Society for the Teaching of Psychology: Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

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Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture

The Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture began in 1990, when the APA DIstinguished Scholar Lecture for Teaching series (formerly known as the G. Stanley Hall Lecture Series) was expanded to include a talk about the teaching of teaching, by a scholar of the teaching of psychology. In the Harry Kirke Wolfe lecture, a renowned expert delivers a talk on an important topic in the scholarship of teaching and learning. See below for a brief biographical sketch of Harry Kirke Wolfe.


2022: Melissa Beers - Sinking, Swimming, and Treading Water: What - and How - Should We Be Training Teachers of Psychology?

2021: (As a consequence of the COVID-10 pandemic, the scheduled lecture by Melissa Beers was postponed until 2022)

2020: (As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the scheduled lecture by Melissa Beers was postponed until 2022)

2019: David Daniel - When Evidence-Based Practice Doesn't Work: Maybe It's Time for an Ecological Science of Instruction

2018: Susan Nolan - What We Can Learn from Fake News: Building Critical Thinking and Scientific Literacy in the Classroom

2017: Stephen Chew - Lost in Translation; or Why Does So Much Learning Research Have So Little Impact on Pedagogical Practice?

2016: Regan A. R. Gurung - Developing Healthy Study Habits: Teachers as Fitness Trainers of the Learning World

2015: Dana Dunn - Teaching Matters in Psychology - A Wolfe-ian Manifesto

2014: Eric Landrum - The Future of Undergraduate Psychology Education

2013: Bernard Beins - Skeptical but Not Cynical: The Importance of Critical Thinking

2012: Kenneth D. Keith - A Letter to Teachers: William James, H. B. Alexander, and Me

2011: Elizabeth Yost Hammer - Cultivating a Reflective Classroom: Incorporating Contemplative Pedagogy in Psychology

2010: Edna B. Foa - PTSD: Diagnosis, Theory, and Evidence-based Treatment

2009: David Thomas - Psychology is a Science: Engaging Students in the Research Process

2008: Donelson R. Forsyth - Teaching and Learning with the Self in Mind

2007: John Norcross - Let Your Life Speak: Teaching the Career Development Seminar

2006: G. William Hill - Teaching and Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2005: Bill Buskist - Pathways to Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology

2004: Jill N. Reich - The Aim of Education

2003: Fay J. Crosby - Affirmative Action: Staying Cool When the Heat is On 

2002: Randolph Smith - A Social Psychology Toolbox for the College Classroom

2001: Jane Halonen

2000: Virginia Andreoli Matthie - Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Professional Service

1999: Carol Wade - Dumbing Down Versus Toughening Up: The Muddy Meanings of Level in Introductory Psychology

1998: Drew Appleby - The Teaching-Advising Connection: Tomes, Tools, and Tales

1997: Patricia Keith-Spiegel - Should We Teach Values?

1996: (Postponed until 1997)

1995: James Korn - How Do Teachers Learn to Teach

1994: Barbara Nodine

1993: William G. Graziano - Using Modern Personality Theory to Teach Psychology

1992: David M. Wulff - Old Dogs and New Tricks: Rethinking Psychology's Construction of Learning

1991: Henry Ellis - Important Issues in Human Memory

1990: Carole Wade - What Psychology Students Need to Know About Human Sexuality

A Brief Biographical Sketch of Harry Kirke Wolfe

Harry Kirke Wolfe (1858-1918) is arguably one of the most important psychologists and educators of the early 1900s. His impact on the education of a vast number of students is probably matched only by his unfortunate obscurity. Because he did not train graduate students, his legacy has been more indirect that than of some more famous psychologists. Throughout his professional career, he labored diligently to enhance the education of his students, working with them individually and campaigning for better laboratory facilities and equipment in his department at the University of Nebraska.

During Wolfe's own training, he was the second American to receive a doctorate in Wilhelm Wundt's lab in 1886, four months after James McKeen Cattell received the first. His interests revolved around mental measurements, developmental psychology, cognitive processes, and educational issues. When he returned to the United States, he assumed a position at the University of Nebraska, where he spent most of his career. There was a period of time, though, when he was released from his position there for political and bureaucratic reasons.

According to Ludy T. Benjamin's (1991) captivating biography of Wolfe, there are excellent reasons both for Wolfe's notable influence in the development of psychology and for his obscurity. Wolfe was a charter member of the American Psychological Association, although he held no offices in the organization. He also helped found The American Journal of Psychology, the first American journal in the discipline. He published a few articles in the journal, but devoted his academic life to teaching undergraduates so that, in a survey in the 1920s, his undergraduate laboratory ranked third in producing students who would later attain doctorates and exert influence in the field. Three of Wolfe's students eventually became presidents of the American Psychological Association.

There is clear evidence that Wolfe cared deeply for his students, inviting them into his home regularly, worked to get them jobs, and loaned them money. Two of his students who late became presidents of APA (Edwin Ray Guthrie and Madison Bentley) commented that they had been influenced by Wolfe more than by any other mentor; this is high praise considering that they later worked with E. B. Titchener and E. A. Singer.

Wolfe reported having 35 contact hours with students each week. As Benjamin (1993) noted, "he received no teaching credit for the laboratory hours he added to his courses. Perhaps more amazing was that the students received no credit for the extra laboratory hous either. Yet enrollments in those courses continued to mushroom" (p. 62).

He fought constant battles with the administrators at the Univeristy of Nebraska over laboratory space, funding, and equipment. He often spent his own money to furnish his lab, and was forcd by the University's new chancellor in 1897 to explain his budget deficit of $75.86.At one point, the Psychology Department was promised new facilities in the Physics Building planned for completion in 1905. Unfortunately, the University reneged on its pledge and Psychology was forced to return to its original space in the basement of the library. It was not until 1916 that the University agreed to provide laboratory space in the new social sciences building. Wolfe planned the labs but died 18 months before their completion.

One of the messages his students received was the importance of ethics in life. Wolfe had a very well-defined personal view of ethics that led to difficulties with others. Whereas some people thought of him as brave and courageous, others considered him merely difficult and self-righteous. Late in life, according to his daughter, he softened his perspective, but his high level of ethics still posed problems. During the first world war, his patriotism was questioned and he underwent a difficult period of scrutiny. Some University faculty were forced to resign, but Wolfe was not among them. Still, the process seems to have taken a toll; Wolfe died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.


Benjamin, L. T., jr. (1991). Harry Kirke Wolfe: Pioneer in Psychology. New York and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Benjamin, L. T., jr. (1993). A History of Psychology in Letters. Dubuque: Brown & Benchmark.

Sokal, M. M. (1988). Jame McKeen Cattell and the failure of anthropometric testing, 1890-1901. In L. T. Benjamin, jr. (Ed.), A History of Psychology: Original sources and contemporary research (pp. 310-319). New York: McGraw-Hill. (Reprinted from The problematic science: psychology in nineteenth-century thought pp. 322-345, by W. R. Woodward & M. G. Ash (Eds.), New York: Praeger.)

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