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" edited by: Maggie Thomas, Editor (Earlham College), Rob McEntarffer, Associate Editor (Lincoln Public Schools), and Liz Sheehan, Associate Editor (University of Kentucky)

  • 23 Oct 2015 9:24 AM | Anonymous

    School names

    Marian College (now Marian University) and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

    Types of schools/locale

    I taught near or in downtown Indianapolis for my entire 40-year career.  I spent my first 27 years at Marian College (a small, private, residential, Catholic, liberal arts college with 60 psychology majors) where I chaired the Psychology Department for 21 years.  I was then hired as the Director of Undergraduate Studies at IUPUI (a large, public, commuter, metropolitan, research university with 600 psychology majors) where I remained until I retired in 2011.  IUPUI created my new position and hired me to bolster their undergraduate experience and heighten the sense of community within their department that I had established and nurtured at Marian.  I spent the next 13 years doing everything in my power to accomplish these two lofty goals, and I was gratified at my retirement party when my chair said, “Drew clearly met the goals he was hired to achieve. Our undergraduate students are better prepared for graduation and life after college, they better understand how their psychology major can help them to achieve their goals, and they are more connected to the department through the various activities he developed.  His impact on our students and department will be lasting.”

    I was taught to be the “sage on the stage” in graduate school, and I continued this role very successfully for the next 27 years.  I worked hard to develop my speaking skills, but I grew increasingly less fulfilled with my classroom “performances.” I began to desire a different relationship with my students—one in which I could trade my sage role for that of a “guide on the side.” Although it took me several years and a great deal of work to adjust to this radial change of pedagogy, I can honestly say that I made a complete transformation from lecturer to facilitator of active learning. 

    Classes you taught

    Excelling in College, Study Skills, Freshman Learning Community, Student-Athlete Learning Community, Orientation to a Major in Psychology, General Psychology, Honors General Psychology, Psychology as a Social Science, Honors General Psychology as a Social Science, Advanced General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Human Growth and Development, Honors Issues Seminar in Human Development, Human Learning and Cognition, Human Information Processing, History and Systems of Psychology, Professional Practice in Academic Advising, Professional Practice in Teaching, Capstone Seminar in Psychology, Internship in Psychology, and Readings and Research in Psychology

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

    I heard Charles Brewer give a presentation titled Ten Things I Would Like to Tell Beginning Teachers when I attended my first psychology teaching conference in 1984.  His advice had a profound effect upon my teaching, and I would like to share some of Dr. Brewer’s tips (CB) along with an expansion of each one based on my four-decade career as a college professor (DA). 

    CB:  Be clear about what your educational objectives are, and be sure your students are clear about them as well.  DA:  Be sure you able to assess the degree to which your students have actually accomplished your educational objectives when they have completed your courses.

    CB:  Know the facts thoroughly, but go beyond the facts.  Emphasize concepts and principles which have wider applicability than isolated facts.  DA:  Be sure your students not only remember what you teach them, but also comprehend, apply, analyze, and evaluate what they have learned so they can use these critical thinking skills to create knowledge of their own in the future.

    CB:  Be willing to say "I don't know," but try to decrease the frequency with which it is necessary to do so.  DA:  All but the least able students will know you are bluffing if you make up an answer to a question they ask or try to talk your way around it. Show respect for your students by telling them their questions are those whose answers you would like to learn yourself, and show respect for your colleagues by telling your students that you will learn from your colleagues by asking them for the answers and then bringing those answers back to the classroom.

    CB:  Communicate with clarity and conciseness.  It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make things simple.  DA:  Follow definitions of hard-to-understand concepts with real-life examples. These examples will not only enable your students to better understand the concepts, but also realize that the subject matter you are teaching is relevant to their lives.

    CB:  If you expect your students to be interested in and excited about what you want them to do, it is essential for you to be genuinely interested in and excited about what you are doing.  DA:  Be interested in, excited about, and true to your discipline. If your discipline has a code of ethics or set of principles and/or methods that pertain to teaching, follow them without fail.

    CB:  Be impeccably fair with each and every one of your students.  Be friendly with all of your students, but familiar with none of them.  DA:  Create clear and thorough course syllabi that will enable your students to know exactly what you expect them to do, be confident in their ability to perform well, and understand that you will not play favorites.

    CB:  Strive to maintain appropriately rigorous academic standards.  A common problem of beginning teachers is their almost pathological need to be liked by their students.  Being respected is more important; few respected teachers' classes are flooded with mediocre students who get A's without doing any serious academic work.  DA:  A counter-intuitive phenomenon I experienced during my 40-year teaching career was the strong, positive correlation that existed between the amount of effort I required my students to expend in my classes and the scores I received on their end-of-semester evaluation forms.  Students do not mind working hard if they believe their hard work will product valuable outcomes.

    CB:  Maintain close ties with colleagues of all ages; you will learn a lot from them.  You will learn valuable lessons about Zeitgeist and perspective from older colleagues and the younger ones will teach you how to stay intellectually alive and to have a healthy skepticism about traditional ways of doing things.  DA:  If your discipline’s professional organization has a teaching division, join it and participate actively in it. If your discipline has a journal devoted to teaching, subscribe to it and read it.

    CB:  The most important influence a teacher can have on students is to help them learn how to learn independently.  Self‑education is the only kind of education of any lasting consequence.  DA:  Alfred North Whitehead once said, “Knowledge does not keep any better than fish.” The current knowledge in many academic disciplines goes out-of-date very quickly. Therefore, it is crucial to help students understand that the knowledge we teach them (i.e., the overt curriculum) is far less important than the skills we require them to develop in order to acquire this knowledge (i.e., the covert curriculum).

    CB:  Be willing to work incredibly hard for intangible rewards which often don't come until years after your students graduate.  In important ways, teachers affect eternity; they never know where their influence stops.  You must learn to be patient, with your students and yourself.  DA:  Maintain ties with your former students. I have continued to mentor and support my former students since I retired by providing them with career-related advice; writing them letters of recommendation; and helping them with personal statements, resumes, and CVs.  These relationships have provided me one of the most important “purposes” of my retirement by allowing me to continue being part of something bigger than myself, which is helping my students continue to succeed (e.g., I keep a list of my students who have reported to me that they have earned a graduate degree, which now has 150+ entries). The only thing I expect from my protégés in return is that they pay it forward by providing the same kind of mentoring to others in the future that I provided to them in the past. 

    What shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    My work as a psychology teacher was shaped by one book chapter, one conference, one book, and one set of guidelines.  I spent my first two years in college as a biology major, following in my father’s academic footsteps to become a dental educator by completing all the required courses for dental school.  Unfortunately, I neither enjoyed nor performed well in these courses and finally came to the unfortunate—but very realistic—conclusion that I would not be a successful dental student.  Luckily, I enrolled in an introductory psychology class the following semester during which I experienced a truly life-changing epiphany when I read my textbook’s chapter on human learning and memory.  As I read it, I quickly became aware that the way I had been studying during my first two years of college was all wrong, and that if I applied the methods I was learning in my textbook to help me study (i.e., transfer information from my sensory memory to my working memory and from my working memory to my long-term memory), my grades would improve.  I was right.  My newly developed metamemory helped me understand, appreciate, and utilize the memory-improvement techniques from the chapter such as distributed practice, depth of processing, the self-reference effect, and mental imagery.  I was astounded by how my test performance increased, and I promptly fell in love with—and changed my major to—psychology. 

    The conference that shaped my work as a psychology teacher was APA’s National Conference on Enhancing the Quality of Undergraduate Education in Psychology that took place at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 1991.  According to its director, Tom McGovern, the goal of this conference was “to synthesize the scholarship and practice of the teaching and learning of psychology in order to produce a practical handbook for faculty who work with undergraduates in our discipline.”  I was one of the 60 psychologists invited to participate during this five-day event, and the opportunity to work with the super stars of psychological pedagogy like Bill McKeachie, Diane Halpern, and Ludy Benjamin on such a crucially important project was a life-changing experience.    

    The book that shaped my work as a psychology teacher was the Handbook for Enhancing Undergraduate Education in Psychology edited by Tom McGovern that was the result of the St. Mary’s Conference.  This book literally became my educational bible.  It was the first place I went whenever I needed information on topics such as active learning, advising, assessment, community building, curriculum, diversity, and professional development.  If I could not find the information I needed in the book, I solicited it from one of my 59 co-authors.  I became a living testimony to the efficacy of Tom McGovern’s goal.

    The set of guidelines that shaped my work as a psychology teacher was the original version of APA’s Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major that was published in 2006.  This document was created by my colleagues and I who served on the APA Board of Educational Affairs task force that developed goals and outcomes for undergraduate psychology programs that could be broadly applied across diverse educational contexts. It served as a strong force for assessment by focusing on the measureable student learning outcomes (i.e., knowledge, skills, and attitudes) that psychology majors should possess when they complete their degree.  The processes of helping to craft this amazing document—and then using it at IUPUI to restructure curriculum and enable students to understand the reasoning and value behind the courses they were required to take—awakened me fully to the rationale behind the structure, function, and consequences of the course of study known as the psychology major.  In essence, the Guidelines helped me to integrate the roles of teacher, advisor, and mentor during the latter part of my teaching career.

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

    My favorite course to teach was B103 Introduction to a Major in Psychology, which was a course I created to produce savvy psychology majors who can provide clear, coherent, confident, and educated answers career-planning questions such as the following.

    1.    What occupations can I enter if I major in psychology?

    2.    Which of these occupations can I enter with a bachelor’s degree and which will require me to earn a graduate degree?

    3.    What specific sets of knowledge, skills, and characteristics (KSCs) must I possess to enter and succeed in these occupations?

    4.    How can I use both the curricular and extracurricular resources and activities of my undergraduate education to develop these KSCs?

    Although I was officially designated as their teacher, I was really my students’ mentor during this class, and I was not hesitant to tell them that.  In fact, I used the following section of my syllabus to explain how I would play out this role.

    The Role I Will Play in This Class

    I will serve more as mentor than as a teacher in this class. Although I know a considerable amount about the careers that psychology majors can enter, I cannot possibly teach each one of you about the career to which you aspire. What I can do is to provide you with a strategy to research your careers and to become aware of and utilize the resources that will provide you with the information you will need during this research process. My favorite definition of a mentor is as follows: A mentor is a more experienced person who is willing and able to provide guidance about how to accomplish important goals to a less-experienced person. That is exactly what I will do in this class. The series of questions you will answer as you write your “book” will guide you while you investigate yourself, your major, and your path toward your career. In essence, I will provide you with the opportunity to do what you have always known you should have been doing all along, which is to give careful thought about how you will use your undergraduate education to prepare yourself for your life after you graduate.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    My favorite assignment was the “book” I required my students to write in my B103 class.  This was my favorite assignment because it allowed me to teach, advise, and mentor all at the same time.  I provided them with eight basic questions that become the titles of their chapters, each of which contained a set of sub-questions that required them to ponder, investigate, and write about themselves, their major, their career choices, and their strategies to attain their careers.  The textbooks for the class were my book (The Savvy Psychology Major) and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. These two books—and a variety of on-line and on-campus resources—contained the information students needed to answer the eight questions in a professional manner within the context of their own unique career aspirations. My TAs and I provided my students with copious amounts of feedback on both the APA style and content of each chapter, and I required them to revise their chapters on the basis of this feedback.  At the end of the semester, they collated all of these chapters into a book and submitted it for my final evaluation and grade.

    As you might expect, my students were initially stunned, horrified, and outraged at the prospect of having to write a book, especially in a class that earns them only one credit hour. However, as the semester progressed, they began to understand the value of this arduous task as demonstrated by the following comment taken verbatim from one of my end-of-semester student evaluation forms.

    "I discovered quite a bit about myself by writing this book. … B103 finally forced me to do some serious self-reflection and to honestly evaluate my true interests and goals. I am now confident that I am in a major that is appropriate for me and that I am getting very close to successfully deciding what type of graduate program I will pursue. B103 scared me, stressed me out, and made me a better, more complete person all at the same time. I have realized over the last few months that the reason I was floundering around with no direction was because I was hoping everything would just magically fall into place. Through some serious soul searching, caused mainly by the stress of having to make certain decisions in order to successfully write my chapters, I learned I have never had to truly fight for anything in my life before and now the time has come for me to make a plan and aggressively go after and fight for the things I want for my future. I have also realized I am capable of achieving anything I want if I plan ahead and try hard enough."

    What teaching and learning technique worked best for you?

    My most effective teaching strategy to improve student learning was to require my students to come to each of my classes knowledgeable about the subject matter that was to be covered in that class.  In my B103 class, that meant I required my students to complete a reading assignment prior to each class and to take a short quiz on that material that began at the exact time when the class began.  This caused my students to come to class, to come to class on time, and to come to class ready to engage in active learning rather than skipping class, arriving late to class, and acting like spectators—rather than active participants—in my class.  My teaching assistants graded the quizzes in class, recorded the scores, and returned the quizzes to my students.  I then went over each question, provided the correct answer, and encouraged discussion to clarify any questions my students had about the material covered in the quiz. 

    Four words that best described your teaching style.

    The four most common words my students used to describe my teaching style were PASSIONATE, CHALLENGING, CARING, and ORGANIZED. 

    What was your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Education is learning how to learn.

    Tell us about a teaching embarrassment you’ve had.

    My most embarrassing teaching moment occurred early in my career when I almost gave the same lecture twice in a row to one of my classes.  It was a lecture on Piaget that I was giving in all three sections of my Introductory Psychology class and both sections of my Human Growth and Development class over a two-week period.  Giving the same lecture so many times must have disoriented by memory, but certainly not my students’ memory.  After about five minutes I noticed that no one was taking notes and everyone was looking at me in a very strange way.  When I stopped to ask them why they were acting this way, one of them very diplomatically informed me that I was repeating exactly what I had said during the beginning of my last lecture.  Given that the title of one of my previous lectures on human memory had been “How We Remember and Why We Forget,” I decided to turn it into a teachable moment by asking my students to use what I had taught them about forgetting to explain my error.  If my current memory serves me correctly, we had a productive discussion and a hearty laugh about my embarrassing error. 

    What is something your students were surprised to learn about you?

    My students were surprised that higher education is the Appleby family business.  One of the most gratifying aspects of my career was that it provided me with the rare and wonderful opportunity to collaborate professionally with my father and my daughter, both of whom held the rank of full professor and served as chairpersons of their departments. I co-authored my very first publication with my father. It was an article published in 1977 in the Iowa Dental Journal titled “A History of Teaching by Television.” Twenty-eight years later, the third generation of college educators in the Appleby family (my daughter Karen, who is a sport psychologist) had her first paper (titled “Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process”) accepted for publication in Teaching of Psychology, and I was her co-author.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I have started to read for pleasure again, and I have rediscovered two of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen and Calvin Trillin. If you have time to read, I strongly recommend Trillin’s About Alice and Anna’s Blessings, One True Thing, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life. You will learn many valuable life lessons in these books, including the one most important to me: Do everything in your power to show the ones you love how much you love them because you never know what life is going to throw at you, and you do not want to regret the things you did not do, but know you should have done. I helped my students to become savvy psychology majors. These authors can help all of us become more savvy human beings.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I could not live without my desktop computer.  Although I derive pleasure from my other electronic devices, my desktop is my work horse because it provides me access to email, Google, Word, and PowerPoint.
  • 12 Oct 2015 2:06 PM | Anonymous

    School: The Ohio State University

     Type of college/university: 4-year, land-grant, large university

    School locale: City – Columbus is the capital city of Ohio (about 822,000 people)

    Classes you teach
    Human Sexuality, Adolescent Sexuality, Abnormal Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics/Data Analysis, Delinquency, Psychology of Gender, occasionally Health Psychology – most of my classes have 80-120 people enrolled, so
    these are generally LARGE classes

    What's the best advice about teaching you've ever received?
    Hmmm…I didn’t really get a lot of teaching mentorship as I developed.  I mostly tried to emulate the most influential instructors I had.  One important thing I learned from watching them was to be passionate about the content of the course and teaching.  A good teacher’s passion for the subject can overcome any reticence a student has about taking the course.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
    I simply love every edition of the Teaching of Psychology journal.  I learn so much about what others are doing around the world in their classrooms & I get so many ideas that I want to try in my own.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Oh, goodness, I love all my courses.  I love to teach data analysis because it is a subject that most students dread taking and I like the challenge of getting them to see that it can be a really enjoyable, interesting class.  I also really like seeing students in that course think they can’t do it at first, but then find out that they can & have these great success experiences.

     The human sexuality course is definitely the most fun and “easy” course for me to teach.  Though it is a very personal and difficult topic for many people to talk about, my method of coping with difficult emotions is to use humor, so that class is full of fun and laughter.  It is also an elective course, so students are taking it because they want to and not because they have to. 

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)
    I’m really working on “hybridizing” most of my courses.  I would like to move away from lecturing “at” them for every class meeting and having a real combination of discussion, activities, and lecture.  In most of my advanced classes, I have them take their quiz/test on the reading material before we ever discuss it & then I give them 5 or so minutes at the beginning of class to re-acquaint themselves with the reading, so that we can have a good discussion, rather than only 3 or 4 people out of the 80-100 present participating.  Starting this term, OSU has site-licensed a classroom response software package that’s making it possible for everyone to participate in discussions and polls, which I think is helping with the discussion aspect.

    What's your workspace like?
    Ha!  My desk is always a mess.  I clean it every single term as soon as I finish sending the last of my grades to the registrar – it is a ritual of mine.  Every single term, I say that the next term will be the one where I keep my desk clean all the time, but that has yet to happen!

    My office is decorated to the hilt – I spend the majority of my awake hours in that space, so I want it to be a reflection of me and the things that are important to me.  I have a lot of OSU Buckeye paraphernalia and pictures around the office, many pictures of my family, posters from theatrical productions of which I’ve been a part, and a lot of plants in the window (including orchids and African violets which are often blooming).  The top shelf of my desk is decorated with Thank You cards from students – there must be 200 up there now.  I keep meaning to go through them and make more room up there, but every time I take one down and read it, I remember the student who wrote it & I’m unwilling to part with it.  Maybe I need a bigger shelf!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.
    Enthusiastic, Engaged , Entertaining

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Hook them with what I love about psychology.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you've had.
    I haven’t really had any major disasters, but I tend to have a lot of technical hitches – I am very dramatic in my presentation, so I’ll give this big hype on how fantastic this next video clip will be & then we all have to wait around for 5 minutes because I can’t get my link to work, or the computer has timed out, or some other snafu.  I also teach my honors data analysis class in computer lab with a Smart Board and I have started telling my students at the beginning of the term that the room and I have a love-hate relationship because I can only get that thing to work for me about 50% of the time.

    Also, I have a strong fear of turning around to write on the board in classes because I am paranoid that my pants will have split open without my knowing, or I will have chalk all over my derrière and I will be the only one who doesn’t know about it.  None of this has ever happened yet, but it is still on my mind every time I write on the board – thank goodness for Power Point saving me from doing that very often!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    I’m actually a bit socially anxious and I am not quite as strongly extroverted as I appear.  I get really nervous going into new social situations and I also need a lot of quiet recharge time to be as energetic as I am in classes and with students.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    I’m just finishing The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty and I’ve decided once I finish that, I’m going to re-read the Harry Potter series.  It’s been a few years and I miss that magical world.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    For teaching – powerpoint, my remote clicker/laser pointer, YouTube

    Personally – I am attached to my smart phone in a very enmeshed fashion – I absolutely love it & really like that I can Google anything I want no matter where I am

    What's your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
    It depends on the season – my next door office neighbor is also a big football fan, so we talk football in autumn – but she is also really interested in women’s studies and gender/sexuality issues, so we talk about politics, feminism, and other things in that arena year-round.

  • 20 Sep 2015 10:20 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Muskingum University

    Type of school: Small liberal arts school

    School locale: Rural southeast Ohio

    Classes you teach: My courses include Introduction to Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Learning and Memory, Psychopharmacology, Topics in Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Advanced Experimental Psychology 

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

    The best advice came from an experienced professor who told me it was okay to let students fail themselves. In other words, I am not responsible for fixing all of their problems, or ensuring that all earn A’s. Now when students ask for extensions for papers or projects, I will usually grant them (minus a small penalty per late day), knowing that the final product is not often much different from the grade they would have received if they had completed the assignment on time. Thus, I do not have to determine the merit of each student’s excuse, while still being fair to other students.

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

    As is true for many other educators, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips was the first book I read about teaching. As a teaching assistant before reading his book, I had simply relied on my own knowledge and undergraduate experiences. The book helped me think about how to best teach a wide variety of students, especially those whose educational needs and desires differ from my own.

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

    I love introducing students to the brain. Neuroscience intimidates many Intro Psych students, as well as those "forced" to take a biological psychology course as one of our core requirements for the major. Therefore, I enjoy watching them recognize how understanding the brain applies to their future careers in counseling, social work, teaching, etc. In the upper-level classes, students choose a topic of interest to them that I will not have time to cover in lecture. They research the biological explanations for this behavior or disorder and then give a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation to the class. Popular topics have included music's effect on the brain, sign language, synesthesia, and near-death experiences.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    In my Intro sections, I make neuroanatomy less intimidating by having the students work in small groups to create brains using modeling clay. I ask them to label important brain structures and fissures. This is a quick 10 minute exercise that really excites the students. The competition can be fierce to be voted as the best brain by their peers and myself. I provide a small prize for the winning group.

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

    Student presentations. I stumbled onto this type of assignment because grading papers was taking me too long, so I needed a different assignment that allowed students to focus on a topic of interest, without requiring so much of my grading time (which I save for grading essay questions on tests instead). I have incorporated these presentations into all of my 200- and 300-level courses, in slightly different ways for each course. However, these are usually 5-10 minute PowerPoint presentations on a topic chosen by the student, typically from a list of possible topics I provided. The most important part of these presentations is for the student to connect their topic to the concepts we have covered in the course. Therefore, at the end, they are required to include a slide listing all of the course vocabulary words discussed in their presentation.

    I usually schedule these presentations at the end of each chapter, or before each test. This ensures that not all of the presentations are at the end of the semester, but also that they serve as a review of the recently learned information, before the students are tested on that material. In between each of the student presentations, I try to stress important vocabulary words and connections to the information that will be on the upcoming test.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My office is relatively large, but windowless and cluttered. Pictured here is part of my lab space where I can run rat experiments, or write in a quiet space.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Enthusiastic, encouraging, and interdisciplinary

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Make neuroscience approachable, fascinating, and relevant to students.

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

    For my very first teaching experience in graduate school, I wore a denim skirt that buttoned up the front. I stood on a chair to write at the top of the chalkboard before class started, and three of the buttons popped open. Thankfully another three or four stayed buttoned, but I quickly sat down on that chair and pulled it under the front table. I now wonder how many of those students noticed my wardrobe malfunction and how many just wondered what I was doing under the table as I re-snapped those buttons.

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

    I never wanted to teach. I was painfully quiet in my own undergraduate classes and avoided every possible opportunity to even tutor other students during those years. I was drawn to research because I thought it best fit my introverted personality. Then in graduate school I became involved in outreach activities to the local elementary schools. I loved watching those children see, hold, and understand the brain for the first time. Their enthusiasm was contagious and I realized that I could share my own love of neuroscience and research with many more people by teaching at a liberal arts school. Many students now think I'm very outgoing based on my teaching persona.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    It feels as if most of my pleasure reading is written by Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and Sandra Boynton, as I read with my 3 year-old son. But my own liberal arts education solidified my love of mystery novels. I was “forced” to take a Detective Fiction course in the English department as part of my undergraduate general education requirements, but the class ended up being one of my favorites. Currently, I am reading The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I have students turn in most of their assignments through BlackBoard. It would be hard for me to go back to organizing hard copies of all the paperwork turned in each semester.

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

    There are six of us in the department and we all genuinely like one another, so our discussions run the gamut of possible topics. We discuss everything from students’ research projects to pop culture, and everything in between. At least once a year we bring our families together at one faculty member’s house for fun and food. We also attend the Midwestern Psychological Association conference and together enjoy all the perks available in a big city.

  • 09 Sep 2015 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    Where I teach: Kwantlen Polytechnic University
    Type of college/university
    Mid-size public undergraduate university
    School locale
    Urban campus in a suburb of Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Classes I teach: Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics, Social Psychology, Personality Psychology, Cognition, Conservation Psychology, and the Psychology of Genocide

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
    To be yourself in the classroom and let your personality shine through your teaching. To tell stories if you are a storyteller, to use humour if it comes naturally, and to self-disclose if it feels appropriate. Also, to take a scholarly approach to teaching.

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

    There are many such books (e.g., What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain), but instead I am going to go with a blog post by David Wiley titled “What is Open Pedagogy?”

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 
    I love talking about the Stanford Prison study (no, it is not an experiment). But not in the way that you would think. I first teach it as Zimbardo would. And then I begin to ask a series of probing, Socratic questions that lead the students to deconstruct the study until it patently clear that the emperor has no clothes and that there is actually plenty of evidence that supports a dispositional interpretation.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    An in-class exercise that I primarily use to demonstrate the prisoner’s dilemma and group decision-making. The class is split into two groups, each of which is informed that they are the joint owners of a gas station. The owners of each gas station (which are located across the street from one another) must decide on the price of their gas without knowing the price across the street. This decision is made 14 times in order to simulate 14 days of competition. The exercise is inevitably engaging, hilarious, and illustrative.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
    I incorporate low-stakes mastery quizzing, peer assessments, and in-class exams with two stages - an individual attempt, followed by a group discussion and a second individual attempt.

    What’s your workspace like?
    I like to keep things fairly neat, with paperwork organized and filed, and books sorted by category on bookshelves (potential “behavioral residue” of conscientiousness, to use Gosling’s terminology). I also love to surround my space with art, old maps, vases, sculptures, and other artifacts (behavioral residue of openness?). And photographs of my boys, of course!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style
    Interactive, humorous, and experimental

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Fostering skill development via rapport, relevance, and rigor

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.
    One semester early in my teaching career I found myself teaching full time (four courses) at one institution while teaching two additional courses at another institution as an adjunct (you can probably guess that these were the days before our children were born). I recall one day in particular when I emerged from a meeting and entered my classroom, unable to recall with any certainty what topic we were meant to be discussing that day! Of course I ended up asking the class (after explaining the source of my discombobulation, which they found hilarious). We ended up referring to my case over the semester whenever we talked about the limits of human cognition.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    For about seven years I was a member of a professional dance company and performed in productions ranging from musical theatre to large arena shows, as well as television and (Bollywood) film. Interestingly, I have found that many of the skills I developed during this time transfer rather well into the classroom.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    Sacred Games
    by Vikram Chandra (set in my hometown of Bombay, India) and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    Confession: I use a fair bit of tech – Prezi, Skype, online peer assessment platforms, online office hour booking systems, Dropbox, Google docs, Wordpress, etc. But the tool that I find the most useful is undoubtedly Twitter. I have found that there is no better way to keep abreast of new developments, make connections, and disseminate psychological science widely. You can find me online @thatpsychprof.

    What’s your hallway chatter like?
    We talk a lot about teaching (challenges and strategies) and the scholarship of teaching and learning, but lately have been discussing open educational practices (e.g., open textbooks, open pedagogy, etc.) rather a lot. That last bit is probably my fault. When we are not talking shop we talk about what we are reading (we have a book club), our kids (many of us have young children), and when we will next get together outside of work (we are a pretty social bunch).

     

  • 21 Aug 2015 2:33 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Rockland Community College

    Type of school: Community College

    School locale: Small town in a somewhat rural area

    Classes you teach: General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Psychology of Childhood, Psychology of Adolescence, Human Sexuality 

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

    Don’t be friends with your students; instead, be friendly with them. I use some personal stories in order to make course material easier to learn and remember; however, maintaining a proper distance from students make grading and judgment calls much easier!

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

    I love to teach about gender, gender identity, how children acquire their gender expectations and gender roles, and how adolescents’ ideas about gender are reinforced in the media. These topics come up in my Developmental Psychology, Psychology of Childhood, or Psychology of Adolescence courses. I find that these topics usually garner a great deal of discussion and questions because students often have misunderstandings about what gender is, how gender differs from sex, and how both nature and nurture are HUGE influences on gender. One of the best parts of this lecture topic is the inclusion of the Bechdel Test. Alison Bechdel, a prominent American cartoonist, famously refuses to partake of any media that does not have at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. I ask my students if their favorite TV programs or movies pass this test. Students realize this is much harder than it sounds! We then have a fun discussion of how the media can teach children how women can be portrayed in an unhealthy way based on the results of this test.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    I love to teach Diana Baumrind’s parenting styles. These parenting styles are applicable to most students’ lives in some way or fashion, and student usually have plenty of stories to tell about discipline, favoritism, or exceptions to parenting outcomes. My students are usually fascinated by the cultural exceptions to these styles, and they always want to know if their parents were “normal.” Then we get to our related activity, and this one is so much fun!

    Several years ago, Tommy Jordan, a father of a teenaged girl, saw a post on her Facebook wall in which she complained about her household chores and her parents’ rules (with quite a bit of profanity). Jordan responded by posting a video on YouTube, and in this video, he point-by-point explained how she was incorrect in her complaints, and then he SHOT his daughter’s computer with his handgun six or seven times. After viewing the video, I ask my students to get into small groups and decide which parenting style he used. They love this activity and really become passionate about Jordan’s response.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My workspace is generally neat and clear of debris on the first day of the semester, but once school gets going, it gets cluttered. I tend to sort everything into piles. My office is decorated with my niece’s art, Doctor Who action figures and magnets, posters, and cat photos.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    I’m always clear, fair, and enthusiastic.

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

    My students know that I’ve lived all over the U.S., and I love to travel. However, I’ve never really been out of the country.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am reading Aziz Ansari’s and Eric Klinenberg’s Modern Romance. It’s a humorous take on what many people do to find love and romance today – online dating, dating apps, etc. There’s a lot of good research in the book and Ansari puts his unique comedic spin on the subject.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My favorite tech tools are Remind and Google Voice. I need to be able to stay in communication with my students, and they are resistant to using our school e-mail. Remind allows me to text my students without involving phone numbers. It is really easy to send the entire class or even all of my classes a text all at the same time. The Google Voice app allows my students to call my cell phone without giving them my “real” phone number. Google Voice provides me with another phone number that I give to my students, and if they call it, my phone will ring, and they can also leave messages. If I use the app, I can call them back without my students seeing my actual phone number on their phone screens.

  • 03 Aug 2015 1:35 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver)

    Type of college/university: MSU Denver is a large state university focused on teaching at the undergraduate level. We follow, what you may call, the teacher-scholar model.

    School locale: Metropolitan city in the  Rocky Mountains.

    Classes you teach: Educational Psychology, Research Methods, Senior Thesis, Multivariate Statistics, and Cognitive Development. (All at the undergraduate level. )

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
    I have had some great mentors in the past (Yes, that’s you Doug Woody, Mark Krank, Mitch Handelsman to name a few) who have given me outstanding advice. First, play to your strengths. That is, if you are an outstanding storyteller—tell good stories. If you are great at devising learning activities—use them a lot and effectively. If your heart is in the research—find ways to demonstrate this to students. Second, everything that you expect of your students, they should expect of you. For instance, in all of my syllabi I have a list of student expectations (as many of you do) but correspondingly, I have a list of expectations that students should have for me (see below). In essence talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk.

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

    It is always Information Processing Theory (IPT) no matter the course. Because I teach to students who will become teachers themselves, I find IPT to be easily applied to students directly. Students can not only experience working memory, or levels of processing, or attention deficits through active learning techniques, but I also love to teach them learning strategies that they may use in my class and in other courses. After this lesson, I always feel elated because it is like a gift that keeps on giving.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I have so many favorite activities, but one that always is successful is on fine and gross motor skill development. As mentioned previously, most of my students will become elementary teachers; therefore it is important that they know what their students will experience when developing these skills. And because these skills often develop early with no memory of the experiences, my students have difficulty identifying and understanding certain fine and gross motor skills (e.g., learning to write). To get students to remember (cognitively, physically, and emotionally) what it was like to learn these skills, I ask for student volunteers to remove the shoe and sock of their least dominant-foot (i.e., if they are right handed, then their left foot). Then students are asked to first write their name at the top of the paper, then to draw a self-portrait with a marker or crayon (see pictures above). Next, I collect all of the drawings and share them with the class. I then show the class several drawings of 4-year-olds who were asked to complete the same task, except with their hands, not their feet. Students then discuss how similar and dissimilar the drawings are, what they felt while they were drawing (they often report feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed). My students notice how this may relate to children going through fine and gross motor development. Finally, as a class we debrief and share our experiences. Students often tell me how amazing it was to experience what the trials and tribulations of learning to write will be like for their students.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I like so many. When it comes to pedagogy and teaching techniques, I take the kitchen-sink approach and vary my instructional strategies.  I often use the flipped lesson design, or case studies and elementary classroom observations, or cooperative learning techniques (e.g., jigsaw), or classroom assessment techniques (e.g., the one-minute paper). Currently, one of my favorite techniques is one Bethany Fleck and I created called Active Reading Questions (ARQs). Essentially, we have students answer lower and higher level questions about an assigned reading and at the end of the ARQ students have an opportunity to tell us what they are still struggling with. They complete the ARQ before class and we open each class with what the students have told us what they are struggling with. In essence, this is the starting point for the lesson. We find that ARQs allow students to understand course content at a deeper level because they come into class with a basic understanding of the material.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Active, Passionate, Skilled!

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Always be prepared, student-centered, compassionate/sensitive, scholarly, and adaptive.


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

    First, I can’t believe I’m about to tell this story, Second, WARNING VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED. Third, The day I received the most wonderful news that I had won STP’s Jane S. Halonen Teaching in Excellence Award (yes, revel in the irony after reading), my educational psychology students were giving mock 4th grade social studies lessons based on Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence. Each group was assigned a “type of intelligence” to teach the lesson using their assigned intelligence (e.g., linguistic, naturalistic, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, etc.). While observing the musical intelligence group give their lesson, the lead group member (mind you that 99% of my students are female and this was the one male student in the class) of the visual-spatial intelligence lesson came up to me and asked, “We have PowerPoint presentation that we would like to use. Can you load it onto your computer? Here is my flash-drive.” INSERT DRAMATIC PAUSE. I obliged and put his flash drive into my computer while task-switching by watching the musical intelligence lesson. All of a sudden I heard mumblings and snickering in the back of the class. Then clear as day I heard a woman say, “Oh my!” then another woman say, “Well that looks uncomfortable” then another woman say, “I didn’t know that was possible”. I turned around to face the front of the class and to my horror projected onto the screen were 20 1ft X 1ft pictures of, let’s say adults with all of their bits and parts exposed engaged in activities that you do when all of your bits and parts are exposed! I instantly ripped the flash-drive from my computer, told the student that his group will just need to tell us about their lesson, then apologized to the class. The male student then said to the class, “I’m sorry I found this flash-drive on campus. I didn’t know that was on there.” In my mind I said, Sure you did buddy! but I just looked at him and said, “Please stop talking.” With the weight of what just happened in the pit of my stomach I continued the class for the remaining 60 minutes. It may have been the longest most uncomfortable 60 minutes of my life! Following the end of class, I immediately went to my chair and told him all about what happened. After he recovered from laughing so hard that he snorted tea out of his nose, we devised a plan on how to mitigate the issue and make sure no students were still distressed. To this day, my students still talk about that experience. MORAL OF THE STORY: Never let a student hand you a flash-drive to put into your computer. Instead, ALWAYS have students email you their presentation!

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

    Because I am a developmental educational psychologist I use a lot of personal examples in how I socially, cognitively, emotionally, and physically developed. Sometimes I use pseudonyms sometimes I don’t. When talking about social development I often talk about my identity development.  I went through a lot of different ones.  For instance, I used to be a professional rodeo athlete, was an environmental activist, had long hair, was a small business owner, and worked construction. These aspects of my life always throw off students. Sometimes students don’t believe me until I show pictures. J

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Probably my favorite author is Sherman Alexie. I am currently reading his books The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. However, like my friend Eric Landrum, I have a hard time reading for pleasure. I tend to watch movies and TV shows. Currently, I am on a binge of Game of Thrones. People, “Winter is Coming!”

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Oh…there are so many. Mainly, I like to use Twitter (@AaronSRichmond) to send interesting current info to my students. Or I use Celly (https://cel.ly/) in my course.  My students are becoming more and more resistant to email (OH THE IRONY!), so I use Celly to text my students without knowing their cell numbers or my students not knowing my cell number. It is brilliant! Thanks @Sue_Frantz!

    What’s your hallway chatter like?

    Here at MSU Denver we have a very large department that is quite collegial. Although we all have disparate schedules, we have a tendency to do more than just a little bit of water cooler chatter. It typically centers on how best to help students learn (seriously), lamenting about how there is never enough time in the day, or how one another explored the beautiful state of Colorado over the weekend. However, each month or so, I arrange a departmental social hour off campus and many of us get together to enjoy each other’s company and some adult beverages.

     



  • 20 Jul 2015 2:10 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Alfred University

    Type of school: Small private 4-year school, and I’m in the liberal arts college within the university

    School locale: Very small town in a very rural area in Western NY

    Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, Social Psychology, Psychology of Gender, Human Sexuality, Principles of Learning and Behavior Modification, and Advanced Research Design and Statistics 

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

    “Begin as you mean to go on.” And then, its unspoken stipulation: Be sure to actually check that what you think you’re accomplishing is what’s actually happening, and don’t keep doing something that’s not working! I’ve learned the importance of making psychology concrete and useful to know outside of the classroom and after the semester has ended.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens, by Benedict Carey. I use so much of the material, both as subject matter in my classes, but also in the design of my classes themselves, that I finally just assigned the book for the students as a required text. The other books I’ve appreciated are How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, by Susan Ambrose, et al., and Don’t Shoot the Dog, by Karen Pryor.  My day-to-day teaching and course design are becoming more dependent on behavior modification strategies as I go along.

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

    Any time someone asks me what my favorite ____ is, I struggle to answer because I have favorites sub-classified on different dimensions for almost everything. That’s not a very specific answer though. If you force me to nail it down, I will say that Introductory Psychology is my favorite, because it is a high energy, “best of” compilation that is always fresh and exciting because it’s the first time many of the students are exposed to the field.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    I’m increasingly emphasizing metacognition and self-directed learning in my courses, because I have decided that learning how thinking works and how to learn will be more widely applicable to the majority of my students’ futures than just the topical content of any of my psychology courses. Only a small percentage of my students will continue with psychology past graduation, but all of them will need to know how to regulate and motivate themselves and understand what they know and how to effectively learn anything they want to know. We always talk about how psychology is an eminently useful field for people who are not psychologists, and in addition to having an understanding of psychology principles, we hope to produce critical thinkers and literate consumers. However, the idea of a “Users’ Manual” for the brain seems more and more attractive to me, and a nice approach to a liberal arts education. 

    One assignment I’ve developed in my Learning and Behavior Modification course to help develop these qualities is concept mapping how learning works. It’s a multi-part process: I started by breaking up the class into groups and giving them each a matching set of about 20 large color pictures. The pictures were of all kinds of things.  The groups were required to sort the pictures into categories, with no fewer than 2 pictures in any category, and no fewer than 2 categories total. Once the pictures were sorted, they had to put them back together and sort them a new way. Then, again. They had to turn in a sheet with a list of the different dimensions on which they sorted the stack, and how many categories there were for each sorting. The fewest any group submitted was 10 sortings, and most had many more! 

    We then spent time talking as a class about the process and their answers, and I tied the exercise into a review of elaboration as a tool to improve the encoding of new information in memory. The students were amazed by how many different ways one can think about the same thing. The next phase of the assignment was to have each student begin creating a concept map of the “learning to learn” material we’d covered in the unit, following a short in-class tutorial on concept mapping. They began by creating a glossary of terms related to the concept. Then they had to sort their glossary a few times, to find the best dimensions on which to arrange the terms. The next step was to draft a concept map of their arranged glossary, which they had to show me for participation credit. The last step was out of class, required students to revise and re-do their concept maps, for which I supplied big pieces of paper, and I encouraged them to use creativity in color, symbol, placement, and connections to aid their memory and understanding of the concept. The students turned in their final concept maps, many with shining eyes and proud gestures, and I was blown away by the high quality of the work. Some of the best of the bunch AND the crummier ones were handed to me by students who grumbled that they’d never thought so hard about a particular unit, and they would never forget this damn map. That made me smile. I look forward to using this exercise again!

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?  

    I try to use a lot of tools and techniques in every class, to mix things up and keep the class active. I use online, mastery based quizzing outside of class in some classes, and scheduled and pop quizzes in other classes. I use short video clips, games with competition and cooperative elements (and often some terribly cheesy prizes for winners), I assign a lot of reading, we do a lot of writing in and out of class, and I very much enjoy discussion and debates in class. I love using live demonstrations and simulations when possible, especially if it involves the whole class rather than a few volunteers. I often break students into pairs or groups for activities, especially in the large classes. Maybe it’s just easier to say that the teaching technique that works best for me is variety!

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My office varies in levels of paper-based bedlam over the semester, and the most critical pieces of equipment in it are the coffee machine, the computer, and the recliner. I made my computer a standing work station a couple of years ago (which I enthusiastically recommend), and so I have many different work modes available in the room. I also have a big cage (out of frame) for when my pet rats are at work with me, either for a guest appearance in class or just to be companionable. 

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Enthusiastic, engaging, and applied

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Using scholarly teaching, make psychology valuable for everyone

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

    I’ve long been emphasizing the importance of connecting the class material in any course to news and “outside world” situations (notice I didn’t go with “real world” there), and nowhere is that easier than in Social Psychology. In that course, I use what I’ve named Analytic Thinking Reviews (ATRs) to get students to write about how the material from each unit can be explicitly applied to a particular event or situation. The exercise has evolved over the last couple of years, but the first time I implemented it, I ran into a snag that absolutely blindsided me. That year (spring semester of 2013), for the unit on social cognition, I asked the question, “How do schemas and expectations influence our interpretation of events? Use these concepts to explain divided opinions over whether George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin was racially motivated murder or justifiable self-defense. (Discuss both sides of the issue from a social psychological perspective, rather than relating your personal opinion.)” The students bent over their papers dutifully, but a couple of minutes passed before I realized I wasn’t hearing the scratching of pens at the same level as previous weeks. As I looked around the room, one student slowly raised her hand and asked, “Um, who are these people?” I stifled my reflexive, “Really?!?” and instead asked the class to raise their hands if they were familiar with this news story. Three people (out of 30-ish) raised their hands. I was then faced with the impossibility of relating the details of the event in a way that A) wouldn’t answer the question for them, and B) was anywhere near “objective,” seeing as many of those details are still in question. In subsequent semesters, I’ve changed the course component to begin with them getting the ATR at the beginning of each unit as a framing question, and I admonish the students to take time over the week to look up anything or anyone they’re not familiar with before it’s time to write their answers at the end of the unit. 

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

    I use myself as an example for many things in class, so there aren’t many things my students haven’t heard about. Maybe they’d be surprised that, despite my cheerful comfort in the classroom, in the couple of weeks before every semester, I have “back to school” nightmares, where I dream that the first day of class starts in two hours and I haven’t made the syllabus, or I go to class for the first time and realize it’s the SECOND day of class, or I get told that I am suddenly assigned to teach a class I’ve never taught before and it starts in 5 minutes. The nightmares stop as soon as the semester actually begins, but it happens every semester, like clockwork. Sweaty, hyperventilating clockwork.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    My summer reading is usually a mix of popular press psychology books (like Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style or Jeremy Dean’s Making Habits, Breaking Habits), which I mine for tidbits to bring to class, and a forgettable string of popcorn fiction involving adventure, romance, mystery, and suspense. During the school year, I stick with the popcorn; I read things that require my brain to participate enough during the work day. 

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    At the risk of being unoriginal, my smart phone.  It completes me.

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

    Around the corridors and office doorways, it ranges. My favorites are the conversations where I ask my colleagues for foreseeable pitfalls or clever improvements for this great new idea I just had for class, and the subsequent conversations where I crow about how well it went, or lament its crashing and burning. But we talk about everything, and often for longer than we had to spare for office chatter.

  • 06 Jul 2015 9:34 AM | Anonymous

    School name:  Liberty University
    Type of college/university: 
    Large private, non-profit university

    School locale:
     foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (Lynchburg, VA

    Classes you teach: 

    Introduction to Research*, Exceptional Child*, Developmental Psychology Honors, General Psychology Honors, Adolescent Development, and (coming soon) Advanced Research Methods/Statistics. 

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

    Be yourself.  My first year teaching, a colleague and I discussed various lectures that had been “homeruns” for us.  We each tried to implement the approach of the other, and, needless to say, they fell flat.  We still laugh about how terribly they went.  It was in that moment that I realized that we each need to play to our strengths.  I am able to best deliver content and co-construct knowledge with students when I am excited about both the material and my approach to that day’s class.  I want all activities and methods of delivery to enhance learning, not detract from it. 

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

    I can’t think of any one book (maybe Whistling Vivaldi?), but I can think of several resources that I repeatedly use.  I am constantly searching for relevant content and new strategies for enhancing student engagement and learning in the classroom (especially those that are empirically-based).  As such, I follow several blogs and Twitter accounts that relate to the courses I teach.  Two of my favorite blogs related to research are Jessica Hartnett’s “Not Awful and Boring Examples for Teaching Statistics and Research Methods” and Beth Morling’s “Everyday Research Methods”.  These blogs offer ideas for student discussion related to recent news stories, infographics, memes, etc.  From the Twitter world, I am always trying to find a way to work in a methods/statistics meme from “Research Mark Wahlberg” (@ResearchMark).  These resources are appreciated by the students, who see them as relevant and up-to-date.

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

    It is hard to decide which course is my favorite to teach.  I love teaching Research Methods because I see the growth and transformation in students from the beginning to the end of the semester.  However, I consistently leave my Exceptional Child class feeling invigorated by the day’s events.  The course is a diverse group of majors (Education, Psychology, ASL, Nursing, and more), so each student brings a unique perspective to the course.  Many intend on working with this population of children and families, so they are eager to learn and have a variety of questions (especially when research counters their experience or favorite Facebook posts).  During this course, I work to have them apply theory to various clips from the news or popular television shows depicting various developmental disorders.  I also try to show them stories that push them to see beyond their preconceived notions of what is or is not possible for individuals with disabilities.  In addition, I have several activities that help them experience concepts discussed that day.  Many of the papers are written reflections on current “real world” debates that encourage students to reflect on their own opinion and the peer-reviewed research on the topic (e.g., “The Mommy Wars – Does Daycare Impact Attachment” or “ADHD:  To Medicate or Not?”).  The course is a nice balance of content and application.  Moreover, it is a field where we are constantly learning more through research.  Each semester I try to incorporate new findings related to various disorders (e.g., etiology, intervention, and/or the impact on the families).  I often have students email me after securing positions in the education or early intervention field letting me know how they utilized information from this course in their training or current work.  It is one of the greatest parts of my job!

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment. 

    Option 1:  By far, my favorite class activity is what I call “The Smartees Challenge.”  When covering complex designs, I bring in bags (and bags) of Smartees.  Each team is given 20 packs of Smartees.  I have the teams create a 2x2 design (e.g., hair color by instruction speed) and collect data on how long it takes their “participants” to eat a pack of Smartees.  For example, the “researchers” will quickly ask 5 blonds and 5 brunettes to eat a pack of Smartees.  Then, they slowly ask 5 blonds and 5 brunettes to eat a pack of Smartees.  The students then compute marginal means for the main effects (hair color and instruction speed) and plot the interaction.  We then discuss main effects versus interactions.  These are funny (and meaningless), as we might find that instruction speed only mattered for brunettes; however, the students leave with a better understanding of complex design, since they had to actually compute, plot, and interpret their data.  This activity also provides an opportunity for them to discuss confounds and operational definitions.  The students will comment on inconsistencies in how each group operationalized hair color (e.g., dyed versus natural) and eating time (e.g., do they count unwrapping the package?).  They will frequently note possible confounding factors, such as participant gender, preference for Smartees, or consistency of the person giving the instructions.  Further, since multiple teams plot their data on the board, we are able to discuss the importance of replication.  For me, this lecture is a win (most semesters).  In fact, when students are collecting data, my Twitter will often light up with former students commenting on how much they loved and learned from this lecture.

     Option 2:  In my Exceptional Child course, when we cover the socioemotional outcomes associated with intellectual disorders, I give the students one of two 15-question quizzes.  The first page has the same questions that are simple (e.g., 4+ 4 = _); however one quiz has easy questions on the subsequent pages, while the other has really hard questions.  I tell them that the quiz is timed and they should put their heads down when they are done.  We then grade them in class, and I have students who earned 100% raise their hands.  Finally, a student reads question 8 from the easy quiz and a student reads question 8 from the difficult quiz.  The activity spawns a great discussion about the role of frustration (e.g., many students with the hard quiz feeling “dumb” or giving up and guessing to finish) and perceptions of others (e.g., the students with the easy quiz often report making judgments about their classmates’ reading ability).  The activity helps the students reflect on additional outcomes that might be impacted by an intellectual disability.  They also problem-solve possible intervention approaches in the classroom or other settings that might minimize negative outcomes.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    The best techniques for me involve actively engaging students with content.  I have them practice the various concepts in a variety of contexts.  These activities often require reflections or questions that are counted as a quiz grade.  For example, in research methods, my students are convinced that writing survey questions is “easy.”  So, I have them write five survey questions about a campus issue and then collect data.  They come back and compare notes with classmates and answer a set of guided questions related to the activity.  The students quickly realize the strengths and limitations of their questionnaires.  Often they ask leading or double-barreled questions.  In addition, they realize that terms were unclear or answer choices did not cover all possible options.  Then, we discuss how they might improve their surveys using concepts covered in the chapter (e.g., response sets).  The students enjoy getting out of the classroom, and it helps me identify gaps in their knowledge.

    What's your workspace like? 

    I often refer to my workspace as a deluxe “officle.”  It is a nicely sized cubicle, and I have a huge window that overlooks campus.  Most of the time it is neat and clutter free; however, I joke that the number of systematically organized piles on my desk is indicative of how busy I am at the moment.  I have pictures everywhere of my family and major events.  On my door I post conference, Polar Plunge, and university event pictures.  Some students joke that one of their college “bucket list” items is to be in one of the pictures on my door.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 

    Passionate, Interactive, Relevant 

    (True confession:  To answer this question, I had students submit anonymous answers to this question and conducted a cursory content analysis across their responses, recent course evals, and rate my professor posts. It was fun to see their input.)  

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?  Approach each class with intentionality (and fun).

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?  (1) I went Bungee jumping in graduate school. (2) I used to have a SWEET southern accent before moving to Wisconsin.  Now, I sound like a born-and-raised Midwesterner.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?  Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Brad Montague and Robby Novak 

    What tech tool could you not live without? 

    The easy answer is my phone.  However, on my phone, Twitter (@briannefriberg) has become one of my favorite apps.  Honestly, there was a time when I resisted Twitter; however, I have found that it is a great tool for staying current on news items and issues that matter to students.  I create hashtags for each of my classes (e.g., #255rocks for Introduction to Research) and encourage students to tag items that relate to course content.  It is fun to see students find an example of “correlation does not imply causation” and tag the course in it.  For me, Twitter has become a means for extending the classroom in a way that intersects with students’ current use of social media.

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

    For the most part, we discuss life and funny things that happened in the classroom.  Several of us are big sports fans, so we will discuss how our sports teams are doing, too. 

     

  • 20 Jun 2015 11:04 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Lincoln School

    Type of school: We’re Pre-K through 12; I teach in the upper school.  Lincoln is the only all-girls’ Quaker school in the country, and one of only a handful in the world.  Our mission is all about enabling women to become leaders who practice such values as equality, simplicity, and non-violence.

    School locale: Providence, Rhode Island.

    Classes you teach: Intro to Psychology, AP English. 

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

    Regarding the teaching of Psychology (specifically when covering sleep and dreams): don’t let students talk about their dreams.  I’m not quite that strict, since this is often the topic that gets kids to sign up for class to begin with, but I’ve learned the hard way that you really do have to keep it under control.  Regarding teaching in general: not advice I got but advice I witnessed.  I once saw Leonard Bernstein giving a master class in conducting.  It was immediately clear—from his smile, his voice, his energy, his direct engagement with the workshop participants—that he was holding nothing back.  Here was a guy who thought of himself as a composer and conductor, and yet when he was teaching he was 100% there in the moment and present to his students.

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

    To Know as We Are Known by Parker Palmer is my all-time favorite, for its model of the truth-centered classroom.  More recently, How We Learn by Benedict Carey; fascinating and immediately applicable to test design, lesson plans, and writing prompts.

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

    I love classes that focus around the “Don’t believe everything you think” axiom. These tend to be topics in cognition (especially automatic negative thoughts and blocks to problem solving), memory (especially its reconstructive aspects) and, perhaps most enjoyably, sensation and perception.  Something as simple as the Muller-Lyer illusion can bring forth all sorts of realizations about the need for critical thinking and self-awareness, and also offer a chance to put psychology into the context of culture, which we can always do more of.  I also enjoy using demonstrations of, say, the waterfall effect or why the moon seems bigger on the horizon.  The giggle factor in these classes is usually pretty high, which makes learning fun and memorable.  The ooh-ah factor is also high: students being blown away by something real and immediate, which they still talk about months later.  We might even find ourselves developing a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of human fallibility.  My favorite student comment to emerge from these classes: “I feel like I’ve been lied to my whole life—by my own brain!”

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    Anything that gets kids up and moving after lunch, like shouting out the structures of the limbic system while bopping around to “The Chicken Dance.”  This kind of thing is a great prelude to more reflective or intellectually intensive work.  Another assignment is as simple as it is effective: go out this weekend and look for examples of what we’ve been studying in class.  Any number of students will come in on Monday morning who can’t wait to talk about what they found.  Not only has their learning helped them understand the world a little better; they also discover that their teachers aren’t just making stuff up.  I think they find this second discovery more revelatory than the first.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?  

    Group work every day; I find jigsaw groups especially effective.  Also frequent low-stakes tests, including tests before learning the material.  The questions tend to present real-world scenarios, so that taking the test is itself a means of advancing the learning process.  Each test or quiz also contains bonus review questions that connect new learning to old.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    I begin the school year with bare classroom walls.  Each day a different student brings in a quote that she’s written on a brightly colored index card, which she reads and then puts up on the wall.  Plus, each time the class does a writing assignment, I look for “Moments of Greatness”—a terrific insight, an elegantly made point, some graceful prose—which I type out on a piece of paper and read to the class.  These also get posted on the wall.  By the end of the year, all the walls are covered with “Moments of Greatness” sheets and inspiring quotes on cards of all colors, a physical reminder of the community we’ve created.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Make-'em-laugh, make-'em-cry, make-'em-think (okay, so I cheated . . .)

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be mindful of Tao te Ching chapter 17.

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

    I was a literature professor back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  One day, we were having a great discussion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I wanted to ask the class, “At this point, how does Huck feel?”  But I got the first letters of “Huck” and “feel” mixed up.  Fortunately, these were college students and thus way too mature to find this amusing (they only laughed for twenty minutes).

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

    I didn't set out to become a teacher.  When I was a young man, I was a professional musician.  When I was a little boy I wanted to be an astronaut.  Preferably the first person on Mars.  Neil Armstrong had beaten me to the moon, alas, but I had a speech all prepared that would have put his “One small step” thing to shame.  I wish I could remember it now.  Or maybe not.  

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Backpacking With the Saints by Belden Lane, an exploration of wilderness walking and inner experience.  And Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, an epic murder mystery about the legacy of the civil rights era and the secrets between fathers and sons.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Um . . . fire, I guess.

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

    Most of my colleagues got to Lincoln School by a scenic route: some had other careers first, some have terminal degrees, some are fresh from a really interesting undergraduate program.  But everyone has a great story to tell and everyone is really dedicated to the school.  So, while there’s the usual grumbling about the grumbling that students do, there’s a whole lot more talk about how one kid or another has finally experienced that major breakthrough she’s been working toward.  It’s inspiring to see how well my colleagues know their subjects and how much they care about their students.

  • 05 Jun 2015 3:40 PM | Anonymous

    School name:  The Ohio State University

    Type of college/university: Large, four-year, public research university

    School locale:  Columbus, Ohio (moderate sized city)

    Classes you teach:  Teaching of Psychology (graduate seminar/practicum), Social Psychology, Data Analysis/Quantitative methods. 

    I am also the Program Director for Introduction to Psychology (supervise 30 GTAs) and the Coordinator for Social Psychology.  I supervise 12-20 undergraduate course assistants each term in Independent Study in the Teaching of Psychology

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

    I don’t know if this is advice or feedback, but the one statement that has had the most impact on my teaching was from a student, almost 15 years ago.  On the end-of-term survey one student wrote, “Just because we heard it once doesn’t mean we learned it!”  This really hit home and made me think about how I structured my classes, which at the time were really mainly lecture-based.  Since then I have increasingly focused on how students can apply and use the information covered in a course, not just listen to me talk about it or memorize it for a test. 

     Another piece of advice that has always stayed with me (and one I now give frequently, too) is to give students an outline.  This advice was from Bob Arkin, faculty coordinator for the social psychology course here at OSU.  An outline shows students the underlying structure of the material—how topics hang together, how they are nested, how they relate to one another. Plus, making an outline of your lecture helps you be more mindful of the organization and structure of your class.

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

     In 2005, I read an article by Buskist, Benson, and Sikorski (2005) titled The Call to Teach. I was just transitioning back to academia from industry and the idea of teaching as a “calling” really resonated with me.  As far as books, Doug Bernstein and Sandy Goss-Lucas’ Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide (now in a second edition!) is a wonderful practical volume filled with all kinds of good advice that I wish I had known when I first started teaching. I still pull Don Forsyth’s Professor’s Guide to Teaching off my shelf from time to time too—great book.

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

    I absolutely love teaching statistics and data analysis.  I spent about 15 years as a data analyst and research consultant, and I honestly can’t think of a more practically relevant topic, no matter what students will go on to do after graduation.  The world needs people who understand data!


    In the summer I teach a 12-week course on the Teaching of Psychology for graduate students. I lead a general seminar, then the GTAs split into separate practica led by senior TAs who have experience teaching a particular course.  It’s a blend of general pedagogy and hands-on, practical course development to help new instructors be prepared and confident for their teaching assignments in the fall. 

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    One of my favorite in-class activities is one I developed for social psychology based on personal experience at a company retreat.  In one session employees were split by division and given a table piled with various supplies. We had to use the supplies to build a specific structure.  Given what we had to work with, this seemed like an impossible task.  Still, we were determined that the Research team needed to win (or rather, destroy the other teams).  Let’s just say it became very competitive very quickly and involved some “covert operations.”  At the end of the task, the organizer pointed out that we should have just pooled our resources and collaborated; what we needed to complete the task had been intentionally divided among the separate units.  What a perfect example of intergroup bias—as a social psychologist I couldn’t believe that I fell for it! 


    After that experience I created a class activity that has never yet failed to produce similar results.  At the start of class, I bring a stack of newspapers and some rolls of masking tape to class, and I tell the students we are going to do a group activity.  I divide the class into 3-4 person “teams” and give each group a newspaper and tape.  On the board I write this goal:  Build the tallest, sturdiest tower possible using only the materials provided in the time given.  The tower must be free-standing (not taped to ceiling or floor), but there are no other rules.  Students get about 7 minutes to build a tower, and typically the “competition” really heats up.  In all the years I’ve used this activity no one has ever collaborated or even shared supplies!  As soon as they are assigned to a group, the competition kicks in. At the end when I ask, “why did you compete?”  there is always a stunned silence as the realization sets in that they could have collaborated…  it just never occurred to them.

     Sometimes I manipulate the resources available to “enhance” the bias—one team might get extra paper, or another team might get an almost-empty roll of tape that runs out before they finish, giving us more to talk about when we debrief the activity.  This sets up many issues covered in intergroup relations/stereotyping and prejudice -- the minimal group paradigm, realistic group conflict, ingroup favoritism, outgroup derogation, and more.  It’s memorable, effective, and fun. 

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

    I strongly prefer anything that involves practical application of course material.  For example, I love to assign a paper that asks students to “Be a Target of Persuasion” and reflect on the appeals used by someone trying to sell them something.  I always assign a project in my stats course that asks students to apply their knowledge of statistical techniques to a question of interest to them.  A student once analyzed whether his iPod really shuffled songs at random, and another collected data at her job to test whether the way she asked customers to join a loyalty program made a difference in whether they signed up.  The final exam in my stats course this semester includes a take-home task.  I’ll provide a large dataset (one of many available online; check out the Pew Research Center for example) and ask students to use the data to explore several specific questions as well as to develop some original hypotheses to test.  I love the authenticity of that assignment and I wish we had done that in my stats class back in the day!

    What’s your workspace like?

    My office is tucked at the back of the Introduction to Psychology office, a large office space for the graduate instructors teaching Introduction to Psychology.  I work closely with the graduate student coordinators for Intro Psych and Social Psych and I love talking with them about their ideas for the course. Nothing makes me happier than when someone stops by to chat about teaching. (The photo shows graduate teachers Jenn Belding, Kristie Harris, and Maggie Mehling.)

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Engage, apply, assess

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Connect what students learn with what they do.

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

    Well, it wasn’t exactly teaching, but… once when I was giving a presentation to a large group of people I got a little carried away and walked towards the screen to gesture at a graph….and walked right off the back of the dais!  Since then I prefer not to teach or present on a stage if at all possible. 

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

    In grad school I did not enjoy teaching (I was terrible!) and I did not want to pursue a career in academia.  After graduate school I worked in government, public relations, communications research, and later at a research consulting firm.  As much as I enjoyed an applied setting, it didn’t take long for me to realize how little the general public knows about psychology.  I actually found myself doing a lot of teaching—explaining psychology, statistics, and research methods to colleagues and clients.  This motivated me to come back to college teaching as an adjunct, simply because I realized how important it is for people to understand what psychology is all about and how it’s relevant no matter what one’s occupation or field of study.  Coming back to teach college students after gaining some real-world experience, I had a completely different attitude and perspective. I wanted students to understand the ideas and concepts in the courses I taught, but I also wanted students to see how they could use and apply the content in meaningful ways no matter what their majors or planned careers might be.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I love to read and am usually reading two or three books at a time.  I tend to be pretty eclectic, but I particularly love biographies and non-fiction.  I couldn’t put down Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan and The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande.  Right now I’m reading Anjelica Huston’s autobiography Watch Me, and I cannot wait for Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman to come out.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I really love my presenter because I have a hard time staying put behind a podium (see most embarrassing moment above).  I am also a huge fan of Twitter--I thank Beth Morling @bmorling for her recommendation to sign up! (follow Missy at @mjbeers1)

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

    I love to talk about assessment and so it’s easy to strike up a conversation with me about that anytime, anywhere!  Be warned!  

    I have an (almost) teenage son I adore more than anything, and I always enjoy talking with other parents about our kids. On holidays and days off school I love when kids drop by the office.  You very well might see me holding one of my colleagues’ adorable babies when I get the chance.

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