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

E-xcellence in Teaching
Editor: Manisha Sawhney
Associate Editor: Annie S. Ditta

  • 05 Jul 2022 2:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jacquelyn Raftery-Helmer, Kathryn Frazier, Nicole Rosa, Colleen Sullivan (Worcester State University)

    The COVID-19 pandemic presented unrelenting challenges for faculty who, for the past two years, have worked tirelessly to help support their students in the context of their deteriorating academic performance, academic engagement and mental health (World Health Organization, 2020). As many institutions shifted to an online or remote learning format in the spring of 2020, a prominent challenge associated with that transition– and one that has persisted in the wake of prolonged remote learning, hybrid learning and the attempt to “return to normal” on many campuses– was the steep decline in students’ academic engagement and motivation (Gonzalez-Ramirez et al., 2021; Marler et al., 2021; Usher et al., 2021). While engagement and motivation have long been of interest to faculty (Reeve, 2012), the unprecedented external distractions and stressors presented by the pandemic have created new obstacles and challenges for both faculty and students.

    Four instructors at Worcester State University, Kathryn Frazier, Jacquelyn Raftery-Helmer, Nicole Rosa, and Colleen Sullivan, surveyed students during the height of the pandemic to better understand what faculty could do to help students stay intrinsically motivated and engaged, despite the ongoing challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created (Raftery-Helmer et al., 2020).

    The researchers focused on intrinsic motivation---engaging in academic work because it is fun, interesting, enjoyable, and provides inherent satisfaction—because intrinsic motivation is the most robust type of motivation in that it comes from within. Intrinsic motivation has been associated with a range of positive academic outcomes (Ryan & Deci, 2000). For instance, Azila-Gbettor and colleagues (2021) found that students who were intrinsically motivated had lower levels of anxiety, higher perceptions of competence, and greater engagement in learning compared to students not intrinsically motivated. On the other hand, students with low intrinsic motivation have shown less interest in exploration and learning and a decreased commitment to their coursework. The Worcester State researchers found that the single strongest predictor of intrinsic motivation in class was whether or not students felt competent. This is consistent with a plethora of research showing that during times of stress (Grolnick et al., 2018), facilitating competence (Grolnick et al., 2014) is important for helping people feel in control of outcomes when everything else feels out of control, which may have been particularly important during the pandemic when many reported feeling little control over outside forces (Misamer, et al, 2021).

    But how do instructors help students to feel competent in the classroom?

    Here are several specific strategies, informed by this work, that were found to help students feel a sense of control and competence during this unprecedented time.

    1. Set clear and consistent expectations

    When expectations in the classroom are clear and consistently implemented, students have a better understanding of how their behavior is connected to classroom outcomes. Instructors might consider including specific language in their syllabus and course materials regarding their expectations for student participation, late work, and academic honesty. It can also be really helpful to provide students with a detailed course schedule that includes all upcoming readings and assignments. Having very clear policies and deadlines articulated upfront allows students to plan their academic behavior accordingly.

    2. Provide predictable consequences when students don’t meet standards

    It is really important for students to have a very clear sense of how points are earned in a class and under what circumstances they will experience grade deductions. One way of doing this could be to provide thorough rubrics articulating how students can earn (or lose!) assignment points. These rubrics should be as detailed as possible so that there is no guesswork for students trying to figure out how their work will be evaluated.

    3. Provide continuous feedback

    Students benefit from ongoing feedback in their classes. One way of doing this is to create a number of “low-stakes” assignments. These assignments create opportunities for students to examine their own understanding of essential course concepts and receive immediate feedback, without penalizing students for mistakes or errors they may make as part of the learning process. It can also be really helpful for students to have iterative writing assignments with built-in opportunities for specific, constructive, and thoughtful feedback. For instance, one way to do this would be to provide students feedback about their paper topic, prior to conducting a thorough literature review, and then specific (line by line, if needed!) feedback about how students have synthesized the literature before a final draft is due.

    It may not be surprising to learn that many of the pedagogical techniques that worked so well to foster competence, and therefore intrinsic motivation, among students during a COVID-19 semester are those that tap into the principles of trauma-informed teaching. While trauma-informed pedagogy has traditionally been relevant for supporting students who enter college with a trauma history, psychologists and others have discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects as a sort of collective trauma, in reference to its toll on physical and emotional well-being. Trauma-informed pedagogies emphasize a number of principles, several of which mirror the goals of competence-supportive behaviors, including transparency, trustworthiness and empowerment (Harper & Neubauer, 2020).

    Interestingly, Drs. Frazier, Raftery-Helmer, Rosa, and Sullivan found a different pattern of results when looking at student’s intrinsic motivation for college more generally– that is, what led students to associate internal value and enjoyment with their experience of, and intention to persist at, their college. Whether students felt connected to others, specifically faculty and other students in their class, was the only predictor of their general college intrinsic motivation. This finding was particularly meaningful in that it suggests that relationship building in the classroom is not taking away from students’ learning but is an essential ingredient for fostering student’s high-quality motivation. To create more connection in the classroom, instructors may consider doing the following:

    1. Get to know your students

    One of the best ways to help students feel connected is to take a real interest in your students. There are lots of ways to do this but one helpful strategy is to ask students on the first day of class why they enrolled in the course and what they were hoping to learn so that you may be able to incorporate their interests into the class. Brief surveys can provide interesting insight into your students’ lives in and out of the classroom that may help you to form connections throughout the semester. This also helps to send the message early on in the semester that you are interested in who your students are as individuals and see them as more than a name on a roster.

    2. Make yourself available

    While many faculty are required to hold office hours, it can be really helpful to frame for students what these office hours are for and to find creative ways to encourage students to attend. For instance, some faculty have had great success after sending personal “invitations” to office hours. One way to do this might be to reach out to students that appear to be struggling on assignments and ask them whether they would like to review material and discuss what resources they might need to succeed. It can be helpful to hold “themed” office hours. For instance, some instructors have advertised bonus office hours aimed at providing students with additional information about graduate school or employment avenues. Any way that you can connect with students and communicate to them that you are a resource and that you value them will pay dividends for their motivation!

    3. Create opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction

    While connection to faculty is important, so is creating a climate in which students feel connected to and valued by their peers. It’s important for faculty to create space for students to talk about their ideas, share their work, and engage in learning alongside and with others. Classroom activities based in active learning present students with the opportunity to test and apply their understanding of course material while also developing relationships with their classmates. Peer review assignments, structured group work, and other collaborative learning opportunities would also serve this goal well.

    Despite the practical, emotional and physical challenges associated with pandemic learning, the shift to remote instruction, and the rippling consequences on students’ well-being, instructors’ behavior in the classroom remains a powerful catalyst for supporting student motivation. This work, and the pandemic, has highlighted the idea that faculty provide so much more than just content in our courses. Supporting instructors’ pedagogical development in a way that promotes competence support and relationship-building is one powerful way to enhance students’ experience and chance of success in the classroom, as well as their overall commitment to and value of their university.


    Azila-Gbettor, E. M., Mensah, C., Abiemo, M. K., & Bokor, M. (2021). Predicting student engagement from self-efficacy and autonomous motivation: A cross-sectional study. Cogent Education, 8(1), 1942638.

    Gonzalez-Ramirez, J., Mulqueen, K., Zealand, R., Silverstein, S., Reina, C., BuShell, S., & Ladda, S. (2021). Emergency online learning: College students’ perceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. College Student Journal, 55(1), 29–46.

    Grolnick, W. S., Raftery-Helmer, J. N., Marbell, K. N., Flamm, E. S., Cardemil, E. V., & Sanchez, M. (2014). Parental provision of structure: Implementation and correlates in three domains. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1982-), 60(3), 355-384.

    Grolnick, W. S., Schonfeld, D. J., Schreiber, M., Cohen, J., Cole, V., Jaycox, L., Lochman, J., Pfefferbaum, B., Ruggiero, K., Wells, K., Wong, M., & Zatzick, D. (2018). Improving adjustment and resilience in children following a disaster: Addressing research challenges. American Psychologist, 73(3), 215-229.

    Harper, G. W., & Neubauer, L. C. (2021). Teaching during a pandemic: A model for trauma-informed education and administration. Pedagogy in health promotion, 7(1), 14-24.

    Marler, E. K., Bruce, M. J., Abaoud, A., Henrichsen, C., Suksatan, W., Homvisetvongsa, S., & Matsuo, H. (2021). The impact of covid-19 on university students’ academic motivation, social connection, and psychological well-being. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

    Misamer, M., Signerski-Krieger, J., Bartels, C., & Belz, M. (2021). Internal locus of control and sense of coherence decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey of students and professionals in social work. Frontiers in Sociology, 174. 1-10.

    Raftery-Helmer, J. N., Sullivan, C., Frazier, K., & Rosa, N. (2020, October). Online course motivation and engagement: Understanding semester changes. Paper presented at the Teaching in Psychology Annual Conference on Teaching, Virtual Meeting

    Reeve, J. (2012). A self-determination theory perspective on student engagement. In Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 149-172). Springer, Boston, MA.

    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.

    Usher, E. L., Golding, J. M., Han, J., Griffiths, C. S., McGavran, M. B., Brown, C. S., & Sheehan, E. A. (2021). Psychology students’ motivation and learning in response to the shift to remote instruction during COVID-19. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

    World Health Organization. (2020). Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak, 18 March 2020 (No. WHO/2019-nCoV/MentalHealth/2020.1). World Health Organization.

  • 19 May 2022 1:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Amanda Cappon & Lynne N. Kennette (Durham College)

    In 2020, the global pandemic (emphasis on global) hit the world. Here we are in 2022, still dealing with the global pandemic. Two weeks to flatten the curve has become 2+ years of global uncertainty, which has necessarily found its way into our classrooms. The role of teaching has changed for us all and has involved numerous instances of pivoting. But the reality is, people prefer routine and predictability; we find comfort in cycles of repetition and being able to plan for the immediate and more distant future. Yet, the pandemic continues to require that we adapt and modify our ways of doing things, because public health orders and institutional policies are constantly changing (and often without much notice). Operating from an internal locus of control can be helpful for both faculty and students because it means successes and failures are rooted in our own abilities rather than these ever-changing external factors (Corey et al., 2018). But that is only part of the solution.

    This article seeks to highlight some new (and some perhaps not-so-new) strategies you can model to support student learning and wellbeing while teaching online (though many of our suggestions will also apply to in-person learning). Additionally, we will consider how uncertainty can impact teaching and learning.

    Embrace Interruptions

    Can you relate to the following? Your three-year old is home from daycare due to a runny nose. You have a 2-hour live class. You set your kid up with snacks and stream a show that you hope will keep their attention long enough for you to teach your class. But, 15 minutes into class, your kid interjects. “I have to poop!” Loudly.

    While technology provides us with excellent options for managing self-disclosure when teaching and learning online (see Kennette & Lin, 2021), there are still inevitable pitfalls which we may sometimes encounter. Instances of children and furry friends appearing on screen are becoming the new norm. An online search for “bloopers in online teaching” will confirm this. Yet, as educators, messages of “classroom management” and of “maintaining professionalism” or “minimizing self-disclosure” can conflict with this new reality. And so, an uncontrollable situation (such as a child requiring toileting assistance during a live class) can throw us into a spiral of self-doubt with self-effacing emotions and anxiety. If we take an external locus of control perspective where the situation controls us (see Wang, Bowling & Eschleman, 2010), we may find ourselves wondering why this sort of thing always happens to us. But maybe instead, we can reframe this disruption as a teachable moment for our students.

    For example, the toileting scenario above is relevant to the developmental chapter which you may have already taught (or may be teaching soon). After all, toilet training is a complex developmental process (de Carvalho Mrad et al., 2021) whereby the child needs to be attuned to their physiological needs and to be able to communicate that they need help in the bathroom. Similarly, discussing our own physiological response to the stressor (i.e., engaging the sympathetic nervous system) can also relate the at-home interruptions to your course content.

    These interruptions also provide you with an opportunity to model for students how to cope with unpredictable stressors. For example, you can acknowledge your own sympathetic arousal and then try deep, slow breaths to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Ultimately, this demonstrates that we all encounter stress and have to find ways to deal with stressors, but also that we can get through it. Students may even appreciate a quick coffee break while you deal with the interruption from your uninvited side-kick!

    As another example of embracing online interruptions, you may have furry friends at home who tend to demand your attention the moment you sign on to teach your online class. When a pet appears in your live online class (or even your asynchronous recording) without an invitation, instructors could take advantage of this opportunity to review some classical or operant conditioning concepts and terminology (assuming your pet is conditioned to do something easily demonstrated!). Or perhaps you use the opportunity to model some ways to minimize distractions when they occur such as putting on your headset, or getting closer to the computer to focus your field of vision onto the screen. These at-home interruptions are one of the unique differences we are all experiencing in comparison to the traditional pre-pandemic, in-person classroom. We can choose to panic about these scenarios or embrace them as teachable moments and as opportunities for our students to get to know us a little bit better and to build a stronger rapport (which we know is more challenging in a fully online course).

    Include Mindful Moments

    Mindfulness has been trending both as a topic of research and in practice in the last decade or so. And for good reason. The notion of being fully present in the moment and “paying attention on purpose” (Williams et al., 2007, p.54) is practically a health requirement these days. Emails, social media notifications, and learning management (LMS) communications are just a few examples of the daily barrage of electronic information that students (and faculty) constantly receive. On top of this, many of us are emotionally and/or cognitively depleted from ongoing decision-making (and revising those decisions as situations change) and from contending with conflicting views on pandemic-related topics such as masking and vaccination. And so, both faculty and students can benefit from the positive psychological and physiological outcomes associated with mindfulness practices (Chiodelli et al., 2000; Zenner et al., 2014). Many teachers at all levels, including K-12 and higher education (Chiodelli et al., 2000; Zenner et al., 2014) have already incorporated mindfulness into their classrooms. But, when educators are faced with external pressures themselves (such as pivoting to emergency online learning), how do they continue to practice/include mindfulness? And more importantly, how can they encourage their students to engage in this wellness practice? Often, self-care and wellness practices are the first to fall off our to-do lists. Here, we share three types of mindfulness practices which can be applied in any teaching context.


    Dedicating a short, manageable chunk of time (e.g., 1 minute) at the start of your class (face-to-face, live online, or asynchronously) to complete a mindfulness meditation sets the tone for the learning ahead. It models parasympathetic engagement and provides a hands-on experience for students to feel what we mean when we describe the interaction that exists between our biology and our psychology. This is a concrete way for our lessons to become real for students. This practice can also be used in the middle, or at the end of a class to aid in student “digestion” of whatever you are teaching or to break up some heavy material such as a unit on prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination.

    Awareness Through Education

    For some faculty, implementing mindful practice may not seem like a natural fit either for themselves or for their class content (e.g., it may not relate to the content as seamlessly in a statistics course). For others, implementing a mindful practice may only be an initial step in this process, with a supplemental step being the addition of a comprehensive course learning outcome requiring their students to also understand the benefits of the practice. We have found that TedTalks are a great option to connect students to the benefits of mindfulness, even if the practice doesn’t directly connect to your course content. Amishi Jha (2017) has an excellent 18-minute TedTalk on taming your wandering mind where she posits that “I think, therefore I am distracted” which demonstrates the importance of understanding that we are all fallible and therefore the need to integrate empathy for ourselves into our practice of mindfulness. This particular TedTalk is especially appropriate for students of psychology because, as a neuroscientist, Jia explains the benefits of mindfulness from this perspective.

    Mindful Social Media Breaks

    Yup, you read that right- we’re suggesting that you allow breaks so that your students can use social media in the classroom (but in a mindful way). We know that when students- teens and adult learners in particular- are in class, whether online or in person, they are also likely to be logged in to various social media platforms. Since this is the reality, why not roll with it? To embrace the norm of this generation of learners, try the following mindful social media activity. At a point in your lesson when you observe your students to be disconnected from learning, pause whatever you are doing and explain that it’s time for a mindful social media break. Frame this break as a mindful activity, explaining that you have noticed their distraction. In doing this, you’re demonstrating not only your own mindful awareness, but also modeling an appropriate response. Decide on the length of the social media break before you start. Allow students to access their social media platforms, but encourage them to check in with themselves and really focus on their thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they scroll through the posts. Ask them to focus on any physiological sensations (ex. heart rate, breath) that are changing while they scroll through the online content. Students may be able to reflect on (or become aware of) the positive or negative effects that social media has on their physiological or psychological wellbeing. In addition to these benefits, the point of this activity is to demonstrate that mindfulness comes in many forms. Mindfulness really is about purposeful attention. This example helps to integrate purposeful attention into the reality of our students’ lives, rather than trying to compete with or fight against this reality.

    Structure and Consistency

    Because so many areas of life are stressful and unpredictable (and this was true pre-pandemic), providing consistency for both students and for yourself is important. The strategy we suggest here is to try to create a basic flow to your course delivery which can be kept consistent even if (or when) the delivery mode changes. This consistency will provide some stability. This can include using the same slide background and/or a consistent order to the lesson. For example, each class meeting might look something like this: mindful meditation, review of the previous class, overview of the current class, (mini content chunks, break, practice/review pre-break content, more mini content chunks), time for summary of current class, evaluation-related questions, and finally an exit ticket like the muddiest point (on an online board like Padlet or using Google Docs or Google Forms). In this case, the structure can remain consistent regardless of delivery, and students have clear expectations for what will happen during the class.

    With more online teaching and learning occurring, there has been an increase in the promotion of various online tools. Many can add value to your lesson and to student retention or enjoyment of their learning. But, we caution instructors about getting caught up in the excitement of these new tools and to really consider the pedagogical purpose they might serve. It is easy for educators to get carried away in the excitement of using multiple new tools, technologies, and platforms. But for our students, it can feel overwhelming, especially if, in each of their courses, they have to learn multiple new tools/platforms. As instructors, we sometimes feel overwhelmed learning one new tool, so imagine how our students would feel having to become familiar with many simultaneously. To this end, creating a basic structure as we have suggested above and then implementing the consistent use of one or two tech tools, enables flexibility where needed but also provides some much-needed stability in a world which has been full of uncertainty. In this case, simplicity and consistency can be the keys to our students’ success.


    In psychology, our instructional skills and course content lend themselves well to many practices which can benefit students during these stressful and uncertain times. Modeling the use of meditation, consistency, and embracing the instances when life interrupts our practice are all ways in which we can better support our students.


    Chiodelli, R., Mello, L. T. N. D., Jesus, S. N. D., Beneton, E. R., Russel, T., & Andretta, I. (2020). Mindfulness-based interventions in undergraduate students: a systematic review. Journal of American College Health, 1-10.

    Corey, G., Corey, M. S. & Muratori, M. (2018). I never knew I had a choice: Explorations in personal growth. Cengage Learning.

    de Carvalho Mrad, F. C., da Silva, M. E., Lima, E. M., Bessa, A. L., de Bessa Junior, J., Netto, J. M. B., & de Almeida Vasconcelos, M. M. (2021). Toilet training methods in children with normal neuropsychomotor development: A systematic review. Journal of Pediatric Urology, 17(5), 635–643.

    Jha, A. (March, 2017). How to tame your wandering mind [Video] TED Conferences.

    Kennette, L. N., Lin, P. S. (2021). Healthier at home. Association for Psychological Science.

    Wang, Q., Bowling, N. A., & Eschleman, K. J. (2010). A Meta-Analytic Examination of Work and General Locus of Control. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(4), 761-768.

    Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal Z. & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. Guilford Press

    Zenner, C., Hermleben-Kurz, S. & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-20.

  • 05 Apr 2022 3:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Julie Lazzara (Paradise Valley Community College)

    When I began my career as an adjunct professor, I clutched tightly to the first introductory text put in my hands. Like a good professor, I assigned every chapter for the students to read and was committed to reading one chapter ahead throughout the course. I quickly found out that reading these long chapters on top of my full-time job and teaching prep was nearly impossible. I gave up and succumbed to skimming the chapters and reading the summaries. I wondered how many of my students did the same. After talking to colleagues, I found many omitted chapters to make the course more manageable. I was told which chapters to leave out was a matter of preference. Although this was a reasonable solution, it did not sit well with me. This was the beginning of the downfall of my relationship with "the textbook."

    As semesters came and went, I felt that "the textbook" was not pulling its weight. As my teaching and expertise grew, "the textbook" stayed stagnant. Who was running the class, I wondered. Was it me, or was it "the textbook" that was the glue that held the class together? There was so much material to cover that I was unsure what was most important to emphasize to my students. If I was unsure, how could I expect my students to have the foresight to what would be on the test? I would often tell students that it was big themes that I hoped they took away from the class but they still got caught up in the minute details. I gradually decided to be more authentic and intentional with what I teach my introductory students and assess them. For me, this meant migrating away from the traditional textbook.

    APA IPI and Backward Design

    In October 2021, the APA adopted universal learning outcomes for Introductory Psychology for the first time through the Introductory Psychology Initiative (IPI). One of the key recommendations to strengthen your course to meet the new goals is to use Backward Design. Specifically, it is recommended that instructors "design course content and instruction around desired learning outcomes." However, many instructors structure their course around their chosen textbook, and thus the majority of classroom instruction is centered on the textbook (Hilton, 2020). Instructors who want to implement Backward Design may hit a roadblock because of copyright laws if they desire to edit and adapt their current commercial textbook.

    The APA IPI does not recommend a universal text for introductory psychology. This gives instructors the freedom to build their course from the ground up. They do not need to be bound by a textbook already produced and adjust their pedagogy around it. Instead, they can choose to build their course materials by starting with the IPI learning objectives and intentionally choosing the context to support them. If a textbook is not used, what would be the cornerstone of the course? As an alternative, Landrum (2012) proposed that course readings could be used as course materials. Instructors in the past have also built their courses around non-fiction books and journal articles. If we begin to think about course materials instead of textbooks, then there is space to use various materials to generate content for the course.

    OER as Course Materials

    One consideration for course materials is the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). Many assume that OER is only used as a textbook replacement, but open and shared resources can go beyond a traditional textbook (Van Allen & Katz, 2020). Any materials that include a Creative Commons license are free to use without permission as long as proper attribution is given (Kim, 2007). This means that a more robust remixing and editing of the text is encouraged. The text is fully adaptable to meet the instructor's or institution's needs. While there has been a significant amount of coverage of the use of open educational resources as a content delivery system that lowers cost, there needs to be a shift in focus on using open education as a part of a design strategy that supports student learning (Paskevicius & Irvine, 2019). While course materials in college courses traditionally consisted of commercial textbooks, there are many more options today.

    Sure, it’s free, but is it high quality?

    One commonly cited drawback to OER is the question of quality. However, several recent studies have found that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes with OER than traditional textbooks (Hilton, 2019; Clinton & Khan, 2019; Bol et al., 2021). Most faculty may agree that the perfect textbook does not exist. However, there is no standard for judging textbook quality, and it is often interpreted as content accuracy (Martin & Kimmons, 2020). To choose the best textbook lies subjectively in the eye of the beholder.

    If OER is so great, then why doesn’t everyone use it?

    Using a commercial textbook may be the easier option for faculty, but at what cost? Faculty typically do not want students to take the easier route in their learning. Perhaps course materials customized by the instructor show effort and commitment to the course as a model to the students. The extra effort that faculty put in at the beginning of their course in preparing their course materials may have a significant payoff. Vojtech and Grissett (2017) found that undergraduate psychology students rated an instructor who used an open textbook higher on kindness, encouragement, and creativity than an instructor who used a commercial textbook. Davis and Fromuth (2019) found that students reported higher satisfaction with the custom psychology textbook than a traditional text. In another study, faculty reported that in customizing their materials specifically for their courses, there was more engagement and buy-in for the materials from their students (Lantrip & Ray, 2020). When faculty were asked about the impact of adopting OER on their teaching, they reported using a broader range of teaching and learning methods and engaged in more reflective practices (Weller et al., 2015).

    OER in Psychology

    Momentum has increased for OER use in psychology, and studies have measured its impact on students. Multiple studies have shown no statistically significant difference between performance in psychology courses between OER and publisher textbooks (Grissett & Huffman, 2019). Students preferred the OER to traditional textbooks in health psychology and program evaluation courses (Cooney, 2017; Philips et al., 2021). Cuttler (2019) found that the students using OER were twice as likely to report using their textbooks, reported using them more frequently, and perceived more overlap across all materials in comparison to a traditional textbook. Students may use the OER texts more because they are more relevant and contain more information directly impacting their quiz and test scores. Another benefit to the students besides cost is the ability to have less restricted access to course materials (Grissett & Huffman, 2019). Increased student accessibility is one of the APA IPI’s core goals to transform Introductory Psychology (Gurung & Neufeld, 2021).

    Studies have also shown benefits to adopting OER instructors of psychology. Magro and Tabaei (2020) found that faculty directly appreciated adding their content to the OER text. Hardin et al. (2019) discovered that even novice professors could meet course objectives by using OER. This indicates that OER is not reserved for only more experienced professors. Students may even be more likely to enroll in psychology courses that require OER instead of a commercial textbook (Nusbaum & Cuttler 2020). The researchers also posit that instructors who use OER may be evaluated more positively than instructors who do not. These examples highlight the importance of considering the role of the textbook on faculty and how it affects students.

    Build Your Own Introductory Psychology “Textbook” Resources

    The following is a starting place of the most common OER for introductory psychology to build the base of your course materials with OER. Most of these come with instructor resources but look no further than the plethora of resources on the STP website if you need more.
    • 1.      OpenStax Psychology 2e- This edition was published in April 2020, and it continues to be updated if corrections are found. You can use the textbook precisely as it is online, in print, or via a PDF download. They now offer an add-on homework solution program called Openstax Tutor, but there is a small fee for students to enroll. Instructor resources are included.  
      a.     Canvas Cartridge of OpenStax Psychology 2e- If your college uses Canvas as their LMS, you can drop in this free cartridge to load into your course
    • 2.      Noba Project- This free online platform allows you to pick and choose modules you like written by renowned experts. Here is an example of an introductory psychology textbook that I put together for my students. They can access it online with a link you give them and download it for offline use.
    • 3.     Lumen Learning- You can access Lumen courses and materials for free and even link directly to them. Most of their materials are remixed from Openstax and Noba with additional authored content. Students can pay a fee to use their online homework management system.
    • 4.     Pressbooks version of OpenStax Psychology 2e- I took the OpenStax text and put it into Pressbooks, making it easier to edit and make it your own. Anyone can access this version with the link, and there are also several download options.
      a.     Maricopa’s Edition of OpenStax Psychology 2e- As part of a grant project, I modified the Pressbook text previously mentioned and revised it to align with the course objectives for my college district. You can do something similar to make it your own.
      b.     University of Albert’s Version of OpenStax Psychology 2e- Here is an example of another college that remixed the Openstax text to make it their own.
      c. Hardcopy of Curated Text- There are typically a few students a semester who want to buy a hard copy of a text. One option is for them to pay to have the PDF printed, or you can offer a hard copy available to purchase for just the cost of printing.

    Assess the “Textbook” you Created

    After selecting or creating your course materials, you may wonder if it is up to par. Although Gurung and Martin’s (2011) Textbook Assessment and Usage Scale (TAUS) is geared toward students, it can also be adapted for faculty to use. Compare the traditional textbook you typically use to the curated materials you prepared for your course. The beauty is that in the areas that you scored low, you can fix and adapt them to your liking. For example, are the photographs not reflective of the people and places you teach? You can swap them out with open access images or even include your photography.


    The way the world receives information has drastically changed in the last 50 years. This shift directly affects how teachers gather information and share it with their students. Weitien (1988) recognized that selecting a textbook in psychology is a difficult process partly because of the saturation in the market. Today there are even more choices than ever before, along with ever-changing modalities to access the text. The new APA IPI gives psychology instructors more academic freedom to pick the most relevant content to the context of their classroom within the framework of the themes and SLOs. Engler and Shedlosky-Shoemaker (2019) report that content mastery in introductory psychology depends not on whether the course text is commercial or OER. Hardin et al. (2019) found a slight increase in content knowledge in a general psychology OER course. As a department chair or committee often decides on course materials, some instructors may not get the opportunity to choose what text they use for introductory psychology. It is prudent for departments to review their criteria for selecting an introductory text (Altman et al., 2006). When weighing the options of commercial texts, consider alternatives for course materials that may best serve both your students and faculty.


    Altman, W. S., Ericksen, K., & Pena-Shaff, J. B. (2006). An inclusive process for departmental textbook selection. Teaching of Psychology, 33(4), 228-231.

    American Psychological Association. (2020). The APA Introductory Psychology Initiative.

    Bol, L., Esqueda, M. C., Ryan, D., & Kimmel, S. C. (2021). A Comparison of Academic Outcomes in Courses Taught With Open Educational Resources and Publisher Content. Educational Researcher,

    Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of open textbook adoption on learning performance and course withdrawal rates: a meta-analysis. AERA Open, 5(3),

    Cooney, C. (2017). What impacts do OER have on students? Students share their experiences with a health psychology OER at New York City College of Technology. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4), 155-178.

    Davis, T. L., & Fromuth, M. E. (2019). Creating and Evaluating a General Psychology Custom Textbook: A Goal-Oriented Approach. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(3), 305-316.

    Engler, J. N., & Shedlosky-Shoemaker, R. (2019). Facilitating student success: The role of open educational resources in introductory psychology courses. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 36-47.

    Grissett, J. O., & Huffman, C. (2019). An open versus traditional psychology textbook: Student performance, perceptions, and use. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 21-35.

    Gurung, R. A., & Neufeld, G. (2021). Transforming introductory psychology: Expert advice on teacher training, course design, and student success. American Psychological Association.

    Gurung, R. A. R., & Martin, R. C. (2011). Predicting textbook reading: The textbook assessment and usage scale. Teaching of Psychology, 38, 22-28.

    Hardin, E. E., Eschman, B., Spengler, E. S., Grizzell, J. A., Moody, A. T., Ross-Sheehy, S., & Fry, K. M. (2019). What happens when trained graduate student instructors switch to an open textbook? A controlled study of the impact on student learning outcomes. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 48-64.

    Hilton, J. (2020). Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(3), 853-876.

    Landrum, R. E. (2012). Selection of textbooks or readings for your course. In B. M. Schwartz & R. A. R. Gurung (Eds.), Evidence-based teaching for higher education (pp. 117–129). American Psychological Association.

    Kim, M. (2007). The Creative Commons and copyright protection in the digital era: Uses of Creative Commons licenses. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 187-209.

    Martin, T., & Kimmons, R. (2020). Faculty members' lived experiences with choosing open educational resources. Open Praxis, 12(1), 131-144.

    Magro, J., & Tabaei, S. V. (2020). Results from a Psychology OER pilot program: faculty and student perceptions, cost savings, and academic outcomes. Open Praxis, 12(1), 83-99.

    Nusbaum, A. T., & Cuttler, C. (2020). Hidden Impacts of OER: Effects of OER on Instructor Ratings and Course Selection. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 5, p. 72).

    Vojtech, G., & Grissett, J. (2017). Student perceptions of college faculty who use OER. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4), 155-171.

    Weller, M., De Los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Pitt, B., & McAndrew, P. (2015). The impact of OER on teaching and learning practice. Open Praxis, 7(4), 351-361.

  • 03 Mar 2022 10:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    William J.A. Eiler II, Jamie L. Bromley, Ryan A. Rush, and Bob A. Bromley (Franklin College)

    *Note: For the version with figures and additional resources included, please follow this link:

                Neuroscience, as a field, has exploded over the past two decades (Society for Neuroscience, 2021). It seems to be everywhere one looks: Bookstores, popular media, continuing education workshops, etc. While it may be included in many undergraduate psychology curricula (NCES, 2019), smaller schools may still be wondering how to incorporate neuroscience research into their programs. Additionally, some may still be struggling on how to include neuroscience concepts and activities across undergraduate programs. Fortunately, with some ingenuity and creativity, both of these things are doable and affordable for most undergraduate programs, especially smaller schools with probably even smaller budgets. This article will share ideas for neuroscience-based activities to include in psychology courses that are engaging and informative for students. Additionally, ways to involve undergraduates inside and outside of the classroom in community service and neuroscience research will be discussed. Finally, resources for purchasing affordable equipment like EEG and eye tracking and using 3-D printing to create equipment at low cost will be shared.

    Growth of Neuroscience and Career Opportunities

                According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 6,191 Neuroscience degrees conferred in 2017-18 (NCES, 2019). This reflects a 7% increase from the previous year, and a 30% increase from the previous decade (2007-2008). The job outlook for the those in the field of Neuroscience is expected to grow 17% in the next decade (2020-2030), which is much faster than the average (OOH, 2021). The most common areas for employment in the Neuroscience field is research and development, academia, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and physician’s offices (OOH, 2021). While there are many opportunities to pursue Neuroscience in graduate programs, with 52 Master’s programs and 58 Ph.D. programs currently offered in the United States, there are also career opportunities for undergraduate students that have an educational background in Neuroscience. Some of these careers include pharmaceutical sales, equipment technicians, medical and healthcare managers, research assistants, and many more (OOH, 2021). Thus, including Neuroscience across the psychology curriculum will greatly benefit students in numerous ways and can provide additional career opportunities for them.

    Starting Small in General Psychology

                For a basic introduction to Neuroscience in a General Psychology course, students without a background in Biology may be intimidated and not engaged in learning about the brain and nervous system. One activity that is easily incorporated into General Psychology courses would be creating neurons with Play-Doh. We have been doing this activity at Franklin College for the past 12 years, and students have greatly enjoyed this and have performed better on their exams when asked about the structure of neuron. Students are divided into groups and provided with several colors of Play-Doh. They are instructed to build a basic neuron on a blank piece of paper and label the main structures and describe the functions. Each student in the group is assigned one part of the structure to build so that everyone is involved and engaged. Once neurons are complete, students view the different neurons and vote on the best one in terms of accuracy and style. However, they are not allowed to vote for their neuron! We often feature the winners on our social media department pages with the student’s permission, and we often give a small prize to the winning students, like one of our department stress brains (See Figure 1: Play-Doh Neurons).

    As with the Play-Doh neuron activity, we have observed that engaging in hands-on neuroscience activities enhances the student’s retention and their interest in a potentially boring, overly technical topic. Therefore, we created a similarly engaging neuroanatomy laboratory for use in our introductory classes. As human brains are difficult to obtain outside of a medical school setting, we use sheep brains as an alternative for this activity. Various biological sample vendors, such as Carolina Biological ( offer these brains at affordable prices, approximately $15 apiece. Using the sheep brains, we highlight the similarity of neuroanatomical structures with similar, previously discussed structures of the human brain. For our lab, we pre-cut the brains into two hemispheres along the midsagittal line, this not only effectively doubles the number of brains, but it also allows students to observe subcortical structures. These brains, when handled and stored properly, can last across a number of semesters. In addition, if needed, we have found that small cake pans from your local dollar store work just as well as more expensive dissection trays while Amazon is a good source for inexpensive dissection probes. Though this activity could “gross out” some students, most enjoy the ability to interact with real neural tissue and report that this lab is a beneficial learning experience.(See Figure 2).

    Student and Community Involvement

                Two ways to increase student involvement and excitement in Neuroscience would be to create a Neuroscience student group on campus and provide community outreach through public library programs for school-aged children. Before we had a Neuroscience major, our students wanted to create a Neuroscience Club, and they went through the process of developing a new student organization, a constitution and by-laws, and requesting a budget through our Student Involvement division. Neuroscience Club is continuing to grow, and they now have plans for field trips and to visit regional graduate programs in Neuroscience. Other club activities include demonstrations of the Neuroscience equipment, sharing research projects, or bringing in guest speakers. A club is a great way for students to meet others with similar interests and to spread the word of the Neuroscience programming on campus.

    Additionally, the club partnered with our Psi Chi chapter to create Brain Day at our local community library. We reached out to the children’s librarian in charge of programming, and for the past three years, we have offered an educational program on learning about the brain for elementary school students. The college students staff different hands-on stations for the children to learn about reaction times, explore sheep brains, create brain hats or color brain ornaments, and test out the important of cerebrospinal fluid on protecting the brain with an egg experiment (See Figure 3).

    Neuroscience Equipment for Undergraduate Education

    Although there are numerous ways of providing low-cost, engaged learning activities in neuroscience, much of the equipment and materials used in the study of neuroscience are prohibitively expensive and represent a significant hurdle to small schools wishing to offer a neuroscience curriculum. However, we have experimented with a number of ways, such as employing emerging technologies and searching out innovative start-up companies, to overcome these obstacles and provide our students with meaningful opportunities in neuroscience despite our limited budget.

    Recently, we have begun to embrace the utility of 3D printing and the opportunities it can afford in the development and creation of inexpensive equipment. Although the thought of 3D printing may be a bit daunting, the technology is surprisingly accessible with a shallow learning curve backed by innumerable websites and YouTube videos dedicated to the training of the uninitiated. Entry-level printers also have a very reasonable price point. Our department purchased the reliable PRUSA Research i3 MK3S printer ( for $749 USD; however, similarly capable open-source printers such as the Creality Ender-3 V2 ( can be found for around $250 USD. Thus far, we have printed a number of free, pre-existing files found online for use as demonstration models and teaching aids such as a life-size replica of Phineas Gage’s skull, rat skulls for the demonstration of stereotaxic surgery, and models to demonstrate popular optical illusions. You can even find step-by-step tutorials that allow you to covert MRI images into 3D files for printing. Recently we have begun to use design software such as Tinkercad and Fusion 360 (both of which are free for educational institutions) to create our own 3D models. Specifically, we have been working with various students to combine open-source electronics such as Arduino controller boards and Raspberry Pi microcomputers with 3D printed designs to create a modular operant chamber similar to those that typically cost thousands of dollars (See Figure 4). It is our goal to create additional behavioral neuroscience testing equipment such as elevated plus and radial-arm mazes, rotarod, and activity monitors, using 3D printing. 

    Utilizing Innovative Companies

    As mentioned above, providing students with meaningful experiences in neuroscience can be difficult on a small budget so, in addition to employing emerging technologies such as 3D printing and open-source electronics, we have also sought to improve our laboratory capabilities by seeking out smaller innovative companies for equipment rather than larger more well-known suppliers. One example of this is our recent acquisition of electroencephalographic (EEG) equipment through the company OpenBCI ( at a fraction of the cost of such a system through other suppliers (stand-alone bundles start at $1300.00 USD). Although we as faculty are still new to the world of EEG, this equipment was so easy to set up and calibrate we have already been able to use this fully open-source system in the classroom to demonstrate the concept of neurofeedback by allowing students to turn a fan on and off with their mind. We have been working with a group of students to integrate the electroencephalographical and the electromyographical capabilities of this system to control a remote control car, while another student began using the system to conduct sleep study research. In addition to our EEG system, we also recently began working with an eye-tracking system purchased through Gazepoint ( Equipment through this company was much more affordable than similar equipment offered by more well-known companies such as Tobii and offers us the ability to provide research opportunities to our students in emerging fields such as neuromarketing.

    We have also found several other smaller companies that produce various products that are perfect for in-class demonstrations of neuroscience concepts. For example, Backyard Brains ( is a small start-up company that offers affordable equipment for neuroscience demonstrations. My favorites from this company are “RoboRoach” which allows you and your students to control an actual roach through the manipulation of its sensory systems and the “Human-Human” interface that allows one person to control the movement of another person’s arm through the stimulation of motor neurons. These are fun, easy demonstrations that have an appreciable impact on students and are relatively affordable with prices from $159.99 USD or in a bundle with three additional products for $999.98 USD. Our students have also really enjoyed the impairment goggles purchased from Drunk Busters ( These goggles simulate the visual impairment that accompanies the use of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy. There are numerous ways you can use these goggles to demonstrate impairment due to drug use such as cup stacking and mock field sobriety tests, but my personal favorite is having them attempt to drive using a steering wheel controller paired with a driving video game such as Forza.


                As you can see, incorporating innovative and engaging activities is accessible to most undergraduate psychology programs and even for high school teachers, if you are aware of the money-saving opportunities available. We will continue to explore new ways to engage students and the community to learn about Neuroscience and to encourage students to consider careers in this exciting and ever-growing field.


    Chapter XII: SFN at 50 Years: Focus on the Future. Society for Neuroscience. (2020). Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Medical scientists. In Occupational Outlook Handbook.

    U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2019). Digestof Education Statistics.

  • 01 Feb 2022 5:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alexander B. Swan (Eureka College)

    Picture it (pun-intended)—you and your students, all starting intently at the screen as Joy and Sadness, with the help of Bing-Bong, desperately try to get back to Riley’s Headquarters to break her out of the funk she’s feeling after moving across the country to a new place and a new school. Yep, that’s the plot of the Pixar film, Inside Out (2015). But wait, why are you watching an animated movie in your psychology class, taking up precious time for material?

    What if I told you that this is precious material time? It may seem odd if you’re not used to using full class periods for film viewing, but from my experience, it is a fantastic learning and material-delivery tool (e.g., Bluestone, 2000; Mishra, 2018). One discussion that tends to arise when I mention using films in class is the use of documentary films vs. fictional Hollywood film, such as Inside Out. The argument tends to be about using factual information rather than fictionalized information, either based on completely fictional and fantastical plotlines or a fictionalized account of a true story. I hear this argument and find docs to be wonderful teaching tools—and some even have great entertainment and production value. But in this essay, I want to promote the use of fictional films as pedagogical tools that not only entertain, but also promote critical thinking skills. 

    The Ways to Use These Films

    The primary way I use fictional films in my classes is to promote critical thinking skills. Perhaps one of the strongest ways to accomplish this is by having students assess the accuracy of portrayal for the intended psychological concepts (Bluestone, 2000; Fleming et al., 1990; Gregg et al., 1995; Wedding & Niemiec, 2014). For example, in Inside Out, there are several psychological concepts that can be broached, including emotions, memories, or even depression. I use this film in several classes and tend to highlight that the film had noted emotion psychologist Dacher Keltner as a consultant. Students can explore how connected the emotions portrayed (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear) are to the current understanding of emotion research. With respect to memories, students can explore our current spatial models of memory, especially long-term memory, are shown in the new world of a person’s head.

    On the other side of the portrayal coin, bad portrayals of psychological concepts, can also spur critical thinking. One of my top films to explore bad psychological science is Lucy (2014). Students are immediately thrust into a world that has famed scientists believing in the myth that humans only use 10% of their brains. Of course, using more means special powers, right? A better example of exploration of accuracy, however, comes in the form of the film I have used the most in my classes: Memento (2000). In this film, the main character suffers from anterograde amnesia, similar to what is described about H.M. by Scoville and Milner (1957) or the many documentaries on Clive Wearing. There are accurate portrayals of the memory impairment, like how another character is described to have been put under memory tests or how the main character nearly describes recalled memories in general; but then there are inaccurate portrayals, like the length of the main character’s working memory or how he describes it in several ways to other characters. Students have to grapple with the differences presented in the film to the information presented in the material of the course. This nuance is crucially important to build critical thinking skills.

    Another way fictional film pedagogy is useful in the classroom stems from the desire to use varied material to reach students at all stages and backgrounds. While some students might prefer the straight empirical findings of the hottest psychological studies, many others prefer the varied active learning quality that can come with film in the classroom (Gregg et al., 1995). Along with the portrayal argument, the artistic nature of the film can be beneficial to understanding psychological concepts. Boyatzis (1994) explores how students can use a fictional film to discuss emotional and social development. Fleming et al. (1990) discusses usage of psychological disorder films to explore intimately how a character might deal with their disorder, or how others in their lives might deal with the disorders. I’ve explored recently in great deal with colleagues how films like The Hours (2002) portrays three women with depression and bipolar disorder across three distinct time periods, and how the culture of the time periods impacts how these women are treated and how they cope. With fictional films, you can get a glimpse of how these characters directly deal. While this is possible with documentary films, there is a sense of disconnection without the artistic direction of the scene, the camera angles, or even the music. This extra stuff can give students a deeper insight into the struggles of characters and their illnesses. 

    A third way I like using fictional films in my courses is the discussion about the filmmakers’ decisions. These are people with limited knowledge of psychological concepts in general, and thus their perspectives are useful windows for students to explore. Students can approach the content from the perspective of filmmakers and discuss their lay understanding from those that put the spin on the fictionalized material. For example, A Clockwork Orange (1971) clearly portrays the use of aversive conditioning on the main character. And the director, Stanley Kubrick, describes and films the features of the process with relatively accuracy. But if we compare that to M. Night Shyamalan‘s Split (2016) and the portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder, it is clear that he as a writer-director doesn’t necessarily understand the nuance and appearance of the disorder (albeit, the world is somewhat fantastical). 

    How to Assess Learning with Films?

    If you’re interested in incorporating films into your classes, either using class time or assigning the films to view outside of class, there are several ways to assess whether that critical thinking and evaluation of the artistic material is connected to your course learning outcomes and conceptual material.

    The most common assessment appears to be the analysis paper. This is the typical assignment I use with films in my classes. Boyatzis (1994) describes in detail the various prompts you can include to encourage students to evaluate the course material within the context of the films. While the prompts in the paper are geared toward child development, they can be adapted for whatever material your course focuses on, such as memory, psychological disorders, learning, or even sensation and perception (yes, there are few films out there for this niche topic!).

    Gregg et al. (1995) offers additional examples of assessments, such as having students watch a film from a list of options and create a diary of experiences they have had similar to the characters in the film. Another option, specifically for a psychological disorders course, is to have the students evaluate a character’s symptoms using diagnostic criteria from the DSM or the ICD. I do caution the use of the latter, as students should be given a clear disclaimer that films will likely exaggerate symptoms for narrative reasons and may not reflect the reality of the conditions in real life or the appropriateness of the diagnostic categories.

    One additional option of assessment that I tend to use in my introductory psychology course is the use of a short answer question on a test. This is usually a broad open-ended question that doesn’t require too much psychological knowledge—it’s an introductory course after all—or deep viewing practices (e.g., multiple viewings to capture all the nuance).

    One thing to keep in mind when designing these assessments: engage in previewing the films and highlight the concepts that you find to be the most appropriate. There is going to be a lot of subjectivity in the film analysis, especially from younger students toward older films. I tend to keep my rubrics as open as possible, so that students can have the freedom to apply the course concepts to whatever scene they see fit. Sometimes, my students capture things that I do not. For example, when I showed Inside Out to my Psychology in Film course, one student pointed out the interesting gendering of the emotion characters in the minds of Riley vs. the adults in the film. It was clear that this was something I had missed, and I now use this information in all discussions I have about the film.


    Where To Find Appropriate Films?

    As a firm believer that most films are psychologically-based, because as humans, we tend to make art about ourselves, it’s likely you’ll be able to find films everywhere you go. But, if you’re just starting out in this pedagogical practice, I can recommend several places to find great films for various subdisciplines in psychology.

    Of course, trying an internet search for “psychology films” will bring a wealth of information. However, it’s hard to know which results are good and which aren’t so good. Indiana University maintains an excellent repository, which includes ratings (and who among us doesn’t love data?). It’s called the Cognitive Science Movie Index (, and while the name might indicate niche films or films that you couldn’t use in a social psychology class, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! There are several keywords to narrow searches and many films have been tagged to fit multiple concepts and ideas within psychology. As I mentioned, there are three ratings for each film, each on a scale from 1-7: overall film quality (it might be a decent cognitive science movie, but does the film stink?), relevance (it’s tagged with AI, but is it really about artificial intelligence?), and accuracy (how accurate is the portrayal with what we currently know about that topic?). The great news about these ratings is that they are user-generated. So if you pick a film from this Index, you’re invited to add your ratings after viewing. I’ve used this resource several times, as many of my courses are in this realm.

    Gregg et al. (1995) lists several films in different psychological categories, each used by one or more of the authors in their courses. Boyatzis (1994) includes several films related to child development and this list has a bonus: foreign language films, in case that is of interest to you as an instructor or in the case that you give the option to your students to choose, their film interests.


    Give It a Try!

    If you haven’t engaged in film pedagogy before, I hope this essay was a decent help to get your journey started. Again, fictional films are varied and should be used with as much preparation that you give to your other course pedagogy and assessments. It may be simpler to use documentary films, but I definitely suggest broadening those film horizons. You can aid your students’ critical thinking abilities by offering them an artistic exploration of the content, in a funny, thrilling, and entertaining way! I consistently get student evaluation comments, anonymous and otherwise that tell me they appreciated the incorporation of the films in class. You get to have your very own Monty Python moment and exclaim, “And now for something completely different!


    Bluestone, C. (2000). Feature Films as a Teaching Tool. College Teaching, 48(4), 141–146. 

    Boyatzis, C. J. (1994). Using feature films to teach social development. Teaching of Psychology, 21, 99–101.

    Fleming, M. Z., Piedmont, R. L., & Hiam, C. M. (1990). Images of Madness: Feature Films in Teaching Psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 17(3), 185–187.

    Gregg, V. R., Hosley , C. A., Weng, A., & Montemayor, R. (1995). Using feature films to promote active learning in the college classroom. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Washington D.C. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389367).

    Mishra, S. (2018). The World in the Classroom: Using Film as a Pedagogical Tool. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 15(1), 111–116.

    Scoville, W. B., & Milner, B. (1957). Loss of recent memory after bilateral hippocampal lesions. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 20(1), 11–21.

    Wedding, D., & Niemiec, R. M. (2015). Movies & Mental Illness, 4th Edition (Vol. 47, Issue 9, pp. 737–738).
  • 06 Jan 2022 3:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Guy A. Boysen 

    Department of Psychology, McKendree University 

    I knew I was in trouble when the student would not stop emailing me. The emails always came the night before homework was due and felt like one of those classic foot-in-the-door scams that starts with “Do you have time for one question?” and escalates to “How much money would you like to donate?” A typical series of emails went something like this: 

    Student email #1: “The assignment says give an example of harmful dysfunction. What do you want us to say for that?” 

    Student email #2: “So the example is in the reading?”   

    Student email #3: “I’ve read and I can’t find it. Please help me.”  

    Student email #4: “Would mental illness be an example?”    

    Student email #5: “Can you give me a page number? I can’t find it.”  

    With each assignment, I was doing more and more of the student’s work. And with each assignment, I was growing more and more resentful. Then, the student started to criticize my teaching to other professors. I really, really disliked this student.   

    Intense dislike of students is something that teachers do not talk about. Certainly, griping about students is a popular topic of conversation in academia (tied with griping about the administration and griping about parking), but teachers rarely admit that there are some students they seriously dislike. It seems so unprofessional, so petty, so unteacherly. I wanted to do research on this topic for years but always put it off as too distasteful – who wants to be known as “that professor who hates students”?   

    Eventually, I overcame my wariness and surveyed college teachers about their experiences with disliked students (Boysen et al., 2020, 2021). As it turned out, I was not alone in disliking the occasional student. In fact, disliking students was common. Although teachers said dislike had many negative consequences on their teaching, they also provided ideas for how to manage it. I summarize these results in the sections that follow.  

    How Common is Intense Dislike of Students? 

    Have you ever had a student in a class that you intensely disliked? If you said “yes” to this question, you are like a lot of other college teachers. In fact, across two independent surveys, about 50% of college teachers said that they had intensely disliked a student. This not to say that it occurs frequently. About 80% of faculty who had experienced disliked said that it happened, at most, once every couple of years. Nonetheless, it is typical for college teachers to dislike a student at some point in their careers.   

    When asked what caused the dislike, teachers cited reasons ranging from the trivial – “Constant talking/whispering during a large lecture class” – to the terrifying – “He found me multiple times per day to intrusively and anxiously ask me questions about grades or assignments in a somewhat angry way.” Although reasons varied widely, the most common ones will sound familiar.  

    By far, the most common reasons for dislike centered on students’ disrespect for the teacher or the course. For example, one teacher reported dislike for a student who “was rude in class, dismissive of the material, and would challenge everything they got wrong.” Another teacher quoted a student as saying “well, I talked to my biology instructor and he says this class isn't important." Psychology teachers respect themselves and their science, so it is difficult to encounter students who do not share this respect.      

    Other common reasons for student dislike might be broadly characterized as “bad behavior.” Academic irresponsibility was a frequently reported form of bad behavior. One teacher provided a typical list of student laxities including “lack of motivation; not attending class; not completing assignments, but submitting blank documents to try to get points.” Such poor academic behavior can be infuriating to teachers who have a passion for psychology and helping others learn the topic. Being disruptive is another bad behavior. Acting out in class, playing on electronic devices, having side conversations, and hijacking discussion are just some of the disruptions that teachers said led to dislike.     

    Finally, teachers reported that some students simply have unlikable personalities. Narcissism, arrogance, smugness, and neediness are annoying personality traits that lead teachers to dislike students. Entitlement is another trait that riles up a lot of teachers. Some students expect special treatment and become upset when teachers do not meet their demands. One teacher said, “I would not grant a delayed grade for the course given the student had not completed anything all semester. The student then sent an email to the Dean full of lies about my alleged unwillingness to work with her.” Teachers like to feel helpful, not used. Ultimately, the complexities of human relationships make some conflict inevitable, and relationships between teachers and students are no exception.  

    How Does Disliking Students Impact Teachers? 

    In the previous section, I characterized dislike as infrequent because about 80% of teachers experience dislike only every few years or so – this glosses over the 20% of faculty who dislike students every year, hardly an insubstantial number. I hope these folks are alright because disliking a student can be quite stressful. In my own experience with the student who wanted me to do their homework, just seeing their name in my inbox spiked my blood pressure. This is just one example of dislike’s many stressful consequences.        

    Disliking a student can take an emotional and motivational toll on teachers. In my surveys, teachers said that they worried about interactions with the student inside and outside of class. One teacher stated that “I dreaded running into the student elsewhere on campus. When I did, I would get very anxious and tried to avoid them.” Sometimes teachers started to doubt themselves and their teaching ability. Or, if a student’s behavior was threatening, teachers became fearful. For example, one teacher said that fear of a student’s behavior led them to have “my cell phone out at all times in case I needed to call security.” As can be expected, dislike can cause a decrease in motivation: “It made me dread going to teach that particular class.”  

    Dread for a course is not the route to teaching effectiveness, and some teachers reported that dislike made them worse teachers. The problems posed by just one student sometimes hurt the class overall. One teacher said, “It put me in a grumpy mood whenever I was heading off to that class, which directly affected how I taught. It took a toll on me and I know other students could feel it.” Some teachers lost their focus: “I became distracted while teaching due to managing my own emotions.” Another teacher said that “it increased the cognitive load on me as I taught and simultaneously needed to stop their misbehavior.” Teaching is hard enough; the added distraction of a disliked student makes it doubly challenging.   

    Interacting with a disliked student, inside or outside of class, can become a burden. Teachers may hide in their offices, stay off email, and put off interactions with the student. Sometimes, it was too much to take. As one teacher said, “I finally lost it and screamed at the student in a two-minute diatribe that I still regret to this day.” Even in extreme circumstances, teachers should not lose their tempers with students. Thus, it is important to do something about dislike before frustration overcomes pedagogy.   

    What Can Teachers Do About Disliking Students? 

    So, student dislike is common and stressful – that sounds pretty bleak, but there is hope. In my survey, I also asked teachers how they dealt with dislike, and they provided many possible solutions. In general, their responses fell into two categories: managing student behaviors that cause dislike and managing reactions to the student. Starting with managing student behaviors, teachers should consider basic classroom management techniques (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011; Wingert & Molitor, 2009). There are well-established tricks for keeping students’ attention, managing classroom discussions, motivating students to do coursework, dealing with excuses, and prevention of cheating. If something is interfering with teaching or learning in the classroom, do something about it.   

    Teachers do not have to fight classroom-management battles alone. The teachers in my survey asked their colleagues for suggestions. In addition, they occasionally went to administrators for support and intervention when circumstances became dire. Nonetheless, the responsibility for managing students ultimately falls on the teacher, and the most common response to dislike was intentional professionalism. Teachers established rules. They stuck to policy. Hard as it was, they treated disliked students fairly. As one teacher put it, the answer to dislike was “setting clear boundaries, communicating clearly and assertively, [and] not backing down.”         

    Not all reasons for dislike can be eliminated through classroom management techniques. Students can be innovative rule breakers, noxious personalities tend to persist, and interpersonal dynamics can produce unexpected conflict. For all these reasons and more, teachers must also be prepared to manage their reactions to disliked students. Ultimately, the most important skill is to be professional under all circumstances. Keep calm, think before acting, and treat the disliked student with respect – these are tough but essential rules.   

    Keeping things professional on the outside does not prevent internal storms of emotion, so teachers also reported using general stress-reduction techniques to deal with their reactions to disliked students. They sought social support from trusted colleagues. They engaged in self-care such as meditation and counseling. Finally, some teachers said that they employed cognitive shifts. They reframed the situation to emphasize that the problem was about the student, not themselves. Or, they tried to empathize with the student, doing things like imagining the situation from their perspective. Sometimes, getting to know a student just a little better is all that is needed to switch them from an enemy to an ally.   


    So, what happened with the student who kept emailing me for answers to homework? In a professional, constructive way, I explained that my objective was to teach students to read and think critically – as such, I was done giving out answers to homework questions via email. I never let on that I knew about the criticism. The emails stopped. I was less stressed. To be frank, the student still kind of annoyed me. There is no perfect solution to the problem of disliking students. However, teachers should know that it is a common, stressful experience that can be handled professionally. With that knowledge, they can prepare for challenges that lie ahead.  


    Boysen, G. A., Isaacs, R., Chicosky, R. L., & Delmore, E. E. (2020). Intense dislike of students: Frequency, causes, effects, and management among college teachers. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 

    Boysen, G. A., Sampo, B. Axtell, E., & Kishimoto, A. (2021). Dislikable students: The perspective of college teachers. College Teaching. 

    Svinicki, M. D., & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. (13th ed.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 

    Wingert, D., & Molitor, T. (2009). Best practices: Preventing and managing challenging classroom situations. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 1(2), 4–18. 

  • 16 Dec 2021 6:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Lynne N. Kennette

    Durham College

    Phoebe S. Lin

    Framingham State University

    Students who take at least one online course during their program are more likely to complete their degree (Wavle & Ozogul, 2019). Recently, various different types of e-learning have been implemented, but online education existed before COVID-19. Unlike synchronous online courses where live instruction occurs on a weekly basis (much like a traditional classroom), asynchronous courses provide students with added flexibility as there are no daily/weekly time-specific attendance requirements. In this way, students still encounter the weekly content provided by faculty (by way of recorded lecture, activities, videos, etc.), but at the time of their choosing (though most have regular, usually weekly deadlines for students). This asynchronous online learning environment is what we are referring to in this article. When we are discussing asynchronous online learning, we frame it as learning that occurs within a specific semester at an institution, with weekly/bi-weekly deadlines, and not the open ended, self-paced courses, like some massive open online course (MOOCs) where you can enroll whenever and end whenever (we also recognize that the grading is often quite different in these courses compared to a more traditional asynchronous online course).

    Although not all students will benefit from the asynchronous online learning environment, many do, and many students prefer it (Cutherell & Lyon, 2007) for various reasons (including some of the benefits we discuss herein). Below, we propose that online asynchronous courses provide several benefits for students including physiological ones. Additional benefits include removing barriers, motivation, flexibility, and time for reflection.


    Physiological Benefits

    The two major physiological benefits of asynchronous learning are more sleep and less stress. First, because the class work can be completed at any time, there is no need to wake up early to get to class, or earlier to have enough time for a potentially long commute. Second, asynchronous learning affords students benefits that can help lower stress. For example, saving money on parking and commuting costs (gas, transit pass, etc). Additionally, some of the daily life stressors (e.g., traffic, line-ups at the coffee shop) can be reduced or eliminated. Daily stressors such as these, as well as long commutes, are linked to higher levels of stress and high blood pressure (Antoun et al., 2017; Hoehner et al., 2012).


    Removes Barriers

    Other benefits revolve around the theme of removing barriers. For example, some aspects of universal design for learning (UDL; CAST, 2018) are easier to implement online (e.g., closed-captioning, larger font size, etc).  Therefore, students may not need to self-identify their need for accommodations, at least in instances where the online course is designed following the principles of UDL. By increasing accessibility, this reduces or eliminates unearned advantages of more privileged students, such as able-bodied privileges, cultural privileges in language fluency, etc. This then would allow students who could be at a disadvantage in traditional face-to-face classrooms to thrive and achieve improved learning outcomes.

    Another example is that, in some cases, financial or family limitations may make it necessary for someone to choose a program at a school that is nearby rather than a program that they are actually interested in, regardless of where they are located (Pastore et al., 2009). Additionally, a woman needing to share personal information related to morning sickness/pregnancy, miscarriage, etc. can be avoided as can other ailments that can affect both sexes (e.g., injury). Further, asynchronous learning in a remote environment can benefit pregnant students by eliminating potential bias from the instructor given that findings show pregnant individuals are negatively stereotyped as less capable and less committed to their work (Morgan et al., 2013).

    Additionally, non-traditional students may also benefit in unique ways (some of which are discussed in later sections, such as due to the added flexibility). In some cases, asynchronous learning levels the playing field by providing fewer status cues and providing some reassurance with some anonymity in the online environment (Hachey, 2017; Melkun, 2012). Thus, students of underrepresented groups may feel more at ease knowing that these environments can reduce the likelihood of encountering microaggressions (subtle or indirect forms of prejudice) tied to identity such as race/ethnicity, gender identity, age, etc. (Sue, 2010).



    Knapczyk et al. (2005) found that students felt a strong sense of community in asynchronous classes and that students may feel more comfortable expressing themselves in an asynchronous format due to the anonymity it provides (especially for non-traditional students), leading to better dialogues, including among students who may not typically participate in a face-to-face class (Hachey, 2017; Melkun, 2012). Another benefit is that this could lead to increased representation of voices from marginalized groups, who are often hesitant to speak out due to anxiety associated with the risk of being stereotyped, further oppressed, encountering racial gaslighting, or reluctance to offer a counter-perspective that differs from White peers in a predominantly White setting (Fries-Britt & Turner, 2002; Walls & Hall, 2018).



    The flexibility provided by an asynchronous course is unequalled in any other learning modality (Pastore et al., 2009). Learners have a great deal of control and flexibility around how and when they complete their learning, which means they can schedule their learning time based on whatever need (work, children) or preference (early birds vs night owls) are relevant to them at that time (and easily adjust if those needs change). This may be especially beneficial to non-traditional students who often have to balance multiple competing responsibilities such as long work hours, being a caretaker for a family member, etc. (Hachey, 2017).

    Its convenience also lets students learn to manage their own time (Pastore et al., 2009), which gives them a chance to practice/learn soft skills (time management, etc). They can also develop their autonomy and self-regulation (Vonderwell et al., 2007). By refining their time-management skills and increasing self-reliance, this can lead to greater discipline and work ethic, well-preparing them to enter the workforce when they have completed college.


    Deeper, More Reflective Engagement with Content

    When learning occurs asynchronously, students have more time to reflect on the content (Driscoll, 1998) which may lead to deeper discussions about the content (Hara et al, 2000). Because of this deeper engagement, as well as problem-solving, and engagement with peers, students are more likely to engage in critical thinking in asynchronous online discussions (De Wever et al., 2010).

    With asynchronous learning, this could also encourage students to discuss the course material with someone not enrolled in the class (romantic partner, family member, roommate, etc.) when trying to understand a difficult concept. Engaging with course material more deeply, by elaboration, or making connections to other content through a discussion with another person, facilitates the new information being transferred to long-term memory and is more easily retrieved at a later time (Baddeley, 1997; Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Further, the asynchronous format increases the opportunity to teach the content to a non-expert (again, someone not enrolled in the course), which can also improve understanding; this is because teaching someone requires that we retrieve the information from memory, which we also know improves retention and later recall (Koh et al., 2018; Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).

    By removing the opportunity to receive immediate clarification from the course instructor when a question arises, asynchronous learning can also encourage students to independently research a concept and look up additional information independently. Doing so can increase engagement with the material and drive intrinsic motivation to master the information using self-reliance rather than dependence on the instructor. Research has indicated that the more time and effort invested in a task, the greater the value we place on the outcome (Aronson & Mills, 1959). Thus, if students make a greater effort to independently seek clarification when a question arises, this could increase their motivation to obtain high achievement in the course by increasing the perceived value of their learning outcomes.



    One of the major challenges experienced in any classroom is the lack of student motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation. Pink (2009) proposed that one of the internal drives that help develop greater intrinsic motivation is autonomy- having a sense of control over our work and personal lives. The freedom afforded in asynchronous courses is motivating and may allow students to be more creative as well (Pink, 2009).

    Further, motivation to attend synchronous sessions can be difficult, especially in the context of Zoom fatigue (Bailenson, 2021). Therefore, allowing the lecture to be watched when they haven’t been in front of a screen all day or to access sections of the lecture spaced out over time, where learners really do control the pace at which they receive information, is advantageous to students. Past research has also shown that there is a cost to using video such that synchronous zoom-type meetings increase cognitive load (Hinds, 1999). Related, by giving students the option to learn the material in multiple study sessions rather than in one attempt, the spacing effect will likely improve retention of the material by allowing more information to be processed, reflected on, and encoded into long-term memory (Ebbinghaus, 1885).



    Although we have focused on benefits for students, there are also benefits for the faculty teaching these courses (see Kennette & Lin, 2021, for a discussion of the benefits of remote work for employees). When employees benefit, it should come to reason that the educational experience can be better for students as well. Of course, not all courses are created equal (regardless of delivery mode), so, much like there can be less effective in-person courses, so too can there be ineffective asynchronous online courses. But in the case of well-designed, asynchronous courses, students do report greater satisfaction and perceived learning, especially when students were more active in the course and had more (asynchronous) interactions with classmates and/or instructors (Swan, 2001). Well-designed online asynchronous courses provide a consistent course structure, not too many modules, frequent interactions with the instructor and other students, and lively discussions (Swan, 2001). In these instances, some research has shown that students tend to prefer to receive information asynchronously rather than synchronously (Cutherell & Lyon, 2007), so for some students, this approach is appreciated.

    Regardless of preference, in many cases, asynchronous courses really are the best of both worlds with synchronous meetings possible with faculty or among students, either during virtual office hours or other scheduled times or to work on group projects (see Lowenthal et al., 2017 for some considerations). So, institutions should see asynchronous online classes as a valid approach to education, which may provide opportunities that are valuable to many groups. By expanding learning/classroom formats, higher education can become more accessible to a greater number of learners, increasing equity in society.




    Antoun, M., Edwards, K. M., Sweeting, J., & Ding, D. (2017). The acute physiological stress response to driving: A systematic review. PLOS ONE 12(10).

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    Baddeley, A. D. (1997). Human Memory: Theory and Practice. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

    Bailenson, J. N. (2021). Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 2(1).

    Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 671-684.

    CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2.

    Cutherell, K., & Lyon, A. (2007). Instructional strategies: What do online students prefer? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(4), 357-362.

    De Wever, B., Schellens, T., Valcke, M, & Van Keer, H. (2010). Roles as a structuring tool in online discussion groups: The differential impact of different roles on social knowledge construction. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 516-523. 

    Driscoll, M. (1998). Web-Based Training: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

    Ebbinghaus, H. (1885). Über das gedächtnis: untersuchungen zur experimentellen psychologie (Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology): Duncker and Humblot.

    Fries-Britt, S. L. & Turner, B. (2002). Uneven stories: Successful Black collegians at a Black and a White campus. The Review of Higher Education, 25, 315–330.

    Hachey, V. K. (2017). Nontraditional student participation in asynchronous online discussions. [Unpublished dissertation]. University of Minnesota.

    Hara, N., Bonk, C. J., & Angeli, C. (2000). Content analysis of online discussion in an applied educational psychology course. Instructional Science, 28(2), 115-152. 

    Hinds, P. J. (1999). The cognitive and interpersonal costs of video. Media Psychology, 1(4), 283-311.

    Hoehner, C. M., Barlow, C. E., Allen, P., & Schootman, M. (2012). Commuting distance, cardiorespiratory fitness, and metabolic risk. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(6), 571-578.

    Kennette, L. N. & Lin, P. S. (2021, June 28). Healthier at home. APS Observer

    Koh, A. W. L., Lee, S. C., & Lim, S. W. H. (2018). The learning benefits of teaching: A retrieval practice hypothesis. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 32(3), 401-410.

    Lowenthal, P. R., Snelson, C., & Dunlap, J. C. (2017). Live synchronous web meetings in asynchronous online courses: Reconceptualizing virtual office hours. Online Learning, 21(4), 177-194. 

    Knapczyk, D. R., Frey, T. J., & Wal-Marencik, W. (2005). An evaluation of web conferencing in online teacher preparation. Teacher Education and Special Education, 28(2), 114-124. 

    Melkun, C. H. (2012). Nontraditional students online: Composition, collaboration, and community. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 60, 33-39. 

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    Pink, D. H. (2009). The surprising truth about what motivates us: Riverhead.

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    Swan, K. (2001). Virtual interaction: Design factors affecting student satisfaction and perceived learning in asynchronous online courses. Distance Education, 22(2), 306-331. 

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  • 19 Nov 2021 3:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jacqueline A. Goldman

    Oregon State University

    One of the best components of the psychology major is its ability to be applied to many other fields and occupations (Gurung et al., 2016) but also its ease of self-reference of material (Dunn et al., 2010). Even though we as educators in this field find this to be obvious, it seems that many of our students struggle seeing the personal and meaningful connections of psychology course material. This lack of meaningful connection or utility value being especially prominent in statistics, research methods, and other high-level courses (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009). When many of our psychology majors do not have intentions of going to graduate school in the psychology field, these courses can feel even less relevant for our students (Conroy et al., 2019). At first this may not seem like an issue, as you do not necessarily need to find personal relevance in every piece of content that is learned, but we do know that helping students to find connection in meaningful ways to course content can help them better retain material in the long term (Heddy & Sinatra, 2017; Pugh, 2004) which is arguably the goal in any course. Given Psychology’s self-relevance, it seems that relating course content to students’ every day experiences would be almost second nature, but for many students this does not occur spontaneously (Vansteenkiste et al., 2018). One way we can encourage and facilitate meaningful and personal connection to course content is through a construct called Transformative Experience (TE).

    The development of the transformative experience framework came from research by Pugh (2002) who based the construct on John Dewey’s work on learning and aesthetics. Research by Pugh (2011) combined various components of transfer (applying learning to a new task in a new context; Marini & Genereux, 1995), conceptual change (a cognitive reconstruction of knowledge; Dole & Sinatra, 1998), and task value (a students’ belief of the degree to which an academic task is worth pursuing, Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). Thus, a transformative experience, refers to using course content in an everyday experience to see and value the world in new ways (Wong et al., 2001). Within the construct of TE, there are three pieces that need to occur for a true transformative experience to have happened: motivated use, expansion of perception, and experiential value. In essence: students apply concepts to their everyday experience, that then changes the way they see that concept/phenomenon, they then value that concept for its ability to influence their experience, and as a result, their everyday experience is enhanced (for a review see: Pugh, 2011). So, what might that look like in a course setting?

    A Demonstration

    Let’s look at an example of a student who has a transformative experience with the construct of positive reinforcement within operant conditioning. Motivated use, in this case, refers to the application of course content into a context where it is not required, similar to transfer but without prompting. An example of this would be a student using positive reinforcement to understand why giving their dog a reward for going potty outside increases that behavior. Expansion of perception focuses on the change in that person’s perception or existing schemas being altered by the concept/construct. In this example, our student who used their knowledge of positive reinforcement (giving a reward to increase behavior) to perceive rewarding their dog in terms of the effects of the reinforcement. Before, the student may have given rewards to their dog (or withheld them) without much consideration because they were not aware of the impact on behavior. Now this student sees this everyday even through a different lens because of the course content. Finally, experiential value is the value perceived due to the direct consequence of their motivated use of the construct or content. Back to our example of our student now seeing rewards through the lens of positive reinforcement, they now experience and value their world in new ways due to their experience of using course content in their everyday life. They now are more efficiently potty training their dog and that is valuable because they can increase desired behavior. This entire experience of motivated use, expansion of perception, and experiential value are the necessary components of a transformative experience. The question now becomes, how do we create these opportunities in our classes?


    Applying TE in the Classroom

    First, I like to lead with the research that demonstrates the advantages of TE. Although its construct creation is still relatively new, the findings associated with facilitating TEs in classroom environments (both K12 and higher ed) have demonstrated clear benefits (Heddy & Sinatra, 2017; Heddy et al., 2017; Pugh et al., 2010). Previous research in STEM courses found that engagement in TE was related to increased interest and perceived instrumentality (Pugh et al., 2017); TE engagement generated positive affect and interest in social studies education (Alongi et al., 2016); and contributed to scientific conceptual change and academic achievement (Heddy & Sinatra, 2013). Several methods have emerged regarding how to elicit TE within classrooms. I will discuss the most common methods: the Teaching for Transformative Experience in Science (TTES) model and the Use Change Value (UCV) discussions. Both methods are effective but have varying amounts of educator and class time requirements. In a perfect world we would use the most successful interventions in our courses, but as educators we must balance what is feasible and what is effective given class time restrictions.


    The TTES model was developed in 2010 by Pugh and colleagues and has ample evidence of having been effective in inspiring TE within classroom settings (Alongi et al., 2016; Heddy et al., 2017). This model includes three general components: framing the content in terms of its experiential value, scaffolding re-seeing, and modeling transformative experiences. These components are to be modeled by the instructor and are to be conducted during class time. 

    Framing the content is specifically having the instructor refer to content in terms of its value and ability to enrich everyday experience. This can be done through discussing the immediate usefulness of the content in everyday life, or simply conveying the purpose of learning this content to enrich daily experience. This can be in terms of their immediate experience (using positive reinforcement to increase desired behavior) or even in reflecting on previous experiences. 

    Scaffolding re-seeing refers to going beyond your current perception of everyday events and objects and seeing them through the lens of a new construct or idea. By scaffolding re-seeing, the instructor is providing structure and effort to help students perceive everyday objects in their own experiences through the lens of the course content. For instance, using classical conditioning to discuss why we might respond to hearing a text message ‘ding’ in public, when it’s not our own phone. By providing these examples and coaching their re-seeing, you can then have students share examples of their own re-seeing of everyday objects and events and give feedback to guide their experiences.

    Finally, modeling of transformative experience is just as simple as it sounds. Within class, take the opportunity to share your own personal experiences of TE and how you have applied curricular content in your own everyday life and how you have used it to re-see the world. This should also include expressions of how this has led to a developed interest and experiential valuing of the content. Although this model has been adapted into various courses and contexts with benefits of increased conceptual change, and higher levels of TE (Alongi et al., 2016; Heddy & Sinatra, 2013) it does require extensive class time use as well as hands on scaffolding and feedback from the instructor which is a major shortcoming.

    UCV Discussions

    Noticing the need for a TE intervention that took up less course time, but still allowed for scaffolding of student TEs research by Heddy et al., (2017) developed a small group discussion format called Use Change and Value discussions. The UCV acronym aligns with the three components of TE (Use – motivated use, Change – expansion of perception, and Value – experiential value) and most of the work happens outside of the classroom with less peer and instructor feedback than with the TTES model. Originally the UCV discussions had students keep journals where they wrote out responses to the UCV prompts:  1) Discuss how you saw an example of course content in your everyday life (Use) 2) Discuss how seeing that content in your real-life experience has changed how you see that topic (Change) 3) Discuss why that experience was/is valuable to you (Value). Students would then bring these experiences back to the classroom and would take some class time to share their TEs with their peers and instructors to receive feedback and scaffolding. These discussions took a fraction of the time that the TTES model did and allowed for peer feedback on their experiences as well. Research using this format had been successful in facilitating higher levels of TE, interest, and academic performance compared to students who did not use UCV discussions (Heddy et al., 2017). Since previous research has also demonstrated a positive connection between TE and task values such as intrinsic, utility, and attainment value (Goldman et al., 2021) it seems no surprise that engagement in TE can be beneficial beyond just engagement.

    Further, UCV discussions can be formatted in a journal/weekly discussion format to have students continually be thinking about how the content is related to their own experiences and how events in their own life can be explained through course constructs. This method may be more appropriate for online courses, adding an additional benefit of allowing students to provide examples from their own lives. This can bring a further connection to the course through autonomy of choosing what to write about as well as relatedness in sharing personal experiences, which can be an obstacle in online courses. 


    Alongi, M. D., Heddy, B. C., & Sinatra, G. M. (2016). Real-world engagement with  controversial issues in history and social studies: Teaching for transformative experiences and conceptual change. Journal of Social Science Education, 15(2) 26-41.

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    Heddy, B. C., & Sinatra, G. M. (2013). Transforming misconceptions: Using transformative experience to promote positive affect and conceptual change in students learning about biological evolution. Science Education, 97(5), 723–744.

    Heddy, B. C., & Sinatra, G. M. (2017). Transformative parents: Facilitating transformative experiences and interest with a parent involvement intervention. Science Education, 101(5), 765–86.

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    Marini, A., & Genereux, R. (1995). The challenge of teaching for transfer. In A. McKeough, J.L. Lupart, & A. Marini (Eds.), Teaching for transfer: Fostering generalization in learning (pp. 1–19). New York, NY: Routledge

    Pugh, K. J. (2002). Teaching for transformative experiences in science: An investigation of the effectiveness of two instructional elements. Teachers College Record, 104(6), 1101–1137.

    Pugh, K. J. (2004). Newton’s laws beyond the classroom walls. Science Education, 88(2), 182– 196.

    Pugh, K. J., Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Koskey, K. L. K., Stewart, V. C., & Manzey, C. (2010).  Motivation, learning, and transformative experience: A study of deep engagement in science. Science Education, 94(1), 1–28. https://DOI:10.1002/sce.20344

    Pugh, K. J. (2011). Transformative experience: An integrative construct in the spirit of Deweyan pragmatism. Educational Psychologist, 46(2), 107–121.

    Pugh, K. J., Bergstrom, C. M., Heddy, B. C., & Krob, K. E. (2017). Supporting deep engagement: The Teaching for Transformative Experiences in Science (TTES) model. Journal of Experimental Education, 85(4), 629–657.

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

    Vansteenkiste, M., Aelterman, N., De Muynck, G.-J., Haerens, L., Patall, E., & Reeve, J. (2018). Fostering personal meaning and self-relevance: A self-determination theory perspective on internalization. Journal of Experimental Education, 86(1), 30–49.

    Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy–value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 68-81.

    Wong, E. D., Pugh, K. J., & the Dewey Ideas Group at Michigan State University. (2001). Learning science: A Deweyan perspective. Journal of Research on Science Teaching, 38, 317-336.;2-9


  • 06 Oct 2021 3:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Gabrielle P.A. Smith, PhD

    Texas Woman’s University (TWU) 

    I, like most academics, was anxious as I prepared for my first day of teaching. I agonized about everything, from my outfit, to the lesson plan. I questioned what my teaching persona would be, and if my students would like me. Did I even want them to like me, can like and respect coexist? I hoped my first day would go off without a hitch, I was not prepared for a run in with a colleague to be a precursor for the navigation of Blackness in the professoriate.

    “What will you do with your hair” – this from an airy voice in the hallway waiting for the copier. “Excuse me?” I asked, taken aback as this tiny voice was referencing my Teeny-Weeny Afro (TWA). I did not know how to respond. I had considered how most white students in a college town in Alabama would navigate my Blackness but had not even considered a change in my appearance.

    “What do you mean? Are you changing your hair or something?” – I decided a matter-of-fact statement was best suited for this copy room ambush. Stuttering ensued, and with a face two shades redder, my peer stammered out a sentence akin to “I just thought you might straighten it or something; I heard of people doing that for important things.”

    Important things.

    Black woman’s hair, accents (specifically from Spanish speakers, Asian people, and residents from the South), attire for LGBTQIA folx and Muslim people, and people with names deemed “hard to pronounce” are some of the aspects of identity often policed in academia (Boustani & Taylor, 2020; García-Bullé, 2019; Syed, 2020). Despite sitting in the ivory tower researching and offering insight into the discriminatory practices outside of the academy, we are not very apt at looking inward.

    Recently a slew of online communities began discussing the idea of Black women’s natural hair being deemed as unworthy of special occasions or professional spaces (Inman, 2021). Discussions about Black women’s hair are everywhere, from the CROWN ACT (a movement to prohibit race-based discrimination against Black hair in the US workplace and academic spaces) and embracing natural hair and even talks about respectability politics concerning the use of bonnets in public (Johnson, 2017; Official CROWN ACT; Pitcan, Marwick, Boyd, 2018). Even now, as we prepare for the Olympics, ShaCarri Richardson’s hair is a topic of conversation, reminiscent (albeit more positively), of the way Gabby Douglas' hair was scrutinized (Gillespie, 2020; Inman, 2021). The policing of Black women’s hair was not new or novel. However, at that juncture of my career (2012), conversations about Black women’s hair were not as public or progressive. Most of my conversations about my hair happened with other Black women, however, these conversations did not include interactions with people I considered friends. Thus, my understanding of the navigation of my hair in my academic world on an interpersonal level was not that accessible.

    In my two years at the University, no one had seen me with straight hair. The last time I straightened my hair was my last semester of undergrad at Spelman College. I had no desire, then or now, to straighten my hair. However, the message seemed clear, straight hair equals professional hair; the way my hair grew from my head did not. I wish I could say that I followed up with an eloquent, informative, and quotable takedown, but I cannot. I stated that “I do not straighten my hair for anyone or anything besides myself.” I ended the conversation there. Later, I broached the topic of my hair as a point of dialogue in a discussion in the Teaching of Psychology, a required course on teaching for all graduate student teachers, including me. The Teaching of Psychology professor was extraordinary and led us a transparent conversation that everyone in the space needed to hear.

    However, that experience made me realize that I was ill-prepared for this side of the academic journey. I was aware that many people expected professors to be older tall white men. I was none of those things, and as a young, Black woman standing under 5 feet, I expected not to fit the mold. However, I was not prepared for the willingness of others to openly express their desire for me to tweak myself to squeeze into this ill-fit model. Professional expectations in the corporate world were well established, but the academic sphere only mentioned tweed jackets and rim-framed glasses. Induced assimilation in a career path frequently touted as aligned with freedom and agency was jarring. Also, as a graduate of a historically Black college, almost every Black professor I knew rocked natural hair unapologetically.

    While my TWA has grown and expanded throughout my time teaching, the need to navigate my personal racial identity alongside my professional identity has remained constant both inside and outside of the classroom. I often teach courses that either center (e.g., The Psychology of the African American Experience) or engage Blackness (Global Perspectives) in ways that highlight my race more than other courses in the field. Classroom interactions vary widely based on course content and the identities that are salient to the course.

    Being Black in the front of a classroom that discusses Blackness is different from being white or any other racial or ethnic group teaching the same topic. Words such as race and diversity are interpreted as Black when they leave my lips. Even when I express that diversity is intersectional and allows space for an array of lived experiences, the follow-up is always an expectation of a bias toward racial issues that will impact my teaching (Crenshaw, 2013; Dill, 2009; Icaza Garza & Vázquez, 2017).

    Most of the focus on identity in the classroom is centered around navigating this for undergraduate students and not how to navigate it for graduate students, staff, or faculty. Further, our conversations about navigating identity in the classroom often center on students’ personal identities and those immediately around them. While the emphasis on student identity is essential, it is not the complete picture. Identity is relevant even outside of the classroom. In other campus spaces, the identities of all involved parties: teaching assistants, lecturers, professors, department chairs, provosts, presidents, administrative assistants, housing staff, facilities staff, and all other campus entities impact the social environment of our academic spaces. These identities are often not considered; however, they can and must be examined when advocating for diverse and inclusive spaces. Even the climate off-campus, in the surrounding social spaces of our campuses, are imperative environments to consider. Everything in our social environment bleeds into the classroom, including experiences informed by our societal position. Thus, we need to be proactive and consider the environment both within and outside our classroom doors.

    If we want to create diverse and inclusive campuses, we need to make sure that we are actively attending to the needs of all campus members. Honestly, we need to be thinking beyond the classroom and attending to identity in all campus spaces. Are you examining the entire campus for areas of improvement concerning diversity? Are we asking questions about inclusivity and belonging concerning the library and the cafeteria? Are we assessing the makeup of our diversity committees and task force and ensuring these loads are not disproportionately distributed to faculty, staff, and students of a few demographics? Do we have diversity and diversity-related initiatives, but are they only regulated to certain areas of campus? Is the institutional rationale for diversity inclusive, or does it center on the educational benefits of students in the majority a critical benefit of diversification (Starck, Sinclair, & Shelton, 2021)? What are the local politics, and how do they impact our campus community? Are some campus members having to navigate belonging on campus and navigation of identity-relevant issues off-campus?

    As a Black woman from the US South, a Social Psychologist, recently promoted to Associate Professor, who has issues with mobility and identifies in a multitude of other ways; I should be tapped to do things both related and unrelated to diversity issues. My colleagues who do not identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color, disabled, women, who identify as cis-gendered and heterosexual, and are privileged in various other ways (e.g., language) should also be engaged in diversity work. Every demographic is needed to ensure that our spaces are diverse, and diversity should not be a buzzword or call to action for historically underrepresented groups. The invisible labor expected of those often excluded from academic spaces is unwarranted. It contributes to preconceived notions when someone who looks like me or others with diverse salient identities steps in front of a classroom. The labor should be shared, but often it is not. Thus, the social categorization and social bias of Black professors, staff with disabilities, Latinx students, Muslim administrators, etc., are socially constructed by the campus environment and how we regulate diversity issues to certain departments and specific people (Author Unknown, 2017; García-Bullé, 2019). It is not enough to embrace diversity and increase the numbers; there must be concrete actions to ensure that the needs of all members of the community are assessed and addressed.

    As stated by Toni Morrison, “When you get these jobs that you have been​ so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to ​free somebody else. If you have some power,​ then your job is to empower somebody else. ​This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”​ Reviewing our campus community and ensuring that it is accessible, welcoming, and inclusive to all, even those we disagree with, is imperative to true diversity. Dedication to diversity should be all-encompassing, it is everyone’s job, and the definition of diversity should always be defined broadly.Page Break


    Author Unknown (2017). Social Categorization in the Classroom. PSYCH 424 blog. Retrieved from

    Boustani, K., & Taylor, K. A. (2020). Navigating LGBTQ+ discrimination in academia: Where do we go from here? The Biochemist, 42(3), 16-20. https://10.1042/BIO20200024

    Crenshaw, K.(2013)Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color’. Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241-1300.

    Dill, Bonnie Thorton (2009) “Intersections, Identities, and Inequalities in Higher Education”, in B. T. Dill and R. Zambrana, eds. Emerging Intersections: Race, Class, and Gender in Theory, Policy and Practice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, pp. 229-252.

    García-Bullé, S. (2019). The Accent as a Basis for Prejudice in Academia. Observatory of Educational Innovation. Retrieved from:

    Gillespie, C. (2020). Gabby Douglas reveals bald spots from years of wearing ponytails: 'I was so embarrassed'.

    Icaza Garza, R.A, & Vázquez, R. (2017). Intersectionality and Diversity in Higher Education. Tijdschrift voor Orthopedagogiek, 7/8, 349–357. Retrieved from

    Inman, D. (2021). 5 things you should know about olympian Sha’Carri Richardson. Retrieved from

    Johnson. Desiree (2017). .Do you feel pressured to straighten your hair for formal events?

    Official CROWN Act. The Official CROWN Act.

    Pitcan, M., Marwick, A. E., & Boyd, D. (2018). Performing a vanilla self: Respectability politics, social class, and the digital world. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 23(3), 163-179. https://10.1093/jcmc/zmy008

    Starck, J. G., Sinclair, S., & Shelton, J. N. (2021). How university diversity rationales inform

    student preferences and outcomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(16), e2013833118. https://10.1073/pnas.2013833118

    Syed, A. (2020). Hijabi students navigate the discussion around wearing hijab in academia. Retrieved from:

    Young, D. (2016). The definition, danger and disease of respectability politics, explained. The Root. Retrieved from

  • 06 Sep 2021 2:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr. 

    Monmouth University  


    Teaching is easily my favorite part of being a professor. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that the modalities and ways we teach are constantly shifting, often back-and-forth more than a few times. Although the “how” of our teaching has changed, the “why” remains the same: to support and educate our students in ways that help them improve their lives.  


    Pandemic teaching has been a reminder that teaching takes many forms, many of which lie beyond the classroom walls. Early in my career, at an SPSP Teaching Preconference, I had the pleasure of seeing David Myers give a talk where he made a simple suggestion: Writing is a form of teaching. It stuck with me. Suddenly writing became a lot more appealing.  


    Whether you’re crafting a journal article’s introduction, a chapter, a book, or a blog post, writing in a clear and engaging style determines your ideas’ usefulness. Yet, despite writing being such an essential skill, we don’t discuss it nearly enough.   


    Lately, it’s practically all I think about. Over the past 2 years, I’ve been immersed in writing a trade book (Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them), revising my research methods textbook, and editing a book on the self in relationships. To keep my head above water during that time, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a better and more efficient writer.  


    I wish I had learned it a lot sooner. Hopefully I can help make your writing journey a little less bumpy than mine by offering a few new insights, or at least some helpful reminders.  


    It takes time. I’m not sure it’s a Gladwellian 10,000 hours, but improvement in anything requires that you put in the reps. Writing is no exception. These days, I write a lot. Every day. Often a couple hours a day. (No one would be more surprised to hear that than my graduate school self.) But it helps. As they say, writers are made and not born. In my case, writing more has made me a better writer. It has gotten easier, but…   


    It’s never easy. If you’re waiting for the moment where perfect sentences naturally and easily flow through you, I hope you’re patient. The fact is, conveying ideas clearly on the page (or screen) is unbelievably difficult. Achieving clarity is a process. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer, just that writing is hard. Fun fact: Some of these sentences are my fifth try, none are my first. Still, most aren’t quite as polished as I’d like. Writing forces you to put your perfectionism aside. 


    Be a professional. Writing is essential to your career success. Respect it. Professionals show up, put in the hours, and commit to getting better. Build your skills by reading books on being a better writer. You likely know about Strunk & White, but also check out William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Read it, refer to it, practice it. Reviewer 2 adeptly rips apart parts of your manuscript, but you rarely get line edits designed to improve your writing’s clarity. Find someone who writes better than you and get their feedback. I’m also big believer in the BIC (Butt-In-Chair) method. Carve out a set time each day to sit and write at the time of day you’re most productive. Put it in your schedule. I start with 30 minutes and if I’m feeling it, I keep going. If not, I work on something else guilt-free.  


    What “counts”?  Here’s the trick: I almost never work on something else because I count LOTS of activities as writing. Too often we only think of writing as clean ready-for-publication paragraphs. That’s setting the bar way too high. Instead, I consider all of these “writing”: brainstorming ideas, reading articles, taking notes, outlining, writing out key sentences, revising previous drafts, and writing first drafts. Counting more activities allows me to build the habit and maintain momentum.   


    Writing pipeline and “sloppy copies.” Like a research pipeline, having several things in your writing pipeline makes it easier to have lots of things “count.” The hardest most intimidating draft is the first one. Take the sting out of it by only committing to a “sloppy copy” that is full of typos, missing citations, and barely understandable sentences. Get crazy, make some APA style errors too. The important thing is to get your ideas down in an uninhibited way. You could also do this via voice-to-text. Whatever it takes to get started. If you’re not ready for that on a particular day, the other pieces in the “pipeline” are there to revise. Besides, all good writing comes from revising.   


    Do it on deadline.  Whether you’re the “pressure makes diamonds” type or not, a little time blocking is helpful. I don’t know about you, but as a hopelessly overscheduled academic and parent, large chunks of time are hard to find. (I’m currently writing this in a dark parking lot while my daughter is at softball practice.)  In other words, don’t wait for the perfect conditions. Just write. Even when I have more time during regular writing sessions, I force a little artificial time pressure. Perhaps you’re familiar with the Pomodoro technique where you work for small chunks and take frequent breaks. I use something similar of my own creation: the classic vinyl technique. I have a record player in my office and commit to writing for one side of a record (which is about 20-25 minutes). Flipping the record requires a mini-break that helps punctuate my screen time, and if I want to keep listening to the record I have to keep writing. (As I revise this, I'm currently listening to Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced?  It’s awesome.) 


    Read. I’m also a believer in reading “counting” as a writing activity. Reading is like maintenance run that allows you to keep your writing fitness, without the pressure of a more strenuous writing session. It’s also the cheapest writing coach you can find. When looking for things to read, pick something light. If you must do non-fiction, choose something outside of your research area and ideally not a journal article. Seek out good writing outside of academia wherever you can find it. A stellar recent example is Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb.” It’s a masterclass on using language, word choice, rhythm, and delivery. It’s clear, cogent, and captivating. Just like good teaching.  


    Parting Thoughts 

    Certainly these suggestions aren’t “one size fits all”, but I hope they fit most. If you’re skeptical about some aspects, engage in little rugged empiricism and give it a try. You never know what might click.  


    We often refer to ourselves as “teacher-scholars.” Remember that when we do, teacher comes first. As a teacher, the students come first. As a writer, the readers come first. It’s our job to write in a way that draw readers in and allows our ideas to reach as many people as possible. The APA wants us to “give psychology away” which “means sharing the broad benefits that psychological science and expertise have to offer in order to enhance society and improve the lives of others.”  We do that when we teach, and we can do it when we write.  

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