"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: Rob McEntarffer, Editor (Lincoln Public Schools), and Virginia Wickline, Associate Editor (Georgia Southen University)"
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  • 28 Sep 2021 11:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Bard College

    Type of school: Residential liberal arts college

    School locale (including state and country): Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA

    How many years have you taught psychology? 6-7 years

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychological Science, Statistics for Psychology, Social Neuroscience, The Science of Goal Pursuit

    Specialization (if applicable): e.g. clinical, cognitive, teaching, etc. Social/cognitive neuroscience


    Average class size: ~15-20

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  Something to the effect of “Learn to recognize the point at which any additional effort you put into course prep leads to diminishing returns.” Put another way: be content with “good enough.” You can always revisit and tweak later!

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? The Spark of Learning by Sarah Rose Cavanagh

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.   Recently, I have enjoyed teaching on the topic of ego depletion and several replications that have found weak depletion effects (at best). The idea of limited and depletable willpower not only resonates with students personally, but it

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  In my science of goal pursuit seminar, students complete a group assignment comprised of a public service announcement (in audio or video form) in which they present an effective, evidence-based self-regulatory strategy (or strategies) to change their habits and behaviors to promote goal pursuit. They also create a mock social media post or story to adapt the PSA so it’s conducive to sharing with a broader audience.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? Encouraging peer-to-peer learning via structured group work has worked well for me. With a little bit of nudging and guidance on my part, students often will come to enjoy and own a group project, especially for topics that are more open-ended (e.g., describe the evidence (or lack thereof) of this psychological phenomenon or behavior, or, how does the brain represent the self?). 

    What’s your workspace like? On my desk I have my laptop hooked up to a widescreen secondary monitor. Both sit on a table-top standing desk converter, which I often forget to use to minimize my sitting time! I have a single-cup drip coffee maker within arm’s reach of where I sit. A few feet away is a small and inviting round table with two chairs where I have meetings (in safer times) with colleagues and students. There’s usually ample light that streams in from windows behind me, and I often hear the chatter of squirrels as they scurry up and down a large oak outside my office.     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  On my better days, I hope that my teaching style can be described as: inviting, compassionate, and empowering.   

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Awaken and empower the learner within every student.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. It wasn’t quite a disaster, but for one activity students had to install a free statistical software package on their laptops and each student had a different error during installation, so a lot of class time was eaten by troubleshooting. 

    What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? What I find most rewarding is the privilege of witnessing students’ first exposure and reactions to fundamental psychological and statistical concepts.  

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? Some students may be surprised to learn that spirituality (namely, the Christian faith) is a major lens by which I view and interpret the world, and that I do not see science and religion as incompatible.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I do not have much time for leisure reading at the moment, but earlier this summer I was fascinated by the historical context and key players in the United States’ pandemic preparedness plans described in The Premonition by Michael Lewis.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My trustworthy Logitech wireless presenter/remote! 

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Hallway chatter is varied and ranges from “where can I find the best X type of food?” to “what explanations of a p-value have you used that make it less mystifying to students?” 

    Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes)  And as far as how my teaching has changed because of the pandemic, I would like my pedagogy to embody the phrase: “do less, well.” I would much rather my students have a deeper, more nuanced understanding of fewer concepts and ideas than a cursory, fleeting grasp of more concepts. This would simultaneously free them from the stress of trying to collect, remember, and reproduce the presented material and enable them to repeatedly engage their scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills.

  • 27 Aug 2021 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Western Carolina University      

    Type of school: Regional Comprehensive with Masters and Doctorate in Psychology programs

    School locale (including state and country): North Carolina, USA

    How many years have you taught psychology? 7

    Classes you teach: Neuropsychology, developmental psychology, research methods and statistics

    Specialization (if applicable): Neuroscience and development

    Average class size: 40/undergraduates; 10/graduates

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

    Students need to know you’re on their side in order to challenge themselves and grow over the duration of the semester or degree. Convincing students that you are as committed to their success as they are gives them courage to succeed.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? “Make it Stick” By Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel which gives a structure based on cognitive psychology for classroom principles to promote retention. Additionally, I have been heavily influenced by Paulo Freire’s work in problem posing and contextualization of education.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  I love teaching neuroscience and research methods courses. These courses are often perceived as “hard” by students and I find satisfaction in showing students that they can overcome difficult content and even if they don’t plan to continue to graduate school, they can benefit from and apply the concepts we talk about to various parts of their life. For example, I teach basic spreadsheet management as part of my research methods courses. Most students arrive to the class with no understanding of spreadsheet logic or basic principles of data management, which are integral to any business endeavor or even managing a household budget.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. One of my favorites is “neurotransmitter BINGO” during which students use their notes to match definitions to neurotransmitter abbreviations on a BINGO board. They get really into the competitive aspect while reviewing the material and it reinforces the need to take good notes!

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I don’t practice a fully flipped classroom, because many of my students expect and benefit from the structure of a traditional lecture. However, I do incorporate active learning strategies in pretty much every class. The combination of lecture and experiential learning seems to strike a good balance for my undergraduate students who vary in their experiences and academic preparation. By scaffolding them in this way, they are able to become active participants in their education without feeling abandoned to their own devices.

    What’s your workspace like?  A clutter. I am working on the piles of papers and creating a filing system but keep finding other more pressing things to do. I will say that the first week of the transition to teaching from home I recognized the need for a second monitor in my home office. I switch back and forth between tasks often and having more virtual space is important. In the classroom I rely on google slides and a white board as well as a lot of papers and worksheets I print out. I’m getting better and creating virtual ways to complete in class activities (thanks, COVID), but sometimes there is no substitute for having a case study on your desk to work through with a neighbor.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. Enthusiastic, experiential, committed to students.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? You can do difficult work. I will help.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I’ve had a few technical glitches such as sharing the wrong file and once I accidently broadcast my ultrasound photo from a not yet announced pregnancy. The biggest issue was a misconstrued sarcastic comment about the difficulty of a test which convinced a few students that I was “out to fail them.” That was one of the most pivotal moments in my teaching career in realizing that students didn’t necessarily know that I want them to succeed. I think we have to gain student’s trust before we can ask them to challenge themselves and let them know that we are teammates, coming in with an assist, not goalies trying to prevent them from scoring.

    What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? I love building relationships with students and seeing them bring their own expertise and experience into the classroom. Now that I’ve been at this a few years, it’s been really cool to see what students go on to do and which students keep in touch. When I was very young, I loved acting and being in plays. I think I bring a lot of that same energy into my classroom and enjoy improvising and riffing on comments and questions as they come up.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I hated science and math in elementary and middle school. I thought that they were pointless and wouldn’t serve me later on. Boy, was I wrong... But that experience was valuable and I now build my courses around ideas and skills that my students can directly apply, even if they don’t go on to graduate school or think that they aren’t “science people”.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I just finished “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by Lori Goittlieb. I wanted more experience and knowledge about the counseling profession and clinical psychology route, as I have so many students who are interested in pursuing it as a career and I know little about it as an experimental psychologist. I also love a good novel and recently have enjoyed “Ask Again, Yes,” “The Flight Attendant,” and “Such a Fun Age”

    What tech tool could you not live without? Zoom, because we’re still living through a pandemic. I also love Calendly to schedule office hours and advising meetings and am slowly converting my graduate students and colleagues to using R.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Different colleagues have different types of conversations. These days it’s a lot of, “How have you been, I haven’t seen you in forever!” In general, we talk about research, shared students, and general day-to-day life stuff. We live in a small town and everybody knows everybody, which is a great dynamic. 

    Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes) There are a number of technologies and changes to promote accessibility that I think have been really useful and will continue post-COVID. A large number of our students commute fairly long distances to campus, so I will continue offering virtual office hours and meetings to students who are unable to come to campus. I think that my comfort with online classes and openness to recording lectures and creating virtual assignments has been helpful and will make my courses more accessible to students going forwards.

     

  • 28 Jul 2021 9:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Wisconsin-Superior

    Type of school: Four-year public liberal arts college

    School locale (including state and country): Superior, WI, USA

    How many years have you taught psychology? 12 years full time  

    Classes you teach: Reading and Writing for Psychology; Senior Research; Learning and Behavior; Psychopharmacology; Psycholinguistics; General Psychology

    Specialization (if applicable): Cognitive

    Average class size: 25

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Remember that you are always the adult in the room.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Schwartz, M. A. (2008). The importance of stupidity in scientific research. Journal of Cell Science, 121, 1771.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.   I honestly love all of classes (there are no clunkers)--but the one that has become a passion is Reading and Writing for Psychology. There is so much embedded in that course that is foundational to academic (and professional success): information literacy, critical reading, explaining complex concepts, and at its core is the message of continuous improvement and the need for constant revision. It is also a great chance to invite students into your own areas of growth as a scholar and normalize them; my students are often shocked that even professors need multiple drafts and feel frustrated and procrastinate-y. That course is both a skill builder and an invitation to the constant struggle of reading for comprehension, writing, and revising.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  I really enjoy teaching my students to concept map and how to annotate figures (Hoskins, 2008). Concept mapping helps my students see two things: 1.) How much they actually know about at topic and 2.) How all of their knowledge fits together. It’s constructivist learning at its finest!

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I really enjoy using the C.R.E.A.T.E (Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypothesis, Analyze and interpret the data, Think of the next Experiment) method in my content classes (Hoskins, 2008). Because it is an active learning approach that focuses on teaching how to think like scientists, it’s successful in a wide range of classes (from Psyc 101 to 400-level classes like Psycholinguistics). I also use this approach in my Reading and Writing Course because it helps my students learn active reading and analysis that’s critical for close reading of scholarly articles. C.R.E.A.T.E is also great because it remedies one thing that was missing from my undergrad psychology degree: how to read scholarly articles effectively.

    Hoskins, S. (2008). Using a paradigm shift to teach neurobiology and the nature of science—A C.R.E.A.T.E-based approach. Journal of Undergraduate     Neuroscience Education, 6(2), A40-A52.

    What’s your workspace like?  Like a filing cabinet exploded.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Adaptive, informal, rigorous

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Foster growth through curiosity, skepticism, literacy, and confidence.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. In my first semester of full-time teaching, I realized that my tights didn’t fit as well as I thought and were falling off. I stepped behind the desk at the front of the classroom, kicked them off, and kept lecturing. If my students noticed they took mercy and didn’t say anything!

    What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? Everything but the grading! Mostly I enjoy the relationships with students and watching them see how much they are learning and gaining skills.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I think my students would be surprised that one of my summer jobs in college was being a camp counselor at a sleep away camp or maybe that I have never had a cup of coffee.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? Kimmerer, R.W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass. Milkweed Editions.

    What tech tool could you not live without? I tend towards the low-tech side of things—but I love speed grader on Canvas! My bad handwriting doesn’t cause an issue and I can’t spill tea on that homework.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? It’s been a bit since we all had a hallway to chatter in—but a lot is about classes and university politics/drama. We also get in a fair amount of talk about pets, food, and life in general.

    Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes)  On the positive side, I’ve gotten a lot better at organizing my materials within our learning management system. On the negative side, I feel more disconnected from my students, and I’ve found it hard to foster mentoring relationships at a distance. I hope to continue developing my virtual mentoring skills as more students choose online learning options.

     

  • 03 May 2021 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Department of Psychology

     

    Type of school: Public University

     

    School locale (including state and country): Puebla, Pue., Mexico

     

    How many years have you taught psychology?

    In December 2020, I turned five and a half years as a professor-researcher at the department of psychology. I got my permanent position (as tenure) in November 2020.

     

    Classes you teach:

    I have essentially taught research methodology courses (we have four compulsory courses). I mainly focus on the class of quantitative methods in psychology. In 2016, we had an update of the psychology degree program. I participated in developing an elective course on the modeling of cognitive processes. I have taught this subject ever since. This is an advanced course of cognitive psychology.

    I have also taught Statistics I and II and thesis seminars at the graduate level. Typically, I teach between 7-8 courses per semester.

     

    Average class size:

    It varies a bit; In the undergraduate degree courses, the number range from 45 to 60 students per class. In graduate courses, I have in my groups 10 to 13 students.

     

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

    It was not direct teaching advice, but it was something that helped me get through difficult times; a very dear friend from neuroscience told me during my Ph.D. "be practical." This advice has also helped me a lot in my teaching work. From my undergraduate studies and later in graduate studies, I tried to remember and record in my memory the practices that I liked the most about my professors. I have always loved teaching and wanted at some point to apply all the good things that I learned from my professors.

     

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

    Several books have helped me a lot. Specifically, I could do the following: Dr. Rex Kline, "Becoming a behavioral science researcher"; Dr. Wendy A. Schweigert, "Research Methods in Psychology: A Handbook"; Dr. Hugh Coolican, "Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology"; and Dr. James Goodwin, "Research in Psychology." Two books that have helped me a lot in my classes recently are Dr. Farrell and Dr. Lewandowsky's "Computational Modeling of Cognition and Behavior" and Dr. Smith and Dr. Kosslyn's "Cognitive Psychology: Mind and Brain."

    I must confess something; the thing that has helped me the most lately, especially during the pandemic, are the recommendations and papers that the members of the STP post and comment, both on Facebook and in the STP journal.

     

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

    This is a tough question. There are many things that I love. Two topics that I could say would be above the others would be ANOVA (during quantitative analysis course) and the subject of connectionist models of categorical learning (in the class of modeling cognitive processes). In the first topic, I love being able to carry out an exercise from scratch (i.e., statement of the problem) and carry out the whole process until finishing with the interpretation and adequate presentation of the results. It allows me to explore different data sources and use free and open software like JASP and jamovi, besides introducing a Bayesian approach. About connectionist models, I love to review the aspects of memory and some neurological disorders that could lead to certain conditions. It is also where we strongly introduce Python as our programming tool to evaluate prototype and sample models.

     

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    As I mentioned in the previous question, I love the theme of ANOVA and connectionist models. In ANOVA, I like to show students the research process from scratch; we establish a research question and "live" we do the whole process. To acquire the data, I show them how we simulate some data (particularly during the pandemic) or download some data from legal and official pages. We carry out the respective analysis, and they report their results and their interpretations to me. We take great care in the aspect of effect sizes and other methodological considerations. As for the connectionist models, I like hands-on activities in the code and modifying it to find the parameter space.

    It motivates me a lot when I see their code manipulation results and their work in Python.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    With the pandemic, I have had to adapt some things that usually worked for me in person, but something that has been very efficient for me is working the problems directly in the session with situations applied to reality and using real and free databases. The students get motivated knowing that they can apply their knowledge to the real world. Another crucial thing that I incorporated this semester was having an international online seminar. I am in charge of a research group of undergraduate students called Neuro-COGNiMATH LAB. These seminars serve as a perfect complement to the topics of different courses.

    The seminars are given mainly by female researchers from all around the world. The students become more closely involved in the research process and interact with the researchers.

    I have been using various platforms to record asynchronous sessions. I upload these recordings for the students that cannot connect to the synchronous session.

    I want to share the links to the places where we publish these talks; hopefully, these could be useful for you.

    Facebook page (@CogniMath) (https://www.facebook.com/CogniMath/)  

    YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-i2MNSTK8nOO5ye69oInpA)

     

    What’s your workspace like? 

    Before the pandemic, my office only had a blackboard and my desk. Of course, I had my bicycle parked there; that before some health problems, it served as my transportation. Usually have some things from my daughters; on several occasions, they accompany me to my classes.

    With the pandemic, my desk has my computer and a second monitor to teach my classes; one side my drawing tablet to draw and annotate on the slides or screen.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Motivated, engaging, honest, empathetic (sorry for writing four)

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Love learn, enjoy, share knowledge and help others

     

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

    This question reminds me of some hard memories. But I will focus on two difficult moments. On one occasion, I was in my 7 AM thesis seminar class, and I had my daughter with me when suddenly, I started to have severe pain in my right side and was on the point of fainting. As I could, I suspended the class and arrived at the clinic. I couldn't have my daughter with me, and one of my students supported me at that time to take care of her. Later, in the next class, we continue with the presentations that were pending. The other occasion was the year we had an overwhelming earthquake. Unfortunately, we lost the building that housed us for so many years, so we had to move to another campus in the university to continue with the activities about three weeks later; We had to restructure many aspects of the courses, but we were able to get ahead.

     

    What about teaching do you find most enjoyable?

    I think; no, that's not the word; I am sure it is when my students tell me that they are grateful and happy for everything they learned. It satisfies me a lot to see them happy and abundant with what they have done in the course. Even greater, when the years or courses have passed, and they write to me to tell me that what I taught them has served them a lot on their path, or they turn to me for guidance or advice for their dissertations. It makes me extremely happy to see them filled with success.

     

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

    At the end of each session, I take a moment to reflect on the errors or omissions that I may have made during class; also, every day, I spend time looking for new and better tools and resources to share in my courses.

    And while I enjoy online classes because of the opportunities it presents, I miss my students so much and being able to be with them in the classroom.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    With the pandemic, it is complicated to have time to read something independently, but I like to read some stories with my daughter; however, most of the "free" time, we draw together and work on her literacy process. I am reading about EEG aspects and Dr. Richard A. Chechile's latest book on Bayesian statistics for experimental scientists. But I would love to read a novel. But above all, to continue writing a book about my life, which I left pending before the pandemic.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I could say that I wouldn't miss any technology, but I would be lying. I think it would be my cell phone. Not only for communication but a lot of the work I do, I do it from there (presentations, Python code, data analysis, announcements, etc.)

     

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

    The pandemic has reduced the talks a bit, but usually, with my colleagues, I like talking about projects, improvements, proposals, and I like that we share experiences of our trajectories. Once a dear friend, who is now in her postdoc in Poland (I think), told me that "I always had something to talk about and share," so I really enjoy talking.

     

    Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes)  

    The negative side is not being able to be in the classroom with my students. It is one of my favorite places because I love teaching. On the other hand, for me, it has brought many positive things. I have been able to organize myself better, I have learned many tools and the handling of many platforms and databases. One of the most important things was to establish the seminar I was commenting on; it has allowed us to get closer to the world; at a time when we are separated. It has been fundamental to establish ties for the formation of my students. And the pandemic has allowed me to explore different course goals that are better achieved with online classes.

  • 01 Apr 2021 9:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Middlesex College (formerly known as Middlesex County College)

    Type of school: Community College

    School locale (including state and country): Edison, NJ (USA)

    How many years have you taught psychology? I’ve been teaching Psychology courses since 2009 when I was in graduate school, so over 10 years.

    Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Social Psychology, and Lifespan Development.

    Specialization (if applicable): e.g. clinical, cognitive, teaching, etc. Research Methods and Health Psychology

    Average class size: 30 students

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Every class and every semester of teaching is different. If something doesn’t go right one time, don’t change it immediately.   

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? “What the Best College Teachers Do” by Ken Bain. I read it in graduate school and it totally changed my way of thinking about teaching.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. My favorite lecture topic is when I teach my Research Methods students about experimental designs and the difference between an IV and DV. I give them this example about stress and memory and lecture about the terms. Then we do a demonstration where I give them a list of words with some instructions on what to do with those words. Turns out, it’s a memory test! The students are shocked that I ask them to recall the list even though I talked about memory not 5 minutes before. It’s a lot of fun and they learn a lot about the terms that way.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  My service-learning Lifespan Development students had the opportunity to spend some time at a Veteran’s Home and interact with the residents living there. We developed a project revolving around age and gratitude (this just happened to coincide with Thanksgiving). We interviewed the residents and asked what they were most thankful for and recorded their responses on fake tree leaves. Then, we had the idea to do the same thing with the College community. We set up a Thankfulness Tree and asked students, faculty, and staff to write on the leaves. Then we analyzed the results comparing the differences in responses. It was a great combination of searching the literature, collecting data, and analyzing the results. Students had so much fun doing it, they didn’t even realize they were doing research!

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I have a very interactive classroom and I like to move around a lot. I definitely believe in rotating the types of activities we’ll do in class. Sometimes we’ll watch a video and discuss it, or sometimes we’ll divide up a larger group assignment, sometimes it’s think-pair-share, and sometimes it’s a recall activity where they share what they learned with someone else. I try to change things up to keep students guessing.

    What’s your workspace like? Depends on what point it is in the semester, but my workspace reflects me. I’m fun and funky. I love the Beatles and Yoda, and that is immediately apparent. I also strive to create a more approachable workspace where my students and I will meet at a table in my office instead of a desk. It also gives us more room to stretch out in the space. 

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Relaxed, inquisitive, and relevant.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Enthusiastic commitment to teaching and learning.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. In my Research Methods class, I did a factorial design demonstration using different flavored jellybeans. They were both red, but one was cherry flavored, and one was hot sauce flavored. Apparently, the hot sauce flavor was REALLY HOT, and students started spitting it out! The students who received cherry were so confused. Needless to say, I’ve changed flavors since then.

    What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? When students understand the point of why they are learning a particular topic. I never create an assignment or teach on a topic “just because”. I’m always trying to get them to see the bigger picture. When they figure it out on their own, it makes me incredibly proud.  

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I used to do musical theater in high school and have a pretty decent singing voice. At home, I’m normally always singing with my kids. 

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I have a book club with my best friends from high school! We are currently reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My clicker. I’m never near my computer because I’m always walking around the classroom.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? My favorite colleagues and I are always hanging out in each other’s’ classrooms before classes start. It allows students to know other professors and to see that we all like each other. Our hallway chatter is sometimes productive. One time we had this wild idea of holding a panel about the Salem Witch Trials from a biological, psychological, and historical perspective. We wound up actually presenting it to students and had them VOTE on what may have caused the trials (all in fun, of course)! Psychology won! That’s why you’ll see one of my photos with me and my witch hat.

    Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes) I don’t think my teaching has changed much, just how it’s delivered has varied. What I do value is that I am still able to maintain close relationships with my students, and I feel like I still get to know them like I would face-to-face. I do, however, miss my colleagues. We often do virtual game nights, but it isn’t the same as randomly running into them in the hall and having a quick chat.

  • 03 Mar 2021 9:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Springfield College

    Type of school: Small Private College 

    School locale (including state and country):  Springfield, Massachusetts

    How many years have you taught psychology? 29

    Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, History of Psychology, Cognition, Psychology of Language, Statistics, Research Methods

    Specialization (if applicable): Cognitive psychology (teaching of psychology)

    Average class size: 25

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? No matter what you do, don’t mess up the students!

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

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  I love teaching history of psychology. It helps students really contextualize the discipline and provides a glimpse into how thinking about human behavior has evolved over time.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  I do an activity on dichotic listening to show students how challenging it is to multitask. I have two students read different messages to the class (both drawn from the amazing book by Cialdini on Influence). I divide the class into thirds. 1/3 listens to one person, 1/3 listens to the other and 1/3 listens to both. I then ask for recall. We find that highly salient things are heard by all, but details are lost for things you are ignoring. Very powerful demonstration.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I use a great deal of active learning techniques to help engage students, and then I use topic-based discussion. And, in that, I engage in both meta teaching (talking to students about why we are doing whatever it is we are doing in class) and I help students consider meta cognition. We constantly situate what we are learning in a larger context so students can see relevance either for their discipline, their own lives, or whatever the situation lends itself to.

    What’s your workspace like?  I have a standing desk in my office. And, when at home and on zoom, I stand on my skateboard so I can keep moving while teaching. I like to move around a lot, and so when I’m in the classroom, I like being able to circulate around and work with small groups, etc.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Energetic, enthusiastic, conversational

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Provide students with the optimal learning environment.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. Oh, there are so many! I guess one of the worst was when I was being observed by a colleague and I was moving around the room, and I fell over the projector cord, backwards. I never missed a beat, and kept talking, but the students had a hard time not laughing!

    What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? The students. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I enjoy my students so very much, and have learned so much about the world from them. If you take the time to get to know a bit about them, you find out amazing things about their experiences and it helps one grow as an educator.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? There’s not much I don’t talk about in class! They might be surprised to know that I didn’t talk in class at all when I was a first or second year student. They would be surprised because I don’t let them get away with that!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? Company Man by Joseph Finder. It’s a murder/mystery book. Really easy, fun reading. I’m also listening to a Bill Bryson non fiction book about language, Made in America.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My smartphone. I do SO MUCH with it.

    Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes)  Hallway chatter is about pedagogy. I currently run a teaching center, so we often talk about teaching and learning. We also talk about issues with COVID and how we can navigate it. I think that one of the changes is going to be, at least in higher ed, a bigger reliance on technology for faculty who were perhaps a bit shy about it before. I know for me, and I’ve never been shy about technology, I will rely more heavily on my Learning Management System to communicate with students.

  • 03 Feb 2021 10:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name:

    University of California, Riverside

    Type of school:

    4-year public university, Hispanic Serving Institution

    School locale:

    Riverside, California

    Classes you teach:

    Before coming to UC Riverside, my teaching focused on Statistics, Research Methods, and Cognitive Psychology. Currently, I’m teaching a class on Social Identities in Development and R programming. I’m excited to teach Cognitive Development, Statistics, and Social Psychology in the near future!

    Average class size:

    I started out teaching smaller classes (~30). Currently, my average class size is 60, but will be teaching larger classes (100-150 students!) later this year.  

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

    I think my favorite piece of advice is “the first time you teach a class, you should aim to get through it. You will improve and perfect it the second and third time.” This particular piece of advice helped me recognize that classes don’t have to be perfect, and they can change. It has encouraged me to try new activities in my classes, reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and ask for feedback from students on their experiences in the class.     

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

    I really like Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan. Dr. Frank Golom at Loyola University let me borrow his copy when I started teaching Research Methods. The book contains statistical explanations with a conversational tone. What really resonated with me was how the examples related to everyday topics (dating, LeBron James, and baseball). It reminds me that, while statistics tends to be anxiety provoking for students and can be regarded as “the class to avoid at all costs,” there are SO many ways to make it more approachable. For instance, I ask students to tell me their favorite TV shows and movies and structure examples around video clips. “The Office,” “New Girl,” and “Black-ish” have currently been class favorites and I have used them to demonstrate everything from research designs to ethical considerations and statistical concepts.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Believe it or not, my favorite classes to teach are research methods and statistics. I like that students learn a little bit about different subdisciplines of psychology and can see how statistics are important for understanding how we think, behave, and feel. I also think they’re really important topics for students to understand because they hear about research all of the time. The news, Buzzfeed, Twitter, and even Instagram, have posts that contain statistics, and may even mislead with statistics. My goal is for students in my classes to critically consume this information and be able to talk about it.

    It’s a lot of fun to see students apply what they learn in research methods to these topics. For instance, I like using the example of cell phone horns in class. I ask students to read a Buzzfeed article about research investigating how “horns” develop on people’s skulls from looking at their phones too much. Then, I start off class by claiming that we all should never use our phones again and ask students to change my mind. They come up with answers pretty quickly- like investigating who funded the study, differences between correlation and causation, and questioning methods. My hope is students then take the same energy (and questions) to thinking through psychological research and other findings from the news. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    One assignment I really like is asking groups of students to “teach” a statistical concept to someone who hasn’t taken our class. Some of the students are really creative! Some use TV and Movie examples we haven’t used in class, a there have been a few interactive videos, and one group even wrote a song! The “lessons” have been used to study for finals and students seem to really enjoy it.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    When I taught in person, I found that group quizzes worked really well for my research methods class. It allowed me to check student understanding both by examining the quiz grades, but also listening to the conversations students had in class. Students really worked well together, and I think their discussions helped students understand the material. For instance, most quizzes had a question about choosing the correct analysis. Because students worked in groups, they needed to justify to each other what they thought was the best approach before answering the questions. It often led to class discussions about how multiple analyses could be used, and the conditions that made one choice better than another.   

    What’s your workspace like?  It’s a little more organized this quarter because I’m working from home and students are completing assignments virtually! My desk is usually pretty cluttered, and there’s a big window that let’s in some sun (which I love – except when I’m teaching!).

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Approachable, inclusive, active 

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Real world applications, approachable material, and student involvement

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

    Woof. I tried to use a class example to teach sampling distribution of the mean. I had them all write down a number from one to ten (to represent our population). Then, I gave students 30 seconds to get into groups of five (to represent sampling) and write the mean of their numbers on the board. We did a few rounds to represent that the distributions were made from every possible mean for a group of 5. Everything seemed to be going well, but then we got to the point where we needed to graph the means. I pulled up a list of means that would be graphed to highlight the complete list, and I found almost all of my students had a “deer in the headlights” look. I thought it would make more sense as we started to make a graph, but students stopped answering my questions. At this point, I was afraid that students would be terrified of any statistics that came later in the quarter.

    Rather than continue the activity, I stopped and asked students to put their heads down and tell me how they were feeling (thumbs up: doing great- thumbs down: feeling lost beyond repair). After viewing a sea of thumbs down, we all discussed why students felt lost. We ended up having a good discussion about sampling strategies and how we can estimate all possible means (e.g. we can’t actually take every possible sample to find the means when we’re talking about people).

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

    I think my students would be surprised to hear that, while I am very excited about statistics now, I dreaded taking my first statistics course and didn't really come to embrace stats until graduate school.   

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Lately, I have been on a female comedian autobiography kick. Currently, I am reading Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My computer and internet have been really important for teaching and for staying connected to others during quarantine. I have found myself using google docs a lot in my teaching because it lets students work together in small groups and share notes easily.

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

    I think my hallway chatter covers a broad range. In person, I think I was equally likely to end up talking about statistics as I was to talk about family, friends, and what we did over the weekend.

  • 04 Jan 2021 10:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Name: Bill Altman

    School name: SUNY Broome Community College

    Type of school: Community College

    School locale: Binghamton, NY

    Classes you teach: General Psychology, Human Development, Adolescent Development, Educational Psychology, Social Psychology

    Average class size: 20-32 (depending on whether the class has a writing emphasis)

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? The best advice I’ve ever gotten about teaching (or anything else), was actually more general advice, geared to life as a thinking person. Professor Alexander Riasanovsky, my undergraduate advisor and the professor of my Russian History and Byzantine History classes impressed on me, and on all of his students, the need to learn about everything. He pretty much meant that as it sounded. Everything. And that our task as people, and especially as scholars (and I take it as a teacher) is to somehow figure out how all of that information fits together into a single, intelligible whole. All of the arts, sciences, humanities, and all of the other human and non-human endeavors in the world are connected, and all of them are meaningful. The joy, and the challenge, is to make sense of it. As a teacher, I try to bring some of the enthusiasm for this approach to the world that I got from Dr. Riasanovsky to my own students.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Actually, there are too many to name. But a few of the most important to me as a teacher would include works that are generally not thought of as part of the “teaching” canon:

    • His Master’s Voice by Stanislaw Lem
      This novel chronicles the failure of scientists to decode what seems to be a message from outer space. It illustrates how our preconceptions as researchers give us blinders, preventing us from asking meaningful questions and from truly understanding not only what we research, but even one another across even closely-allied fields of study. Like much of Lem’s work, it delves into the psychology of people in different, often problematic situations, and how difficult it is to communicate and understand one another.
    • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
      This is a well-structured, philosophical look at how science advances through the changing of paradigms, based on the ongoing failures of our existing ways of thinking about our realities.
    • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
      Hoff’s book is a pretty good explanation of Taoist thought for the lay reader, which provides some excellent perspectives that aren’t often taken in our sometimes high-stress “scientific” approach to discovery and understanding.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I love teaching general psychology. I think it’s the most fun course in our entire curriculum. It allows us to explore nearly every part of the science of psychology, and learn through experiments, demonstrations, and other hands-on exercises. As an educational psychologist, I like to stress the practical applications of the things we learn, as well as how my students can learn better while having more fun and doing less of what they think of as work. So, we don’t only talk about the theories, history, or methods of psychology, we look at how psychology can help in many different aspects of life beyond the classroom.

    One of the most important topics in the course (in all of my courses, actually) is the need to embrace failure as the route to learning, so the course is designed to allow students to fail a certain amount, recover, and do well. It’s sometimes a shock for them at first. But when they realize that each failure is actually helping them to learn, and that their grades not only don’t suffer, but actually are better than they expected, they really start to accept and value the idea.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. The culminating activity in my introductory psychology class is one of my favorites. It actually runs through the entire semester. We design our own cult. It helps students to use the information they’ve learned about brain development, nutrition, perception, attention, sleep, cognition, memory, identity, social pressure, and many other topics as they decide whom to target, how to convince them to join, and how to take control. It also serves as an organizing strategy throughout the course, piquing students’ interest about each topic and how it will be used in the final analysis. 

    On the last day of lecture, we begin the exercise by saying that we’re obviously not going to call ourselves a cult.  We’ll be an educational foundation (registering with the IRS as a 501(c)(3)-type organization, so we can take donations and remain totally legal and open), founded on Maslow’s principles of helping people to achieve self-actualization, and addressing each individual’s full range of needs.  Next, we discuss ways and places in which to recruit adherents, the design (including security aspects) of our compound, the activities and amenities we’ll provide (including free gaming laptops and smartphones with unlimited Wi-Fi, data, and talk/text–not to worry, our members won’t be spending a lot of time talking with the outside world in ways that could cause problems for us–we talk about that, as well), how we’ll gain control over our members’ thoughts and attitudes, and train them to go out into the world and send us their money and their children (when they have them). And when they’re out in the world, our members will also help with recruiting, as well as hiring other members into their organizations.

    At the end of the process, most students are surprised to find that we’ve actually designed a university (in fact, a particular one, that shall remain nameless here). Students who’ve served in the military also begin to see parallels to their training and years in service. This kicks off a very spirited discussion of how schools and other social institutions work, and helps students to exercise a great deal more critical thinking about their surroundings. Some former students have come up to me years later to talk about this exercise and how it helped them in particular situations.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? A combination of activities and banter.  Learning needs to be fun.  Demonstrations that involve the class, rather than lecturing, are more fun and seem to be more productive.  The other stuff lives on the LMS. 

    One example is a texting-while-driving activity. I set up a simple driving simulator, and a student volunteer (who claims to be a good driver) is then hooked up to our EEG unit by other students. Some monitor the EEG during the demonstration. Others watch for errors in driving, accidents, and other problems. The driver is then allowed to drive for a while with no distractions (other than the wires on their head, and the other people watching them, of course). After a few minutes, another student begins texting to the driver during while they’re driving. EEG and driving behavior monitoring continue. We may also test talking on the cell phone while driving, or driving while singing along with the radio. Students love the exercise, and are amazed at the differences in brain activity and driving errors. And sometimes there are some interesting outcomes. I’ve now had one student back up a telephone pole (twice on her run), and two other students hit parked fire engines at high speed (so at least the first-responders who weren’t killed were on scene to help everyone else). There was also one student who actually managed to get arrested in the simulation.

    What’s your workspace like? Arthur C. Clarke once described working with Stanley Kubrick by saying that, “Stanley uses a tame Black Hole as a filing system.” My workspace looks like the inside of that Black Hole. But I do clean and organize it at least once a year, whether I think it requires it or not (generally I think it’s fine). I’ve long been convinced that any horizontal surface above the floor must be subdued by an appropriate amount of papers, books, technical equipment, coffee, snacks, and other paraphernalia. And I’m beginning to look at those floors with some suspicion, as well.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. I hate limits. Let’s go with 4:  

    • Eclectic
    • Improvisational
    • Transparent
    • Fun

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Educators should inspire, challenge, and support students.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. There have been too many to count.  Let’s just skip this one.  I’m sure my students will be too happy to relate any number of these.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I’m pretty transparent, so I don’t think there’s much that would surprise them. They hear about various past jobs, being a houseparent (house mother, actually) for an engineering fraternity, doing standup, acting, doing theater tech and directing, spending a decade on talk radio, and too many run-ins with various forms of authority. There’s not much that doesn’t make it into our discussions when it might be useful in making a particular point.

    The only thing that seems to surprise them is if they see me away from school, perhaps at the grocery store or the farmers market. Sometimes the shocked expressions have been priceless.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I just finished Lawrence M. Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.  It’s a fascinating book, and it made me begin to think that there may be some small hope of my getting a tiny glimmer of understanding quantum physics. 

    I’m currently reading a collection of essays by Bertrand Russell, and wandering through several science-fiction novels and collections of short stories.

    What tech tool could you not live without? I don’t think there’s anything that dramatic about my tools. The ones I find most useful are WordPerfect, Quattro, Firefox, Thunderbird, Dropbox, and my phone. But I’m often most happy going back to a pencil and pad to do most of my work. Though many of my students are convinced (because they’ve seen me doing it at times) that I use a slide-rule to work up their grades (just for fun–I actually keep everything in Quattro) for their reactions.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? It’s pretty eclectic. Most of the colleagues to whom I’m closest are in my college’s History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences Department. So, with a group made up of historians, a sociologist, an anthropologist, a specialist in the humanities (concentrating in comparative literature), a couple of economists and philosophers, and various people from our technical support areas, our conversations can cover a really broad range of topics. And that’s not even taking our various hobbies and outside interests into account!

     

  • 02 Dec 2020 10:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

    Type of school: 4 year university with master’s and doctoral programs

    School locale: (Fabulous) Las Vegas, NV

    Classes you teach: My main focus in recent years has been Introduction to the Psychology Major, but I also teach some graduate courses such as Cognitive Methods.

    Average class size:  Some semesters I teach 150-300 students in the Intro to the Psychology Major course; the grad course tends to be closer to 6-10 students.

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? To remember what it was like to be a student! I like to think about what they are actually going to take away from the course and try to avoid making my classes feel like busywork where all that they care about is their grade. 

    A second piece of advice is to focus on what students will retain and take away from the course a year later. So, instead of focusing so much on the short-term memorization of details, I try to emphasize skill development, knowledge that they can apply to their lives, and the reinforcement of key ideas.  

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? This is probably a common one, but Bain’s “What the Best College Teachers Do” has been important to me. I utilized so many ideas such as creating courses where students are challenged to think and apply ideas to their lives. I also like the idea of letting students feel comfortable with the idea that failure can be okay -- trying, failing, and learning from it is much better than not trying at all. 

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teachI love teaching the Intro to the Psychology Major course because of the impact that it has on my students. For someone not familiar with this course, it is different from general psychology in that it focuses on what students can get out of and do with a psychology major.

    Every semester students tell me how important this course was for helping them think through their future path and what experiences can help them prepare for that future. I love hearing from students who tell me about landing an internship, getting involved with research, developing leadership skills as a Psi Chi officer, or being accepted into graduate school after they applied what they learned from the course. 

    I cover topics such as skill development, building relationships with professors and students, getting relevant experience (e.g., research, volunteer work, internships), career paths, preparing for careers, and graduate school possibilities. I think this class can be so impactful for students that I try to help other faculty develop courses like this for their institution.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. In the Superstar CV assignment, I teach students how to create a CV -- but because many of the students are early in their college careers, they do not have many accomplishments to list. Because of that, I designed this activity to be a learning and goal-setting exercise. Students set goals for achievements and experiences that they learn about in my course and to focus on those that can help them to follow their desired path.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? Students consistently tell me that my enthusiasm for the topics seems authentic and that it helps to pull them in and get more engaged with the course. I also try to use techniques that cognitive psychology research has shown to improve memory such as distributed practice and practice testing.  

    What’s your workspace like? I try to mix it up -- I typically work on campus in my office or my lab, but sometimes I will work at home or take my computer to a coffee shop when I want to get away to write.

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

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Make a positive impact on their future! 

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. When I first started teaching the Intro to the Psych Major course, I did not think through an assignment where I asked them to create their own CV. Most of my students were just starting college and had not yet built up a list of accomplishments.

    I realized my lack of foresight when I was inundated with emails from flustered students who were anxious about not having much to list on their CV. I reassured students that this was okay and I encouraged them to include accomplishments that they wanted to achieve before graduation. This turned out great in the end because it helped me to convert this assignment into the Superstar CV activity that I use today!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? When I started college, I floated around a few different paths before I landed in psychology. Part of the problem was that I did not have a clear plan for the future because I did not know that I should be spending a lot of time thinking about it. 

    I stumbled into a good career path, but I want to help students to be better prepared than I was back in college. I want them to think about future possibilities and to know about resources and experiences that can help them. Because I wish that I had that type of help when I started college, I built and teach the Introduction to the Psychology Major course that helps students prepare for their future. 

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I am enjoying the “Compound Effect” as it focuses on the benefits of taking action and making continual progress toward your goals. The ideas can be applied to different aspects of life and it is also a good idea that I can share with my students. For example, taking consistent action throughout one’s college career can help students to build up a strong resume or CV.

    What tech tool could you not live without? This is probably a tie between my phone and Chromebook. My phone goes everywhere, but it is not always practical for activities like work. The Chromebook is light, effective, and starts up much more quickly than my old windows-based laptops.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Conversations can cover a variety of topics, such as chatting about weekend activities, dreading an upcoming meeting, or congratulating each other for a recent accomplishment.


  • 05 Nov 2020 10:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Albion College

    Type of school: 4-year Baccalaureate

    School locale: Albion, MI (about 50 miles west of Ann Arbor and 175 miles east of Chicago)

    Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Senior Seminar, Public Policy in Film (which is a first-year seminar), Black Swans (a College-wide honor’s seminar that discusses the effects of seemingly rare historical events)

    Average class size: 35 for Intro Psychology; 16-24 in Methods and Stats; 24 in I/O Psychology; 15 in Senior Sem, First-year sem, and Black Swans 

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  I am not sure where I heard it or who told it to me, probably it was over breakfast at NIToP, someone told me that if you think you’re going too slowly through the material, you probably need to slow down. No, that didn’t make sense to me either, but students never quite “get it” the way you think they do or the way they appear to get it. Keep close tabs on what and *how* they are understanding….it is amazing the feedback you get on the one-minute end-of-class “tell me what you learned in class” index card routine. Grading tests provides numerous insights into how students don’t understand something, allowing me to adjust (hopefully by improving) my teaching of that information with future students. Heck, a quick two-or three-question end-of-class formative quiz can be quite enlightening, too. It’s not what students don’t know that’s the problem; it’s what they think they know that just ain’t so (to paraphrase Mark Twain, I think it was but am not sure). 

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Is Bill McKeachie’s Teaching Tips too obvious? I’ll offer something different…it’s a journal that shaped my work as a teacher – Teaching of Psychology. Yeah, really surprising, I know. I discovered this outlet when I was a graduate student at the University of Florida, working with Rich Griggs. He knew I was interested in teaching, and he said that if I was interesting in teaching well, this is a source I needed to read, cover-to-cover (indeed, Rich always emphasized that doing something and doing something well were far from synonymous, something I try to keep in mind to this day). I loved the ideas that journal offered me as a relatively new teacher, and I learned at an early age that it was critical to see if what I did in class actually had an effect, ideally a positive effect, on students. There were a few articles back in the day that really made an impression on me and helped me form what I think was a strong foundation for me career. First, Dana Dunn and Stacey Zaremba’s (1997) paper, Thriving at Liberal Arts College: The More Compleat Academic is a classic in my mind. It gave me the script, while I was in graduate school, of what to expect and, as is obvious from the title, succeed in such a role. I was a student in such an environment, so it was tempting for me to think I knew more about being a faculty member at such a school than was really the case. Even now, whenever I talk with graduate students or relatively new faculty at these sorts of schools, I am quick to refer them to this paper. In addition, Thomas Plante’s (1998) paper, A Laboratory Group Model for Engaging Undergraduates in Faculty Research was another one that helped me realize not only that faculty at schools focused on undergraduate education could still be active in research, but provided me with ideas for how to do so. Its value to me lied in its simplicity; it was a great piece to read right before starting as a faculty member at similar type of school as Plante described in that paper. I followed his lead early in my career, made adjustments as needed, and I am still here, so something must have went right.

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

    I love teaching Intro and the methods and statistics courses in psychology, and my first-year and honors seminars. Not that I don’t enjoy teaching content-area courses, but the reality is, it’s really less challenging teaching content area material than it is to teach broader classes (assuming, of course, you are trained in that content area, which is certainly not always the case). Especially in methods and statistics, students are expecting the worst, so in a sense, teaching those classes is like taking over as manager for a baseball team that finished in last place the previous year -- there is nowhere to go but up. These two classes in particular have challenged me to make information accessible and relatable to students. Some students appreciate the theory and number-crunching, but even those students need to understand how to use this information. Even the most mundane of circumstances can be used to teach complicated material. For instance, one day when I was doing yard work, I scrapped up my elbow. It was a fairly noticeable scrape, one that I could not really hide from others, but it did not impair my movement or hurt. Now, much like statistical effect sizes can be classified as trivial, weak, moderate, or strong, so too can elbow scrapes. Indeed, my injury was a great prelude to discussing Cohen’s d. Who knew my elbow could be a tool to teach a statistical concept? Likewise, the concept of a statistical interaction is one that takes a while for students to really “get” the first time they encounter it. However, it is a concept I find students do understand, albeit not statistically, before they ever encounter it in these classes. Specifically, for students who have ever baked or cooked a dish, they have experienced an interaction. Combining things to make a dish or baked treat requires using different ingredients (factors) in different amounts (levels) to make the outcome delicious. My general point…look for instances of what you teach in circumstances to which almost any person could relate. If it can be done in statistics, it can be done for any other course we teach!

    By the way, the class was torn whether my elbow scrape was a weak or moderate scrape, which gave me the chance to talk about the somewhat arbitrary nature of how “cutoffs” are established in statistics for use in the “real world.”

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    There are two ways to answer this question, so I’ll give two responses. First, with respect to enjoyment, I like introducing interactions to my statistics class by making chocolate chip cookies in class. Admittedly, the data are mixed on how well students learn from this activity, I think because they are so bewildered to see their teacher making cookies in class. Regardless, it gets their attention and gives me a chance to dive into the topic from a statistical perspective with them relatively engaged at that point. I must admit, I cannot bake the cookies in class (really, our classrooms don’t have ovens), so it is wasteful in that regard. Also, students expect to receive real homemade cookies, which I inevitably bring them in the next class period, which is not hard to do with my relatively small class sizes, admittedly.

    Second, with respect to teaching what students find difficult, I love my end-of-class cumulative assignment in research methods and statistics. I love it because it is relatively straightforward, and it also puts students in a semi-real-world situation. Specifically, I give them situations in which statistics can be used to answer a “real-world” problem. For example, a local restaurant is test-marketing four new dipping sauces for their breadsticks. Students are asked to describe a research design the restaurant can use to learn what sauce(s) their customers prefer, then describe the appropriate statistical analysis to use, given the design they described. There are no calculations or analyses to conduct and interpret; students have handouts upon handouts from throughout the course for those details. Rather, this assignment requires purely conceptual understanding of design and analyses. If they don’t understand these considerations, the details of conducting analyses are worthless.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Whatever works best for my students works best for me. In general, that means, as I’ve mentioned previously, the more I can get their attention with something they can relate to, before delving into theory or other relatively complex material, the better. I don’t like to introduce classical conditioning with definitions of UCS, CS, UCR, and CR or the work of Pavlov or Twitmyer. Rather, I’d prefer to bring up LeBron James or Shaquille O’Neal (yes, my students know who Shaq is) and the products they endorse. We can talk about why those companies have these celebrities endorsing their products, which can open the door to UCS, CS, UCR, and CR and other nitty-gritty classical conditioning concepts. In essence, I am going fishing when I teach; I bait the hook with something that students can talk about in a nonacademic sense (I hope), then reel them in with the actual content when they are hooked (hence my making cookies in class, too). I suppose I am making use of foot-in-the-door, too…get them to start talking and discussing with relatable information, then they will continue to do so with the technical information.

    What’s your workspace like?  Have you ever seen the late 1980s movie “Wall Street” or seen the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during that time? That’s pretty much my office at school and my office at home. Organized chaos is a good way to describe it. I think it motivates me to literally see the work I need to do; I worry as we all rely on technology more and more, I’ll forget to do things because they are stored electronically, where I cannot readily see them. It’s already starting to happen, I fear.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Flexibly-organized, skill-focused, proactive (these are only three words because the first two are both hyphenated, just sayin’). 

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Assume nothing

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

    This was the hardest question to answer because there were so many to choose from. Then again, a certain amount of teacher embarrassment can endear a teacher to their students, so when it happens, I really don’t take close note of it. We all have demonstrations and activities that don’t work as we hoped, so that really isn’t something I fret about. When that happens, I just try to figure out how to make it work better next time, and oftentimes asking some of my better students help in this regard. However, one day in particular does come to mind. My very first class, ever, as a grad assistant at the University of Florida, I was of course scheduled in a room about as far across campus from my office as one can get. As I am walking across campus, I feel a tap on my left shoulder, so I turn look over that shoulder. I saw no one, just figured I was imagining things. I was extremely nervous, being the first class session I ever taught of my “own” class, so I just figured it was those nerves. But a couple of seconds later, I realized there was something on my left shoulder…when I looked again, I saw that a bird had made a deposit that landed on my shirt’s left shoulder. What a great way to start a new semester. Because I had such a long walk, I left my office super early, so I was in the building in which I was teaching well ahead of time. I was able to get to the bathroom and clean off the bird’s deposit (and dry off, as walking across campus in central Florida in late August, coupled with the nerves of Day 1, I was sweating something fierce). Alas, my first day of teaching was not over! Wanting to come off as “tough”, I started that first lecture after doing introductions and overviewing the syllabus. This was the pPP era (pre PowerPoint), so we had an overhead projector and “slides” that we could write on. I had my trusty pen, and got a little over-enthused, as I took it to the screen. Just as I started to write on the screen, I caught myself, quickly tried to make it look to the class like I was gesturing. I don’t think they noticed; they were likely just as nervous as I was.

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

    They assume I majored in psychology, but in fact, I majored in finance and economics (with a minor in psychology). I always use this story with my first-years around registration time each fall, that your major matters less than the skills you build, the experiences you have to talk about in future interviews, and just doing well and showing the capacity to learn, which everyone (graduate schools and employers) is particularly concerned about. So, I guess my students would not be surprised to learn this about me because most already know it. Regardless, it allows them to realize that not getting into a particular class or not being able to decide on a specific major is not the end of the world….I did not choose my major til after I had my undergraduate degree, in some ways!

    What would surprise them, something I do not often reveal? Read on to the next question and my response!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I am reading two books, one titled “Sun, Sin, and Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas” and the other “The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream.” I went to Vegas for the first time a year after graduating from college for a bachelor’s party and fell in love with area. I mean, Vegas itself is a psychologist’s playground in so many ways….the gambling of course, but the shows are something special, and the area is so rich in history, something that I love to learn about, so that’s why I am reading these books. It is such a geographically beautiful area, too….I love the hiking out there; hiking through Death Valley was something I’ll never forget (just don’t do it the summertime). The thrill rides at the Stratosphere are not only fun (Insanity is my favorite), but offer a wonderful view of the city. I am contemplating teaching an honor’s seminar on Vegas and the surrounding area, though students will likely expect a trip in such a class, and I am not sure this is the destination I want to promote for student travel. Regardless, next summer (assuming it is safe to do so) I plan to go out there and eat myself into oblivion, so many unique places to eat both on the Strip and Downtown. I’ve already been looking at the menu for China Poblano and would love suggestions for other restaurants from those who’ve found a special place to eat out there!

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Email….that’s it (and frankly, some days my life would be better if I didn’t have that either). Maybe PowerPoint for some things, though as Charles Brewer once said, PowerPoint has lots of Power but minimal Point. Right now, I am making due with Zoom and Google Meet, and those certainly have their place, pandemic or not. However, I am saddened in this time where we all need technology for pretty much every facet of our teaching that we may think teaching is inherently enhanced the more technology is integrated into the class. Where’s the evidence we should be doing this? I am learning about a ton of tools I could use in my classes, but just because they are available doesn’t mean I should use them, even in these strange times. I do like discussion boards on my course web and plan to use those more post-pandemic, but it’s not because it’s cool or something I can add to my list of things I can say I use to impress my administration….it’s because in the spring, I noticed that some of my quieter students in-person would contribute more when they had this option. No idea if there is evidence that introverted and shy students participate more in discussion boards than in in-person classes, but so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s worth doing to help a segment of my students. At least at Albion, students want interpersonal connections, and I suspect that is the case with most undergraduate students. I worry technology is eroding these connections. I don’t see technology as a tool bringing people closer together; in fact, if I had to wager on it, I’d bet technology is being used more to drive people apart…and to a dangerous extent.

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

    Wow, all sorts of random things….sure, we talk about department issues, brainstorming ways to help specific students who are encountering specific issues (like needing to find transportation or and from an internship site), bouncing ideas off each other for class activities or other pedagogical considerations. My colleagues around campus like to make fun of me for being an SEC football fan. Given recent history, I am not sure they have much to talk about, especially my Big Ten-obsessed colleagues, to whom I’ve often said that if Vanderbilt played football in the Big Ten, they’d be in the national semi-finals every year. So, yes, we talk trash around here. Usually it provides a nice break from talking about details of committee work

    And finally... presenting Sybil and Hans!


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