"This is How I Teach" Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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  • 08 May 2020 9:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Central Missouri

    Type of school: Public four-year university with Master’s programs

    School locale: Warrensburg, MO, about 50 miles southeast of Kansas City metro area

    Classes you teach: General Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Advanced Statistics (graduate)

    Average class size: This is a case where reporting the mean would be misleading due to variability! General Psychology 30-60, Cognitive Psychology about 25, Advanced Statistics 8-12.

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

    During my first year of full-time teaching, a couple of colleagues invited me to go to a workshop led by the author of our Intro textbook, a guy named Doug Bernstein. Doug suggested something that has stuck with me for the ensuing 30 years. He advised us to do something fun in every class meeting. He shared a number of activities as examples, some of which I have used, but the important thing to me was to make teaching a fun experience. I think about Doug’s advice every time I’m planning a class, whether face to face or online.

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

    I can’t point to one particular book or article. I run across numerous cool ideas in journals such as Teaching of Psychology. Instead of one particular book, I’m going to say that Steven Pinker’s writing has been a big influence on me. Books including The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works made me think about how the topics in our discipline cut across textbook chapters. He presents ideas in an interesting, thoughtful, and sometimes provocative way. I’m no Steven Pinker, but the way he communicates makes me think that we can engage students and get them excited about our field.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My favorite course to teach is General Psychology (Intro Psych). I enjoy introducing students to the field. It’s fun to be able to pick a few interesting concepts from different areas and help students appreciate the relevance to their lives. I like the opportunity to change how students perceive the world.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    For online courses, I like to use SoftChalk Lessons. I think about what I want students to learn, then I create pages in SoftChalk that are a combination of text, video clips, links, and review or reflection questions. These lessons are available asynchronously. I give students multiple opportunities so that they can get more points if they don’t get them all the first time through. I want all students to have the opportunity to be successful…if they are willing to put in the effort.

    My favorite FTF activity is a demonstration of a neural circuit. It involves three rows of students, who simulate the neurons, and some running around by me.  The neural circuit is something I learned about from one of my graduate school professors, Dennis McFadden, who was an excellent teacher. It’s a circuit that localizes the direction of a sound, so the activity is appropriate for either for the Bio or Sensation & Perception chapters. I have run across examples of really cool activities in which students act out the process of neurons sending messages. But I want students to understand that neurons working together can actually do things, the kinds of things that we’re interested in understanding. If a circuit of 30 neurons can localize a sound, what can billions of them do? If anyone is interested, there’s an article in Teaching of Psychology about this activity.

    Kreiner, D.S. (2012). An activity for demonstrating the concept of a neural circuit. Teaching of Psychology, 39, 209-212. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628312450438

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    This semester, after unexpectedly taking on a section of General Psychology, I decided to try something a little different. Instead of organizing the class by content area (basically chapter subheadings), I organized each class meeting around interesting phenomena and then connected to whatever concepts (for that chapter) were relevant. For example: let’s look at this illusion; now, what concepts about sensation and perception does that help us understand?

    With the transition to all-online teaching due to the COVID-19 situation, I am using the same organizational style with online lessons. I had already been using SoftChalk for my online Cognitive Psychology course. So, for the last week or two I have been creating SoftChalk lessons for General Psychology, organizing them the same way I did for face to face meetings. It makes me enthusiastic about approaching each lesson. I hope that enthusiasm will come across to my newly online students.

    I like to use face to face class time for activities and group work. Any of these types of activities could be done online. For Sensation & Perception, I moved to using class time mainly for small group activities followed by discussion. Students read and take a quiz before class so that they are prepared to apply what they learn. I later found out this was called a flipped classroom.

    I did something similar when I started teaching our capstone course, History of Psychology. I didn’t want to validate the mistaken idea that history is boring, so I had students work together to apply what they had learned in various Psychology courses in the context of historical issues. For example: after watching video of the Little Albert study, apply your knowledge of Developmental Psychology to evaluate Albert’s behavior.  Sadly, I haven’t been teaching History of Psychology or Sensation & Perception in recent years due to my administrative duties.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My situation is a bit unusual as I am chair of an academic unit (called a School) that includes several disciplines and is geographically separated across two campus buildings. I have an office in each building. Each office is set up with a monitor and docking station. I use electronic documents as much as possible to reduce the clutter. As I write this, I am now working from home due to the COVID-19 situation. My reliance on electronic documents has made this transition a little easier. I do not have a home office as I normally leave work at the office as much as possible.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    I can hear my young son watching Dr. Seuss videos and as a result the three words that immediately come to mind are: “stink, stank, stunk.” I hope those are not the right ones.

    These three words are more aspirational: focused, flexible, fun.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    It’s all about what the students learn.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

    In the early days of using PowerPoint, when our classrooms did not yet have digital projectors, we had a cart set up with a projector and laptop. It was so cutting edge! I was all prepared for the first day of a summer statistics course. I rolled the cart into the classroom and plugged it in. Then it started smoking. I unplugged it and had a moment of panic about how I would teach. As the smoke cleared, I remembered that I had taught statistics for years without using a projector at all. It was a good reminder not to be too reliant on slides or any particular technology.

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

    That there is a ton of stuff I don’t know. I think there is a perception that I know how to do a lot of things. But that is an error of attribution. When I’m able to solve a problem or answer a question, it’s almost always because other people are helping me. I am not at all ashamed of that, as I think it’s just as good to know who to ask for help as it is to know how to do it myself.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I recently read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. I like stories about people, which is the same reason I was happy to teach History of Psychology. I just started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. I also read an essay every now and then from David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. It’s a nice stress reliever. I am not one of those people who is constantly reading something, but lately I am doing more leisure reading as a coping method for being cooped up at home.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Dropbox changed my life. I know pretty much everyone uses a cloud service now, but when I started using Dropbox everything changed for me in terms of what I could access and where. It doesn’t have to be Dropbox specifically, but if the cloud “evaporated,” it would be a big problem for me.

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

    As we were leading up to the change to working remotely, much of the hallway talk (from six feet away) was speculation about what would happen and how we would deal with the changes.

    Generally, I find that the type of conversation differs across different colleagues. It may be following up on something, such as asking how something turned out or whether we resolved a problem. Often, it’s mutual support and humor. It will be interesting to observe how informal communication changes now that we are handling everything remotely.

     

  • 24 Apr 2020 12:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Centre College

    Type of school: SLAC (small liberal arts college)

    School locale: Danville, KY

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience, Sensation & Perception, Human Neuropsychology

    Average class size: 15

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  Take 15 min. after each class (or as soon as possible) to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to change for the next time you teach the class. Keeping a “pedagogy log” or teaching notes has been a lifesaver!

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Oh, so many! Make it Stick by Mark McDaniel & Peter Brown has had a lasting impact on my teaching. I started giving low-stakes pre-class quizzes over the reading, and my classes suddenly went from mostly lecturing to dynamic, interactive discussions. The students were more prepared, aware of what topics they needed more information on, and curious about other issues that had piqued their interest. I’m now trying mastery-based grading, where the students have the option to re-do assignments to demonstrate their mastery of a topic. I hope this method will alleviate the frustration that comes from giving an exam and discovering that the students haven’t learned what you wanted to, and with no way to go back and correct their mistakes. Allowing them to correct their errors has been a lot more satisfying than having just to accept that they don’t know something and go on.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Hands down, my favorite course to teach is Sensation and Perception. I tell my students that if they don’t leave class every day with their mind, just a little bit blown, then I haven’t done my job. It’s so much fun to reveal to students that what they perceive is only that which their sensory systems can provide. There are so many fun illusions and demonstrations to do in that class. Inevitably, students start sending me examples of illusions that they’ve discovered on their own. Often they are things I’ve not seen before, so I add them to my arsenal of “Stuff to blow your mind” examples. I teach it with a lab where they collect data on themselves, so they also learn more about statistics and data analysis. My course evaluations generally indicate that although they had learned about data analysis and statistics in their research methods class, they learned more from applying it in my class. That’s also very satisfying.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  I do a one-eye dark adaptation activity in my sensation & perception class that I absolutely LOVE. The students cover one eye with sterile bandages (no conjunctivitis vectors!) and keep it covered for a ½ hour while they do depth perception related activities (tossing a ball back and forth, navigating a maze, etc.). I hand out a sheet of paper (face down) that has color photos and a couple of paragraphs written in colored text. It’s on heavy paper so they can’t see what’s on it. Then I turn off all of the lights (there is a slight amount of illumination from a window in the door) and ask them what they can see. Most can see the outline of the paper, so I have them turn it over and tell me what they see. Some say it has pictures and words, but don’t know what the images are of or the words are. Many say they can’t see anything. Then they take the patches off, and the whole room erupts in various exclamations of surprise, confusion, or disbelief. I ask them again what they can see, and walk them through the differences between scotopic and photopic vision in all it’s glory. It’s worth noting that I do warn them ahead of time that many students find this activity unsettling, and some even get nauseated because their brain can’t reconcile what is happening in their visual system. I’ve done this for over ten years now, and it never disappoints! Best day of the year every year!    

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? As noted earlier, I have found repeated low-stakes quizzing before the class meeting time has raised the quality of the in-class discussions considerably. I also use a lot of spontaneous think-pair-share, especially when I get the impression the students are getting confused or struggling with the material. This slows things down a bit, but I’ve learned to value quality over quantity. I’ve shifted my focus from teaching content, to teaching students how to be independent learners. The content then ends up being a byproduct of that method. I also used to think that every class period had to be a neat, complete unit. But one year, I got off by about 1/3 of a lecture and kept ending the class meeting period in the middle of a topic where the students were still struggling to understand the material or didn’t have the complete story. I was frustrated and upset with myself for leaving them hanging. But over a few class periods, I discovered this was actually an effective technique. It ended up, that because the students were frustrated and confused, they continued to reflect on the topic they were stuck on, and continued to think about it to try to figure it out between class meetings. Many students would go back and study the topic again between classes and come back with a better understanding next time. We would start class with their questions and work on clarifying what they were still struggling to understand. What I discovered was that when the lecture was neatly tied up with a bow a the end, they basically closed the book on it, assumed they understood everything and didn’t reflect at all between classes. But when they left the class feeling a little frustrated and confused, they remained more engaged with the topic and worked to understand the material better. I now understand that confusion and frustration, in moderate and controlled doses, are very effective teaching methods!

    What’s your workspace like?  I LOVE where I work. My colleagues are amazingly collegial, supportive, and kind. We are very fortunate not to have a lot of the typical political and hierarchical struggles that many campuses have. It’s a very small college, so we pretty much have to get along. The students are also generally very high achieving. Most of them were in the top 10% of their high school classes, so they come to Centre with the expectation that the courses will be rigorous and challenging. Many first-year faculty discover that they have to raise the bar considerably in their classes to meet the expectations of the students. But it keeps us all on our toes and at the top of our game. You really can’t slack, but most of us earned our PhDs because we too want to be challenged, so I often feel that my students are more like collaborators than students. 

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Spontaneous, Improvisational and Socratic

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Make it personal and make it real.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I’d have to say this moment in time is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. I’m rolling with it like everyone else is. I am trying to keep everything as much the same as possible, keeping as much of my class housed in our CMS software (that I already used a lot) and not asking my students to learn new platforms or add new things to their repertoire. I’m cutting back on workload and just trying to make due as opposed to make well.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? This is tough to answer because I’m very open with my students. I tend to use a lot of personal stories to create relatable examples in class, so things students might find surprising (like the fact that I had a concussion in my 20’s and lost six months’ worth of memory) come up in class. So I’m drawing a blank on this one!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I’m re-reading James Clear’s “Atomic Habits.” It’s been a game-changer for me.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My computer and the internet. Even though I (usually) teach face to face, I use our course management software for quizzes, exams, assignments (every essay is typed! No more deciphering handwriting!), and I use a lot of videos and animations to make the material come alive.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? We are a very teaching-focused institution, so our whole world revolves around teaching and students. Yes, we sometimes talk about specific students, but usually, we’re bouncing ideas off of our colleagues about how to do things better, or if they think a certain idea would work, or how they’re doing something we also want to do.  Sometimes we talk about research or family, but usually, it’s just “how are you holding up today?” Of course, right now we have to “chat” via zoom or text message. There aren’t many opportunities for hallway chats these days… but hopefully, we’ll continue to find ways to connect.

    One additional thought: Before pursuing a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, I spent the first ½ of my life as a horse trainer. I started in my teens and trained professionally (competing at the national level) up into my 30’s, so this is my 2nd career.

    I firmly believe that everything I ever needed to know about being a college professor I learned from training horses. The horse training part was easy. Teaching their owners how to ride them that is hard. Being a riding instructor requires you to be able to communicate to someone else, how to communicate with yet another creature who not only doesn’t speak your language but also has an entirely different agenda and communication style. The only way you can tell if your “student” is doing it right, is by observing the horse they are riding to see if it’s receiving the messages effectively. Sometimes the horse is doing their own thing regardless of what the rider is doing, and vise versa.

    It was in this context that I received the best lesson in “how to teach.” It is a well-known fact that you should never give a family member lessons in anything. But, I was a successful trainer, and one of my older sisters wanted to ride. I found her a very well trained horse to ride with the goal of getting her into the show-ring quickly. One day, while I was giving her a riding lesson, the horse’s performance just kept getting worse and worse. Her reins were un-even and her position was all wrong. She was frustrated and getting angry, the horse was frustrated and getting angry, the instructor (me) was frustrated and getting angry. The horse was to the point that it was going to express its frustrations (do something bad), so I told her to just STOP what she was doing, and do it RIGHT instead. She did stop (the horse), threw down the reins and looked dead at me and said: “I’m doing what you are telling me to, so if I’m doing it WRONG, then you must not be explaining it RIGHT.”

    I was rather taken aback, but she also had a good point. I realized that the reason the horse was getting worse was because of how she was interpreting what I was saying. She was earnestly trying to do what she thought  I was saying. I realized that if she wasn’t doing it right, I needed to change what I was saying or how I was saying it. It’s really the same as training a horse. If you are trying to get the horse to do one thing, and they do the opposite, you have to stop and figure out how to communicate with the horse in a way that they understand what you want (not the other way around).

    This personal experience has shaped everything I do as a teacher. Granted, I can’t be responsible for every students’ learning. Sometimes there are things that are outside of my control that I just can’t accommodate or anticipate (like our current events!). But if several students aren’t “doing it right,” then I need to step back and think about how I’m communicating what I want from them. What am I doing that’s creating this result? It’s not always my fault, but taking that moment to reflect often reveals things that I can do better the next time.

     

  • 10 Apr 2020 12:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Valley City State University

    Type of school: 4-year public regional state institution

    School locale: Valley City, North Dakota

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology, Cognition and Brain Science, Developmental Psychology, Psychology of Learning, Social Psychology, Health Psychology, Understanding Statistics, and Intimate Partner Violence

    Average class size: 10-20

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? “You’re here to educate, not entertain.” And, “You should feel (a little) nervous – it means you care!”

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? McKeachie’s Teaching Tips

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I love so many courses, but I would have to say my favorite topic is teaching operant conditioning. It’s so dicey for some, but I have been told I teach it really well and get students involved in creating tons of examples. I start by explaining the importance of freewill. Then, I move to defining and discussing reinforcement and punishment. Finally, I tell students to think mathematically about + (plus) and – (minus) when describing positive and negative. All that’s left is to determine whether we’re adding or removing something desired (appetitive stimulus) or something undesired (aversive stimulus). We discuss many examples, and I end by showing a clip from The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon actually mistakenly refers to “negative reinforcement” when describing positive punishment, and students catch it! Such a great lecture. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  I love creative submissions from students. In all my courses, I have students create a presentation about a topic of their choice related to the content we’ve discussed that semester. I’ve had students relate martial arts, running, and hunting to psychology and inform the class about rare disorders and how they connect to the field. Students also comment on each other’s presentations. This has worked quite well as either an in-class discussion throughout the semester or online recorded submissions at the end of the semester.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I’ve been told I teach very “conversationally.” I have an open dialogue with the students, eliciting answers and examples from them routinely. My most successful moments in the classroom come from creative activities that require students to think critically and apply new concepts to everyday situations.

    What’s your workspace like?  I enjoy my double-monitor setup that allows me to easily have a Word document open at the same time as a web browser or other application on the other screen. One unique element of my office is a futon. I can’t take credit for that – it was my brother’s idea to have a nice place for students to sit when they visit me. I face outward so I can always smile and wave at everyone walking by. I also have a mini-fridge and microwave because I try to bring my lunch as often as possible. I couldn’t live without my desk calendar and sticky-notes that are right in the center of my desk. Books are behind me on the shelves unless I’m actively teaching that course, in which case they’re on my desk for easy access.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Conversational, enthusiastic, animated 

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Students learn best from everyone in the room.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I once had a student approach me after class about a distinction I’d made in class between concepts the student had learned were the same. After a lengthy discussion, the student left having learned a lot about the difference and the importance of research, so I considered that a success.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I am an accidental psychologist. I found psychology when I learned being an English major was going to be a lot of reading books I didn’t particularly want to read (rather than grammar). Psychology fit into my schedule when nothing else did, and I fell in love with it. They might also be surprised to learn that I love board games.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I’m a psych nerd so even my reading is most often psychology related. I checked out Gender, Global Health, and Violence from our campus library right before spring break along with The Voices of #MeToo.

    What tech tool could you not live without? I am really enjoying Yuja for screen-capture right now.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? We talk about everything from family to pets to what we’re watching on Netflix. I love a department that allows us to be the true humans we are.

     

  • 27 Mar 2020 9:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Utah State University

    Type of school: R2

    Location: Rural Northern Utah

    Classes you teach: (Exclusively Online) Intro, Methods, Counseling & Interviewing, Advanced Behavioral Interventions, Pseudoscience

    Average class size: 25

    What’s the best advice about online teaching you’ve ever received? There are multiple challenges from working from home, and people who choose this type of learning do so generally because they have competing resources – account for those competitions in creating a course structure and assignments. This will allow people to get an education, and stay the course, who might not otherwise be able to do so. 

    What book or article has shaped your work as an online psychology teacher?  Bawa, P. (2016). Retention in online courses: Exploring issues and solutions—A literature review. Sage Open, 6(1), 2158244015621777.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  I really love teaching pseudoscience. I enjoy pressing students to think critically, and to make this part of their routine. Their weekly assignment for the class is to bring in something that they have seen or heard of as a falsifiable fact, and to look up a credible source to fact check it. The idea is to ensure that they are neither immediately discrediting or crediting anything they hear, but checking it out for themselves, and making that just part of their routine – attempting to avoid confirmation bias as well as disconfirmation bias. Students regularly contact me after the course to let me know that this has changed how they engage with facts from friends, family and social media after the class has ended, and that alone makes it my favorite course to teach – plus I personally love reading about this topic and discussing it with students.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or online activity.  My favorite activity I already described, but an activity that I do in all of my courses that I think is really useful is a form of scavenger hunt to make the online lectures more engaging. Before the lecture, there is a PDF to download of different questions for which that the student can look for the answers throughout the lecture. I try to make these questions things that I especially want to draw attention to, like concepts that might be hard to understand but that I go over in some detail in the lecture. Then, when the person is going over the lecture (or the set of multiple shorter lectures) they are rewarded for attention by listening for those answers, because at the end of the lecture there will be a “scavenger hunt quiz” or “attention quiz.” On that quiz will be the answers to the questions that they were meant to seek out through the lecture. If you are particularly worried about cheating, you could leave out the PDF in advance and do a larger test bank at the end, however to me this is all about respecting the students and trusting them and their time – I give these a low percentage value in their overall grade, but it feels good to the students to know that listening and attending to the lectures was worth something tangible.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I’m not sure that it works best, but one thing that I think works well is to bring elements of social media engagement into the online discussion forums. My first rule for myself of required discussions is to ensure that they have a meaningful purpose – that discussions are not there just for the sake of being there. But for the classes for which that is true, then I like to make it feel more like a space that is already rewarding, a space like twitter. To do that, each discussion has a topic, and then it has basically an “answer menu.” The menu is a set of hashtags, each of which are defined, and each one has a separate sort of rubric for how it would be graded. So it could be #understand, in which case the student would be asking a question about a specific aspect related to the topic at hand that shows an attempt of looking it up oneself before asking (#understandresponse is a separate menu item, where another student would respond to an #understand). It could be #example, which could be describing an anecdote to help other students remember the concept which is being described in the topic. For each response, it has to have the tag, which is how it alerts me to what rubric it will be graded off of, and none of the menu items include something that would give any points for “OMG, I agree,” regardless of what tag they add to the end. And the last part I like to do here is add one point of extra credit for the original post with the most ‘likes,’ where I ask students to give out one ‘like’ per week to the post that was most useful and well thought-out.

    What’s your workspace like?  My disability is such that I have chronic pain that intensifies when my foot is not elevated. As such, I have a ‘work bed’ with a monitor that swings above my head (or away when I get up), and it’s in my home office, separate from my sleeping bed. I am very careful about the stimulus control of this workspace, to keep it only for work. I do have a desk space that is structured primarily for how it looks in zoom meetings, as these are the main time that I am not working from bed.  When I get sleepy or have trouble focusing, I do sometimes choose pain anyway, and switch to the desk for a few hours of grading or writing.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Thoughtful, Connected, Respectful

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Students are adults, and education and grades matter.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I had a student in my pseudoscience class argue in a discussion that science had “proven” the existence of God, and before I got back to the message board there were already three sort of increasingly heated responses with another student arguing angrily that science has “proven” that God does not exist. I responded both on the discussion board, and to the two students individually who were arguing. I live in Utah, so while this is a delicate issue anywhere, this feels especially disastrous here, with both sides feeling particularly strong in this state. My response was that the very cool thing about “knowing” was that there is more than one “way of knowing,” something that we had already learned in the class, but not applied to this situation. That faith is not related to science in terms of ways of knowing, and that these are simply “different hats.” There wouldn’t be a way to know faith through science, just like there wouldn’t be a way to know if you are attracted to someone through a science experiment, or knowing if a joke is funny to you. Those are not scientific questions; those are questions of a different kind. And whether there are or are not artifacts related to the life of figures in the bible is not something I’m an expert in, but again that just isn’t a faith question, that’s a history question – and both people could see those same facts if they existed and have opposite faith conclusions, which is how you can tell that it is a different way of knowing. Then I reminded them that this was a science question, so while these were really interesting philosophical or faith questions, they weren’t really appropriate for the ways of knowing we could contact here, and to please stick to the scientific way of knowing for the remainder of the class They were both were surprisingly happy with that answer.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I actually don’t think they’d be too surprised to learn anything about me! One thing that I think the online engagement literature seems to say consistently is that retention and engagement does best if there is a lot of “you” in your classes – and I take that to heart. So my students really know me, or I try my best to let them know me, through anecdotal stories in lectures, through emails and announcements, through discussion responses, and especially through giving feedback on assignments. I try to really have a genuine voice in my courses whenever there is an opportunity. I once had a student taking my fourth class, and she emailed me to let me know that her husband walked in to say, “Is that Crissa talking about her dogs again? What is she using them to teach today?” So, while I’m sure there are things many of them don’t know about me, I honestly can’t think of what they would be!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am just starting Helter Skelter. I am a part of a fantastic true crime book club, and that was their most recent choice. We just finished Under the Banner of Heaven.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    All of them? I think Audacity is the tool that I would be most desperate without. It’s a free software for audio editing, and it’s how I record and edit all of my lectures. I really like it better than all of the other options because of the specificity it has – you can really see the separation of lines better there for editing. And when the audio is great, it doesn’t really matter what you use for video I think. That said, I also really love this newer tool called Descript. You can upload an audio or video into Descript, and it will transcribe it for you, and spit it into a text version. Then you can cut, or cut and paste, the text portions, and the software will modify the video or audio for you based on what you do to the transcript. It’s not cheap, but it really is a time-saver for A/V editing.

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

    Since I work from home for all but one or two days a month traditionally, my chatter involves texting colleagues or bothering my spouse when he is working from home, who is also a faculty member in my department. For my closest colleague, with whom I co-mentor a distance-only research lab for undergraduates, we generally chat about functional things like how to move forward with a project, with a hint of co-ruminating about how far behind we are on grading or similar things. When it’s my spouse or other colleagues in the department, a significant majority of the time it’s something related to cooking or food!

  • 09 Oct 2019 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Texas State University 


    School locale: San Marcos, Texas: Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, sitting atop a hill, a spring-fed, crystal clear river runs through campus.


    Classes you teach: All undergraduate courses, I teach both online and face-to-face sections of Psychology of Adulthood and Aging. In addition, I teach several sections of an 8-week hybrid course, Professional Seminar: Careers in Psychology.


    Average class size:

    • Online format of Adulthood and Aging- 25 students
    • Regular section of Adulthood and Aging- 100 students
    • Professional Seminar: Careers in Psychology- 30 students


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

    I’m deeply grateful to have an ongoing, 20-year mentoring relationship with my undergraduate professor turned master’s research chair, Dr. Sam Mathews. There’s been many salient conversations over the years around crucial academic and professional decisions and turning points in my career. What should I highlight? Well, we chatted on the phone to reminisce, laugh and converse about this very question.

    On teaching advice, he spoke about fostering the ability to teach and run discussions with a class of 50, one student at a time. The technique he used to make these individual connections is intentional eye contact, systematically making eye contact one student at a time in a class of 50. Also, asking open-ended, reflective questions while pausing and giving students time to think and interact. Naturally, I have modeled my teaching style after his.

    He also offered insight around professional identity. Sam described how one’s professional identity is incorporated into your own, and how one informs the other. From one developmental psychologist to another, his wisdom resonated- your career path and style of teaching is a part of you and your identity. Don’t lose yourself; rather, incorporate your professional self into who you know yourself to already be.


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

    These are not resources on teaching, but the conceptual framework for each of these books are running in the background of my mind while teaching various developmental psychology courses over the years:

    Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York, NY, US: W Norton & Co.

    Ford, D. H., & Lerner, R. M. (1992). Developmental systems theory: An integrative approach. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.


    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    Did you know that humans are genetically predisposed to live upwards to 110-120 years?

    I present to you the topic of genetic limits, one theory of primary aging that reads like the opening to a science-fiction short-story; yet, the theory is a reoccurring theme discussed in my Aging course. Genetic limits is embedded in the bio-ecological, developmental context of culture, lifestyle choices, telomeres and the notion of personal control as mechanisms of influence for aging.

    The students find the theory fascinating and I so enjoy hearing their opinions on why there is still a substantial gap between the present-day average lifespan and our genetically preset potential for longevity.


    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    In my Careers in Psychology hybrid course, students work in groups of 2-3 based on similar career interests in various psychology subfields. Students are given discussion prompts to work through together such as:

    • Identify the type of degree you need to earn, and in what type of program you would earn the degree.
    • As a group, discuss anticipated challenges (e.g., academic record, performance on previous standardized tests, and financial resources) for attaining a degree and working in one of these professions

    Students leave the class with more clarity and realistic expectations around the requirements and obstacles to achieving career goals in a range of subfields within the psychology profession. The group activity commonly spurs additional career-related questions that lead to important and meaningful one-on-one conversations with students outside of class.

      

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I try to communicate with students in a way that keeps them thinking. I ask open-ended questions, solicit opinions on contradicting research findings, and request anecdotal stories of how concepts play out in real life. Typically, I have students approach me after class or in office hours sharing their opinions or stories based on class discussion. My goal is to keep them thinking long after the class meeting or semester ends. While I keep a conversational tone, I expect students to rise to the occasion and engage their intellect.

    Also, there’s an abundance of social media relevant to aging; I’ll follow up a class meeting with an article or video that I post to my Twitter feed augmenting the concepts discussed in class. Again, engaging students in an alternative way that keeps them thinking.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    I prefer natural light in my office. And there’s some uniformity in how I scatter my papers that makes sense to me. I have a small collection of seashells from various beach trips that are special to me, and I dote on my plants when I need a quiet moment to reflect and be with my thoughts.

    Also, I have several of my graduate texts and almost every course notebook from my master’s and doctoral classes. I have this romantic, nostalgic notion about someday sitting down and reviewing old course notes.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Socratic, reflective, story-driven

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Adapt studies and concepts to real world examples.

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

    When I was a first-year doctoral student administering my first test, there was one remaining student completing the test long after the class wrapped up. She was worried about her pending test grade, so I offered to grade it right then. Well, I had to tell her she failed miserably, and spent the next few minutes trying to calm down an inconsolable student- bordering hysterical. I made a mental note to never repeat that mistake again.

     

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

    When I began my doctorate, I was fully focused and invested in furthering my research, and carving out a research-based career in developmental psychology. My graduate assistantship package included teaching my own undergraduate class, Developmental Psychology. It quickly transformed from a work obligation to the highlight of my doctoral-training experience. Although I miss the mental stimulation that comes from science writing, I still get giddy introducing students to Erkison’s psychosocial theory, longitudinal research designs, and genetic limits!

    Also, I teach Aging at 8am sharp; I think my students would be surprised to learn that I'm not a morning person.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I reread Gone with the Wind prior to the start of the semester.

    Currently skimming Thanks: How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, and a dozen or so journal articles on positive psychology and/or aging.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Twitter, power point and my university’s LMS via mobile app.

     

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

    “…that smells delicious…” and “…I have an idea to run by you for an upcoming…”

  • 03 Sep 2019 4:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    Type of school: Public R1 university

    School locale: Small city (Lincoln, Nebraska)

    Classes you teach: Introductory psychology, honors introductory psychology, social psychology, advanced social psychology, motivation and emotion, and career planning for psychology majors (co-taught with advising staff).  Most are undergraduate classes, but advanced social psychology and motivation and emotion are cross-listed for both undergrads and graduate students.

    Average class size: As large as 440 for introductory psychology, to about 40 students for senior-level classes, to about 15 for honors and learning community classes.

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

    Do less.  I have a bad habit of getting overwhelmed and burned out because I tackle too much at a time—major structural changes to several classes at once, changing the textbook and the assignments and the structure of a class simultaneously, or saying yes to too many service activities on top of a full teaching load.  I try to fight day-by-day burnout by adopting the 1-3-30 rule suggested by a colleague when revising slides: write 1 note for next time, revise no more than 3 slides, and spend no more than 30 minutes revising.  Beyond that, I’m mostly just nitpicking.  And I try to fight long-term burnout by giving myself permission to make just one mid-sized change to each course each semester.

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

    The very first teaching book I was introduced to, during my first semester of graduate school, was McKeachie’s Teaching Tips.  I still come back to it for succinct recommendations backed up with evidence.  More recently, I enjoyed Small Teaching by James Lang, which is a great reminder that small changes in my teaching practices can have a big impact on my students.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My favorite course is Advanced Social Psychology.  It’s comprised mainly of junior and senior psychology majors, with a few sophomores and first-year graduate students thrown in.  The course is structured around a series of yes/no controversial questions such as, “Is there a replicability crisis in social psychology?”  I begin each unit with an interactive lecture to provide students with a refresher of the basic content from social psychology and some relevant extensions and updates from recent research.  Then students get into discussion groups of about 12 and spend 50-60 minutes in peer-led discussion, delving deeply into the empirical research on both sides of the question and real-world implications of either possible answer.  Although students get panicky at the beginning of the semester when they hear they will be responsible for leading an hour-long discussion, I give them plenty of support, encouragement, and feedback along the way—and the peers they initially feared in their discussion group often become close friends.  Their term paper involves an in-depth analysis of empirical work on a yes/no question of their choice, and with the weekly practice they get building their critical thinking and analysis skills in response papers and discussion, students produce some very impressive final papers.  At the end of the semester, students look back with pride at having accomplished tasks that felt overwhelming just a few months earlier.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    For the past several years, I’ve presented Stephen Chew’s depth-of-processing demonstration in my introductory psychology class.  The class is split into quadrants, which are asked to process a word list shallowly or deeply, and with or without being forewarned of a quiz.  They score their recall on the word list, then I have the whole class stand up.  I ask them to sit down when I call out the number of words they got correct.  It becomes apparent very quickly that those who processed shallowly performed worse than those who processed deeply, regardless of whether they knew they would be quizzed.  I finish up with a brief presentation on evidence-based learning strategies, including how they can use deep processing while reading, in class, and while studying.  The demo works every time, and is a great way to introduce aspects of research methodology and memory, or just to improve study habits.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    My techniques vary widely from class to class.  My 440-student Introductory Psychology class meets in a performing arts center without aisles, fold-out desks, or movable seating, so I generally use interactive lecturing (Bernstein, 2018) with clicker questions, think-pair-shares, small group work, videos, etc.  In my smaller senior-level classes, I love using student-led discussions and small homework groups.  In these classes, I assign groups carefully based on self-report surveys and observations in the first week of the semester, then keep the groups consistent throughout the semester so they really get to know each other.  It’s so rewarding for students and for me to see how the groups negotiate differences, incorporate diverse peers, and accomplish things together that they couldn’t do alone.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    It starts organized and gradually descends into organized chaos, with piles growing in number and volume throughout the semester, until that glorious post-semester purge.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Supportive, evidence-based, challenging

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?  Improve scientific reasoning and application through evidence-based practices.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

    Midway through the semester in my 400+ student section of introductory psychology, I was having problems with students using their laptops inappropriately and excessively in class, to the extent that peers were complaining about the level of distraction.  In response, I introduced students to empirical evidence on the harmful effects of multitasking and digital distraction, showed them why it’s better to take notes by hand than on a computer, and gave them strategies for managing and reducing distractions.  I then required that students wanting to use a laptop in class had to be “pre-approved” by showing me they had been taking notes appropriately and by displaying a tag on the front of their laptop so I could tell who had been pre-approved.  I thought it was a reasonable request, but a small (and vocal) group of students did not.  They deeply resented the new restriction on their freedoms, and complained both in class and online.  The frustration (both mine and students’) spiraled, and after three weeks of increasing tension, poor participation, and distraction from students holding frequent side conversations, I gave up and just let them be the victims of their own distraction.  (I also encouraged others to switch seats if they were being distracted.)  I wish I had a fairytale ending to this story, but nope—I just had to tough it out to the end of the semester.  This is my own hard-learned example of how it’s better to start with restrictions and then loosen them, than to start lenient and try to introduce restrictions.

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

    I have been in zero gravity.  (Protip: It’s not for people with a weak stomach.)

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The best book I’ve read in the last year is The Humans by Matt Haig, which tells the story of an alien who comes to Earth to kill a mathematics professor who is about to solve a major mathematical proof that will give humans the ability to travel through interstellar space, but while carrying out his mission, the alien begins to fall in love with humanity.  It’s like a mash-up of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Notebook.  Hard to explain, but amazing.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I have two nominees: (1) youcanbook.me to let students arrange their own appointments during my office hours, and (2) Canvas to make an entirely paperless class with easy-to-use rubrics, student-friendly gradebook, and easy tracking of student group work.

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

    Teaching ideas, campus news, and what we’re currently reading/watching.  I’m particularly passionate about non-tenure-track faculty rights and academic freedom, and as a member of my institution’s faculty senate I try to keep my colleagues updated about relevant happenings.

  • 01 Aug 2019 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Temple University

     

    Type of school: Large 4-year school in the heart of Philadelphia

     

    School locale: Philadelphia, PA

     

    Classes you teach: Conducting Psychological Research, Learning and Behavior Analysis, TA for Honors Psychology

     

    Average class size: 10-20

     

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Right before I began teaching my first course, I told my advisor that I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to answer their questions or explain the material adequately. He told me that when in doubt, act like you know it all. Don’t make up an answer, but always answer with confidence – even if it’s just to say that you’re not sure and you need to look it up and get back to them.

     

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? I can’t say there was a specific book or article that really influenced me. However, as a graduate student I worked as a TA with the same professor for three years and she greatly influenced my teaching style. This professor was so engaging, dynamic, and passionate about what she did that it was a true privilege to learn from her. Additionally, she went to bat for her students in a way that was deeply inspiring and showed me the type of teacher I want to be.

     

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I really enjoy letting students design their own research projects. When I teach Conducting Psychological Research, we move through the sections of a research paper one at a time. I lecture on the topic, and then we spend some time discussing each students’ individual project as a group: challenges, things they’re struggling with, etc. I love seeing each student‘s project develop over the course of the semester, and the interactive nature of them helping each other brainstorm ideas and troubleshoot problems.

     

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  Learning and Behavior Analysis is a tough sell in my department – most students are taking it as a gen ed course rather than from a genuine interest in Behavior Analysis. Although I am in a Developmental Psychology program now, I trained as a Behavior Analyst and am very familiar with the science and research methodology of the field. However, most of the students indicate a desire for clinical psychology, which is VERY different from the goals and ideals of Behavior Analysis. At the end of the semester I always do Behavior Analysis Jeopardy which is a great way to review the topics from the course as students prepare to submit their final papers. The students get really into it and I give a few extra credit points to the winning team as additional incentive

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I very strongly believe in a student-centered approach to both teaching and learning. Each student comes to the classroom with individual strengths and weaknesses, so a one-size-fits-all model is really not effective. I always make an effort to humanize myself through sharing stories and experiences from my own life, while making it clear to them that I see them as humans too. For example, I do my best to get to know each student, their post-undergraduate goals, etc., which shows them that I genuinely care about them and helps them to buy into me as an educator.

     

    What’s your workspace like?  I am an extremely organized and detail-oriented person – and my workspace reflects that. The first thing I do when I get into the office is clean off my desk of any outstanding tasks, then clear out my e-mail. I can’t work in a messy space! I also believe in fun and whimsy, so I keep lots of pictures and colorful magnets etc. in my office. My (and my students’) favorite is one of those notebooks with the sequins that you can swipe back and forth to reveal different colors. It has a rainbow unicorn on it and when students come in stressed I have them play with it for a minute to chill out. Works every time – even for me when I’m stressed!


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Student-centered, proactive, human

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Students are individuals, treat them as such

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I’m not sure this is a disaster or embarrassment per se, but it was certainly a challenging situation. I had a student completely stop engaging in my 6-week online summer class after the first week, so I e-mailed her to see if she was still planning to participate in my course. No response. About 2 weeks before the end of the semester, she reached out to me with a sob story asking if she could catch up on all the missed work and still be able to pass my class. I was willing to work with her and agreed to let her rejoin the class and make up the missed work for a penalty. She tried her hardest but was not able to finish everything by the end of the semester. Given that she’d worked extremely hard, I agreed to let her take an incomplete in my course and finish the work before the beginning of the fall semester. It was my first time giving an incomplete… so I had no idea there was protocol to be followed. I got an e-mail from Academic Advising asking for her incomplete contract, so after I figured out what the heck that was, I completed and submitted it. Then I received an e-mail from another academic advisor saying that this student was on academic probation and was not allowed to receive incompletes. I had no idea! Fortunately, the advisor was willing to be flexible and the student ended up passing my course but it was a learning experience all around!

     

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? For my 21st birthday, my parents and I went skydiving. That’s right – I jumped out of a plane. Fun experience, crossed something off my bucket list… but I don’t think I’d do it again!

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I love YA fantasy novels – they are a great way to disconnect and relax. I’m currently reading a book called “The Glass Spare” by Lauren DeStefano

     

    What tech tool could you not live without? I don’t rely a whole lot on technology in the classroom…. So the best I’ve got here is youtube! I often use videos to illustrate my points, and to break up the monotony of lectures.

     

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? My colleagues are the other graduate students in my program, so we are all friendly. We often chat about experiences with students, whine about grading, and discuss our personal lives (relationships, family, etc.)

     

  • 18 Jul 2019 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     School name: Florida State University

    Type of school: Public, R1 University

    School locale: Tallahassee, Florida

    Classes you teach: General Psychology, Social Psychology, Psychology of Personality, Child Psychology, Research Methods, and Industrial-Organizational Psychology

    Average class size: About 100, but I’ve taught classes from as small as 19 to as large as 250.

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  To be as honest and transparent with my students as possible. I can think of two different ways this has been helpful.

    As a graduate student, I was particularly nervous about what to do when students asked questions that I didn’t immediately know the answer to, but it was such a relief to know that I could simply say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Since then, with most of my students having their smart phones with them in class, this has morphed into, “I don’t know, but let’s find out!”

    Furthermore, I think that students appreciate when a teacher will take risks in the classroom, but this occasionally means that sometimes things won’t work out as planned. When this happens, rather than pretend that the activity went great, I admit that I was trying something new and that it could be improved, so I ask my students what they did/did not like about the activity and how it could be adjusted for future classes.

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

    This book isn’t about teaching, specifically, but the first book that comes to mind is Quiet by Susan Caine. As a lifelong extrovert, it was easy for me to forget that a large proportion of my students looked at the world in a very different way than I do, and that these students probably have much different preferences in the classroom, as well. Since reading Quiet, I’ve tried to be much more mindful about whether incorporating groupwork truly enhances my class activity/assignment or not. I’ve also been giving my students extra time to brainstorm on their own before asking students to share their thoughts on a given topic. Some students will always be eager hand-raisers (me, for example), but it’s been great to see how other students are clearly more comfortable and willing to sharing their thoughts once they’ve had time to reflect.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My favorite course to teach is Social Psychology. This was one of the courses that first drew me into the field of psychology as a student, because I enjoyed how applicable its theories and lessons are to real life. Although I like teaching most lessons in this course, one of the lectures I find most interesting is about social identity. It’s fun to open students’ eyes to the ways in which we enhance our self-image and relate to others, as well as the multitude of ways that culture shapes the ways that we view ourselves. In this class, I’m able to use examples that most students relate to (such as “basking in reflected glory" when our football team is doing well vs “cutting off reflected failure” when the team is struggling). After introducing the topic with these initial examples, I can also integrate in discussions of more serious topics that some students might shy away from initially like race, religion, and politics.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    When I teach personality, I have my students think about and list some of their more dominant traits, and then I ask them to think about how these traits can be both strengths and weaknesses in their lives. To get the discussion going, I’ll highlight how students who are more introverted possess strengths that I do not, and that sometimes my high level of extroversion can present problems (again, you can see the impact from when I read Quiet in this example). I especially like this activity because I’ve had many students tell me afterwards that they’ve never considered how some of their “less desirable” traits can indeed be strengths.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    If you ask my students, I think they would say that I will provide them with examples, then more examples, then more examples after that. I know that not every student is going to pursue a career in psychology, so I really try to make the material as accessible as I can by describing the concepts from class in ways that students can relate to. Then, when students ask how they can study for my exams, I encourage them to practice coming up with their own examples as well!

    What’s your workspace like? Let’s just say that my typical office layout might bother people who are especially high in neuroticism or conscientiousness. (But I’m working on it).

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Enthusiastic, challenging, and encouraging



    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    High expectations don’t mean you can’t have fun.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

    When I was younger, I would occasionally pull the “sit in a desk on the first day and pretend to be a student” trick. It would typically work well enough, letting my students know that this class might challenge their notion of what common sense is, but one semester…it backfired. Specifically, this innocent deception led one of my students to constantly question whether was I telling the truth. This problem culminated one day when the student raised his hand and asked whether I’d “told the girl sitting in front of him to spend the entire class playing on her cell phone because it was very distracting.” Needless to say, I had not, and the other student who’d been on her phone was mortified. I had to announce that I would unequivocally no longer be using any deception in that class, and I haven’t pulled the prank since.

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

    I’m pretty open in the classroom, but I do think that students are often surprised to learn that I didn’t always know I was going to be a psychology professor. Sometimes, I think students feel tremendous pressure to know exactly what they should do or what their future should look like as soon as they get to college. It can also seem like everyone else is much more confident in their futures than you are, but that certainly wasn’t the case for me. When I share my experience about changing majors as a junior, I also ask other students in the class to raise their hands if they’ve changed majors during their time at school, and it never fails that a large proportion of the class raises their hand as well. I think students appreciate when I share this about myself, as it reassures them that they still have time to figure things out.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I just finished reading Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. If you’re familiar with this comedian, you likely already know that he is a parent of FIVE young children. I’ve always enjoyed his comedy, but as a new dad, myself, this was the perfect book to help me see the humor in topics like sleep deprivation and self-doubt that most parents deal with from time to time.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Youtube! This isn’t the only way to share video content into my classroom, of course (e.g. Databrary, TED Talks, etc.), but it’s hard to imagine not using videos in my classes. Videos are a great way to illustrate concepts, to show both classic and contemporary experimental designs, and to include a greater range of diverse perspectives in my courses. Sometimes I have to be careful not to overdo it (it would be easy to show too many cute baby videos in Child Psychology, for example), but if I’m ever developing a lesson where it’s apparent that I’ll be talking for too long, finding a good video resource is always my first step to liven things up.

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

    I’ll chat about just about anything, honestly, but most recently, the topic of conversation almost always turns to my son who was born in March. It’s been an exciting and challenging transition, and he’ll definitely be included in lots of new examples when I teach Child Psychology in the fall!


  • 15 Jun 2019 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    School name: St. Edward’s University

    Type of college/university (e.g., R1, community college, small liberal arts school, high school): a Masters-granting liberal arts institution. St. Edward’s has a total enrollment of about 5,000 students, with about 3,800 undergraduates. The Department of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience is the largest on campus, enrolling 320 Psychology majors and another 125 Behavioral Neuroscience majors, or about 450 students total. We currently have 13 full-time tenure-track faculty and several visiting, one-year, or adjunct positions

    School locale (e.g., small town, rural area, city, country/region): Austin, TX 

    Classes you teach: 
    My duties as department chair have limited the amount and variety of courses I teach, but I routinely teach Statistics to sections of about 20-25 students, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology to similarly sized classes. At various points I’ve taught Social Psychology (my area of specialization), Research Methods, Introductory Psychology, History and Systems, Cognitive Psychology, Advanced Research Methods, Psychometrics, and a few one-shot courses here and there.

    Average class size: 20-25 students

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? 
    I’ve been fortunate to have associated with really great mentors over my career, and their guidance, from many different perspectives, has strangely shown a great deal of consistency. For example, my undergraduate mentor, the late Maureen O’Sullivan, advised me explicitly through our research collaborations and implicitly through her style and approach to teaching. Similarly, I was fortunate to be a teaching assistant for the late Dev Singh during my graduate school career. I was fascinated by the way he strolled into a classroom carrying nothing whatsoever – no notes, no chalk, no gimmicks – yet held the attention of everyone in the room as he wove compelling stories of science. The secret of his success was that he invited his students to join him on a journey of intellectual exploration, investing them with a stake in the learning process as he guided their discoveries.  Finally, my dissertation advisor, Dan Gilbert, and my former brother-in-law, the late Dan Wegner, showed me that great researchers also can be great teachers, and vice versa. Both Dans are renowned for their pathbreaking contributions to the science of psychology, but fewer people may know that they’re also really great instructors in the classroom. I’m sure all these people, at one point or another, gave me some specific teaching advice, but really they “advised” me more through their actions than their words.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
    With no small amount of perversity, I’d say Statistics is my favorite course to teach, but that’s possibly only because I’ve now taught about 100 sections of it. Most instructors wouldn’t gravitate toward a class that students don’t want to take, that many students think they can’t or won’t understand, and that promises such a high degree of fear and loathing from its audience. Yet those moments – and there have been many of them – when the proverbial light bulbs illuminate over students’ heads, and the “this is easier than I thought” comments flow freely, make it all worthwhile.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.
    Also perversely, I’m not sure I’ve got a favorite activity or assignment. The oddity here is that I’ve enjoyed a multi-decade association with Pearson Education and other publishers, creating instructor's manuals, online content, study guides, test banks, textbook content, and yes, even transparency masters back in the day, but I use almost none of it myself. I guess I’m good at thinking up clever activities for other people to use, but you’d think that with a storehouse of suggestions that large, I’d draw from it myself a little more often!

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?Active engagement in material, peppered with liberal doses of humor – the smart kind, not “Dad jokes” or goofy asides – seems to do the trick. I’d much rather have students talking and thinking, even if they’re getting the wrong answers, than sitting around waiting to be told what to think or what to do.

    What’s your workspace like?
    My workspace, aka “office,” tends to be an organized jumble of curiosities (see photograph). My other workspace – the classroom – tends to be a high-energy modernist/minimalist affair.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.
    Interactive. Encouraging. Hilarious.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Make students smarter than they were before.
     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.
    Fortunately I haven’t had real disasters or embarrassments in the classroom, of the “did you know your zipper’s been down?” variety or delivering, say, a personality lecture to a social psychology class and never realizing it (I’m not naming names, but it’s happened). Two related events do come to mind, though. First, every fall semester, like clockwork, I’d lose my voice for a few days. I was never sick, but allergies or strain or whatever caused my main “teaching instrument” to conk out. So more than once I delivered the day’s lecture via writing on an overhead projector or (more recently) typing in a document projected onscreen. The bizarreness of students silently reading and writing, but occasionally asking a question that received my nonverbal answer, was strangely calming. To counteract my hoarseness, I eventually wised up and started bringing a glass of water to each lecture. That worked well until, during one final exam, I promptly spilled the entire glass over the entire stack of exams, minutes before I distributed them. I got even wiser and started bringing a cappedcontainer of water to class…

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    Students might be surprised to learn that I’m a big record collector. In these days of downloaded music, I cling to having the actual vinyl article in hand, but decidedly not in any hipster-come-lately sense. Trolling thrift stores for elusive finds leads to amassing some 6,000 LPs, but I still see that as “small” compared to the real fanatics. Students might or might not be surprised to learn that I play the drums and guitar, and dabble in bass, synthesizer, and Theremin, yet I can’t play a harmonica to save my soul. And putting all that together, they’d be really surprised to learn that my first paying gig was playing drums with a Lithuanian polka band in San Francisco.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    I tend to read books by and about musicians. I just finished Jorma Kaukonen’s autobiography, Been So Long. (Jorma was the guitarist with Jefferson Airplane and is the guitarist with Hot Tuna.) I’ve read almost everything by or about the Ramones. A Tom Petty biography is next on the list.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    I could live without almost any tech tool. Does a turntable count?

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
    I’m very lucky to be surrounded by supportive, agreeable colleagues who are passionate about what they do, and that characterizes both the psychology crowd and my colleagues in other departments. We certainly chat about business – that tends to come with the chair gig – but we talk a lot about food, family, fun…the kinds of things that make Austin a great place to live and that energize people in their daily lives.

  • 30 Apr 2019 1:58 PM | Anonymous

    School name: The University of Memphis

    Type of college/university (e.g., R1, community college, small liberal arts school, high school): Public research university offering bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees

    School locale (e.g., small town, rural area, city, country/region): Urban community of Memphis, TN

    Classes you teach: Introductory psychology, abnormal psychology, and introduction to clinical psychology (co-taught with my graduate mentor) all at the undergraduate level

    Average class size: 35

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

    The best advice about teaching I have ever received was that “research is teaching and teaching is research.” I received that advice from a great teacher I had as an undergraduate student, John Norcross. He taught me a lot about how teaching and research are two professional activities that can (and should!) coexist in productive harmony.

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

    Several articles and books have shaped my work as a psychology teacher. I regularly read articles from journals like Teaching of Psychology, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Psychology of Learning & Teaching. A few books that I incorporate are entitled What the Best College Teachers Do (Bain), McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, and An Evidence-Based Guide to College and University Teaching (Richmond, Boysen, & Gurung).


    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    My favorite course to teach is abnormal psychology. It’s a course with a lot of inherently interesting material. I feel lucky to teach that course because students are curious and interested in the material from day one. Their curiosity raises a lot of questions and leads to interesting discussions about human behavior. I do not need to exert any extra effort as a professor to enhance students' interest. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    In introduction to clinical psychology, I teach students fundamental clinical interviewing skills – open-ended questions, closed-ended questions, reflective listening, etc. Students pair up and role play interviewer and interviewee for increasingly longer periods of time during the semester. While the students are role playing, I walk around the classroom, listen to interviews, and offer tips to guide their interviews. Students typically feel anxious to conduct interviews at the beginning of the semester, but many of them say how much they learned after we continue to practice.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I find that using a variety of teaching/learning techniques works best for me. My number one rule is not to lecture for great lengths of time because students become bored or distracted. In class, I use several semi-flipped classroom approaches, discussions, some video clips, and iClickers (they are a great tool for showing me when I was not effective in explaining a topic!). I also use a mix of weekly quizzes and writing assignments in my courses.

    What’s your workspace like?
    My current workspace is shared with three other graduate students. Usually there is less clutter on my desk (mine has the photo of the dog) but I am in the process of wrapping up my dissertation before heading off to internship. And yes, there is a large tin of cookies as well as two lint rollers in my workspace.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Active, organized, enthusiastic

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Meet students where they are and facilitate learning

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

    One embarrassment (that I’m willing to share!) readily comes to mind. In an introductory psychology class, I tripped over a small garbage can and fell to the floor while I was teaching. My students and I all laughed hysterically when they saw I was not hurt.

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

    They might be surprised to learn that I initially did not intend to pursue psychology as a major when I was an undergraduate student. I started as a computer science major but quickly learned it was not for me. Then, I spent some time as a philosophy major while enrolled in some psychology classes. I did not think I would pursue psychology until I took a careers in psychology class during my junior year. That’s when I “caught the fever!”

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am embarrassed to write that I am not currently reading anything for pleasure. There has not been much time for extra curricular reading as a graduate student… Typically I enjoy reading books about science that are from academic disciplines outside of psychology.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My personal computer. I own a small netbook that is easy to carry with me.

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

    I primarily talk to other students (graduate and undergraduate) about our ongoing research projects. We also talk a lot about music, sports, and our pets.


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