Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association


Welcome to the GSTA blog! 
Every week we will post a graduate student teaching or teaching assistant tip or an information piece on GSTA's activities. The tips, written by graduate students, are sourced directly from classroom practices and syntheses of recent teaching related research.

If you would like to submit a tip for consideration send it to us at, subject line Blog and your potential title. Submissions should be between 500-1000 words.

You can also submit any questions you would like addressed on our blog as comments below or send them to, follow us on twitter @gradsteachpsych or join our Facebook Group.

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Aysenur Ataman, Ralitsa Todorova and Francis Yannaco 

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  • 18 Oct 2016 10:22 AM | Anonymous

    By Gary Lewandowski Jr., Ph.D., Monmouth University

    If you’re anything like me when I was a graduate student, the thought of teaching a research methods course is a bit intimidating.  Regardless, if you only teach one course as a graduate student, make it research methods. 

    Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “what doesn't kill you makes you stronger” or “graduate school is supposed to be hard” types of argument. Rather, I think there are several highly pragmatic reasons why teaching research methods courses:

    1) Supply and Demand

    Nearly every psychology department offers a research methods course, with 99% of psychology departments reporting its inclusion in their curriculum (Stoloff et al., 2010).  Someone needs to cover those courses, so if you’re interested in teaching research methods, supply and demand works in your favor.  If you can demonstrate that you’re an especially good methods teacher, your chances of getting a job are likely even greater. 

    2) Students Don’t Like It

    I realize that heading sounds like a reason NOT to teach research methods, but hear me out.  Research suggests that students enter methods courses with unfavorable attitudes (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009). Why is this good?  Well, it means students harbor really low expectations about the methods course.  If you do a better than average job teaching methods and are able to engage them, the students will likely rejoice.  Contrast this with courses where student expectations are likely higher (e.g., Intro, Abnormal, or Social Psychology).  There, you may have to be considerably better than average to earn positive evaluations and you can be sure that positive teaching evaluations are an asset when hitting the job market.

    3) The Times They Are a Changin’

    To change students’ attitudes about research methods, you need to change up the way the course is typically taught. First, a little bad news. Despite positive gains in understanding methods course content, students’ attitudes toward their methods course were worse at the end of the course compared to their (already not so sunny) attitudes from the start of the semester (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009).

    Importantly, those data were in the context of a traditional methods course that was dominated by memorizing terms and reviewing content, delivered in a primarily lecture format.  My colleagues and I all successfully learned methods this way, so simply gave way to tradition and were repeating the pattern. But given this data, we also knew we needed to do something different so we decided to completely overhaul the course, essentially moving away from the traditional lecture style toward a more modern approach.  We lecture less, students do more hands-on designing studies, thinking through design issues, and problem-solving.  Not surprisingly students like methods a whole lot more and see methods as more useful, while still learning the same amount of material (Ciarocco, Lewandowski, Jr., & Van Volkom, 2013).  A hidden bonus: the course is MUCH more enjoyable to teach.  

    4) It Is Easier Than You Think

    When you’re earlier in your teaching career you’re naturally more flexible and not overly influenced by the inertia of how you’ve taught a course the past 10 years. If you are ever going to teach research methods in a new and dynamic way, it will never be easier to do that than right now. Because you’re newer, you don’t have bad habits to break or old methods notes to rewrite.  Plus, there are lots of resources to help. I spent last summer creating the Instructor Resources Manual for our new methods textbook, Discovering the Scientist Within, and was amazed at all of the great resources that I found. Whether it is an interesting article that you have students reach to exemplify a design, a class demonstration of internal validity, lab activities, videos, or popular press articles that exemplify concepts, there is a wealth of resources out there (There are many freely available resources for methods and statistics curated on 

    5) Brush Up on Your Skills 

    It is often said that you don’t truly know if you understand something until you try to explain it to someone else. That was certainly my experience. As a graduate student I was doing a ton of research and reading more studies than you can imagine. I thought I was an expert. But it wasn’t until I taught methods myself as a graduate student that I really understood methods.  Breaking it down for others forces you to know it on a deeper level and to learn designs and techniques that your subfield may not use as frequently.

    6) Foster Students’ Skills

    My textbook coauthors Natalie Ciarocco, Dave Strohmetz, and I often refer to our methods course at Monmouth as an “Employers’ Dream Course.” The National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014) lists the top 5 skills employers want college graduates to have as: critical thinking/problem solving, teamwork, professionalism/work ethic, oral/written communication, and information technology application. Our approach to teaching methods, which includes lots of collaborative group work designing mini-studies, analyzing them, writing up a report, and presenting to the class, all in short periods of time, hits on every skill employers want. We realize that most of our students are not destined to be full time researchers so helping them cultivate employable skills in the context of their methods course not only makes the course more valuable, but helps them see additional value.

    But the best reason you should teach research methods as a graduate student is that, done well, the course is a lot of fun. There also is nothing more gratifying than expanding students’ view of psychology and getting the chance to introduce students to the joy of science.



    Ciarocco, N. J., Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., & Van Volkom, M. (2013). The impact of a multifaceted approach to teaching research methods on students' attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 40, 20-25. doi:10.1177/0098628312465859

    National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014). The skills/qualities employers want in new college graduate hires. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org

    Sizemore, O.J., & Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2009). Learning might not equal liking: Research methods course changes knowledge but not attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 90-95. doi:10.1080/00986280902739727

    Stoloff, M., McCarthy, M., Keller, L., Varfolomeeva, V., Lynch, J., Makara, K., & ... Smiley, W. (2010). The undergraduate psychology major: An examination of structure and sequence. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 4-15. doi:10.1080/00986280903426274


  • 05 Oct 2016 7:21 PM | Anonymous

    A big thank you to Svetlana Jovic for developing and sharing this assignment.

    Are you teaching an introductory course and looking for a fun, dynamic assignment that inspires your students to take a creative journey into the history of psychology? Svetlana Jovic has shared a great approach to getting your students to think about the historical context of psychology along with how it relates to our world today.

    This modular assignment asks students to create a “Year In Review” around the time of a key date in the history of psychology that helps explain the historical context of that key event. The “Year In Review” assignment can be used beyond intro courses and even beyond psychology coursework by modifying some of the specifics in order to fit whatever subject you’re teaching.

    Some tips for helping students get creative with the assignment:

    • On the day the assignment is due, have students bring in their newspapers and create a showcase in the classroom.
    • Put up big signs with dates and put them in chronological order around the room.
    • Each group presents their assigned era.
    • Prompt the first few groups to think about the connection between a particular event in psychology and what was happening in the world at that time.
    • After asking a similar question a few times, the rest of the groups start addressing it on their own.
    • Finally, you can invite the rest of the class to ask questions and add to what the presenting group has already said. It gives everybody opportunity to show off their history and pop culture knowledge for that matter :)

    Below you can see some examples from her previous classes and her instructions. Enjoy the news! 

    “Year In Review”: The Newspaper Assignment, Svetlana Jovic

    This assignment is designed to give you some insight into the historical context surrounding famous events in psychology’s history. Working in groups of three, you should create a 3-4 page long “Year-in Review” newspaper that chronicles the important events in a year of importance to psychology. The newspaper must contain a minimum of three stories that have something to do with psychology; the remaining stories deal with other historical events during that year (political, economic, cultural, etc.). Each newspaper will be dated December 31 of the year chosen and will be structured as a special edition featuring the “Year in Review.” You can choose a year from the Key Dates list you can find below.

    The goal of this assignment is for you, working in a three-person group, to produce a “newspaper” that chronicles the events during one of psychology’s “Key Dates.” The newspaper will include such topics as news features relating to events in psychology, book review, ads, obituaries, and anything else that emerges from the group’s collective creativity. A reader of your newspaper should learn something about what happened of importance to psychology in a particular year, and should also learn something about the historical context in which these events occurred.

    There are no limitations in terms of the format of this assignment – you can create a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, or something else. Just like any newspaper, it should have the substantial narrative in it, but feel free to also include photos, graphs, cartoons or anything else that will make the newspaper more effective.

    Off you go now and have some fun with it! I very much look forward to reading your newspapers.


    1900   Interpretation of Dreams

    Sigmund Freud introduces his theory of psychoanalysis in The Interpretation of Dreams, the first of 24 books he would write exploring such topics as the unconscious, techniques of free association, and sexuality as a driving force in human psychology.

    1913   Behaviorism

    John B. Watson publishes "Psychology as Behavior," launching behaviorism. In contrast to psychoanalysis, behaviorism focuses on observable and measurable behavior.

    1935   Alcoholics Anonymous

    Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is founded by Bob Smith of Akron, Ohio. AA's group meetings format and 12-step program become the model for many other mutual-support therapeutic groups.

    Gestalt psychology

    Kurt Koffka, a founder of the movement, publishes Principles of Gestalt Psychology in 1935. Gestalt (German for "whole" or "essence") psychology asserts that psychological phenomena must be viewed not as individual elements but as a coherent whole.

    1946   The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children

    Anna Freud publishes The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children, introducing basic concepts in the theory and practice of child psychoanalysis.

    National Mental Health Act Passed

    U.S. President Harry Truman signs the National Mental Health Act, providing generous funding for psychiatric education and research for the first time in U.S. history. This act leads to the creation in 1949 of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

    1954   The Nature of Prejudice

    Social Psychologist Gordon Allport publishes The Nature of Prejudice, which draws on various approaches in psychology to examine prejudice through different lenses. It is widely read by the general public and influential in establishing psychology's usefulness in understanding social issues.

    1973   Homosexuality removed from DSM

    After intense debate, the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The widely used reference manual is revised to state that sexual orientation "does not necessarily constitute a psychiatric disorder."

    1976   Evolutionary psychology

    Richard Dawkins publishes The Selfish Gene, a work which shifts focus from the individual animal as the unit of evolution to individual genes themselves. The text popularizes the field of evolutionary psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are applied in research on human brain structure.

    1979   Standardized IQ tests found discriminatory

    The U.S. District Court finds the use of standardized IQ tests in California public schools illegal. The decision in the case, Larry P. v. Wilson Riles, upholds the plaintiff's position that the tests discriminate against African American students.

    1990   Cultural psychology

    In Acts of Meaning, Four Lectures on Mind and Culture, Jerome Bruner helps formulate cultural psychology, an approach drawing on philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. Refined and expanded by Hazel Markus and other researchers, cultural psychology focuses on the influences and relationship among mind, cultural community and behavior.

     2000  Sequencing of the Human Genome

    Sixteen public research institutions around the world complete a "working draft" mapping of the human genetic code, providing a research basis for a new understanding of human development and disease. A similar, privately funded, project is currently underway.

  • 31 Aug 2016 1:59 PM | Anonymous

    By Jeremy Sawyer

    Students at the City University of New York (CUNY) have extremely busy lives. Numerous students work long hours while attending school full or part time. So instead of “working for the weekend” (a la Chris Farley), many students work all week so that they can attend classes in the only time they have left: on the weekend! Yes, CUNY runs classes on both Saturdays and Sundays, and these sections are quite popular. My last class (max of 50 students) at 9am on Sunday was completely packed and had students on a wait list. Students greatly appreciate these weekend classes, and I’m going to make the case that instructors should as well.

    I began teaching on weekends while attending graduate school mostly out of convenience (like my students my weeks were busy), but I have since come to greatly enjoy this end-of-the-week educational niche. As I’ve discovered, weekend students are fervently dedicated to their education. Students in my classes intend to pursue fields like psychology, nursing, medicine, “the therapies” (physical, occupational, and speech therapy), and are often zealously collecting prerequisites. They drag themselves out of bed in the wee hours of New York winters to discuss Human Development, and they manage to look lively while doing so. Some of my students work overnight shifts the night before class, and yet are unfailingly present (physically and intellectually) the next morning, with only the aid of coffee. Other students hustle directly from religious services to midday weekend classes.

    One thing I love about the weekend crew is that they are more diverse in age than typical weekday students. They tend to be somewhat older, and have more work and life experience under their belts. They are often returning to school or are intellectually exploring. I’ve had several middle-aged students, and even a retired professor in my classes. Having students spread further across the lifespan enhances classroom discussion of lifespan development. Many students are parents, and are able to discuss child development in terms of their own childhood as well as raising a child. Older students discuss the development of their grandchildren, and compare their children’s parenting styles to their own. I’ve gained valuable insights from the rich experiences and viewpoints of my students, who are also diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socioeconomically.

    Weekend classes have the added bonus that they’re held only once per week, in a tranquil building without the crowded weekday rush. Of course, that also means that the classes are longer. While a 3-hour long class seemed daunting to me initially, I’ve found that engaging students in a variety of active learning methods (and avoiding deadly 3-hour lectures) is the way to go. If you structure the time with a mix of activities, demonstrations, group work, and discussions (plus a short break in the middle of class), the time will actually fly. Having students introduce chapters or articles that they read for homework, pose questions and lead small discussion groups, and frequently pair into dyads and triads to discuss class material or video clips will help you keep bodies and minds moving across the longer class period.

    There is also more time between weekend classes to content with, and it is key to keep students engaged during this time. If you are assigning longer written papers (in addition to frequent low-stakes writing assignments), you can align paper due dates with weeks after there is no class due to holidays, so that students engage in more in-depth writing over the two-week break. Finally, I’ve found that having students work in groups to create and deliver oral presentations keeps students engaged with each other outside of class, and allows students to follow their intellectual/research interests across the semester. Because of their deeper experience in education and the world, weekend students often have particular professional and intellectual questions that they are passionate about delving into more deeply if given the opportunity.

    For all of these reasons, I encourage you to take the plunge. Become a weekend warrior, and your students will thank you for it. You can still have a social life. And if you play your cards right, you can get out of class just in time to catch the football (or fútbol) games.  

  • 06 Apr 2016 3:39 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Schwartz

    It has gotten to the point where I cannot remember things without referring to a list. Even when complaining about my workload, I cannot name all the projects I need to keep track of. I have tried a whole host of list-making software and techniques, but as the tasks build up faster than I can eliminate them, I quickly give up looking at them. I even stopped taking attendance in class last semester because of the 20 minutes it would take to enter it after class (in a 90 hour work week, 40 extra minutes matter). But my number of urgent tasks has ballooned up, not down, and the average urgency has changed from “that is a nice idea, someday” to “deadline: tomorrow.”

    Finally I started using a life-hack type of solution. I would use my google calendar, already indispensable, to plot out how much I can accomplish in a day. I had seen a colleague do this in excel. The extra advantage with google calendar is I could use the service to set up alerts for important due dates. This has been a great improvement in my life, but without careful naming protocols, I found it hard to search through the deadlines or organize and visualize my tasks by project. This was working for me, but then a few apps came across my door which have actually made significant improvements on the google-cal life-hack solution.

    I wish they would pay me for this advertising, but I still feel like I should share what I have learned.

    Here are the winners:

    GradeBook Pro

    Last semester when I was observed teaching, my observer told me she uses an app to record attendance. After investigating a lot of free options, I decided it was worth investing 20 bucks for lifetime access to an extra 40 minutes of sleep a week. This app not only allows me to record attendance but to note whether it was excused or unexcused, mark late, keep track of who has done assignments etc.  I can check summaries of a student's performance from my phone when they email me, and make an informed, rather than gut, decision about their requests and complaints (and do so from my phone, making my transit time more productive). But the coolest thing about this is I can take a picture of each student with the app and study their names with picture next to them. Not only did I cut down on paperwork, but improved teacher-student rapport (using the app inadvertently helped me to learn all of their names and look more responsible in general).

    DOWNSIDE: May only be available on iphones.


    At the APA convention last summer, McMinn (2015) gave me this tip: keep track of every minute you spend, especially on unpaid, unscheduled work that supports others in your department.  All of those minutes you spend on reading a peer's paper, helping someone run stats, or proofing a survey. You weren't playing candy crush, and you should track that, so when your advisor comes to you and says "here's some more work" you can break it down with a graph on the spot. Not that anyone has asked yet, but the point of the advice is that when you are in a tenure track position, your chair may come to you and say: why haven't you gotten more grants or published more papers? You need to be able to show them all the good work you do that hasn’t quite turned into a line on your CV. The special benefit here for teaching is that I can actually log all the time I spend on my classes. I sit down to respond to student emails and I hit "start clock" and then "stop clock" when I finish. Tracking the time helps me spend enough time but not too much time on my students and my own work, and to make that decision based on numbers rather than emotions.

    DOWNSIDE: May only be available for iphones.


    Remember the life-hack of using my calendar to block out how much time I need for all my tasks and therefore to help me decide when to accept new projects or not? Google Calendar is great, but the app is not strong enough on a phone, AND I cannot integrate all my school emails into it. I have 9 email accounts I need to keep track of and Sunrise can link to them all. It is cross-platform, so you can use it on your computer, your iphone, your android, whatever. It allows you to access your calendar while writing a text message, click times you are available, and allow someone else to “accept” one of those times, which ends up directly in your calendar as a scheduled event. The real strength of this app is this: when looking at my calendar ON MY PHONE, it can pull from outlook, from google calendar, and can rapidly toggle between week view and a combination of month/daily detail view. You can access all of the normal features directly from the app on your phone, like reminders, notifications, sharing events etc.  This app has the least direct impact on my teaching, apart from the ease with which I can schedule office hours appointments with students, but it is helpful for maintaining general work-life balance.

    DOWNSIDE: None yet.


    This one is the absolutely best of the bunch. A technophile friend has been pushing me to use it for months and I finally caved. I took two hours to learn how to use it, and I have become a fanatical convert. There are MANY todo list apps, and I have tried LOTS of them. This one goes beyond a task list, beyond even an intuitive organizational app. It is on every platform. It has plugins so you can click a button in gmail to send a task to your list. It syncs with your calendars. You can set repeating due dates with notifications, you can drag and drop to rearrange projects or tasks. You can email notifications to others, and assign tasks to teammates.  You can sort your tasks and projects by due date, but also by "filters" and "labels" so it can accommodate different organizational styles. Best of all, you can set your "Karma" to give you reinforcing feedback as you proceed on your tasks and can measure your productivity on any given day. Once I adjusted my settings nice and low I got all the positive feedback I could desire. You can also just turn it off. While this helps my research a lot, it also helps me to keep track of the things I promise to do on the fly in class. I can also set reminders, deadlines, and even link a document to a task or assign it to a TA by inviting them to the project (named after my class).

    DOWNSIDES: No automatic built in visualization of your calendar, although you can import/export from your calendar.

    ​I understand that some of you will say I am app-happy, but I am actually quite picky.  While I was an early-adopter of dropbox, and a big advocate of it, I am only enthusiastic about great products. I also admit I invested a few dollars in the pro versions of some of these (the only times I have ever done so). I have never regretted a penny. These are life savers that are an absolute bargain for the amount of benefit I have gotten out of them.

    Looking forward to hearing everyone else's tips!

  • 30 Nov 2015 1:25 PM | Anonymous

    By Renata Strashnaya

    If I told you that you could spend your class time building energy, passion, critical thinking and knowledge base, would it pique your interest? I hope so. I recently presented about an advertising activity I conduct in my Psychology of Gender class at Pedagogy Day 2015 (Graduate Center, CUNY). I am glad to say that the activity received a very positive response so I wanted to share it with those of you who were not able to attend.

    Halfway through the semester, students in my Psychology of Gender class read about and discuss images and language about men and women in popular media. To encourage critical thinking and to build awareness of important concepts by relating them directly to “the real world” outside of class, I assign an activity that asks students to pick two advertisements (one stereotypical of gender norms/roles and one non-stereotypical). Students are required to peruse print media (e.g., magazines, newspapers), choose two ads, and bring them to class along with the following information: (1) title of publication, (2) product/service that is advertised, (3) the setting (e.g., home, work, park), (4) whether the focus is on full body or face, (5) age of woman/man, and (6) suggested personality traits of woman/man. On the day of the activity, students tape their ads to the blackboard by carefully placing each ad in the category that they feel this ad belongs—stereotypical man/stereotypical woman/non-stereotypical man/ non-stereotypical woman. Students then have some time to stretch their muscles and walk around the room to view all the ads before returning to their desks for discussion.

    One of the first things students usually observe is that non-stereotypical ads are much harder to find. Second, students do not always agree about the placement of their peers’ ads, which sparks an interesting debate about how what looks non-stereotypical at first is in fact based on subtle (or blatant) stereotypes about men, women, or both. At this point, everyone is engaged and invested in the conversation, and your role as the teacher is similar to that of a facilitator. Your intention is to probe further and to connect what the students say to concepts they have been learning all semester. As such, textbook terms and course topics gain meaning in students’ everyday activities and lives. Be prepared for many “Aha!” moments, including some of your own. For instance, one student reported not being able to view train advertisements the same way again because he said, “my eyes have been opened.”

    This exercise also allows for an examination about how gender intersects with race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, ability, and age.  Since most of the ads that students bring are relatively current, the class can engage in a discussion about progress (or a lack of it) from a political and historical standpoint. By relating what students say to current events and societal concerns, there are often personal confessions about how certain belief systems persist in students’ own lives and the possible role that media plays in forming long-standing perceptions of self and how one fits in the world. If you are teaching at a place like the City University of New York (a large public institution), you are also bound to have students from different parts of the world—students whose experiences are diverse, shaped by different norms and discourses, and influenced by cultural values outside of the mainstream. As such, there can be a discussion about how the media reflects and shapes societal norms and values, which can be supported by presenting students with “identical” ads across different countries with subtle, but critical distinctions. Although, I mainly use this class activity in a course about gender, it can be used for almost any topic. For example, in a class about child development, perceptions and stereotypes about childhood can be explored in a similar fashion.

    I have not had a student yet who did not enjoy this exercise, and I have not had an experience yet where a student did not surprise me with an observation that I have never considered before. At the beginning of each semester, I make a promise to my students that whether they agree or disagree with the material we will cover during the semester is not the point; however, by the end of the semester, they will gain an awareness about the world that will change what (and how) they notice, think, and hear. I believe that this activity helps me, as an instructor, to accomplish this goal.

  • 19 Oct 2015 2:56 PM | Francis Yannaco (Administrator)

    by Teresa Ober and Francis Yannaco

    The STP's 14th Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) was a great success this October 15-17! The purpose of the conference is to disseminate current research in the area of SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning). As an interdisciplinary branch of psychology and education, SoTL connects researchers and scholars who aim to establish an understanding of the ways in which teaching can optimally achieve student learning. From Wilson-Doenges and Gurung (2013), we can conceptualize the three general types of SoTL research and their relevant methodological needs. These methods span reports on classes or courses, comparisons of courses and students, and syntheses of existing SoTL research. Luckily, Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges herself was there to explain the unique considerations necessary for better methodological rigor in our SoTL project, which we applied to receive mentoring for at the STP SoTL Workshop.

    Surviving mostly on apples and water, we worked closely with our dear mentors Michelle Drouin and Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges to develop a strong theoretical model and sharpen our classroom technology use scale. The ‘writing retreat’ style of the workshop provided an exceptional opportunity to shut ourselves away and turn our ideas into a real product in the span of hours, not months. And while Michelle’s expertise in technology use was profoundly applicable to every question we had during theory and scale development, Georjeanna’s insights helped us workshop our scale and turn our notes into well-honed models to move forward with.

    Above and beyond the personalized, minute-to-minute feedback and real teaching insights from our mentors, the STP’s ACT Conference itself oriented us at the center of the cutting-edge research coming out right now. We took inspiration from many of the poster presenters’ work that spoke to our ideas. As both conference attendee and workshop participants this year, we had an amazing time working with experts in the field on a project while situated in the middle of an academic conference. Speaking with and learning from other attendees allowed us to think about aspects and new angles of the research project that we might not otherwise have considered. The conference itself provides a great forum within which one present can present research among other graduate students and one-on-one with the teaching visionaries you’re citing in your own SoTL.

    Much thanks to the GSTA and our GSTA mentor Patricia Brooks for pushing us to go down to Atlanta for this amazing experience, it was beautiful!

    For anyone interested in finding out about upcoming STP conferences, be sure to check out the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website under Conferences (link:

    WilsonDoenges, G., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2013). Benchmarks for scholarly investigations of teaching and learning. Australian Journal of Psychology, 65(1), 63-70.

  • 29 Sep 2015 10:02 AM | Anonymous

    by Kasey L. Powers and Anna Schwartz

    A throwback to the classic back to school essay - What I did this summer. This summer we had the opportunity to take part in the AP Psychology Grading as AP Readers. This was a week spent grading the more than 280K AP Psychology Exams taken by high school students across the country. It was like going to camp for adults and one of the best professional development experiences I have ever been a part of.

    I’ll stop here for a moment to let you wrap your head around the fact that I just said spending 56 hours grading exams was like going to camp. And fun!

    It was a week spent in a new city with a few hundred like-minded colleagues who teach advanced placement psychology in high schools and introduction to psychology and colleges. I met people and made new friends. Each day at 5pm it was pencils down and the evening was ours. No work (at least from this job) to follow back to the hotel.

    This is not to say it isn’t hard work. Each morning at 8am you are in your seat ready to read. But it’s an assigned seat and your table is like your cabin - the people you get to know best. And you are assigned to read only one question the whole week, your question is your camp, with the rival camp on the other question in the next room. But at lunch we all come together. This was still not about the work.

    The work. Reading AP Exams has made me a better teacher (I hope, what I learned will be implemented in just a few days). Reading exams, specifically the same exam question several hundred times, and scoring these questions with a well made rubric, you see many examples of student writing ranging from very good to very very bad. There is much to be learned from student writing. Here are a few things I learned reading exams:

    “Good” or “bad” writing is not necessarily correlated with comprehension and grasp of the psychological concept. There were some paragraphs that flowed so nicely and were easy to read. However, when looking for specific points, it turns out that the student said nothing of substance, most often in the form of circular definitions. There were some pieces of writing that were almost painful to read with poorly constructed sentences, but when looking carefully at the substance of the writing, the student did know the concepts. Writing is an equally important but separate skill.

  • 14 Sep 2015 3:42 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Schwartz

    I have been teaching for a few years now, and one of the things that I am still mastering is asking the whole class a question.  Usually it goes something like this: I say “How many of you agree with this statement, raise your hand.” Then some students raise their hands a little bit.  The situation is worse if I want to ask a question and actually distinguish between “yay” and “nay”. Then somebody suggested using colored index cards in a technique that I call “red light/green light cards”.

    It works like this: you ask each student to pick up a red index card and a green index card on their way into class every day. Now, whenever you ask them a question with a yes/no answer, you ask them to hold up the green card if they agree and the red card if they disagree.

    It sounds simplistic, but it is worth trying out. Here’s how it plays out: I ask a question, students hold up their cards, and I have an instant visual read on percentages of agree and disagree.  My ability to scan a room and count a few red cards or a few green cards is infinitely superior to my ability to rapidly scan and count hands that have not been raised. An additional benefit is that a question that used to involve two rounds of hand raising (how many of you agree, raise your hands, now raise your hand only if you disagree) can be done in one question. These were all expected benefits of the technique.  The unexpected benefit are the creative uses of the cards student’s come up with to communicate shades of agreement.  Some students hold up both cards, showing more red or less red, more green or less green to display degrees of agreement or ambivalence. Some students hold the two cards back to back, flipping the green card from back to front. My favorite moments are when students raise their card when I have not asked a question to simply contribute their agreement, assent or opinion to what I am saying, silently entering into my lecture and making it a personal conversation with me without ever having to disrupt my lecture (not that I mind disruptions, but it is nice for students to be able to communicate without the burden of having to disrupt).

    In short, this is a simple (and inexpensive) technique that you can use in your classroom to improve student participation – to move student participation from the few students who are comfortable talking to total student participation!

  • 01 Jun 2015 12:15 PM | Anonymous

    By Kasey Powers 

    For the last two years I’ve had the ability to meet my yearly teaching course allowance for my situation in the fall semester. The first time was so I could take a maternity leave for the spring, and this year so that I could use the spring to focus on my dissertation proposal. However, just because I’m not teaching in a given semester doesn’t mean I’m not working to improve my craft.

    During my “off-season” I think a lot about teaching. When I’m at my campus I see colleagues who are teaching and we talk about how their classes are going. Sometimes I ask and other times they may have a question for me or want to get feedback on a new idea. There are conversations about activities that maybe didn’t work, and how to improve. There are conversations about how to deal with a specific student situation that I’ve encountered before but my colleague has not. There are many conversations about teaching where I am thinking, learning, and saving ideas for when I’m teaching again in the fall.

    It’s also been a time when I’ve been able to step back and reflect on what has been working well and not-so-well in my classes, since I teach the same course most semesters. I have a list of things that I want to improve upon and I’ve had the time to update some of my lectures. This time of reflection is a big difference from the mad rush to change something the night before a class.

    Because I’m not spending hours a week prepping and grading I’ve had more time to read news articles. I’ve found so many articles that are perfect to share in my class and I’ve been saving these to a shared folder on my Dropbox so that colleagues who I teach with can use them now. This activity is now a habit that I hope to continue when I am teaching again.

    If you are considering teaching a new course or you want to make major changes in your class, an off semester is a great time to review textbooks and look for new activities. You might want to look at The Syllabus Project to find variations that other instructors use.

    The bottom line is that teaching and pedagogy are an ongoing conversation that occurs whether or not you are teaching in a given semester.

  • 13 Mar 2015 12:17 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Schwartz 

    As a new initiative for the Fall 2014 semester, the Graduate Student Teaching Association implemented a graduate student peer-mentoring program through the Graduate Center, CUNY that serves to match experienced graduate student teachers with new graduate student teachers (If you are interested in joining the program email Anna Schwartz here). Mentors provide support to mentees on a range of pedagogical areas such as designing syllabi, creating effective assessments that align with learning objectives, navigating a college campus as an educator, and problem-solving with unexpected student situations. The following narratives were given by a mentoring team consisting of two mentees and one mentor. Each perspective highlights the unique opportunities that graduate student peer mentoring can provide for both the mentees and mentors.

    The peer mentoring program has been really invaluable to me during my first semester teaching at the collegiate level. When you begin teaching, unexpected questions can arise at any time, and it’s comforting to know that you can ask an experienced teacher for advice. Beyond advice on syllabus design and great ideas for classroom activities, mentors can provide advice on how to some of the daily ins and outs of teaching, such as attendance policy, testing/grading and challenging situations with students. I also learned a great deal from conversation and exchange with the mentee in my group, a new teacher like myself who was dealing with the same challenges of setting up classroom and new lectures. I definitely slept better at night knowing I was connected to our mentor group, and I would highly recommend that other CUNY instructors link up through this program!


    I really enjoy being part of the peer mentoring initiative. Despite having the option to take pedagogy courses on how to become more effective instructors before we begin teaching, there are often concerns that are specific (e.g., large classes) to the college where you are adjunct-ing or questions you don’t think of until you’ve begun teaching. The peer mentoring program pairs you with a mentor and mentee that have experienced/are experiencing similar challenges. Given the fact that the group is so small (consisting of two mentees and one mentor), you’ll be able to pose various questions to both the mentor and other mentee in the group. Additionally, as new teachers, your peer mentoring group can serve as the beginnings of teaching community or network at your college. Another of my favorite characteristics about this program is the flexibility. As graduate student instructors, the “teaching hat” is just one of many that we have to wear. In the same day, we may be students, researchers, clinicians-in-training, and teachers. To have the flexibility of meeting in-person, having a phone conversation, or just emailing one another, has been invaluable! Just like my fellow mentee above, I highly recommend the peer-mentoring program to any graduate student instructor or new teacher.


    While there are many advantages to serving as a mentor, my largest benefit from the mentorship program has been via my conversations with my mentees where we problem-solved solutions to classroom-based issues that each of us had encountered. Since we’re all active teachers, it was wonderful to hear the voices of instructors, at varying levels, collaboratively discuss solutions to problems such as giving make-up exams, rationale behind your syllabi structure, and enhancing participation in large classrooms. Similarly, since each of us taught courses with varied titles and class sizes, I was made more aware of the issues that may arise in courses outside of my particular expertise. Overall, the mentorship experience was a huge success this past Fall and I’m thankful that it is already gaining momentum into the Spring 2015 semester.


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