Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

This is How I Teach

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


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

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

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

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

  • 23 Dec 2014 11:24 PM | Anonymous

    School name: University of California San Francisco (as well as Alliant International University in San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley)


    Type of college/university: UCSF is a public university, and it’s the only campus in the 10-campus UC system dedicated exclusively to the health sciences. UC Berkeley is also a public university, while Alliant is a not-for-profit private university.


    School locale: Definitely an urban setting


    Classes I teach: I spend about 60% of my time as a clinical health psychologist in private practice and about 40% of my time teaching. Mine is not the standard university faculty profile, but I know that I'm not the only psychologist who cares about teaching and has put together a bit of a patchwork of both volunteer and paid teaching activities.


    At UCSF I hold a volunteer faculty position as clinical professor, but it’s a role that I have expanded quite a bit given my excitement about the work. In a course called Foundations of Patient Care, I am the assistant course director for faculty development and I teach a section of the course in addition to sections in a Brain, Mind, and Behavior module and a Social and Behavioral Sciences module. This all occurs at the UCSF School of Medicine. I also teach a section of Interprofessional Development Education for the combined Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Physical Therapy. At Alliant International University, I'm an adjunct professor and have taught courses on ethics, intercultural awareness development, and death & dying, and I’m scheduled to teach a course on psychology & palliative care in the 2015-2016 academic year. Finally, I teach in the UC Berkeley Extended Education program, providing workshops on palliative care and on ethics (the latter is a workshop that is mandated for licensed mental health professionals in California to take every two years).


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

    The best advice was actually about learning. My uncle was a university professor, and one day when I was in high school I was very proud to say I got straight A’s for the first (and only) time. His response: “Well, that tells me you weren’t challenged enough.” Once I got over having my feathers ruffled by that, I realized that he was right. To this day, I tell my students, “This course is a great place to do your best and find out what are your next steps. I encourage you to come right up to your learning edge… and then dance.”


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

    Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency by Cooke, Irby, and O'Brien. I have been teaching in a medical school since my clinical psychology postdoc fellowship; this book really opened my eyes to how the role of the medical educator is one that nurtures the lifelong learning stance of the physician and, by extension, the quality of care patients and their families receive. My unique training as a psychologist allows me to bring the concepts of psychology into a related health care field and teach some important psychological concepts in a non-psychology setting. Plus, author Molly Cooke was my co-facilitator for a decade, so I learned a great deal just through our regular teaching interactions.


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

    My favorite course is the Foundations of Patient Care course I teach at UCSF. This is a two-year sequence in the essential core curriculum for the medical students. The students are divided into small groups of 7-8 people, each with a co-facilitator team of a physician and a non-physician mental health professional, and I’ve taught a succession of these small groups since I started my postdoc fellowship in 1995. Affectionately (and privately), I subtitle the course, “How to Remain a Human Being While Learning to Become a Physician.” Although it focuses on what most people think of as “bedside manner,” students taking this course are also given exposure to the fields of cultural competence, interprofessional education, grief and bereavement, health care disparities, sexuality, professional development, heuristics, human development, health policy, and ethics. My role is to help the students, as fledgling physicians, learn how they can provide high-quality medical care while they also optimize their patients' experiences in the health care setting. I thrive in the longitudinal nature of the course, and the co-facilitator pairings have been instrumental in allowing me to learn more about the culture of medicine while also demonstrating how these young physicians-to-be can make use of what has been studied in psychology and how that knowledge can contribute to quality health care.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I have an exercise I call, “What’s in a Name?” and have used it in my courses in intercultural awareness development as well as in the very first week of classes for first-year medical students. Students pair up and find out information about the name of their partner, and then introduce their partner to the larger group (or a small subset if I’m working with a large group of students, like the roughly 160 students who arrive each year for medical school). The questions include: how the person likes to be addressed; the person’s full name at birth (and when they got the name); who gave the person that name; if the person was named for anyone, and if so for whom and why; the etymology of the name; and any changes to the name over the years and what prompted the change. In addition to getting to know each other through this ice-breaker exercise, my students quickly see that there are differences between them that aren’t necessarily easily seen, and that each person has a unique story.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I use a lot of problem-based learning in my courses, and I make sure to include a written assignment that requires a student to get out into the community, whether that’s taking a tour of a hospice or interviewing a member of an institutional review board or ethics committee.


    What’s your workspace like?

    Well, in none of my teaching settings do I have my own workspace! I do have my private practice office where I do most of my course preparation, but often my teaching workspace is in a café on the UCSF campus where I go to review upcoming classes and catch up on the educational research literature.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Responsive, challenging, and humorous


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Passionately involve yourself with your students’ learning.

    The result of this was certainly brought home to me when I won the 2013-14 UCSF Essential Core Teaching Award for “Inspirational Teacher.” This is a school-wide recognition where both the nominations and the selection are handled by the medical students themselves.


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

    I had a day-long workshop to teach on a Saturday, and less than an hour into the day my data projector light blew out. There went all my work making engaging presentation software slides! Fortunately the handout I created had the majority of the information from the slides, so I just got from behind the lectern, sat on the table at the front of the room, and we proceeded to complete the rest of the day using the information the students had in their hands. Since I could look at my laptop for cues to send people on breaks and lunch, the day turned out surprisingly well, and the students appreciated my (seemingly) imperturbable nature.


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

    Three weeks before I started my psychology fellowship I rode my bicycle for 7 days (including 3 “centuries,” which are 100+ miles days) as part of a fund-raising ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit AIDS service organizations in those two cities.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I actually just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and chuckled throughout the book. As the youngest of my husband’s and my four children recently left home, with nary a twinge of empty nest syndrome I am catching up on some of the classics I missed along the way. Next up: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Wi-fi. My students bring laptops and tablets to work on the problem-based learning cases we have available on line, and it allow us to focus on developing clinical thinking and interpersonal team building skills, leaving more didactic learning to time outside of class.


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

    My chatter tends to happen at faculty development meetings and in my café “office” and is a blend of how our own offspring are doing (and how we are doing with our offspring!) and figuring out how to best approach the total curriculum revamp for the medical school that will début in in the 2017-2018 school year. I suppose my closest colleagues and I can be called “health professions education wonks;” we’re as interested in educational scholarship (both consuming it and creating it) as we are in the actual teaching of the curriculum and the professional development of our students.

  • 08 Dec 2014 8:19 AM | Anonymous

     School Name: Rochester Institute of Technology

     Location: Rochester, NY  

     Type of college/university: Masters Granting Department

     Classes I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology  (Undergraduate and Graduate),  Experimental Methods, Evolutionary  Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Interpersonal Relationships

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

    Not to be afraid to say “I don’t know, but let me get back to you on that.” I have always found that this is an acceptable answer, especially when you get back to the class the next period on what the answer is (or what the controversy is). I think this is especially important today as students can get surface-level answers with a quick google in class, but you as the instructor can give a better answer.

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

    McKeachie’s Teaching Tips

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

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment:  One of my favorites is my first day activity where I pass out a “Quiz on Commonsense Psychology”. Of course, the list of 25 questions is simply a collection of commonly held myths of psychology. I make the students get up and move around the class related to their answers and have them discuss why the answered the way they did. This activity and its discussion never fail to get a few laughs, and it spins nicely into my discussion of research methods and pseudo-science which follow in the subsequent days.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    For me, it really depends on the class; in my lower level classes I like to have students do exercises that force students to relate the topics to their own lives. In my upper level classes, I like discussions of recent empirical articles (the discussions are done both online and in person).

    What’s your workspace like?  I teach in many different classrooms which range in size and scope. My office is has my desk, a work station (really just a small desk) for meeting with and helping students, along with many photos of my family and some mementos from my years in academia.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style: Passionate, interactive, lively

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?  Science, writing, and critical thinking; oh my!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?  I am an internationally awarded amateur winemaker and brewer.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My laptop; it is how I do nearly all of my work.

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

  • 21 Nov 2014 2:11 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Austin Community College

    Type of college/university: community college

    School locale: Mid-sized city (Austin, TX)

    Classes I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Human Growth and Development, Human Sexuality


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

    Teach to your strength. You can refer the things you don't feel comfortable with or assign it as a reading and then discuss but no one is an expert in every area.


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

    M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled and Leo Buscaglia's Living, Loving, Learning. 


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

    My favorite course is Human Sexuality. It was always my favorite topic to cover in the intro class. Then I found out from a colleague how uncomfortable she was in handling that topic. That's when I decided to get trained and teach the course. I feel like it has more practical information for students and no topic is dull. Students have strong opinions on every construct covered. I also love teaching Human Growth and development. Since most of my students in that course are nursing or allied health majors, I treat each discussion topic as how should we, as a health care institution, approach it. This gets them out of their own head and forces them to think in a larger context.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I teach using the Michaelsen, Knight and Fink model of Team Based Learning. I love this process because I get to watch as students struggle and discuss the topics. Their explanations simply blow me away. I break each class into 5 units so they have 5 controversial topics that they have to make a decision about as a team. This is where the bulk of the great discussions take place.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Team Based Learning and clickers (student response system). I have combined these two techniques to provide students with quick feedback and to guide my instruction. I haven't graded a scantron in 10 years.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I work from behind the multimedia station for presentation but wander around the room as they work in teams. I truly have become the "guide on the side."


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Clicker Team-based Learning


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Everyone can learn, if they want to.


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

    In team-based learning I had one student who did the ultimate betrayal to his team. They enter their agreed upon answer using the electronic response pad. The team had agreed upon an answer but he entered what he was "sure" was the correct answer, twice. He was wrong on both occasions. It was very difficult to get them to rebuild their trust and he had gotten very depressed. I literally had to force them to work together as a team. They survived and made it through.


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

    I'm pretty much an open book in class. My students know I'm a grandfather and that I work in the transgender community but my biggest hobby, origami, never comes up in class. Everyone else who has been to my office knows I do an inordinate amount of origami (no piece of paper is safe). However, this never comes up in class. 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The Internet. ;o) I read a lot of articles (never was big on fiction or novels). I’m halfway through Sex at Dawn, and about a dozen books I have on my Amazon Kindle account.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPhone. I can do so much with it and my iPad that I forget sometimes that I've only had it for 7 years and the iPad for 4.


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

    The changing state of education. As my colleagues eschew flipped classrooms, MOOCs and blended learning, I tell them they are reacting very much like the music industry did when Napster came along. When one colleague quipped back, "So yeah, how's that Napster thing working out," I responded, "It's not but iTunes is (number one music seller), as is iTunes U."

  • 03 Nov 2014 5:49 PM | Anonymous

    School name - Lindenwood University at Belleville
    Type of college/university - small liberal arts school
    School locale - small town, Belleville, Illinois
    Classes you teach - Principles of Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Learning and Memory, Human Sexuality, Human Development, Advanced Research Methods, Senior Seminar

    What's the best advice about teaching you've ever received?  
    Love what you do.  If you love the material and love teaching, that energy and exuberance translates over to the students who pick up on your enthusiasm.  I've seen this work with even the most taciturn students.

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

    No single piece of work comes to mind but instead a culmination of a variety of research on the teaching of psychology.  I often find tidbits that are both intuitive and seemingly painless to implement that then shape how I teach classes in the coming semester.  If the methods pan out, I keep them.  If they end up being more trouble than they are worth, I revise.  Teaching is such a process of evolution!

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  
    My hands down favorite class to teach is Behavioral Neuroscience.  I love that it is largely new, and often frightening, material for students who have been more focused on psychology and less on the biological aspects.  It is a highly interactive class that always gets students loving the material by the end.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  
    My favorite in-class activity is during the vision portion of the Behavioral Neuroscience course.  I introduce trichromatic and opponent-processing theories and provide several examples of after-images which the students always love.  We discuss how opponent-processing occurs in the retina and that complex cells in the brain allow for motion after images.  I then have students look at various stimuli and either switch eyes, demonstrating that color after images only work in the same eye that saw the initial stimuli, but that motion after images persist regardless of which eye saw the movement.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
    What works best for me (and also my students) is to provide a lot of graded opportunities.  My classes typically include 4 exams, in-class reaction papers where students react to an ethical quandary or other dilemma, four written assignments, and a final project that is presented during finals week.  For example, in my Behavioral Neuroscience class, their final project is to put together a 3 to 5 minute "Brain Awareness" video that demonstrates some aspect of neuroscience to a lay audience.  They are usually freaked out at the concept of creating a video but often step up to the challenge with wonderful and entertaining results.

    What's your workspace like?  
    My work space is usually covered in my pile of junk that I've dumped out of my bag.  I swear that I organize and re-organize almost daily!  It's my biggest struggle.  Otherwise, I have a lot of room to work and my office includes a small table so I can have more personal conferences with students rather than me sitting in the "big chair" to talk to them.  I love that the arrangement of the room does not allow for a desk to sit between myself and the student, aiding to the open and friendly environment.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 
    Passionate, consistent, and interactive.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Get students to ask critical questions in life.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you've had.
    During my first or second year teaching, I thought it would be fun for students in my Human Development class to present a "Day in the Life" of a person of a certain age group.  I assigned them to various groups and gave them ages, ranging from infant to elderly.  The instructions were vague; I thought this would allow them to be creative.  The idea was to present what it was like to be a 3-year-old, for example.  Several groups took creative license and role-played, providing factual and entertaining presentations of a "Day in the Life."  More than half the class, however, got up and gave a Powerpoint presentation with a laundry list of physical, cognitive, and socioemotional changes that occur in the life of the person.  I was upset at first but I realized that the fault truly was mine for not giving them a clearer idea of what I was envisioning.  I am happy to report that I did this project again this past semester and everyone in the class demonstrated a creative application of the assignment with Powerpoint nowhere to be found!  The things we learn after teaching for 9 years.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? 
    They would be surprised to learn that I had a pretty bad fear of public speaking when I was an undergraduate.  In fact, I had no intention of ever becoming a professor because it involved public speaking.  I was forced to teach two chapters of Introductory Psychology as part of my Master's teaching assistantship and that experience changed my worldview.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.  I make a point of reading for pleasure each and every night, even if I ultimately fall asleep while reading.  As I get older, the number of pages read before I wake up with the Kindle pressed to my face has definitely diminished.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    I'm actually pretty low tech.  I don't have a smart phone (nor do I want one).  I would be pretty lost without my desktop (I'm so old school I'm not a fan of laptops either), but I think I'd ultimately adapt.  

    What's your hallway chatter like?
    Most of the discussion revolves around changes at the University.  Given that we are a young campus, there are almost always new developments happening.  It seems as though we take a new step nearly every day and there is usually a buzz of excitement regarding the future of LU-B and how we are going to get there.  Other conversations revolve around our students, their successes and struggles, and our own personal lives.  It's a wonderful atmosphere to work in.  

  • 22 Oct 2014 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Earlham College

     

    Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College

     

    School locale: small town

     

    Classes I teach:

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

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

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

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

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    Controlled chaos. Mostly. Sometimes just chaos.

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Organized, Fast-paced, Applied

     

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

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

     

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

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

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Five Billion Years of Solitude

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    computer

     

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

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

  • 05 Oct 2014 7:54 PM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

    What’s your workspace like?

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

  • 21 Sep 2014 4:07 PM | Anonymous

     School name: College of the Holy Cross

     

     Type of college/university: Liberal arts college

     

     School locale: City of Worcester, MA

     

     Classes I teach:

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

     

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

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

      

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

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

     

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

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

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

     

    What’s your workspace like?

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


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

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

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Engaging courses create lifelong learners.

     

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

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


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

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

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

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

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

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

     

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

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

  • 10 Sep 2014 2:36 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Stonehill College

    Type of college/university: Small liberal arts college

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

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


    (Photo credit: Patrick O'Connor Photography)

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

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


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

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


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

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


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

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



    What's your workspace like?

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





    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Passionate, fair, challenging


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Apply evidence-based practices to enhance teaching.


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

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


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

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


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    The Blackboard Learn course management system


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

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

  • 21 Aug 2014 5:23 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Sonoma State University

     

    Type of college/university: Public, teaching focused

     

    School locale: Sonoma County CA.

     

    Classes I teach:

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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


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


     

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

    Benevolent sexism. It changes lives.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

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

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

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

     

    What’s your workspace like?

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

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Learning while laughing.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

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

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

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

     

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

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

    “Freud came up with the edible complex.”

  • 06 Aug 2014 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Samford University


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


    School locale: Birmingham, Alabama.


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

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


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


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

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


    What’s your workspace like?

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


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, demanding, supportive


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

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


    What tech tool could you not live without?

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


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

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

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