their written work because there had been numerous writing errors in recent assignments. Shortly after my lecture I gave a handout to the class. The donor wryly pointed out to me that my handout contained a typographical error. He was right!

     

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

    My wife and I lived inside of a funeral home for a year.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Most of my pleasure reading these days is in the domain of success. I am intrigued by the fact that my students with the most potential (academically or athletically) are not necessarily the ones who turn out to be most successful. I want to learn more about what characteristics ultimately lead to success in life so I can try to help instill these characteristics in my students and children. I am an avid sports fan and read a great deal about sports too.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I would not want to go back to academic life without course management systems such as Blackboard.

     

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

    The hallway chatter in my department often involves student stories. Some of them are humorous such as telling my colleagues about a student who called to notify me he could not come to class on a cold day because he did not have an ice scraper to remove the ice from his car windshield (true story!)  Others are more depressing such as looking for advice about how to motivate a student taking a class for the third time who is failing the course again.    

  • 05 Apr 2014 4:08 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Northern Arizona University, Extended campus


    Classes I teach: child and adolescent development, developmental psychology, adult development, research methods, statistics, organizational psychology


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

    When I was in graduate school I read McKeachie’s Teaching Tips (11th edition).  It was a great read while starting out teaching. Also while I was in graduate school, I read Dempster (1993), Exposing our students to less should help them learn more, published in Phi Kappa.  I really tried to think about the less is more approach while feeling overwhelmed with what I had to teach students.  I also tried to connect ways to elaborate and it got me thinking more about the textbooks I choose (if I had the choice). 

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
    I really enjoy teaching developmental psychology courses, research methods, and statistics.  Recently, I have begun to teach more and more on-line (administrative request).  This has led me to shift a bit on my favorite lecture topics/courses.  In person, a few of my favorite topics are infant cognition (child and adolescent development), adolescent cognitive abilities (child and adolescent development), creating formulas in excel (statistics), and career and work (adult development and aging).


    I have found it easier to transition the developmental courses online.  For online courses, I keep the same shell recipe for the different courses I teach (with some adjustments).  This semester I am teaching research methods online -- keeping the rigor of the face to face requirements (4 credit writing intensive course).  I am focusing the semester on a broad research topic with the class first participating in survey research (I have students fill out a questionnaire during week 1 that serves as data for this project, and then they do a literature review of the topic and write up the findings as their first research paper write up) and then we move to experimental designs on the same topic (group based projects that they can collect data online).  I am hoping that this becomes a favorite course.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    Anything that brings information alive to students and where they are connecting to the learning material.  I keep telling them the best way to know you “know it” is to be able to explain it to someone else and come up with your own examples.  Any activity I can develop or find that does that is a favorite.  My favorite assignment for developmental psychology was a service learning project I did while at Dominican University.  Student worked in a low-income Kindergarten or first grade classroom.  I had bi-weekly assignments connected to their classroom time.  The main project was to develop fun, educational games.  Students worked in pairs to develop games and the class chose four to be implemented.  The class worked on creating the materials to play the games in the classroom and for the kids to take them home.  We then had a game day for the classes and the kids took the games home.  Students then wrote a final reflection paper.  It took me a couple of iterations before I felt like the project really connected well with students and course content.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? 

    For online teaching, I use the exit ticket every week to check in on student learning (I also ask what they feel they learned really well).  For the exit ticket, students need to respond with an explanation or application of a concept covered that week along with a question they still have about the material.  Students look over each other's exit ticket posts and respond to peer posts.  The exit ticket is a weekly discussion board.  I follow up with a quick clip video of common topics students asked about in addition to responding to each student's posts.  

    I also use rubrics for grading papers, projects, and discussion boards.  I try to use as many assignments with an applied approach.

     

    What are three words that best describe your teaching style?

    practical, authoritative, invested

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Emphasize science, make it applied, and come alive.

     

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

    Last summer, as an adjunct I submitted copies for the final exam for an evening summer course.  The copy center moved with renovations going on, and it closed before my class started.  I only came to campus once a week.  The copies were not in my box.  Luckily I had access to a printer and could print them all off, but it was a rush and stressful.  Come to find out, in my panic, I did not see that they were in the mail box below mine.  I still can’t comprehend how I missed them.  We started class five minutes late and I was just glad the class was almost over. 

     

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

    I like driving stick-shift--I really wish I did not trade in my old car for a minivan I run a destination half-marathon race at least once a year.  My husband is Canadian.  Things they already know--I am an identical twin and mother of three children.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? 

    I just finished How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.  Before that I read Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. 

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I really enjoy using Poll Everywhere and I use YouTube weekly to post class quick clips.  And, I just got a new desk mount that allows me to work standing or sitting (see picture!).

  • 20 Mar 2014 11:17 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Carroll University

     

    Type of college/university: independent, co-educational comprehensive university grounded in the liberal arts tradition

     

    School locale: Waukesha, WI

     

    Classes I teach:

    Introductory Psych; Statistics and Experimental Design; Psychological Testing and Assessment; Experimental Social Psychology; Research Seminar; Specialty Courses (Web 2.0 Learning Tools; Happiness; Why War?; SPSS; Web-based Surveying)

     

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

    Be yourself. Don’t chase after “Best Practices.” Observe and reflect on what makes a teacher (in)effective at engendering learning, resilience, and love of learning. BUT DON’T try to be JUST like that master teacher.

     

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

    Postman and Weingartners (1971) Teaching as a Subversive Activity and most recently, Gardner and Davis’ (2013) The App Generation.

     

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

    Statistics and Experimental Design (PSY205). Here is what I tell my students at the start of this class: “Statistics is a way of thinking about things, and is a set of tools for answering questions. Using statistics on a regular basis is the best way to learn this language and to learn how to use statistical tools appropriately. Therefore, it’s very important that you attend labs, work on problems I assign you from the text, and actively participate in data collection exercises. To further help you understand uses of statistics I shall often share with you examples of applications of statistics from my own work of that of student and faculty researchers.”

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Collecting meaning data, especially if related to a study recently published in a journal like Psychological Science or which can be used in conjunction with software such as Research Randomizer, SPSS, and Survey Monkey. This gives us data that we can refer to throughout the semester as we learn together.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    In my Statistics class, I give no quizzes or homework per se. There are five regular exams (criterion-referenced) which focus on being able to perform correctly the appropriate data analyses by hand and by computer, to interpret computer output, and to be able to write a report that a motivated layperson would understand. Students also take a comprehensive final examination whose emphasis is on demonstrating mastery of knowing what data analysis to do--and why that particular data analysis is appropriate. I use for a regular text and my own materials. There is a weekly lab taught by me where they learn how to use SPSS. I also introduce some additional software (StarQuiz) which allows for computer assisted review.


    What’s your workspace like?

    Cluttered but the source of much creativity, computation, and collegial conviviality. I have a lab room adjoining my office where six student research assistants continually provide me support and intellectual stimulation. I sit at a desk which has a Dell desktop sitting next to a MacBook Pro and an iPad. They get along. I am surrounded by books and students. My classes are within walking distance of my office. I have an open-door policy and am rarely alone.  


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Playful; Personalized; Patient

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Strive for consistent excellence; Listen; Reflect; Learn; Love

     

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

    Until I started college/university teaching, I suffered from a fear of public speaking.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.)

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I pride myself on NOT being dependent upon tech tools (but I’ve also been known to blog extensively about them).

     

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

    Alas, I am not known for my small talk--or for standing in the hall. Ars longa, vita brevis.

  • 05 Mar 2014 3:09 PM | Anonymous

    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.

  • 20 Feb 2014 2:13 PM | Anonymous

    School name: 

    Centenary College of New Jersey


    Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College

     

    School locale: Rural

     

    Classes I teach:

    Intro Psych, Intro to the Major, Stats, Methods, Tests & Measures, Social, Personality

     

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

    This nugget: “Teach depth over breadth.” I heard it first from Wayne Weiten when I was a student in his Teaching of Psychology seminar at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. At the time, that advice made a lot of sense for us budding instructors who were hell-bent on covering as much material as we could in a 50 minute class session, and proving our competence. Now I take something different from it. There are very real limits to human attention and processing; we see this in our classrooms every day. So, it makes sense to dive deep with just a handful of themes during a class session. Differentiate formats of instruction, elaborate upon the themes, let students deeply connect with them, practice retrieving the information, and then assess students’ grasp both informally and formally. If anything, the textbook provides the breadth.


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

    I was first introduced to McKeachie’s Teaching Tips back in Wayne’s seminar, and I still pick it from time to time when I need to be reenergized about being a professor.

     


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

    My favorite courses, due to the content and importance within the curriculum, are Stats and Research Methods. But when taking my students' interests and motivations into consideration, it would have to be Social Psychology. In particular, one of my favorite topics to teach would have to be Sexual Strategies Theory. The topic and predictions from this framework always seem to elicit discussion--especially new empirical questions. I particularly enjoy integrating research components into courses, and so topics like this can get students thinking like scientists. Eventually some join the research enterprise...

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    My classes tend to be discussion-heavy, so I will often rely on activities such as minute papers, think-pair-shares, small group conversations, and then whole class discussion. I would say that I most enjoy bouncing around from small group to small group. That way I am able to gain some sense of how students are processing and relating to the information in real-time. I am also able to privately answer questions students would avoid asking in a whole class discussion. I can reinforce students’ insights and encourage them to share with everyone when we regroup and break into full discussion. For me, this type of interaction is simple to achieve in small to medium classrooms, and it accomplishes a number of immediate and longer term outcomes.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I have occasionally made use of a “flipped” or “inverted” classroom over the last few years. I first toyed with putting up notes, reading quizzes, websites, YouTube clips, or pre-class assignments on my course management system. Eventually I got the bug, and uploaded my amateur podcasts and cheesy video lessons. I have found that this approach allows students to revisit lessons whenever, and for as many times as they would need. More importantly, perhaps, “flipping” can set a more interactive environment into motion within the classroom. In theory, students will come to class prepared and the level of discussion can be raised to a level much higher than it would in a completely traditional “read the textbook, take reading notes, then come to lecture, listen to me profess, and take lecture notes” mode of operation.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I have been told my office resembles a T.G.I. Friday’s with all the sports and college memorabilia on my walls and bookshelves. My office chair is a balance ball, so that gets looks too. As much as I enjoy that space, I have found that I am happier and more productive if I hold my meetings and do less cognitively demanding work there. For some reason I tend to do my best writing and class preparation holed up in the back of a Starbucks.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Conversational, comedy, collaborative

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    To be a firm--but fair--learning coach.

     

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

    I have not embarrassed myself lately, because I think I have reached the blissful state of not caring or “embracing the unexpected”… knock on wood. But back in my Master’s program, about 10 years ago, I was a guest lecturer delivering a Social lesson--attraction, mate selection, and the like--in a big auditorium. It seemed to be going well. The videos on PowerPoint were working, the dry erase pens in the classroom had ink. How rare is that? Students were respectful, attentive, interested (or at least well caffeinated), and even laughing at my jokes. I was feeling pretty good about things on all levels, in this, one of my first lessons at the university level. About 20 minutes in, my master teacher came up from the back row of the auditorium. I was shocked to see him on his way up to the stage. Was he bringing the hook to drag me off the stage? So, I asked him, “what’s up?” He whispered that I had a black streak on my face, completely across my forehead. I felt the blood immediately rush to my face. My cheeks became beet red, and then I playfully chastised the audience for not telling me I smeared dry erase ink across my forehead. I tried to recover, plowed on, and finished the guest lecture with no further hitches. This experience taught me two valuable lessons: 1.) use the back of your hand if you feel the need to touch your forehead while in the classroom, and more importantly 2.) you can recover from any teaching disaster with the right attitude.


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

    I was a washed-up college athlete and fraternity president before I found psychology.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Alternating between classic ToP articles on Introduction to the Psychology Major courses and Zachary Lazar’s Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPad. I use it to help me put students’ faces to names, take attendance, and randomly select students to call on. Also, if I use slideware for a presentation, I prefer to control it and make annotations using my iPad.

     

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

    The second floor hallway in Bro Hall is rather lively, and as a new faculty member, I am particularly grateful for such a warm environment. During prime time many of us are riffing on events of the day, making light-hearted cracks about one another, or bemoaning the plight of the Mets, Giants, and/or Nets. It is also a hallway culture in which folks keep their doors open most of the time. This allows colleagues to pop in and consult about statistics, solicit teaching suggestions, and touch base with one another.

  • 05 Feb 2014 8:53 AM | Anonymous

    Background questions

    I teach at Lindenwood University, a medium-size liberal arts university in St. Charles, MO, just outside of St. Louis.

    My classes include Abnormal Psychology, Personality, Psychotherapy, Critical & Creative Thinking, and various occasional Special Topics courses in the area of psychopathology (to date, this has included courses on Depression, Personality Disorders, and “Madness”).


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

    I kind of backed into teaching, transitioning from 11 years of clinical practice to adjunct teaching, to full-time teaching. I don’t really recall any seminal advice I received about teaching, as I never had a formal mentor or guide who prepared me to be a teacher. Of course, once I started doing it I cultivated valuable relationships with more senior colleagues, but the advice they shared with me was mostly about small, day-to-day matters related to grading, managing the classroom, etc.


    What feels like the strongest “shaping influence” was the model presented by my major professor in my own undergraduate days – Dale Noyd, a man who taught with great passion, humor, and incisiveness. I seek to emulate him each time I step into my own classroom.


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

    If I had to pick one book that has shaped my work, it would be Jerome Frank’s Persuasion and Healing. It’s about psychotherapy, but also about so much more – what with its cross-cultural emphasis (before this was fashionable), its wide-ranging exploration of “healing traditions,” its relentlessly broad perspective, and its effort to cut across discordant theoretical schools in search of what unites them all.


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

    My favorite course to teach is ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY (and various special topic courses derived from it). In this course I relish the opportunity to capture students’ interest, stoke it further, and to challenge the unfortunately numerous misconceptions about this field that are widely held. I also like being able to extend beyond the “disorders” themselves and explore how they can serve as inroads to fascinating topics like: What is “normal”? How much influence does culture exert on people’s behaviors and perceptions? How do “mind” and “body” interact with each other? How does “different” get transformed into “undesired”? What challenging things happen at the intersection of science, marketing, and mass media?


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

    Concerning teaching/learning techniques, my favorite is unquestionably discussion. I like to engage students face-to-face, respond to them in individualized ways, and facilitate their engagement of each other. I get to know the students, their ways of thinking and their ways of expressing themselves. My favorite move in discussions is to relentlessly adopt a “devil’s advocate” position, prodding students to think more deeply as they seek to support or justify their perspective on the material under discussion. I always did this when I was a student, and it feels very natural to continue it in my role as instructor (which, of course, is simultaneously a role as student).

    I recently took an online course, with online feedback given/received, and “discussions” conducted solely through the keyboard – and I pretty much hated it!


    What's your workspace like?

    I’m notorious for having music playing constantly in my office – it energizes me and helps me focus, especially when I’m doing routine or mundane things (for serious writing, the music goes off). It’s fun to perplex my students with my eclectic tastes – ranging from electric Chicago blues to bebop jazz to 1940s R&B to 1970s soul to modern hip-hop.


    My walls (in my office as well as in my home) display numerous of my photographs – having them around me reminds me that I can be creative, and they make me feel centered and “at-home” with my creativity when I’m at work.


    I make a point of arranging my office such that I can engage students with no desk between us. It might be a holdover from my days as a clinician. Most of my colleagues have a desk between them and students who come in to talk.


    For grading and/or extended reading of books or papers, I have a second rolling chair that I position near my large windows; they afford me lots of natural light (I often turn the electric lights off in my office; I find dim environments soothing), and some fresh air when the weather allows it.

     

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    My teaching style is often described as PASSIONATE, HUMOROUS, and ENGAGING.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    My short, punchy teaching philosophy? Engage them, intrigue them, and strike a spark that blows their minds open. I realize that’s more than eight words, but it’s in keeping with the notion of broadening rather than confining!

     

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

    My teaching disaster happened this past semester. I distributed a multiple choice exam to my Abnormal Psychology class, and two-thirds of the way through the exam a conscientious student came up to tell me that her exam had the answer key printed on the back of the final page of questions. Soon thereafter, another student approached me to deliver the same quiet message. I then realized that every question packet probably had a copy of the answer key on the back of the last page. I quickly announced this to the class and asked them not to peek at the back of that page as they finished their exams. I told them this was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their academic integrity. I later graded the exams, fully expecting that I’d have to re-administer it – but found that the grade distribution for the exam was similar to what I’d seen previously with this version of the exam, and there were no astonishingly-high scores. The next class period I apologized to the students for my error, confessed my embarrassment, and told them I was impressed that they apparently had behaved honestly. Several students then volunteered comments like “when I noticed there were answers on there, I just assumed it was some sort of psychological experiment you were doing on us …”. I do occasionally use dissimulation in small ways in my classes, so I guess this is understandable.  

     

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

    One thing my students would be surprised to learn about me is that I’m a published writer of satire, humor, and light verse, and that I’m taking coursework toward a MFA in Creative Writing.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I don’t really “read for pleasure,” unless reading academic books counts. I read a LOT in my job, and reading is often the last thing I want to spend leisure time on. Having said that, I am constantly reading new releases within my fields of interest, always looking for new and fresh material for classes, and new prospective texts for classes. I have one full shelf of recently-published books in my areas of interest that I’m slowly making my way through. 


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    At the risk of sounding like the old fogey I’ve apparently become, I’d cite e-mail as my indispensable “tech tool.” I LOVE e-mail as a method of communication with students (second only to face-to-face contact). I HATE talking on the phone, and I find that phone calls can be intrusive (whether making them or receiving them) – but I can respond to e-mails when the time is right for me, and so can recipients of my messages. I also like having an electronic paper trail of communications with students and administrators. Lastly, I am an e-mail pack-rat, archiving messages indefinitely. There have been probably a half-dozen occasions when I was able to retrieve some important bit of information by pulling up an old e-mail from last month or last year …

  • 20 Jan 2014 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Carl Sandburg College

     

    Type of college/university: Community College

     

    School locale: Galesburg, IL; rural

     

    Classes I teach: 

    Intro, Developmental, Gender and Society. I have also taught Human Sexuality and Social Psychology. 

     

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

    Some of the best and most recent advice that I received came from my vice-president. I was discussion the lack of motivation and sense of responsibility when it came to student learning. She looked at me and simply said, "They are not the students you were, but you have them, and you have to figure out how to teach them." That is when I completely changed my teaching style from traditional lectures and passive learning to peer to peer collaboration and active learning. 

     

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

    Lately I have found inspiration in Dr. Mark Taylor's article about "Generation NeXt." I have come to the realization that complaining about lack of student preparedness and whose fault it is does nothing to educate the student. It is my job as an education to figure out a different path to meet the educational objectives of my courses. I have totally thrown out all lecture notes because of Dr. Taylor, Eric Mazur, and others like them.

     

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

    I absolutely LOVE discussing how media influences our gender development. Students will start off very rigid in their belief that the cartoons they watched, games they played, or stories that were read had little to no influence on their gender belief system. We usually watch the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly, which has a variety of scholars decoding and analyzing what Disney characters teach us about gender and race. Because students grew up watching these shows, it is easy for them to identify with the characters discussed in the film. There is always a lively conversation about the impact childhood shows like this can have. The reason I love this topic is because for many, if not all, it is the first time they ever really looked at the hidden messages about gender that are given to us. Some students dig their heels in and refuse to believe that it had any influence on them (and that is ok), but most are amazed when these messages are brought to their awareness. Regardless of where they fall, students always leave the class talking about it and continue to talk about it outside of the classroom. It is very rewarding to have them come back to class and tell me how they discussed it with their friends and family. 

     


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I finally came to the realization that students do not learn the way I learned. I was having dismal completion rates and had to do something. Students weren’t reading the book and there weren’t really studying for their tests, so I decided I needed to teach them how to do both of these things. I made study guides. They had assigned questions for each class and would be given a study guide quiz (on which they could use the study guide) at the beginning of each class. The questions on the quiz were application questions, such as identifying an unconditioned stimulus in an example rather than giving the definition.  I wanted to see if they could go from factual to applicable while they had the notes right there, and folks, some of them couldn’t. So the study guide served two purposes; it taught them how to read a textbook and it was used to illustrate critical thinking.

     

    After the quiz, we get in small groups. Students tell me which questions they need clarification on and what we need to discuss. Once all the confusing questions are listed, we begin with small group discussion to attempt to answer each question to make sure everyone understands. Then, I call on one student to explain it to the class, at which point I may add some other examples. This process makes everyone participate, because it is very difficult for someone to “check out” when you are in a group of 3-4 and everyone is talking to you. I think the greatest benefit is the connection students establish with each other; that connection has been found to be important in completion.

     

    The last thing I want to touch on is multiple testing. I have created a test bank of 100s of questions. Students can practice taking the test over and over though our learning management system (we use Moodle). Once we finish a series, students have a week to take the test with me. We go to the computer lab on campus and they have three tries to take it. I wanted to show them that using practice tests, even though the questions may be different, is a very effective way to prepare for tests. Student grades and completion rates skyrocketed in my class. The interesting thing about all of this is that the test questions did not really change. I just added more of the same to create big test banks. Now, are the students learning the way I did…no. Are they learning? You betcha, and I would bet money that their retention for this information is much better than my previous classes where they had one test and that was it. My objective is for students to learn, not to learn the same way I did.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    I have one of the most magnificent views on campus. I have a huge window where I look out at a lake and trees. I have seen bald eagles, deer, coyotes, grey squirrels, egrets, and a variety of other water fowl. It gives me a place to turn and take a couple of deep breaths when things start getting stressful. I have pictures of my family, autographed pictures of blues artists, and a star fish sitting on a desk, which is there to remind me that sometimes we need to fell the reward of helping one.

     


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Relaxed, collaborative, student driven.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Once a teacher, always a student.

     

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

    I would say the pivotal semester (Spring 2011) when I had 69% fail or drop my class was the most embarrassing moment in my teaching career. That was the catalyst of change for me. Because of the pedagogical changes I made after listening to Eric Mazur and Mark Taylor, last spring (2013) I had a 6% drop or fail rate. Quite a change!

     

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

    I am 53 year old blues groupie that goes to blues concerts and hangs out after the show in hopes of meeting the artists. Right now I have five 8x10 autographed pictures of me and various blues artists in my office.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I just finished I am Malala and am now reading The Power of Habit.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Learning Management System: Moodle. It is so efficient to provide materials to students, contact them, record grades, etc. It even allows my face to face students to have due dates on Sunday.

     

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

    Interestingly enough, our hallway has a whiskey club. We usually are discussing the next type of whiskey we will try and who will be hosting the event. My favorite so far has been Johnny Walker Blue. 

  • 03 Jan 2014 11:05 AM | Anonymous

    School name:  Carleton College

     

    Type of college/university:  Liberal Arts College

     

    School locale: 

    Small town (pop. = 20,007) in a rural area in close proximity to a major metropolitan area (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota).

     

    Courses I teach: 

    Introductory Psychology, Social Psychology, Laboratory in Social Psychology, Personality, Laboratory in Personality, Psychology of Endings, Positive Psychology, First Year Interdisciplinary Seminar on Quantitative Reasoning called “Measured Thinking”.

     

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

    Reading is the source of the most memorable prods about teaching I’ve encountered.  Here are two.  The artist Josef Albers observed “Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers” (Interaction of Color).  In Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace, the classicist James O’Donnell wrote “…we teachers do not automatically deserve a future.  We must earn it by the skill with which we disorient our students, energize them, and inculcate in them a taste for the hard disciplines of seeing and thinking.”  Quite the challenge.

     

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

    Peter Gray’s “Engaging Students’ Intellects”, published in Teaching of Psychology, 1993, 20(2), 68-74.  I first heard him talk on the topic at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology in 1992, and I thought he captured sharply my more muddled and evolving philosophy of teaching.  It was thrilling to hear, and I recommend his article highly.

     

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

    There isn’t a course I teach that I don’t love teaching, and there are important, challenging, exciting ideas and findings in all of them.  I suppose if I could only teach one, it would be my Measured Thinking course on quantitative reasoning.  Although not in content a psychology course, Measured Thinking embodies the methodological values and insights of psychological science.  If I were forced to choose one topic, it would have to be the Milgram “obedience” experiment, which I take to be much less about obedience than about the challenges of navigating social-situational influences on behavior.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I enjoy conducting demonstrations of “telepathic” abilities but nothing equals the sheer terror of staking your own financial health on strategic interaction games or class lotteries (see, e.g., Larson, Teaching of Psychology, 1987, 14(4), 230-231).  However, what I value most in class are those times discussions I’ve structured to have a high probability of generating “Aha” moments when students understand or apply ideas in a newly insightful way actually succeed.  For example, in my social psychology course after we discuss students’ personal experiences conducting social norm violations, we then consider what social life must be like for someone whose attributes or status may be taken to violate social norms on an ongoing basis.  In my personality course students view psychoanalysis in a different light after I ask them to apply psychoanalytic thinking to understanding emotional reactions to relationship break-ups. 

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Lecturing!  My style is rather old school, not surprising given that I’ve been teaching for 40+ years.  I have found that a well-constructed presentation, one that invites student attention and participation and that does something meaningful or challenging with material, stimulates active learning.  I strive to cultivate students’ thoughtful listening, intellectual excitement, and disciplined engagement.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    Flooded with books, papers, notebooks, posters and plaques, odd paperweights, vintage pens, and mementos of cycling trips, family, and former students, but open to views of campus trees and Carleton’s historic Goodsell Observatory.

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Serious, challenging, playful.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? (OK, Eight big words!)

    Encourage informed and responsible thinking, the critical use of evidence, and a love of learning.

     

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

    What’s more meaningful to me than an embarrassment is a teaching disappointment, which I experience often.  It occurs when I am excited about the material, have invested heavily preparing a class, can’t wait to try something out, and find that the session flops.  I don’t perseverate about embarrassments; I’m haunted by teaching failures.

     

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

    Do students recognize how much skin I have in each and every class?  I’m not sure.  As for the “me” outside of work, students soon learn about my passion for cycling, a bit about family origins (e.g., the fact that my grandmother couldn’t read or write, or that my daughter failed the water-level task), and my interest in vintage fountain pens (which mark and sometimes stain their papers).  It’s still startling to me that I once won a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for my sour cherry-rhubarb-blueberry jam.  I suppose that might surprise students as well.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?  

    Certainly not the computer screen on which I type this.  I just finished Aili and Andres McConnon’s Road to Valor, about the cyclist Gino Bartali, who won the Tour de France before and after World War II and worked courageously during the war on behalf of Italian Jews in Italy.  Starting to read Scarcity by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, a popular contribution to behavioral economics and cognitive psychology.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My career offers a pre and post-test of work in academia relying on the everyday use of the Internet and the World Wide Web it supports.  I treasure the nearly instant access to information we have, our ability to satisfy curiosities so richly, and the opportunity to share what I learn through teaching.

     

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

    Minnesota weather, beer, classes and teaching, travel plans, family.

     

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