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

ECP Corner

This blog contains submissions from STP's Early Career Psychology (ECP) Committee to the ECP Corner column in STP News from January 2020 to the present.  The ECP Corner first appeared in the November 2016 issue of the newsletter, which was then called ToPNEWS-Online.  You can read ECP Corner columns from November 2016 through December 2019 in past issues of ToPNEWS-Online here.

Submit questions to ‘Ask an ECP’

For their monthly column, the ECP Committee wants to research and answer questions that mean the most to you. If you have a question, fill out this simple form and your question may be featured in an upcoming column.

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  • 05 Dec 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Courtney Gosnell, Chair of the Early Career Psychology Committee

    As we wrap up 2023, I want to thank our ECPs for making 2023 a great year! Our committee hosted our first-ever Hackathon this past summer allowing teachers to exchange tips and suggestions for Introduction to Psychology, Research Methods, and Statistics! At ACT, we coordinated dinners and socials and offered the workshop, “Rethinking Course Syllabi & Assignments: How To Generate Engaging, Equitable, and Transparent Student Materials.” And, behind the scenes, we are working to compile resources from past teaching conferences in a paper that will help future ECPs navigate their career paths. Throughout it all, we got the opportunity to network and engage with amazing ECPs, learn from them, and help them where we could.

    My time on the committee is coming to an end, and I’m so grateful for my fellow committee members and all of the STP ECPs who have made serving on this committee such an amazing experience! But, as I head out, we are excited to announce our new ECP committee chair will be Amanda Woodward. Amanda has served on the committee for the past two years and is excited to take the lead for next year. In addition, we have a new ECP Committee Member who will be joining us: Maria Iankilevitch from the University of Victoria! We are excited to welcome her to our committee and know she will make an impact on our ECP team!

    As the year comes to a close, we wish you all speedy grading, (mainly) positive teaching evaluations, and the enjoyment of a well-deserved break with friends and family! Have a great holiday season and happy new year!

    We are looking forward to interacting with more teaching enthusiasts at ACT: Online in February and at the next ACT in Louisville next October!

    Your STP Early Career Psychology Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 01 Nov 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The 2023 year has certainly flown by, and it is hard to believe that ACT was already a month ago! Our October ECP Corner recapped the workshop we hosted, “Rethinking Course Syllabi & Assignments: How To Generate Engaging, Equitable, and Transparent Student Materials.” A copy of our presentation and an accompanying worksheet can be found in this Google Drive folder.

    In addition to the workshop, the ECP Committee hosted an ECP Poster competition, a Friday night dinner with American Psychological Association Publishing, our annual Speed Mentoring Event, and a social hour for everyone to kick back and enjoy as the conference came to a close.

    It was exciting to see such a big presence of ECPs presenting posters at the Social Hour and Poster Session on Friday night. The ECP Committee went around and judged every poster that had a first-author ECP in a scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) or a teaching innovations category. In each category, we are awarding a $200 prize for first-place winners and $100 for second-place winners.

    Our first category included SoTL posters that involved an experiment with new data collection. We are excited to present two prizes! In first place, we have Daniel Storage from the University of Denver who presented “A Brief Intervention to Improve Perceived Self-Efficacy in Introduction to Statistics.” In second place, we have Jenna Zucker from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville who presented “Co-Curricular Book Club as a Means for Fostering Academic Skills.”

    Our second category included teaching innovation posters that shared valuable information about something with important implications in teaching. In first place, we have Michele Wellsby from Mount Royal University, who presented “Truth or Lie: Using Mentimeter in the Classroom Enhances Student Learning and Engagement.” In second place, we have Chelsea Robertson from West Liberty University who presented, “Creating a Trauma-Informed Syllabus.”

    After the conference came to a close, we hosted our annual Speed Mentoring Event, where graduate students and early career psychologists had the opportunity to receive speed mentoring and meet up to five mentors in a two-hour window. This year, we were fortunate enough to have 12 amazing mentors, making the event a huge success! Thank you again to all of our awesome mentors: Janet Peters, Ho Huynh, Dave Kreiner, Sue Frantz, Ellen Carpenter, Kiersten Gaughman, Erika Fulton, Molly Metz, Jane Halonen, Xiaomeng (Mona) Xu, Todd Joseph, and Ashley Waggoner Denton!

    Finally, the Saturday night ended with an awesome social hour, sponsored by the ECP Committee. It is always great to have opportunities to connect with others that are involved in STP and excited to continue looking for ways to grow and learn with and from others.

    We are looking forward to interacting with more teaching enthusiasts at ACT: Online in February and at the next ACT in Louisville next October!

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 01 Oct 2023 12:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECPs,

    There has been a growing trend in higher ed to increase transparency and equity in our courses. The term has already started, but what are some things that I can do now to improve transparency in my courses?


    Overwhelmed, but Want to Make a Difference

    What a great question. If you made it to ACT this year, the ECP committee gave a workshop to address some of these issues. But for those who missed it, here is a snapshot of the different ways we can increase transparency and equity by making small changes to our existing syllabi and assignments! Here are three of the major ideas or frameworks that are big right now.

    First, is the TILT model, or Transparency in Teaching and Learning. The principle of TILT is to provide students with context for the WHY and HOW of their learning experiences. When writing assignments, the TILT model suggests formatting your instructions to include a discussion of the purpose of the assignment, what the task for the assignment is, and the criteria for grading. The PURPOSE of the assignment can include skills practiced, knowledge gained, relevance to other course components, and long-term relevance to students’ lives. The TASK part is the traditional instructions for an assignment but should also describe how students should complete the requirements (actions to do or avoid). In the CRITERIA section, providing a clear rubric, checklist, and examples to clarify what the end product should look like and how it will be assessed. The main idea of TILT is to learn to see your course assignments and syllabus from the perspective of the student. While you can’t necessarily apply the PURPOSE-TASK-CRITERIA formatting to a syllabus, you can still apply the goals of TILT to your syllabi. For example, provide transparency by providing context to course policies, use student-friendly language, explain how different components of the course work together, and add links and resources your students might benefit from. Using a question-based syllabus is one way to help point students to the right places within the syllabus to find what they need to know.

    Second, is the IDEA framework, or a focus on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. By understanding IDEA concepts, you create a better environment for students to feel as though they belong which facilitates their learning. When crafting your syllabi consider policies that are family-friendly, schedules that consider non-Christian religious holidays (e.g., Diwali, Ramadan), opportunities for communication, readings from diverse researchers, and balancing course assignments to assess different strengths. For example, the Hindu festival of Diwali is normally in October or November each year. Check the date and adjust your schedule to allow appropriate time for students to observe the festival. When assigning readings, consider the author's background and when possible, provide readings from under-represented groups, then briefly share appropriate context when introducing the readings in class. A key resource for implementing IDEA in syllabi can be found here.

    Third, is the emphasis on the skills students gain in our courses. The Skillful Psychology Student (APA) is a great resource for identifying the skills psychology students get across our curriculums. You can add an area in your syllabus to acknowledge these skills and discuss how your particular course content and/or assignments contribute to these skills. This section of the syllabus should also encourage students to incorporate these skills into their resumes. You can similarly explicitly identify the skills learned or developed with individual assignments. This provides students with the opportunity to use their coursework as examples they can refer to in interviews, on resumes, or in a portfolio. A course wrap-up assignment can be used allowing students to reflect on the skills they gained during the term and how those skills were refined. By highlighting the skills students are learning in our classes, we are making the relevancy of the courses to future careers clear, which can improve student motivation.

    These frameworks have separate focuses, but ultimately the goals are the same, to provide students with a clear understanding of what they are getting out of our classes and a sense of ownership and belonging in their education. While a complete overhaul of a course can better allow us to do this for our students, we can make small changes now to our syllabi and assignments to acknowledge students’ diverse backgrounds, experiences, and goals.

    Find out more by checking out our resources from this Workshop.

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 01 Sep 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECPs,

    The new school year is underway, and ACT on-site in Portland inches closer day-by-day! I have never attended ACT, and I am very excited to connect with other teachers and psychology enthusiasts in October. What should I keep in mind when getting ready to attend the conference? Where can I find ECP members and events during the conference?


    A New ACT Attendee

    Dear A New ACT Attendee,

    It is indeed exciting that ACT in Portland is only a month away now! There will be other new attendees, like yourself, and even others that are looking forward to meeting old friends and making new friends. ACT is always a welcoming and friendly conference that uses a variety of approaches (poster session, shorter workshops, longer workshops, PIEs) to foster an educational and meaningful environment. No matter who we are, there is always a lot to enjoy, soak in, and learn throughout the conference. The fun will actually continue after Portland during the online conference, tentatively scheduled for February 12-16, 2024. Keep an eye out for further updates to come!

    The ACT Committee has shared a tentative schedule and program for the on-site part of the conference. Below are some additional details about events that the ECP Committee will be hosting throughout the conference.

    To get things started, there will be a Welcome Reception on Thursday, where you can meet new and returning attendees. Your ECP committee will be there, so feel free to say hi!

    The first day of the conference will be Friday, October 6. After the day’s sessions are done, there will be an Early Career Psychology dinner, where we can get to know each other and debrief on the first full day. You can sign-up to join us at the conference registration table, and a meeting and dinner location will be decided closer to the conference. This can be a fun way to just relax with others, enjoy some good food, and chat!

    On our final conference day, Saturday, October 7, we’ll have quite a few events! Starting early, from 8:30-10:30 am, we will be hosting a two-hour workshop titled, “Rethinking Course Syllabi and Assignments: How to Generate Engaging, Equitable, and Transparent Student Materials.” This workshop includes both discussion time and work time, so feel free to bring any working copies of syllabi and assignments that you are looking to update!

    We will also host a Speed Mentoring session from 5:30-7:30 pm (after the main conference ends). This is a nice way to connect with multiple mentors and get insight into your professional development and teaching questions. In advance of the conference, we will send out surveys for those interested in being a mentor or mentee. Additional details will be shared in mid-September.

    Are you interested in being a MENTOR? Sign up here with this link by September 15!

    Are you interested in being a MENTEE? Sign up here with this link by September 25!

    After this session, we will have an ECP social hour, to celebrate a successful conference and offer one last networking event. We hope to see you there!

    Want to connect with us before ACT or find updates leading up to the conference? You can find ECP and STP through any of the outlets below!

  • 01 Aug 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Summer is flying away, but there’s still time to do some “summer reading” in preparation for the upcoming academic year. Here are some of the newest research-based books on teaching that we’d recommend reading.

    First, in this book written by and for college educators, our very own Viji Sathy and Kelly Hogan give helpful tips on how to make ALL students feel included and welcome in the classroom by providing more structure in both course design and student interactions. Inclusive Teaching, goes beyond theory, offering pragmatic approaches to amplify diverse voices across various scenarios: from conducting impactful office hours that students actually attend to effectively providing instructions for group discussions and projects and fostering effective communication with students in general. If you're an educator seeking to create a more welcoming and supportive space for ALL your students, this engaging book will be an indispensable resource in your path towards inclusive excellence in teaching.

    Similarly, Reconnect: Building School Culture for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging helps educators cultivate a sense of belonging and connection at school despite the sharp decline in students’ engagement and mental health since the pandemic. (If you’d like to familiarize yourself with trauma-informed teaching in light of the collective trauma of the pandemic, check out Trauma-Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching for Healing and Transformation.) In Reconnect, Doug Lemov (of Teach Like a Champion fame) and his coauthors, Hilary Lewis, Darryl Williams, and Denarius Frazier, focus on what belonging can look like and sound like—while students are learning.

    Moreover, in the well-written book Mind Over Monsters: Supporting Youth Mental Health with Compassionate Challenge, insightful Sara Rose Cavanagh also equips educators with the research-based tools needed to create a nurturing and inclusive learning environment where compassion and challenge intersect harmoniously to positively impact students even if they are struggling with their mental health.

    In a similar vein, Cultivating Kindness: An Educator’s Guide by John-Tyler Binfet is a highly recommended read. This book offers practical strategies and evidence-based insights for creating a nurturing and compassionate classroom environment in which all students can succeed and thrive. By incorporating kindness practices, educators can foster positive relationships with their students and also promote their social-emotional development and overall well-being. With real-world examples and research, Binfet empowers teachers to inspire a culture of kindness to positively impact their students' academic and emotional growth.

    Finally, if you’re feeling too burnt out to even think about reading any of these books, please know that you are NOT alone, as burnout is only becoming more rampant among teachers. If you can’t take a sabbatical for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, at least skimming this guide could offer a helpful start in tackling teacher burnout: Surviving Teacher Burnout: A Weekly Guide to Build Relationships, Deal with Emotional Exhaustion, and Stay Inspired in the Classroom by Amy L. Eva.

    If you prefer electronic resources, STP has a variety of e-books on scholarship of teaching and learning, various teaching techniques, and theories of teaching. Some e-books were even written specifically for early career instructors. The E-xcellence in Teaching Blog also offers quick reads on many teaching topics.

  • 27 Jun 2023 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    June marked the start of summer break (for many of us!). Whether you wrapped up your semester a few weeks ago or you’re looking ahead to summer after completing a quarter, summer offers a time for us to rest, relax, and reflect after a long academic year. Here, we will offer some ideas on how to make the most of your summer to prepare for fall. 

    ·         Relax and Recharge! We all have different commitments during the summer. Some are teaching summer courses and diving into research projects while others have no academic time commitments or are somewhere in between. Regardless of what your summer looks like, it’s important to take time to rest. Taking time to relax improves our overall well-being and our productivity. Whether your version of relaxing is sleeping in, working on hobbies, or spending more time with friends and family, taking the time to rest and have fun can help us return to campus ready to tackle the next term without burning out. 

    ·         Summer Reading. One of my favorite parts of summer is being able to read a good book in the sunshine. If you, like me, find joy in reading by the pool, but want to learn more about teaching, consider combining the two! There are countless teaching books on many topics you may be interested in. If you want recommendations, the STP Facebook page can be a good resource to ask the hivemind! The first teaching book on my list is Inclusive Teaching by Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy.

    If you prefer online resources, STP has a variety of e-books on scholarship of teaching and learning, various teaching techniques, and theories of teaching. There are even books written specifically for early career instructors. The E-xcellence in Teaching Blog also offers quick reads on many topics.   

    ·         Reflecting on Course Design. Now that the end of the prior term has passed, you may have more space to reflect on the courses you’ve taught. Taking the time to reflect on your teaching and your prior classes can set you up for a successful fall. If you’ve taught before, these reflections may include revisiting student evaluations to find common themes and may also involve considering what you think went well or what could be improved. If you haven’t taught before, you may reflect on your goals as an instructor and what you want students in your future class take away from your course. 

    ·         Consider Your Own Career Goals. Summer may provide space for you to consider longer-term career goals. You may take this time to create an Individualized Development Plan (IDP) or reflect on your progress toward career goals. If you are stuck, consider applying for the STP mentorship program toward the end of the summer, where Early Career members can be matched with a mentor to help them develop and achieve career goals. 

    Making the most of summer will mean different things to different people. For some, it will mean taking a large step back from teaching responsibilities to focus on other aspects of our lives. For others, it may mean using our work time to revamp a course or to focus on other aspects of our jobs. We hope the above give you points to consider and that you use summer to recharge and prepare in whatever ways make the most sense for you!

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 04 Apr 2023 3:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECPs,

    Spring break is behind us now, and I always think about how April is a marathon to the end of the semester. It’s insightful but overwhelming thinking about all the things that have gone well, and not so well, during the semester. Do others feel this way too? How do I approach this home stretch to the semester?


    A Tired Teacher

    Dear A Tired Teacher,

    Yes! Others most definitely feel this way, too. Last month, we talked about mid-semester evaluations to see how students feel about our class. Based on what students said, and thinking about the semester as a whole, we may feel happy with some parts and not as happy with other parts. It can often be helpful to share these thoughts with others and know that we are not alone. One of many approaches to do this is called Roses and Thorns, where we can share the best part of the semester and the worst part of the semester so far. Here is what some of our early career psychologists have reflected on this month!


    Rose: My Research Methods in Social Psychology students have been working remarkably well on their group research projects this semester using publicly available datasets instead of collecting their own data like I’ve done in the past. Despite initial anxiety about statistics, many students were actually excited to see if their hypotheses were supported by the data they’re examining, which was so great to see! I may have even succeeded in making research methods and stats “Not Awful” (thanks, Jess Hartnett!) because my methods course for the Fall is already full with a long waitlist, which isn’t typical.

    Thorn: I had students in my Science of Happiness seminar (mostly seniors) work in small groups to lead class discussion on a course topic of their choice this semester, which hasn’t been going as well as I’d hoped. I really regret not requiring lesson plans to be submitted 1-2 weeks in advance because many seemed to prepare their class discussions at the last minute, and it showed. I hope doing so and implementing a confidential evaluation of group work will help prevent social loafing and ensure better student-led class discussions in the future.


    Rose: My Experimental Psychology students are working really well in their groups this semester and seem excited to be finishing up and presenting their projects! Sometimes students in this class struggle to find motivation or are impacted by difficult group dynamics—so it has been really nice to have groups working positively and productively as we approach their final presentations!

    Thorn: In addition to teaching, I also advise first-year students (whom I had as students in our Introduction to University Life course in the Fall). It has been particularly hard this year to get them to sign up for meeting times (And then show up for those meetings once they sign up!). I’m still trying to find the best way to help them develop skills related to time management/meeting etiquette.


    Rose: I adjunct at a two-year institution, and I am teaching general psychology this term. The students are super engaged each class period, and I always have a blast hearing their great questions and connections to real life. It makes me feel more and more excited to step into the classroom each day and meet with them.

    Thorn: I have a new prep this semester for a graduate course. Sometimes, it feels like this one has more things going wrong than right, but I keep telling myself that it’s still okay! I am thankful for the students in the class voicing what they do and do not enjoy about the class, though, so that we can make the class better for all of us.

    In addition to acknowledging, reflecting on, and learning from roses and thorns about the semester, it could be a good way to collect informal feedback from students, too! Some instructors have done this at random points throughout the semester as a way to check in on students. April is a marathon full of exciting times, too. Good luck to everyone as another semester winds down!

  • 01 Mar 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECP Committee,

    I feel like I have put a lot of time into designing my classes but feel like I am being met with blank stares. I can’t tell how my students feel about the course. What can I do?


    A Bad Mind Reader

    Dear A Bad Mind Reader,

    It can be hard to tell exactly what’s going through our students’ minds in the moment and it’s easy to make assumptions when met with blank stares. You could wait for final evaluations to come back, but this can take a while and won’t benefit your current students. Collecting Midsemester feedback can be a great way to learn more about what your students are thinking, and to make (small) corrections to improve their learning environment. The information you obtain from students can also provide insight into any potential concerns about your class and allow you to improve your teaching.

    What is midsemester feedback and how do I get it?

    Many of us put a lot of time and effort into designing our courses. However, we are not always sure our plans will align with student performance. Midsemester feedback is when we ask students to tell us how the course is going from their perspective.

    There are many ways to collect feedback from students. You can choose to collect the data yourself using a survey or invite a colleague or member of your school’s teaching and learning center to collect feedback for you. The method you choose can depend on several factors, including the level and type of feedback you’d like, the amount of class time you’d like to devote to obtaining feedback, and your preferences.

    What to ask?

    The questions you ask should reflect what you are interested in learning through your midsemester evaluation. If you’d like to obtain a general sense of how the course is going, you can ask general questions about what is helping students learn and anything that is hindering their ability to learn. If you are wondering about specific things, such as how your newly flipped classroom is going, then it is a good idea to include specific questions (e.g. “In what ways are the pre-class materials aiding your learning?”). You should not ask questions about items you are not planning to change. If you are required to use a specific textbook in your statistics course, then asking students “how do you feel about the textbook?” may lead to answers you cannot address.

    If you need help picking questions to ask, have no fear! There are sample questions on the STP Facebook page and on many Teaching and Learning Center websites. This chapter and Midcourse Correction for the College Classroom provides an overview of how to collect and use midsemester feedback. When in doubt, your colleagues can also be a great resource!

    How do I use Midsemester feedback?

    Once you’ve collected student responses, you need to make sense of it. It can be helpful to look for patterns in student responses and identify common perceptions. Then, you can brainstorm responses to share with your students. If you feel lost at how to address certain responses, you can always rely on your colleagues and teaching and learning center.

    When you ask for feedback, it’s important to address it with your students. Depending on the number of students and questions you ask, you won’t be able to address every single comment. However, you can mention any patterns you noticed in students’ responses, both the positive and negative. You likely won’t make every change that students request, and there may be times where student responses conflict, like whether the class pacing is “too fast” or “too slow.” In these cases, it can be helpful to acknowledge the pattern you noticed and explain why you aren’t changing that aspect of your course.

    Any advice for getting midsemester feedback?

    ·      Keep it brief! Midsemester often means midterms for students across multiple classes. Using brief, general questions can help you obtain feedback on the whole course. If you have a specific area you’re interested in getting feedback, devote a question or two to that topic.

    ·      Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to. Make sure to focus your questions on things that you can address. If you can’t control the lighting, the room, or the textbook, don’t ask students how they feel about these items.

    ·      Focus on student learning, not liking. You (and your course) cannot make everyone happy. Feedback on learning will provide you with more productive responses that can help you improve your course. Focusing on liking can lead you to receive feedback you can’t address.

    ·      Focus on the middle. Students provide feedback ranging from “this is the best class I have ever had” to “this is the worst class ever.” While the former can raise your spirits, the latter can sting. When looking through feedback to address, it can be most helpful to look at the responses in the middle. These students may not sing your praises, but they may provide you with constructive criticism to make your class even better!

    ·      Differentiate between emotional and actionable. It’s ok to respond emotionally to feedback, both positively and negatively. Before addressing feedback with your students, it can help to differentiate between evaluations you can act on (i.e., actionable) and those that elicit emotions from you (i.e., emotional)

    Ultimately, collecting Midsemester Feedback can benefit you by providing specific ways to improve your course, serving as evidence for effective teaching, and to help your students feel seen in your classroom. We wish you luck with the rest of your semester!

  • 04 Feb 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECP Committee,

    As we enter the month of Valentine’s Day, I started thinking about how we promote a sense of connection between the students in our classes. What are some strategies we can use to help students feel comfortable with each other, gain a sense of belonging within our classrooms, and perhaps even help students develop new friendships amongst their peers? Any suggestions?

    -Looking for Connection

    Dear Looking for Connection,

     What a great question! Some of our best class experiences have been those in which students really connect with each other. Furthermore, past research suggests that when students feel connected and supported by their peers in the classroom, their motivation, classroom participation, and performance can all improve (e.g., Frisby & Martin, 2010, Zumbrunn, McKim, Buhs, & Hawley, 2014), especially for historically underrepresented or marginalized students (e.g., Murphy et al., 2020) . As an ancillary benefit, social connection is also crucial for students’ mental health, which was reportedly negatively impacted by the COVID-pandemic in 72% of college students surveyed from over 650 higher education counseling centers (Scofield & Locke, 2022), and can negatively affect students’ academic performance as well. So, as instructors, helping to facilitate student connection can really pay off in terms of setting our students up for success, both in and outside the classroom. Below, several of our committee members share some of their favorite techniques for developing a sense of connection within the classroom:

    Amanda: I have used an activity called “Finding Common Ground” which is a nice way for students to form connections in the classroom. In this activity, students get into pairs (or small groups depending on the size of your class) and have to find three things they have in common. The only rule is that they can’t use the fact that they are 1) all in my class, 2) psychology majors, or 3) students at my University. I generally prompt them to think about favorite foods and hobbies, but remind them that it can be anything. Afterwards, I have them report out loud to the rest of the class so they can learn more about each other and I allow time for them to comment on each group’s responses (e.g., “I like running too!”). 

    In my larger (350) student class, I have a few online discussion boards to help students get to know each other outside of the classroom. For instance, there is a “study buddy” discussion board that students can choose to interact with. Students have used this discussion board to not only find people with similar availability, but also to disclose how they’re feeling about current material and share tips and tricks for learning statistics. These discussion boards are supplemented with in-class group activities where they work together to work through problems and code. 

    Courtney: I have used the “Fast Friends” procedure (see Aron et al. (1997) and Chopik & Oh (2022)) in several courses when we have discussed topics such as self-disclosure or relationship foundations. This task basically has students take turns answering personal questions (that move beyond more typical small-talk questions)  as a way to get to know each other in a more meaningful way. Students tend to leave the activity feeling much closer to their discussion partner and there are some teaching lessons you can easily embed (e.g., talking about how the method has been used in past research). Although I have often used it to illustrate relevant course content–it would also make a great standalone ice-breaker activity!

    Pulling from prior work on “capitalization support” (or getting support in response to positive event disclosures), I have also had students take turns sharing personal good news with each other in a classroom section as a way to build a sense of connection (see Gosnell, 2020). Students are simply asked to share something good that happened to them since the last class with a partner or in a small group. It can be something big (“I got an internship!”) or something small (“I had a delicious new sandwich in the dining hall!”).  This task is an easy (and fairly quick) activity that students can do at the beginning of class–and it can pay off in terms of helping them feel connected and supported by their peers. 

    Finally, I use a lot of small group hand-on activities and demos throughout my classes. I sometimes have students work with those around them (to build relationships with those they have close proximity to). But, I also will intentionally mix things up and have students move around the room to get in new groups so that students slowly (but surely) get to know all of their classmates (and not just the one or two people they tend to sit next to). This helps them start to feel closer to the class as a whole.

    Dina: I have also used the “Fast Friends” procedure that Courtney described above with great success as well as a similar research-backed ice-breaker you can try for social connection that only takes 9 minutes: the Relationship Closeness Induction Task (RCIT). The RCIT is another structured self-disclosure procedure that entails students pairing up and taking turns answering a total of 29 questions that get more and more personal in three rounds of 3 minutes each. (Most students won’t actually get to all those questions, but encourage them to answer as many questions as they feel comfortable answering in the time allotted.) I have students do this activity when they are learning about relationships and/or social connection, so I also have them use the Inclusion of Other in the Self (IOS) Scale (Aron et al., 1992) before and after to see if their closeness actually increased and discuss their experience. Students consistently report really enjoying this activity and feeling closer to their discussion partner afterward, and often engage more in class discussion, too! 

    In addition, I have used the capitalization exercise Courtney described with great success to illustrate active-constructive responding and its benefits in my Positive Psychology courses, but I look forward to trying this in my other classes as well. Since the pandemic, I began starting each class with an ice-breaker, connection exercise or check-in to show students I care about them as humans and also prime students for quality sharing. I highly recommend doing so if possible because the few minutes you spend regularly facilitating student connection and belonging can pay huge dividends in their engagement, learning, and success. A ritual at the end of class, such as “Exit Tickets” to assess and improve student learning, can also boost connection and a sense of community.  You may find this Padlet of resources on facilitating social connection online that I created for a past STP talk on that topic (you can also feel free to add to it with a free account :) helpful when teaching in person, too: www. 

    Finally, my courses usually entail regular group work, but in courses that don’t or in large classes where it may not be feasible to check-in with all your students regularly, it may be helpful to put students into “support pods” and have them (or assigned group leader) report back to you regularly on their progress.

    Vishal: One activity that I have used is the traditional game Two Truths and a Lie on the first day of class. Along with their statements, students are also asked to say one thing they are excited/worried about in this class and what their impression of the class is based on the syllabus. For example, for General Psychology, I often ask what they think psychologists study, since most don’t have a true understanding on day one. In upper level classes (e.g., cognitive psychology), I may ask what they think is the biggest factor that influences memory or how they think students remember more material from class. These types of discussion questions help students, especially in small class sizes, find common ground and understand that everyone is in this class together. I think it also creates a stronger learning environment from the first day of class.


    Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363-377.

    Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale (IOS) [Database record]. APA PsycTests.

    Chopik, W. J., & Oh, J. (2022). Implementing the Fast Friends Procedure to Build Camaraderie in a Remote Synchronous Teaching Setting. Teaching of Psychology, 0(0).

    Frisby, B. N., & Martin, M. M. (2010). Instructor–student and student–student rapport in the classroom. Communication Education, 59(2), 146-164.

    Gosnell, C. L. (2020). Receiving quality positive event support from peers may enhance student connection and the learning environment. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 6(4), 342.

    Murphy, M.C, Gopalan, M,. Carter, E.R, Emerson, K.T.U, Bottoms, B.L., Walton, G.M. (2020).  A customized belonging intervention improves retention of socially disadvantaged students at a broad-access university. Science Advances, 6(29). 

    Zumbrunn, S., McKim, C., Buhs, E., & Hawley, L. R. (2014). Support, belonging, motivation, and engagement in the college classroom: A mixed method study. Instructional Science, 42(5), 661-684.

    Ask an ECP!

    For our monthly column, we want to research and answer questions that mean the most to you.  If you have a question, chances are you are not the only one!  Email your questions to and your question may be featured in an upcoming column.


    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 03 Jan 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Welcome to 2023! Your ECP Committee is excited to kick off a brand new year. In 2023, we are hoping to continue to provide opportunities for early career teachers of psychology to network and receive support from their peers and other colleagues within the larger STP organization. In addition, we hope to provide useful teaching resources and tips along the way! To that end, we know many of you may be thinking about upcoming Spring classes–whether it be prepping a class for the first time or trying to think about re-vamping a class that you will be teaching again. Below are some quick tips or beloved favorite teaching techniques and tools from our own ECP Committee!

    Amanda: Think-pair-share is a technique that I use in all of my courses (big and small). For larger classes, I ask students to consider a question alone (e.g. “Does falling on ice cause hot chocolate sales to increase?”) and report it with polling software like Vishal mentioned. Then, students talk in pairs or small groups about why they chose the answer they did. Finally, students share how their thought process has changed and their final answer, either through polling software or out loud. This has been a great way to identify common misconceptions my students have as well as to help me figure out any sticking points in my larger classes.

    In terms of course design, I enjoy using backward course design and group projects. Backward course design involves thinking of your course goals first, designing assessments that evaluate these goals, and then designing lessons. This has helped me be more intentional with my courses, and make sure that students learn the important information. In addition, scaffolding semester long group projects has provided a way for me to provide students with some autonomy in their learning. It’s fun to see how they think to apply the material we cover and to learn more about the topics they find interesting!

    Courtney: I really love having students use an online social annotation tool called Perusall ( I have found that it is a great way to keep students engaged in the reading and I am able to use some of the examples, questions, and comments they generate to spark class discussions. Plus, Perusall will grade student engagement with the platform for you–saving you some time! In terms of re-vamping classes, I also highly recommend checking out the STP Facebook page. This has been so helpful for me if I get stuck on trying to think of new activities or demonstrations for a particular lesson! You can search past discussions and if someone hasn’t asked about it yet–add yours in!

    Dina: I share Courtney’s love for Perusall and my students seem to really like it, too. I recommend having students annotate the Syllabus as their first assignment in Perusall. It’s a great way to ensure students read the Syllabus (an effective alternative to a Syllabus Quiz) and answer any questions they have so you can focus more on course content in class.

    Vishal: When I was in graduate school, a faculty member introduced me to Poll Everywhere, and I use it in every class now! It is free (for classes under 40 or so students) and allows instructors to ask anonymous, ungraded check-in questions for students to answer. After students answer, I can display results so everyone can see what their peers thought. This provides a good chance for discussion about the question as well as something for me to think about if most of the class got a question wrong or seemed to misunderstand. Students consistently write in evaluations that this exercise makes them feel more comfortable and less stressed, so I use it every semester now!

    Looking for other ideas? Don’t forget you can still access online content from the 2022 STP conference here. This can be a great way to get even more great ideas for your classes and help you feel recharged heading into your Spring (or winter) terms! Wishing you all a great new year!

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

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