Welcome to the GSTA blog! 

In an effort to keep the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) blog current, we regularly welcome submissions from graduate students as well as full-time faculty. As a blog team, we advocate for and promote inclusion, equity, and anti-racism in pedagogy (see updated GSTA Position Statement from the Steering Committee). At this critical juncture in history, we have declared our solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and are motivated to use this platform to feature voices for change in the following areas as outlined by the GSTA:

  • Suggestions relating to decolonizing syllabi by including the work of scholars and psychologists from diverse identities and backgrounds.

  • Tips on adopting anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching and assessment practices.

  • Recommendations on creating inclusive learning environments that celebrate diversity and do not tolerate discrimination.

  • Strategies on discussing how discrimination and inequity have shaped the field of psychology and the world around us  with students and colleagues.

  • Tips on engaging with students and colleagues across disciplines in activism to create change in classrooms, institutions, and communities.

  • Input on being compassionate and supportive to students, colleagues, and ourselves during these times.

We are also still committed to diversifying blog content to include submissions ranging from new research in the area of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), public interest topics related to teaching and psychology, occasional book reviews, as well as continuing our traditional aim by including posts about teaching tips. Example topic areas include:

  • Highlights of your current SoTL research

  • Issues related to teaching and psychology in the public interest

  • Reviews of recent books related to teaching and psychology

  • Teaching tips and best practices for today's classroom

  • Advice for successfully navigating research and teaching demands of graduate school

  • We would especially like activities that align with APA 2.0 Guidelines!

The blog posts are typically short, ranging from about 500-1000 words, not including references. As it is an online medium, in-text hyperlinks, graphics, and even links to videos are strongly encouraged!

As we focus the spotlight on inclusion and non-discrimination, we will continue to provide  graduate students and faculty an outlet to share their experiences, ideas, and opinions regarding graduate students’ teaching practices.

If you would like for any questions to be addressed, you can send them to and we will post them as a comment on your behalf. If you are interested in submitting a post, please email us at 

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Hallie Jordan, Sarah Frantz, Maya Rose, Raoul RobertsTashiya Hunter, Laura Mason and Megan Nadzan

Follow us on twitter @gradsteachpsych or join our Facebook Group.

  • 10 Aug 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By David B. Strohmetz, Ph.D. & Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., Ph.D., Monmouth University

    “What can I do with a psychology degree?” “Even though I love psychology, should I major in something more practical?” “Will I be able to get a job?” Your students will inevitably ask you these questions. How will you respond?

    We often tell students that psychology prepares them for a wide range of career paths, but we can be vague as to what those paths may be. One solution is to give students career exploration resources (e.g., Appleby, 2016). But we argue that the better way to address students’ questions about their future is to emphasize that psychology helps them acquire skills that employers value. These include: communication skills; critical thinking and research skills; collaboration skills; self-management skills; professional skills; technological skills; and ethical skills (Appleby, 2014). The importance of skill development in the major is integral to the APA 2.0 Guidelines (APA, 2013), but have you asked yourself how you are intentionally helping your students build and strengthen these skills? With a few simple tweaks and/or modifications of existing assignments, you can help nurture the skills associated with postbaccalaureate success.

    Take, for example, communication – a critical skill for everyone. Do you focus primarily on having students write APA style papers? While this is clearly useful for communicating within the discipline, APA style papers have limitations outside of academia or when explaining psychological science to the general public. With this in mind, you could have an assignment where students write an op-ed piece or blog post sharing findings from a research article with a lay audience. Better yet, have them do this assignment several times where you increasingly restrict their word count (maybe reducing it from 1000 words to only 500 words). Besides enhancing their reading skills, students will strengthen their ability to write succinctly and clearly, an important (and rare) skill that will benefit them in any career.

    We should remember that writing is not the only way to communicate. Many students are petrified by the prospect of giving a presentation, yet public speaking is something that they will most certainly have to do at some point in their career. What is the best way to overcome this fear? Practice! You can accomplish this by having your students give multiple low-stakes presentations in your class. Remember that the goal is to have them learn how to give effective presentations. Don’t just say – “give a presentation” and sit back hope for the best. Take the time to discuss what makes an effective presentation. You could have students develop a top ten list of signs of a bad presentation and use this as a springboard for discussing how to give a quality presentation, including the effective use of PowerPoint. You may even pick up some pointers on how to improve your own presentation skills!

    It is hard to imagine any career that does not involve working collaboratively with others. Even professors do group work – we call them “committees!” While we do assign group work to our students, it is worth examining whether these assignments really help students learn how to collaborate effectively with others. We seem to take a “sink or swim” approach where we put students into groups and hope that collaborative learning takes place. Clearly, this is not an ideal way to promote skill development. The problem is that we don’t always take the time to teach students how to collaborate effectively nor do we always structure the assignment itself to promote such learning. Whenever you assign group work, take time to discuss strategies for dealing with group conflicts and working effectively together. You might also assign individuals to specific roles or responsibilities to fulfill within the group, reminiscent of Aronson’s Jigsaw Classroom technique (Aronson & Patnoe, 2011). There should be a level of accountability where other group members evaluate each student’s contributions, similar to what happens in the workplace with respect to performance evaluations. Having several small group projects where these roles or responsibilities rotate among group members will allow each student the opportunity to reinforce these skills. For example, rotate the role of project manager so that one student has the responsibility for overseeing all the other group members. Not only does this promote accountability, but also give students valuable leadership experience.

    One set of skills we often don’t think about cultivating in the classroom involves self-management, or the ability to manage time or stress. By completing small and large-scale assignments throughout the semester, students learn to balance multiple projects, similar to what they will be doing in the workplace. Again, don’t simply assign students this workload without also helping them to develop the skills necessary for success. Discuss strategies for how to manage the workload while maintaining a balance between their school and personal lives (a common challenge in academia!) Have students in groups discuss possible strategies and share them with the rest of the class, reinforcing their collaborative and presentation skills. Explain the value of breaking a large project into smaller tasks to make the project less overwhelming.

    As you intentionally incorporate skill development into your classes, remember that it is important that students recognize what you are doing and why. When on job or graduate school interviews, students should be able to describe learning experiences that illustrate the types of skills they developed as a psychology major. One strategy is to discuss the skills students will be developing both on the first day of class and when discussing individual course assignments. Periodically remind students the connections between what they are learning in their psychology classes and the skills that employers value in recent college graduates.

    APA 2.0 Guidelines are valuable for reminding us the types of skills that students can and should develop through the psychology major. It is up to us to intentionally help students develop those skills so that they no longer ask, “what can I do with a psychology degree?” but rather exclaim, “I have a psychology degree, let me tell you what I can do!”


    American Psychological Association (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major: Version 2.0. Retrieved from

    Appleby, D. C. (2014). A skills-based academic advising strategy for job-seeking psychology majors. In R. L. Miller & J. G. Irons (Eds.), Academic advising: A handbook for advisors and students Vol. 1: Models, Students, Topics, and Issues. Society for the Teaching of Psychology Retrieved from

    Appleby, D. C. (2016). An online career-exploration resource for psychology majors. Society for the Teaching of Psychology. Retrieved from

    Aronson, E., & Patnoe, S. (2011). Cooperation in the classroom: The jigsaw method (3rd ed.). London, UK: Pinter & Martin.

  • 09 Aug 2017 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Jeffery Scott Mio, Ph.D., California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

    The results of the 2016 Presidential Election were a surprise to many, particularly, one might argue, to organizations responsible for polling potential voters to get an accurate estimate of the outcome. While some might view this as a sign that polling is flawed, the issue may be taken up more specifically with how the samples for the polls were drawn rather than the method itself. The discussion that follows aims to elucidate several of the problems with the polling technique used to forecast the results of the 2016 election. This real-life example may serve as a useful demonstration to students about issues that may occur when proper sampling methods are not used, thus resulting in a non-representative sample.

    First of all, the polling agencies do not and probably cannot sample a representative sample.  They typically poll those who have landline, as opposed to cellular, telephone service.  This skews to older people, as many if not most young adults do not have landlines.  However, if they poll only those who have cell phones, this will skew to younger people, and older voters will be lost.  The same is true with Survey Monkey polls, as this will skew to younger voters because younger people are more comfortable with computers than older people.  This method also skews to more urban and suburban people and away from rural people.

    Second, not only are any of these methods questionable, there is also the problem of who answers the poll.  For example, I have a landline, but I never answer it unless it is from someone I know.  If it is a pollster, I will not answer it.  So what kind of people answer a pollster?  We don't know, and we don't know how representative these people are.  Secondarily, pollsters call multiple people at once, and when one person answers the phone, all of the other calls are dropped, so again, what kind of people are answering the poll, and how representative are they?

    Third, related to #2, pollsters admit that even if they talk to a live person, many do not answer the polls, so they end up getting only about 10% participation.  (By the way, the absolute minimum accepted percentage of respondents acceptable from a scientific perspective is 25%.)  Who are these people, and are they representative of the voting public?  Those who answer the polls may be good people and are answering honestly, but they simply are not necessarily representative of the voting population.  A "sample" is an estimate of the "population," but if the sample is skewed, we have an inaccurate picture of the population.  Therefore, when pollsters say that polls are a "snapshot," they may mistakenly be pointing the camera in a wrong direction.

    Fourth, the real question is, "How do we sample 'likely' voters when we do not know who is likely to vote?"  As it turned out, Trump actually did turn out many first-time voters or people who haven't voted for a long time.  On the other hand, Clinton did not excite enough of her voters, and especially because everyone thought that Clinton was going to win, many people did not show up, or younger generations of voters felt free to vote for third-party candidates.  If only a very small percentage of those who voted for third-party candidates had voted for Clinton (especially in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin), Clinton would now be president.

    Finally, as polls indicated, the "undecided" vote was four times higher than in most other elections.  Most people read "undecided" and figure that they will break about 50-50, so Hillary's lead will remain the same in the final count.  However, history tells us that most undecided voters actually break in one direction.  In my estimation, most of the undecided voters were actually those who normally vote Republican, were reluctant to support Trump, but had a difficult time crossing party lines to vote for Clinton.  Their indecision was mostly, "Should I vote for Clinton, or should I vote for a third-party candidate (or should I not vote)?"  However, when the then-FBI Director, James Comey, announced an evaluation of a new batch of emails, I think that most of the undecideds said, "Oh, I can't deal with more Clinton scandals, so I will hold my nose and vote for my party."  Earlier estimates were that Clinton had over 90% of the Democrats, but Trump only had in the low 80% range of Republicans, but in the actual vote count, Trump had over 90%.  This tells me that the undecideds came home to the Republican Party.

    The bottom line is that polls are supposed to sample a population, and that sample is supposed to be representative of the population.  If you do not have a representative sample, your poll will necessarily be inaccurate.  Because some actual voters may have been more suspicious of polls, the media, and anything that smacks of tradition, they probably did not answer the polls in sufficient numbers, thus resulting in a biased sample.  This is why all of the polls seemed to support the notion that Clinton was going to win, which in fact did not happen.  One thing that is accepted by all social scientists is that any one poll may be wrong, but the aggregate of polls are accurate.  The problem with that line of thinking is that all of the analysts were blind to the fact that all of the polls were skewed in Clinton's direction, so of course, she would be systematically thought to be the winner.

  • 01 Aug 2017 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Jonathan Golding, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Kentucky

    Getting ready to teach a class (even a lab) for the first time, here are two words of advice based on my 30 years of higher education experience: “Think positive!” It sounds so simple, but it is critical that you enter your classroom with the belief that your time in front of the classroom will be a great experience, both for you and your students.

    Keep in mind that when I started teaching (first as a graduate Teaching Assistant in 1981 and then my own class as a graduate student in 1985) I was no different than most of you. I had not had a course in teaching--still haven’t. Also, I had heard the horror stories from my peers that teaching a class was, as one put it, “a NIGHTMARE!” So how can you avoid having a negative experience, and find out that teaching can be a great experience? Here are 10 tips:

    1. Get your head together, because teaching is hard work. There is both your mental effort and the time it will take to get everything done. The latter includes the time to prepare your lectures, syllabus, quizzes, and exams, and then there is the grading and dealing with all kinds of student issues (e.g., make-ups). At first, all the work will seem endless, but you will soon get the hang of things and figure out ways to increase your efficiency.
    2. If all you want to do is give a “speech” to a group of people, then become a politician. I know this sounds tough, but when you teach don’t just plan to go in and read off your notes as though you were reading off a teleprompter.
    3. If you are keep thinking that you will hate being in the classroom, or resent having to teach undergraduates, you might (strongly) consider getting a job where all you have to do is conduct research. No one will think less of you, and you and your potential students will sleep better at night. Bottom line--teaching is not for everyone.
    4. Start thinking about teaching in a different way. Take some time to think about who was your best teacher as either an undergraduate or graduate, and figure out why you think so highly of him or her. This thought activity will likely be the catalyst for the way you will conduct yourself in the classroom.
    5. Understand the distinction between your Teaching Philosophy and the Teaching Techniques you will use in the classroom. The former may include your belief that active learning is critical to student success, whereas the latter includes the use of group work, discussion, in-class writing, and student response systems (i.e., “clickers).
    6. Make sure you are clear on how you want to deal with your students. For example, I do not want to be anyone’s father or “bro”, but I do try hard to break down the barriers that often exist between professors and their students.
    7. Figure out some ways you can "connect" with your students that help forge a sense of community in your classroom. This can be as simple as letting students know something about you. For example, I give a short autobiography about myself using PowerPoint. This includes the fact that I was the school mascot (the “Temple Owl”) when I was in college—I kid you not!.You can also make sure to answer every email, talk to students before and after class, and contact every student about their class performance.
    8. Be flexible. I think it is fine to be a bit tough at the start of the semester when you are trying to lay down the rules of the class. However, once things get rolling there will be times when it will be important to bend a bit to accommodate a student dealing with personal issues or a time when the class needs you to deviate from your schedule in order to grasp really difficult information.
    9. Use technology to your advantage. No one says you have to use every new piece of tech that hits the market, but it is likely that there are certain things that can make your life easier in your classroom. These can include using a course management system, “clickers” to allow for student responding during class, videos (e.g., for a class on operant conditioning, check out this video on YouTube), or even the use of social media to offer all students the opportunity to connect to one another and to the Instructor on a 24/7 basis.
    10. Students need to understand that you are running the show—yes, you are the Boss! Therefore, you need to decide both what you will put up with (e.g., computers and cell phones) and how your class will run. The later includes simple things like how you will start and end class and more complicated issues like attendance rules.

    In the end, although it may sound trite, it is really an honor to be teaching. To know that you can serve as a real inspiration in a person’s life is not to be taken lightly. Don’t be like some of the faculty I can still recall from my college days—they just didn’t care or were on a major “power trip”. Be there for your students and embrace your role as a teacher—you won’t regret it!

  • 29 Jul 2017 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Michelle ("Mikki") Hebl, Ph.D., Psychology and Professor of Management, Rice University

    I was asked to write a blog post and offer some “teaching tips for graduate student instructors amidst modern teaching environments.” I will offer just one piece of advice for graduate students. It’s hard to believe I will offer only ONE piece of advice if you know me because I am chock-full of free advice and lots of words. But here it is – advice for students who may range from potentially nervous, first-timers in the classroom to those who have been teaching their own sections or classes for 4-5 years already.  I offer this tip regarding evolving technology-related practices with the belief that it might be relevant regardless of current and future technological and pedagogical advances.

    My caveat is that my advice is NOT based on much research, at least not in a knowingly reference supported, experimentally derived, or quantitative, large-sample-size sense. Instead, my straightforward advice comes from my idiographic experiences; from watching others; and from talking to other faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. The advice may not be a blanket recommendation and lead to efficacy for all but it is based on a basic conclusion that I have drawn from teaching for 25 years at a combination of the following hodgepodge of places: Rice, Dartmouth, Texas A&M University, Baylor University, and on Semester at Sea programs.

    So here it is. I offer you my anti-technology advice about modern teaching environments. Sorry if you were expecting otherwise

    Please consider dissuading the use of computers, iPads, cellphones, or similar electronic devices in the classroom.

    There is a reason that driving accidents increase as people answer their phones, text, apply their makeup, fiddle with their music, or do any of the other hundreds of crazy things people try to do at the same time they are driving. Take it from me – the daughter of a driver’s education teacher who has heard and seen lots of memorable things – and as someone who personally has changed from work clothes into a bathing suit on the way to masters swim class… while driving (yes, an officer stopped me). These things take our attention away from what we are trying to do. And so it is the same in the classroom. We divide our attention and take it away from the valuable messages that the teacher is trying to deliver to us.  But... you might have a knee-jerk response, especially if you are one of those classroom electronic users… ”my mind wanders so much that I’m not learning anyway,” “at least I’m learning something on my device as I’m listening to some monotone teacher drone on and on,” or “surely I can multi-task and answer a few emails or check the headlines at the same time.” But I would argue… NOT without the potential of a lot of lost learning and without the possibility of mind wandering and getting further distracted.

    This semester will be the third semester I have begun this practice in my undergraduate classes and I will initiate it in my graduate classes in future semesters. Of course, there are always exceptions to each rule and if a student has a convincing argument (e.g., disability) for using electronics in the classroom, I will likely be open to it

    But I would like to tell y’all how I came to my opinion that we should go back to a less technological world in the classroom (or at least one without the use of what I will call “computers without boundaries”).  The reason is NOT because people forget to lower the volume on their computers and they make very disruptive noises or because the phone has gone off many times in my classrooms. It is not because I have a personal vendetta against computers. I prize and love my MacBook Air. It is not because I want to make students mad. I assure you, my students are some of my favorite people in the world.

    Instead, two experiences led me to this conclusion. First, I had the wonderful experience of evaluating my colleague’s teaching performance when she was going up for tenure. She is a gifted teaching and there are no known (!) reports of students who would describe her as boring or unskilled at teaching. Then, it amazed me, as I watched from the back of the class and unbeknownst to most students, I noticed just how many of them were on their laptops doing completely random and none-class related activities. Many were reading the news, some were surfing, others were all over Facebook looking up pictures, some were doing emails and texting, and three people were playing video games. I have to admit two of them were doing videogames that I watched for about three minutes and then saw out of the corner of my eye on and off again for the rest of the class. The videogame was a Texas duel in which the object was to shoot the opponent faster than they could shoot you. Granted, this sort of videogaming during lectures may become really important given Texas’s new law that allows students to carry concealable guns into the classroom (and in September, Texans can open carry swords… but don’t get me started here… ). Students have become unabashedly bold about using their laptops to do work unrelated to note-taking during classes. It’s not the exception, it’s the norm.  When did it become the norm, when a teacher is talking, to not give him or her your full attention and try to learn from the expert as much as you possibly can?  I’m not cynical. I’m not old. Okay, maybe I’m becoming a little of both,  but graduate students becoming burgeoning teachers, let’s shut off the really leaky faucet until we have better stoppers. I argue we are NOT helping our students, rather we might be reinforcing an attention-deficit world. Spoken from someone who seems a little attention deficit.

    Second, I recently taught a graduate student class of a very small number. Very small number. I rather liked each one of these students and they all used their computers throughout the class. Only it became readily apparent to me that one particular student was actually doing all sorts of other work during the class. Every class. If you don’t think we know, you’re wrong. It’s really obvious when we pose a question and pause and you aren’t looking, you are madly typing away with purpose, and you forget to even look up and pretend to be paying attention. Maybe I wasn’t interesting enough. Maybe I was droning on. Maybe the student already knew everything I was trying to teach. Maybe she had other issues that were more pressing.  Or maybe… just maybe… our inability to filter, put boundaries around, or altogether prevent the use of computers and electronic technology has reinforced a culture in which students no longer feel like they have to even play the game of respect in the classroom. I’m not mad at the student. Again, I rather like her. But what it shows me is that the interruption of evolving technology needs to be more carefully considered.  And until then, I’m doing something a little radical. I’m preventing them from entering the classroom. Call it radical. I am one of the last mother holdouts from buying her 13 year-old son a cellphone. Maybe I’ve been on a ship at sea for far too long.  Will I regret having written this ten years from now?  Will I seem like a dinosaur? Probably.  But for now, I wholly recommend that if you are serious about the craft of teaching… if you want to maximize the attention that people direct away from you… if you want people to give their full devotion to the sage things you are hopefully teaching… then, I would highly recommend you make them turn off their devices too.

  • 26 Jul 2017 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Susan A. Nolan, Ph.D., Seton Hall University, Vice President of Diversity and International Relations for STP

    Does your research have an international bent or focus on issues related to diversity? Do you include international or diversity-related content, methods, or examples in your teaching? Do you make efforts to foster an inclusive classroom (or online) environment when you teach? Do you want to expand your research or teaching to embrace issues related to diversity and internationalization? If you answered yes to any of these questions, STP has several current diversity-related and international initiatives that welcome graduate student involvement.

    Project Syllabus. Project Syllabus is a repository of peer-reviewed syllabi for a range of psychology courses. Look specifically under the headings for culture, diversity, and international syllabi, but also scroll through other categories. Many content areas (including clinical, human sexuality, peace, social psychology, special topics, and women and gender) have relevant syllabi. There also is a grant-funded initiative spearheaded by the STP International Relations Committee Chair, Dr. Kelley Haynes-Mendez, to expand the number of syllabi in Project Syllabus from non-U.S. instructors. For more information, see: Now, several of the peer-reviewed syllabi are for courses taught in non-U.S. countries. Scroll the course titles and look at the universities at which the professors teach to identify which ones are from countries other than the U.S. Beyond exploring syllabi for ideas for your own courses, consider submitting a syllabi for peer review. Guidelines for creating an excellent syllabus and the rubric used by peer reviewers are posted on the Project Syllabus Web site.

    International Conferences. Consider attending a conference outside the U.S. STP now has a Director of International Programming, Dr. Dana Dunn. Dana is targeting at least one international teaching conference each year where STP is a co-sponsor and has a physical presence for recruitment of new members. STP-sponsored conferences are listed here: If you attend any of the sponsored conferences, contact Dr. Dana Dunn ( if you want to volunteer at the STP table. Volunteering is a great way to give back to STP and to network at the same time.

    International Twitter Poster Conference. No travel money? Participate in STP’s annual International Twitter Poster Conference, begun in 2016. With an organizing committee headed by Dr. Anna Ropp, the conference typically occurs toward the end of the fall semester. Both graduate students and faculty members are encouraged to tweet teaching-related posters, and there are several prizes of a free STP membership for one year. Watch the various STP social media outlets and newsletters for more information. Note that you are welcome tweet a poster that you’ve already presented at another conference, so you can get more mileage out of work that you’ve already done and gain a wider audience for your work.

    International Relations Committee and Diversity Committee. From time to time, the International Relations Committee, Diversity Committee, and International Twitter Poster Conference Committee seek new members. Keep an eye on STP’s Get Involved Website for opportunities. All of these committees would welcome a GSTA member on their rosters.

  • 23 Jul 2017 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Sue Frantz, Professor of Psychology at Highline College

    Having spent my career – 26 years and counting – teaching Intro Psych, I have had a lot of time to think about Intro Psych. What is its purpose? Why have I spent so many of my waking hours – and some of my sleeping hours! – teaching this course?

    Somewhere over a million students take the course annually. The vast majority of those students are not psychology majors. They are going into the fields of business, politics, engineering, and medicine, to name a few. David Myers asks, “What does an educated person need to know about psychology?” I wonder, “If we were to create an Intro Psych course today, from scratch, what would it look like?”

    Of all the courses in the psychology curriculum, Intro Psych is the hardest one to teach. I taught my first Intro course as a graduate student. I felt pretty comfortable with the social psych chapter since that was my area of study. And I felt equally comfortable with the chapter on research methods – correlations and experiments with one independent variable, easy peasy! But after that? After that I relied heavily on the textbook. Sure, I had taken classes devoted to some of those chapters as an undergraduate, like abnormal, development, and learning, but that was years ago. And then there were all of those chapters I, frankly, had no formal education about, like sexuality, personality, motivation, emotion, stress. Like everyone else who is teaching Intro Psych for the first (second, third…, nth) time, I learned from the textbook, right along with my students – or, more accurately, about one chapter ahead of my students. The Intro course is arguably the one course where we, as instructors, are most heavily reliant on our textbooks. I’m not a cognition researcher; I have no idea what the key concepts are in cognition. I’m happy to have someone else figure it out and deliver it to me (and my students!) in a 40-page chapter.

    I relied on the textbook to tell me what the general public needs to know about psychology, although I didn’t think of it that way. I just thought, here’s the textbook, students need to learn what’s in the textbook, and I’m here to help them do that – and to assess to what extent they have done that.

    Then textbooks started to expand in size, drifting toward the encyclopedic. Intro Psych instructors spent quite a bit of time discussing depth vs. breadth. Those in the depth camp liberally cut content (e.g., motivation, emotion, intelligence, language), opting to spend more time on a select number of concepts. Those in the breadth camp covered a wider swath of content, opting to help students see how many different kinds of questions psychology addresses. While I’ve been a part of many of those discussions, I don’t recall anywhere we addressed the origin of the content itself. We took the textbook as gospel. That’s the pool of content we are to draw from.

    As research started to mount showing that our Intro Psych students don’t remember much after the course is over (e.g., Landrum & Gurung, 2013), the discussion shifted. There were those who were ready to toss content out altogether. “Let’s teach skills, such as information literacy and research methods, and not worry about the content.” But there were plenty who weren’t quite ready to let content go. Some think we should take a myth-busting approach to teaching content (e.g., Bernstein, 2016): “Let’s find out what misconceptions students have and address those.” Others think we should be more applied in what we teach: “If it applies to students’ lives – self-reference effect, people! – students will remember content.”

    And once again, the content of our textbooks – what we all use as a foundation to build our courses, regardless of our approach or our emphasis – remains undiscussed.

    A number of years ago I had a conversation with an Intro Psych textbook author who had just joined an existing set of authors to work on a new edition. When a textbook is new or is going into a new edition, faculty are asked to review a few textbook chapters. I, for example, would most often choose social psych (my area), research methods (I’m always on solid footing there), and sensation/perception/learning/memory (one of those because I find them fun to teach). While I was happy to offer my thoughts, I never quite grasped the impact of my words.

    The author gave me an example of the problem she saw throughout the textbook. When the chapter reviews came back for the neuroscience chapter, she said, the biopsych/neuroscience folks advised the authors to remove everything about the action potential. The action potential isn’t important to us, they said. Focus on the synapse and the neurotransmitters; that’s where the drama is. But when the authors looked at the reviews of that exact same content submitted by the cognitive, social, development, etc. folks, they all demanded that the action potential stay. Why? “Because I teach that!” And now it’s just the physics of economics. There were many more reviewers standing on the “keep it!” side of the scale than on the “ditch it!” side of the scale. The action potential stayed. As a biopsych colleague pointed out to me, the action potential does not appear in the Intro Psych textbooks outside of that initial coverage of the neuron.

    Our textbooks are crowd-sourced from a crowd that shouldn’t have an opinion.

    What other content in your Intro Psych textbook is “legacy” content – content that was put in the textbook at one time and now can’t be removed because a lot of instructors say, even though it’s not in their field of study, “I teach that!”?

    With that said, let’s all step away from the textbooks. Let’s take a collective deep breath. And let’s ask each other, “1.) What does an educated person need to know about psychology? 2.) If we were to create an Intro Psych course today, from scratch, what would it look like?”


    Bernstein, D. (2016, January 6). Bye-bye Intro. Address presented at National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology in Tradewinds, St. Petersburg Beach.

    Landrum, R. E., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2013). The memorability of Introductory Psychology revisited. Teaching of Psychology, 40(3), 222-227. doi:10.1177/0098628313487417

  • 10 Jul 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Harold Takooshian, Ph.D., Fordham University and CUNY'79

    "How important are mentors?" For better or worse, the answer could not be more clear. What is more inspiring than a good mentor, or more miserable than a bad mentor? This experience likely shapes our entire career. Here, I share with GSTA students five points to consider about mentors.

    1. Indispensible. A mentor is "a trusted counselor," a term that dates from Greek mythology, where far-away Odysseus entrusted his family to the care of Mentor. By any name, mentors have always been an indispensible part of formal education, from Plato's Academy to the Han dynasty in ancient China.

    2. Inspiration. In April of 2017 at CUNY (photo 1 below), super-mentor Florence Denmark chaired a panel where 9 celebrated psychologists from many institutions spoke briefly on their own mentor, with a few notable results: (a) We all found ourselves inspired to hear these noted mentors describe with such affection the deep impact of their own mentor. (b) These mentors noted how they benefitted from more than one mentor, for different stages or parts of their career as a student, then ECP. (c) They agreed their mentor's support was pivotal for them. They would not have achieved so much without their mentors, and try to pass this on to their own students.

    3. Variation. The 35 graduate psychology programs in Greater New York City (Bonet & Takooshian, 2015) have a well-earned reputation for being highly varied in their mentoring. At the negative extreme, faculty in some schools are rewarded for research more than teaching, so students need luck to find a caring mentor, and must struggle to earn their doctorate. At the positive extreme, faculty in other schools understand teaching and mentoring to be key roles, to build up their students. If we view these 35 schools are gardens, some emphasize weeding out students while others emphasize nurturing students--and most fall in between.

    4. Legacy. I recall when a new PhD was just starting her teaching career, and looked visibly confused when a notoriously bad mentor cynically advised her, "They do it to you, then you do it to them." Fortunately, what is true in the negative, can be true in the positive as well--as we see teachers try to "get even" with their beloved mentor by becoming a beloved mentor themselves. In fact, CUNY alumna Elyse Goldstein (1979) published this finding from her 2x2 analysis, documenting this fact, that same-sex mentorships actually correlate with higher alumnus productivity after the doctorate.

    5. CUNY-GC. It is no accident that CUNY-GC is the current home of the GSTA. Even when I was a student in the 1970s in GC, the entire campus and its 10-program psychology department were legendary for gifted faculty who combined teaching and research excellence (photo 2 below). Even the most busy professors like Florence Denmark and Morton Bard made it a point to join students at the weekly Wednesday colloquium. Though my mentor Stanley Milgram had an international reputation for research, he was a devoted teacher for his entire 24-year career, from 1960 through the day he died on December 20, 1984, four hours after he chaired Christina Taylor's dissertation defense (Takooshian, 2000). In fact, in my experience, it is the best researchers who make the best mentors (Takooshian, 1991).


    Bonet, C., & Takooshian, H. (2015). Checklist of graduate psychology programs in Greater New York. Presentation to the 27th Greater New York Conference on Psychology.

    Goldstein, E. (1979). Effect of same-sex and cross-sex role models on the subsequent academic productivity of scholars. American Psychologist, 34(5), 407-410.

    Takooshian, H. (1991). Research, teaching, and the question of interaction. NYS Psychologist, 41(1), 44-56.

    Takooshian, H. (2000). How Stanley Milgram taught about obedience and social influence. In T. Blass (Ed.), Obedience to authority: Current perspectives on the Milgram paradigm (pp. 9-24). Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.

    * Note: Harold Takooshian, PhD, is on the Fordham faculty since 1975, where he is Professor of Psychology, Urban Studies, and Organizational Leadership. He earned his PhD at CUNY-GC in 1979, and was elected a Fellow of the APA Society for Teaching of Psychology in 1990. Address any inquiries to

    Photo 1. At CUNY in 2017, 9 mentors described their great mentors (listed from left to right): Dinesh Sharma (SUNY), Florence Denmark (CUNY/Pace), Elaine Congress (Fordham), Leonard Davidman (NYSPA), Henry Solomon (Marymount Manhattan), Jason Young (Hunter), Uwe Gielen (St. Francis), Harold Takooshian (Fordham), Machiko Fukuhara (Tokyo)

    (photo courtesy of Harold Takooshian)

    Photo 2. CUNY-GC Social-personality faculty around 1974.

    (photo courtesy of Michelle Fine)

    Photo 3. One legendary psychology mentor was Professor Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman, whose daughter Gladys was inspired to launch an annual $25,000 Mentor Award in her mother's name. One of Dr. Beckman's students at Penn was Florence Denmark (later of CUNY-GC), who received the 2013 Beckman Award. The photo below shows five generations of mentors: Drs. Beckman, Denmark, Takooshian, Linda Hamilton (of the NYC Ballet), and Valerie Radetzky.

    (photo courtesy of Harold Takooshian)

  • 05 Jun 2017 12:44 PM | Anonymous

    By Charles Raffaele

    A class full of learners with different home ('heritage' and/or marginalized) languages that these students could conceivably bring to the table, but with often no conceivable avenue for bringing these in for real. Is this a situation in your class, as it often is in mine? Well, perhaps there are some solutions to this problem. In this piece, I will outline and use as a jumping-off point some research on multilingual classrooms, which addresses both what underlies this language issue in education and ways that the language of the classroom can be opened up for the benefit of all.

     I will start off with the paper that blew me away most on this topic. Busch (2014), taking from a study conducted on a multigrade (1st-4th grade) class in Germany, has a lot it can teach to us college instructors (despite the substantial age difference). It describes a classroom where the teacher and learners can each assume dominant positions (based on degree of ability with each given language), students could speak on topics of interest taboo for the classroom through assignments which allow expression through metaphor, and resultant ‘little books’ could be created that are multivoiced (created through collaboration by many, though with the principal author being the individual child) and multidiscursive (free in genre of medium utilized and topic focused on).

     Setati (2005), on the other hand, provides a description of what I myself would assess to be the least fully tapped vision of the multilingual classroom. It describes the instruction of a teacher in South Africa who uses multiple languages in her mathematics classroom but must rely on English for the actual math instruction itself, given English as the "language of learning and teaching (LoLT)". Though it is fantastic that the teacher could incorporate the languages of her students on some level, thus acknowledging the identity of her students as legitimate (particularly in a country like South Africa, where, as Setati [2005] highlights, language is entwined with politics and the country’s ugly history of racism, predominantly against its black majority population), bringing home languages in for non-instructional (e.g. procedural) matters is not as high an acknowledgement as truly full implementation of multilingualism in instruction. The future of our educational system will be forever limited if students' cultural competencies (of which language is often a major element) are not given their proper due as resources to be brought to the table for the best collaborative alchemy to take place.

     The documentary “Yo Dude, Cosa Wena Kyk A? – The Multilingual Classroom” (Achmat, 1992) (the phrase in the title being a multiple-language phrase presented in the film by a student, translating in English to “Yo dude, what you looking at?”) shows to our eyes and ears how multilingual activities may take place in a classroom. Echoing the malleability of teacher/learner roles described in Busch (2014), learners are seen here becoming teachers, and teachers becoming learners. The zeal that students are witnessed to be able to show for learning portions of many different languages in this video is remarkable.

     Political issues behind the resistance to including students' heritage languages in the classroom are discussed in Cummins (2005). Xenophobia about immigration and linguistic diversity are mentioned here as roadblocks to sound policy. Challenging the assumption that languages are best kept separate from each other (including in both traditional and bilingual schools) is emphasized as an important step in recognizing the heritage language as a learning resource. The paper suggests such methods as emphasizing cognate relationships between languages (keep in mind, for example, that English contains words from such wide-ranging languages as Arabic, various European languages, Hindi, Chinese, and various African languages), the class creating dual language books as in Busch (2014), and usage of sister class projects (i.e. taking advantage of the inter-cultural/lingual opportunities available in coordinating two classes to work together on the same project).

     Instructors should strive for a healthy and future-oriented intermingling of languages in the college classroom, and make efforts to include specifically-allotted time and energy for accomplishing this purpose. The goal is then not simply recognition of students’ heritage languages as valuable in the conversational or procedural interim between learning, but instead integrated into the learning process itself. This set of directives (which is, by the way, not only to all of you but myself as well) is not simply a suggestion for the sake of humanly treating our students as the individuals they are, but a way to attempt to maximize the work we can do in our classes and more broadly advance academia and ultimately transform our society. This push might even guide your research into previously unconsidered realms as well; for example, when do you plan to do your study on vacilando?

    Page on Spanish word “vacilando” from book “Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World”; the book was mentioned by a student during my class and, the week after, brought in by said student to be passed around for everyone to take a look at.


     Achmat, Z. (Producer & Writer). (1992). Yo Dude, Cosa Wena Kyk A? – The Multilingual Classroom [Documentary film]. South Africa: The National Language Project. Retrieved from .

     Busch, B. (2014). Building on heteroglossia and heterogeneity: The experience of a multilingual classroom. In Heteroglossia as practice and pedagogy (pp. 21-40). Springer Netherlands.

     Cummins, J. (2005). A proposal for action: Strategies for recognizing heritage language competence as a learning resource within the mainstream classroom. Modern Language Journal, 585-592.

     Sanders, E. F. (2014). Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. United States: Ten Speed Press.

     Setati, M. (2005). Teaching mathematics in a primary multilingual classroom. Journal for research in Mathematics Education, 447-466.

  • 20 May 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Rita Obeid and Jeremy Sawyer, The Graduate Center and City University of New York, CUNY

    For new psychology instructors, designing a writing assignment is often the last thing on our minds. We may be scrambling to prepare a syllabus for new course, mastering unfamiliar content (since psychology has multiple subfields), or organizing a series of slide-based lectures. In the mad dash of course prep, the potential learning benefits of student writing can be easily overlooked.

    When our thoughts finally do turn to writing, we may wonder: Do my students really need to write? Won’t they get plenty of practice in writing-intensive courses? As a graduate student instructor, do I even have time to read and grade writing for a class of 50 or 100? In this blog, we aim to demonstrate that engaging students through writing not only helps them to learn more deeply, but is entirely manageable and beneficial to you as an instructor.

    To learn, students need to actively engage in course material, whether through discussion, group projects, hands-on experience, or writing. An approach called writing-to-learn is a way of encouraging students to enhance their understanding by thinking through important course concepts using writing (Zinsser, 1988). The primary goal is not to improve students’ writing skills in general (though that may occur), but to promote critical thinking, expressive skills, and student reflection on course material (Bensley & Haynes, 1995). Having students reflect on their learning through the use of brief writing assignments (whether in class or at home) can promote this full range of skills. We will illustrate this process with some brief, low-stakes writing assignments that we used to help students grapple with new concepts in our Developmental Psychology classes.

    We have found that students often do not have a clear perspective on a topic until they are required to reflect on the topic, connect it to their own experiences, and to try putting their thoughts on paper. In our Developmental Psychology courses, we wanted to avoid bombarding our students with endless PowerPoint slides that dulled their senses as they explained developmental concepts. Thus, along with five other graduate students we chose eight key concepts in Developmental Psychology (e.g., attachment, joint attention, Piaget’s stages, etc.) and created 8 lessons featuring active learning activities for use in our classes. To get students’ cognitive wheels spinning, we began each lesson with a “Question of the Day” that asked students to connect their everyday experience to the concept at hand. When teaching joint attention, for instance, our question was “Do you make eye contact with others in social situations? Do you think eye contact is important? Why or why not?” This was followed by a brief instructor-led illustration of the concept, and then a YouTube video which depicted one child engaging in joint attention, and another child who struggled with establishing joint attention. To get students observing and thinking deeply about what they saw in the video, we provided a series of brief writing prompts - known as “minute papers” - to be written on the spot (See Figure 1).

    The goal of this brief writing activity was not to produce a masterpiece of writing, but rather to have students “think through writing” about what behaviors they observed, what they could infer about each child’s ability to establish joint attention, and how joint attention might help the children’s social, cognitive, and linguistic development. These brief writing assignments do not need to be graded (or even collected) by the instructor, they merely use the process of writing for the students’ own benefit. Using anecdotal feedback from students, as well as assessment data we collected in our classes, using these brief writing prompts led to higher student learning, as measured by short quizzes requiring students to demonstrate understanding and application of these developmental concepts. Below is a sample of some slides and writing prompts from a lesson module that we used in one of our courses.


    In addition to brief in-class writing, we also assigned weekly written responses to a question pertaining to that week’s lesson. Below is a sample weekly writing prompt:

    Assignment 1: What is Your Theory of Human Development?

    Whether we are conscious of it or not, we live our daily lives using some type of “theory” of development. Try to describe your current theory (or theories) of development, answering the following questions in approximately two paragraphs.

     What causes humans to become the people that they become?

          What do you think are the most important factors that influence development?

          What causes us to change?

          What causes us to remain the same?

    So how much time do we spend grading these assignments? The truth is, we have two methods: no stakes and low-stakes. In the no-stakes approach, we typically have the short writing assignments (e.g. question of the day) count as students’ attendance, after quickly skimming to make sure they made an effort. For low-stakes writing we skim the assignment for the basic ideas communicated and give the student a grade of 0, 1, or 2 depending on effort and a few simple criteria. In sum, we recommend that you start with a few brief writing prompts dispersed through each class session that will get students thinking more deeply about what you are learning that day. We promise that the minimal time spent reading and marking them will more than pay off in student learning, as well as your insight into students’ experiences and understanding of course material!

    Figure 1. Sample slides from one of the modules on joint attention


    Bensley, D. A., & Haynes, C. (1995). The acquisition of general purpose strategic knowledge for argumentation. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 41-45.

    Zinsser, W. (1988). Writing to Learn: How to Write-and Think-Clearly about Any Subject at All. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

  • 14 Apr 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Ashley Davis

    On October 13, 2016, the American Psychological Association (APA) detailed findings from a survey that indicated that the 2016 presidential election was a significant source of stress for more than half of American adults, both Democrats and Republicans (APA, 2016). Thirty-eight percent of adults attributed this stress to “political and cultural discussions on social media.” Long story short, we were all feeling the heat!

    Last semester was different for me as well. I was finally feeling like I had hit my stride as an educator. Something no one tells you is that if you do it right and care for your students, the teaching becomes both your greatest joy and the thing you lose sleep over at night. Being a graduate student and an adjunct professor is like finding the balance between giving, and keeping enough for yourself.

    I was assigned to teach Human Development, an introductory course in the Psychology Department that encompasses physical, emotional, and cognitive development from conception until death. The course is a lot of everything, but there are several dominant themes that run through a critical study of human development. Unfortunately, inequality is one of them. The text I was using for the course didn’t waste any time making that point. In chapter 2, students are introduced to how public policy decisions influence or intersect with human development, how developmental outcomes look very different across neighborhoods, and how a history of housing segregation in this country still matters today.

    My students hailed from more than 10 different countries and spoke more than 10 languages as a group. They were Muslim, immigrants, young women and young men of color, and a major party candidate for president of the United States had already spoken of banning Muslims from the country, mocked a disabled reporter, and bragged about sexually assaulting women. They were young Americans who were suddenly questioning everything and they wanted to talk about it, to ask questions, to challenge each other’s ideas, but they were nervous. In the rest of their interactions, these conversations had not been going well. I endeavored to make our space safe enough for them to feel open enough to try. The research suggests that stereotypes and hatred are challenged in instances where people must take on another’s perspective (Broockman & Kalla, 2016). The election was stressful, but it also highlighted the fact that as a country we are not very good at talking.

    I have a few lines I always say to my students in one form or another: “This classroom is a safe space where you are free to disagree with everyone, especially me, but you must disagree in a respectful manner. Nothing is true just because I say it. Disagreeing with me might feel weird at first, but it’s necessary.” I then make sure I create a classroom environment where it is clear that I don’t possess all of the knowledge. Once when we were discussing how education varies globally, I simply opened the floor to all of the students who completed their K-12 schooling careers in another country. I joked with them asking why they were asking me when there were experts present.

    Another thing I did was set up an FYI folder on Blackboard where I gave them as many things to read as I could. In my experience, being exposed to the ways others craft academic arguments makes you better at crafting your own. When I brought optional articles to class I never had any extra copies to bring home. One of the articles I assigned for homework towards the end of the semester was a reading I had been assigned in one of my doctoral level classes: a chapter on linguistic domination (Heller & Martin Jones, 2001). A student wrote a reaction to that article that I’ll never stop thinking or talking about. Many nights they kept me on my toes and became formidable debate opponents.

    A third thing that happened is that we found a way to keep politics out of the classroom. The way we accomplished this was simple, we critiqued policy, and policy decisions, societal characteristics and differential access without mentioning anyone by name. We realized that in reality neither candidate had done a good job discussing things like healthcare, public education, or environmental protections, things that our class discussions made us realize were important.

    The final and most important thing I did was to try to see them as whole people and not just students. When something particularly difficult occurred like the dumpster bombing in Chelsea (Wilson, Schmidt, & Nir, 2016), we would talk about it. Instead of making my students request off for Eid-al-Adha (one of the holiest days in the Muslim faith, during a time of increased hate crimes against Muslims) I simply let them know that if they observed a religious holiday that the university did not recognize missing class wouldn’t be a problem. The day after election day, knowing many students would want to go protest and recognizing the importance of them doing so, I told them that I understood if there were other places they felt they needed to be. In my experience as an Early Childhood educator, we call this the whole child approach. This approach to early childhood seeks to offer cognitive, creative, constructive, and community engagement learning experiences to all learners everyday. Last semester I brought this approach to my college students because in the era of fake news my lecturing seemed incredibly insufficient; all of us are a part of this country’s future.

    I couldn’t tell you one way or another if students liked this approach. I didn’t survey them at the end of the semester. There are, however, a few things I know for sure. The first is that their final presentations were phenomenal. The second is that the class did change perspectives. One of my toughest critics said that the class made him hopeful about our country’s future. Recently, I’ve run into a few of them on campus – the reunions are always joyful. Somehow, in all of that stress, we carved out a space of rigorous scholarship. A space where I learned more than I taught. A space where we managed to learn together and from each other.

    American Psychological Association (2016, Oct. 13). APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans. APA Press Release. [Online]. Retrieved from

    Broockman, D. & Kalla, J. (2016). Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing. Science, 352(6282), 220-224.

    Heller, M & Martin-Jones, M. (2001). Introduction: Symbolic domination, education, and linguistic difference. In Heller, M. & Martin-Jones, M. (eds). 2001. Voices of Authority: Education and Linguistic Difference. Westport, Conn: Ablex.

    Schmidt, S. (2016, Aug. 28). Muslim Holy Day on Sept. 11? Coincidence Stirs Fears. New York Times. [Online]. Retrieved from

    Wilson, M., Schmidt, S. & Nir, S. M. (2016, Sept. 18). After Blast, New Yorkers Examine Themselves for Psychological Shrapnel. New York Times. [Online]. Retrieved from

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