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

GSTA Corner

This blog contains submissions from STP's Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) to the GSTA Corner column in STP News from January 2020 to the present.  The GSTA Corner first appeared in the April 2016 issue of the newsletter, which was then called ToPNEWS-Online.  You can read GSTA Corner columns from April 2016 through December 2019 in past issues of ToPNEWS-Online here.

For regular updates on GSTA activities, follow us on Twitter (@gradsteachpsych) and Facebook (groups/theGSTA), join the GSTA Listserv, check out our Blog and past entries for the GSTA Corner, or write to us at

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   Next >  Last >> 
  • 02 May 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Navigating Student Feedback and Course Evaluations

    Contributors: Lauren Girouard-Hallam and Alexa Sacchi

    For many of us, the end of the academic year brings a myriad of feelings ranging from the joy of finishing final exam grading, relief seeing a less-packed Google calendar, and excitement planning a much-needed vacation. Just on the horizon, in the midst of sunshine, there is a looming cloud in the distance…the often-dreaded end-of-term course evaluations. But student feedback shouldn’t rain on a teacher’s parade! In this month’s GSTA Corner, Lauren Girouard-Hallam and Alexa Sacchi provide some tips & tricks for soliciting and navigating student feedback from a graduate student perspective.

    TIP #1: Solicit small feedback, too!

    Lauren: Not every piece of feedback needs to be a full-blown analysis of the course or lab that you’re teaching. My mentor teaches advanced development at the University of Louisville, and at the end of every class she passes out a blank notecard for students to provide two pieces of information on: one thing the student enjoyed about class that day, and one note for improvement, remaining question, or concern. Similarly, in the lab component of the graduate level stats course that I TA’d for this year, we sent out a weekly three question Microsoft Forms survey. It asked questions like: 1. What did you learn in the lab today? 2. What did the TAs do well today? 3. Is there anything you want us to know that could improve your lab experience? Sometimes, we only asked that third question! My point here is that not every evaluation needs to be time consuming or life altering. Most of the time, it’s about ensuring that students feel like they have a voice and a safe space to bring concerns if they need it.

    TIP #2: Remember you’re not a superhero!

    Lauren: We’ve all experienced it: that moment when you get an evaluation back for a guest lecture you’re proud of, a lab curriculum you’re sure you aced, a group discussion that you thought was so fruitful and exciting, and the response is less than glowing. Maybe someone thought your pace was too fast or your examples too corny, maybe they didn’t like the sound of your voice, or maybe they felt like they didn’t learn anything at all. It can be disheartening to hear that your work wasn’t received with unbridled enthusiasm and that not every student might have felt successful or content in the end. The balance is in knowing what you can control and what you cannot control. You do not have to fix everything that every student brings to your attention, particularly since students’ opinions may directly conflict (hearing “too easy” from one and “too difficult” from another) and also because some things are simply more “fixable” than others. We can work (to a point) on speaking more slowly and pausing to ask if anyone has questions. We might not be able to change when we need to move on from a learning objective or what software we use in class. And we definitely cannot help what we sound like or the ways that we prefer to be in a space. When receiving feedback, try to imagine what responding to that feedback would look like in action. If the action feels reasonable, try to implement it the next time you’re in the teaching space. If it feels like a lot of trouble or even flat out impossible, it’s time to move forward.

    TIP #3: Pull construction out of criticism.

    Alexa: Negative course evaluations can be difficult to reconcile with and hard not to take personally. But even bad reviews can still be valuable since they provide insight into a student’s perspective and can help us improve for the future. The biggest challenge is separating student frustration from actual concerns. If you’re able to, prior to course evaluations, remind students that if there was something about the course they didn’t like, to give specific examples and suggestions for improvement. For instance, comments like, “This was the worst class ever!” aren’t particularly actionable. Instead encourage students to provide specific feedback such as, “In my opinion writing 1,000-word weekly reading responses was difficult to manage with my other coursework,” or “The lectures went by too quickly, so having a recording or notes available would be helpful.” You can even provide examples as to what is helpful vs. unhelpful feedback and note that simply venting cannot help improve the class (or your teaching!) in subsequent years. After the evaluations are in, I like to implement the “24-hour rule” before trying to synthesize student comments: read the reviews, give yourself at least 24 hours to process your emotions (both good and bad), then come back and read again. In the second read through, I often have a level head and can start sorting through comments in a productive way. One suggestion is to separate comments into “things students like” and “things to improve” and make note of any repetitive comments. You can then categorize comments more specifically such as: solutions to integrate immediately, solutions to integrate gradually (i.e., over multiple classes or semesters), and future goals.

    TIP #4: Identify one area of change for next semester.

    Alexa: After reading evaluations and taking notes, you may feel a strong urge to change everything about the course! Course materials take so much time to prepare, so before scrapping everything and starting from scratch, pick one or two small changes to implement for next semester. For example, more immediate and easier changes can include speaking slower/ louder or adding learning objectives at the beginning of a lecture. Bigger changes may need to be slowly integrated across semesters to see how different classes react, such as major adjustments to course content/required readings, the syllabus, or highly weighted assignments. Changing too many aspects of the course all at once will make it tricky to figure out what worked and what didn’t semester to semester. You can also integrate check-ins throughout the term, especially for when you're trying new things. Keep in mind that every class is different. For example, students in the fall term may want practice questions or extra help preparing for their final exam, whereas students in the spring term may want more discussion in class about the content. Different cohorts will have different needs and goals for what they are trying to learn or develop, and it's our responsibility to support and try to meet them where they’re at.

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

    Following the February GSTA Corner that introduced our committee’s returning members, this month’s GSTA Corner introduces the four new members of the 2023 GSTA Steering Committee. We are thrilled to welcome Lauren Girouard-Hallam, Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart, William Rayo, and Alexa Sacchi!

    Lauren Girouard-Hallam

    Lauren N. Girouard-Hallam (she/her) is a doctoral student in Experimental Psychology at the University of Louisville. She holds an M.A. in Drama Therapy (applied psychology) from New York University and an M.S. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Louisville. Under the guidance of Dr. Judith Danovitch, she researches how 4 to 12 year old children think about and learn from technology including Amazon's Alexa, Google searches, and the internet at large. When not conducting her research at the Knowledge in Development (KID) Lab, Lauren can be found serving as a teaching assistant and co-teaching the lab component for her department's graduate level statistics sequence. In addition to her current teaching assistant role, Lauren co-leads a series of professional development workshops on inclusive teaching and active learning for the Graduate School at the University of Louisville, and has co-created a professional development curricula for the undergraduate research interns in the KID Lab.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: My favorite concept to teach at the moment is logistic regression for binary dependent variables. I really enjoy turning something that we cannot easily interpret (log-odds) into something that is much more interpretable (odds ratios or predicted probabilities), and watching it "click" for students. I use logistic regression frequently in my own work, so I love sharing that part of my graduate student experience with students.

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I really love generating beautiful, easy to follow assignments in R Markdown. R Markdown is a tool that allows you to put instructional material like text or images right next to statistical code. This allows you, the statistics instructor, to infuse other concepts like chunking or interleaving practice directly into your assignment, which I find to be immeasurably valuable.

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Talk to your fellow teaching assistants! Your peers in graduate school are your community, and creating a teaching community is no exception. Talk to your peers about their TA experiences so that you can learn from their perspectives. This community is also important if you need help with working a scantron or practicing a guest lecture!

    Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart

    Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart is a Clinical Psychology graduate student at Missouri State University with a B.S. in Psychology & Biomedical Sciences. She has the pleasure of being a graduate teaching assistant for the introductory psychology courses at Missouri State and is also a student senator representing the College of Health & Human Services for the Graduate Senate. Kelly is interested in working in interdisciplinary medicine, with a particular focus on the wellbeing of patients with cancer & chronic illnesses.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I love teaching about neuropsychology and the impacts of stress on the human body. These biological topics can be overwhelming to students, so it is a rewarding challenge to keep students engaged and learning lifelong skills to manage stress. Once they grasp the material, they are usually fascinated with how applicable it can be to their lives in college.

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: My introductory course adopted the use of Mentimeter, a free alternative to a student response system. I have enjoyed using the several quiz-response questions to gauge student participation and knowledge/retention of concepts. In large class sizes with 150-300 students, it is a valuable tool to maintain student engagement and confidence in the course material.

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Do not hesitate to add your personality into your teaching abilities and allow room for social positivity in your teaching. Encouraging students to form study groups, welcoming questions regardless of difficulty, and providing your own personality in your teaching makes a class more inviting and open for students to be themselves. It adds identity to a course that makes it a safe learning environment for everyone.

    William Rayo

    William Rayo is a doctoral student in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Cognition at Oregon State University, with an M.S. in Psychology from Oregon State University and an M.A. in Social Science Education from the University of South Florida. His research currently focuses around two topics: 1) how differences across individuals bilingual experiences help shape neural and cognitive outcomes, 2) science of teaching and learning, with a focus on the effects of individual differences and instructional aids in conceptual development. William has been in education for over 10 years working in a variety of settings and with different groups of students. At Oregon State University William has been a teaching assistant and the instructor of record for General Psychology courses.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: One of my favorite topics to discuss in Intro is how nature and nurture as well as the interactions between the two help shape who we are. Over the course of our class students relate the material to their lived experiences and through small group and class wide discussions they develop a framework for understanding how these two forces can interact.

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I've recently started to use some of the responses that students submit to open ended questions in class as prompts for further discussion. I find it valuable to have students reflect on their classmates' responses because it encourages students to engage with their peers' ideas and perspectives, promoting a more dynamic and inclusive classroom environment. Additionally, it can help students to develop their critical thinking skills as they evaluate and respond to their peers' arguments. Finally, reflecting on classmates' responses can help students to broaden their understanding of the topic being discussed by exposing them to a wider range of perspectives and ideas.

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Teaching is an iterative process. Each time you teach a class you learn what worked and what didn't which lets you tweak the process for the next time, so resist the urge to try and fix everything at once. Teaching is more of a marathon than a sprint.

    Alexa Sacchi

    Alexa Sacchi (she/they) is a doctoral student in developmental psychology at the University of Toronto – St. George. Their research focuses on the moral and social cognitive development of children ages 4 to 11, investigating topics such as how aspects of the self and others’ moral character can change over time. Alexa has served as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate courses including Intro to Developmental Psychology and Social Psychology. In the summer, Alexa works with high school students interested in majoring in psychology.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I enjoy teaching students about infant cognition. Many undergraduates believe babies are born as blank slates when in reality they come into the world understanding various complex concepts such as physics, social groups, and even morality!

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: For students new to reading scientific articles, I find using the QALMRI method (Question, Alternatives, Logic, Method, Results, Inferences) to be really helpful as a guide. It helps students find connections between the theoretical literature and data by highlighting the questions being asked, the approach used to answer it, and the implications of the answer.

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: As a new teacher, it’s easy to fall into the extremes of leaving minimal feedback or over-marking assignments down to every little mistake. One of my mentors always reminds us to give kind, specific, and helpful feedback. I try to implement this while grading by identifying 3 main areas to the students: where they did well, where they can improve, and how they can improve.

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

    This month’s GSTA Corner (re)introduces the returning members of our Steering Committee. In 2023, the returning group includes Skyler Mendes (Chair), Madeline Bruce (Associate Chair, January-June), and two members at large: Christopher Kleva and Morgan Franklin. We look forward to introducing you to the other half of our team in next month’s corner. We express our heartfelt thanks to those who helped us recruit a highly skilled, thoughtful, and diverse group of new members.

    Skyler Mendes (Chair)

    Skyler (Skye) Mendes is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at Arizona State University, with an M.A. in Psychology from Arizona State University and Ed.M. in Prevention Science & Practice from Harvard University. Her subject-area research focuses on the prevention of internalizing symptoms in youth. Skye has been an instructor of record and teaching assistant/associate for an array of psychology and academic success courses over the last 12 years, including teaching in her former staff role at University of Rhode Island’s Academic Enhancement Center. Most recently, Skye spent 2022 teaching Research Methods Labs and Introduction to Psychology at Arizona State University and in 2023 she began an adjunct role at Eastern Connecticut State University where she teaches Research Methods.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I always enjoy teaching about cognitive biases; they tend to be relevant no matter the course and I enjoy how often students start pointing out when they see them in action. (I also enjoy teaching students how to learn effectively and science behind it!)

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I recently enjoyed the journey of implementing Interteaching in the classroom. As a smaller tip for any style course, though, I like to always have a few “Think, Pair, Share” type questions in my back pocket. It’s valuable for students to have time to process the content together, and it’s also nice for me to take a few seconds to check on the pace of coverage and make any adjustments, or simply catch my breath if needed before debriefing their “shares.”

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Remember that your favorite models of excellent teaching are often folks who have been able to iterate their course designs, content, and teaching practice over time; every one of those people started somewhere, like you, and their teaching likely looks much different from when the taught their first-ever classes. Try not to compare your first steps with their current ones, but do reach out to them to learn!

    Madeline Bruce (Associate Chair, January-June)

    Madeline (Mads) J. Bruce is a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at Saint Louis University. Her research currently focuses on posttraumatic adjustment, identity, and growth. Interested in evidence-based practice in her clinical work, research, and teaching, her work on trigger warnings was some of the first to subject this controversial topic to empirical scrutiny. In her free time, she enjoys ultra swimming, running, and eating. She has been the instructor of record for Abnormal Psychology and a GTA for General, Clinical, Pediatric, and Trauma Psychology.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I love weaving in positive psychology whenever possible regardless of the course. 

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I experimented with a flipped-classroom format during the pandemic, which was really well received by the students. I found we could budget our time together well, focusing on what was more difficult, and students had to reflect on what parts of the lecture were easier/harder for them. 

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Teaching as a graduate student for the first time is a really wonderful space to step into your professional self. It can stir all sorts of imposter syndrome and what ifs, but I found many students connected with me the most when I modeled how to handle not having the answers and were honest with them about it. You are more than ready to impart your wisdom, course material and beyond!

    Christopher Kleva

    Christopher Kleva is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration on Behavioral Medicine. Broadly, his research interests involve the classification of psychopathology and clinician cognition. Chris has had the pleasure of serving as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) and/or primary instructor for several undergraduate-level courses including Introduction to Psychology, Research Methods and, most recently, Psychopathology.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I love teaching psychopathology! This is often one of the most popular courses among students and it is so refreshing to see them excited and engaged. I take pride in structuring the course to dispel misconceptions from the media/pop culture as well as encourage students to approach learning with a humane appreciation for those with lived experience.

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: Recently, I started to assign various podcasts and TEDtalks throughout the course schedule. I feel it complements the assigned readings as well as enables the students to be introduced to the current literature in a brief, digestible format. Two podcasts that students enjoyed the most were: The Psychology Podcast & The Addiction Podcast!

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Being a graduate student teaching for the first time can be exciting and also anxiety-provoking. There is often an assumption that we must have all the answers to student questions. It is important to become comfortable with being transparent by saying, “I don’t know.” Students will appreciate your honesty and this creates a space where you can teach your students how to find the answer and you both can learn together.

    Morgan Franklin

    Morgan Franklin, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Her research interests include treatment outcomes, technology-enhanced interventions, and examining processes of change proposed in the ACT framework. Morgan has 4 years of experience teaching several courses in multiple instructional modalities. She has been both a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), as well as an Instructor of Record for Introduction to Psychology. She has also taught as Instructor of Record for Effects of Recreational Drugs, Abnormal Psychology, and Psychology of Crime.

    A favorite concept to teach in psychology: Abnormal psychology is my favorite course to teach and I find it helpful to discuss differences in experience and presentations of distress across cultures and social groups

    A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I’ve had peers engage in collaborative development of course materials and exams and I absolutely love this idea. I think it helps students to feel like they are a part of the process/feel included makes it less likely students will feel blindsided by material covered on exams.  

    A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: My biggest note of advice for new instructors is to practice flexibility (both for yourself as well as for your students). Academia is hard for a variety of reasons at all levels. I think that practicing flexibility can help facilitate a positive learning experience for all involved.

    Thank you for your time and consideration of how you can support STP’s graduate student members. We wish a wonderful year ahead to all in the STP community!

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

    Lend a helping hand? GSTA Goals for 2023.

    Submitted by Skye Mendes, GSTA Chair

    GSTA closed our 2022 Corners by reflecting on high points in teaching and sharing our gratitude, with several steering committee members mentioning how mentors have made their teaching experiences so special. The generosity of spirit amongst teachers is robust, particularly within STP. The collaborative nature of our community leads GSTA to kick off 2023 by sharing our goals and the ways STP News readers (most of whom are not graduate students!) are uniquely positioned to help us accomplish them.

    GOAL 1: Continue to connect teaching-interested graduate students with one another.

    Lend a helping hand?

    If you teach at a university, share information about STP and GSTA with the relevant graduate programs at your school! Have graduate TAs at your institution? Suggest STP/GSTA be mentioned during any TA training events! Graduate students often hear about societies to join based on their research interests but might not realize they have a home in Division 2 regardless of SoTL experience! There are commonly financial concerns that make graduate students wonder whether the costs of memberships are worth the benefit; we want to shout from the rooftops that joining STP at the reduced graduate student rate is only $15 for the year and it is not necessary to hold broader membership in APA to do so. In terms of value, membership provides access to all the benefits you know and love! (In my experience, I find the posts in the STP Facebook group in one day alone are often wisdom worth $15!) Those who join STP as a graduate student automatically become members of GSTA, and we’re excited to see that membership grow.

    GOAL 2: Facilitate professional development opportunities targeted to GSTA members.

    Lend a helping hand?

    As our 2023 Steering Committee convenes, we’ll be finalizing the various formats our professional development opportunities will take, but one thing we know for certain is there is a crowd with vast collective expertise reading this today. Have a favorite teacher-training activity or demo in your back pocket that you’d be willing to repurpose and deliver to graduate TAs over Zoom? Let us know! Recently go through the process to land your first full-time position and live to tell the tale feel ready to share what you learned on a panel? Drop us a line! Serve on search committees and want to tell GSTA members how to stand out or what pitfalls to avoid? Can’t wait to hear from you! Been collecting nuggets of wisdom throughout your career and are willing to be interviewed in a written Q&A to be published as a future GSTA corner? Give us a shout! As our GSTA steering committee plans, it will be helpful to know who might have space on their plate to help out. If you are interested in any of the above or another idea or recommendation, please send a note to the new GSTA Chair (Skye Mendes) at

    GOAL 3: Plan for sustainable GSTA steering committees.

    Lend a helping hand?

    Consider forwarding the email calling for GSTA steering committee members that likely arrived to an inbox near you from the STP Listserv just a few days ago, Tweet a direct link to the application, re-tweet our own call from @stp_gsta, or contact us ( if you’d like a copy of the call. We look forward to reviewing applications after the 2/1 deadline and welcoming new committee members who will have quick paths to further leadership (e.g., a new member will transition to the Associate Chair role when our current Associate Chair graduates, midway through 2023). This plan aims to increase continuity and momentum on future projects, something that has been challenging with GSTA’s relatively brief terms in comparison to other STP committees. Sharing our call for members widely also helps with Goal 1 since it puts GSTA on the radar of future members, even if they don’t wish to serve in a leadership capacity.

    Thank you for your time and consideration of how you can support STP’s graduate student members. We wish a wonderful year ahead to all in the STP community!

  • 09 Dec 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month’s corner is meant to address the many experiences we as graduate students have had over the past calendar year, and to highlight what we have been thankful for as we continue to grow as instructors.

    Authors: William Ridgway, Madeline Bruce, Skyler Mendes, Jackson Pelzner, and Morgan Franklin

    William: Similar to each year as a doctoral student, there is much that takes place. This past year is no exception. From working with an amazing team of GSTA graduate students, to the development of forensic-based courses, to meeting with fellow instructors at STP’s 2022 annual conference, this year has certainly provided me with many joyful memories. Prior to serving as GSTA Chair, I have always had a love for teaching. I suppose in many ways, my time spent lecturing came naturally; however, I owe much of my foundation to my teaching mentor, Wayne Weiten. I will always be thankful for the time spent learning from him, and the opportunities I have and continue to be provided. In fact, as I reflect on the last year, I am perhaps reminded most of the influence we as instructors have. The extent to which we commit ourselves to teaching and mentoring plays a notable role in the lives of our students. Our presence and how we show up for our students can go on to change the very course of their academic journey. Given that graduate programs can lack an emphasis on the importance of teaching, it’s crucial that anyone who ever takes on the position of an instructor, ensures that they do everything they can to be prepared and to make a positive impact. Overall, this year and my experiences both in the classroom, and outside of it, will be remembered fondly.

    Mads: The past year was notable, both personally and professionally. My partner and I moved 800 miles to Houston, TX for my internship year, which is the last year of a clinical doctoral program! Teaching is unfortunately not a part of my duties right now, but through the year, memories and future ideas for teaching have kept me grounded. As it is my last year as a student, I’ve tried to dive into topics and roles where I have little to no experience, and sometimes, I’ve gotten a lot of water in my nose. Sometimes things are smooth, and sometimes, it feels like a tsunami. And during a particularly turbulent week, what kept me afloat was a phone call from my mentor. Swimming and other water-based metaphors aside, I am grateful to have been taught by thoughtful teachers and to enter this field to do the same, because through each hardship, I’ve found myself asking, “What if a student came to me with this situation?” I find I’m perhaps my best self when I think about what I would do if I were to teach about what I’m encountering. A thoughtful, compassionate voice often comes through with some empowering advice. I’m grateful for teaching and learning. Cheers to more lessons in 2023!

    Skye: I find myself reflecting this year on my gratitude for mentorship. For the faculty reading, please know how much of an impact you have when you help graduate students (or others in your sphere of influence) pursue their interests in teaching. As GSTA members, many of us are in PhD programs built on mentorship models in research training but few (if any) formal structures for mentorship in teaching. I have learned a great deal this year from my informal group of teaching mentors who show up like a loyal Avengers team around me whenever I send up even the smallest flare seeking guidance. They have served as my biggest cheerleaders and sagacious sounding boards throughout 2022 while I taught two new courses. I am deeply thankful to have them in my corner, from navigating the (thankfully quite rare and small) challenges along the way while teaching those courses, to helping me make major decisions about my next teaching employment while I embark on 2023 and the final year of my program in nonresidence. I would also like to name and thank several of these people. I feel deep gratitude for the connections I have with two of the teaching faculty at my University, Carolyn Cavanaugh Toft and Christina Pedram at Arizona State, who have been frequent sources of shrewd advice and supportive reassurance. Next, it has been one of my greatest joys this year to reconnect not only personally but also to begin collaborating as colleagues with my former undergraduate advisor, Michael Spiegler of Providence College, who supervised my work as an undergraduate interteaching coach 10+ years ago, and who now provides support while I supervise my own crew of outstanding coaches. Michael and I have this very publication, STP News, to thank for that reconnection spark, since Michael reached out after recognizing my bio that appeared in the April issue! Last, I’d like to give a shoutout to the STP Professional Development Mentoring program which connected me this summer with a formal teaching mentor, Sarai Blincoe of Longwood University, who has provided savvy insights throughout the last year. As 2022 comes to a close, I give heartfelt thanks to these and all of the mentors across STP (formal or not!) who have helped graduate students navigate their adventure in teaching.

    Jackson: This past year has been another successful year of growth and learning as an instructor. At the start of 2022, I made significant strides with improving my course structure and automating many of the mundane tasks that instructors must endure as part of their job. For example, I was able to eliminate, or otherwise significantly reduce, the time spent answering redundant emails by creating a frequently asked questions document that students use as a supplemental resource. The best part is that some students have reached out to personally tell me how much they appreciate having that resource when they have questions about the course that are not explicitly outlined in the syllabus. I think as instructors it’s important to provide all the tools necessary so that students can devote more time to studying and less time waiting for a reply, especially if several students have the same question. I’m especially grateful to GSTA and the rest of our committee members for a great year. Thank you for this opportunity to meet some very impressive graduate student instructors and for all the great discussions we’ve had during our monthly meetings.

    Morgan: As I reflect on my experience teaching, I am always grateful for the relationships I build with my students and mentors. When we consider teaching, we often think about the ways in which we may impact and educate students. However, I find that in my teaching my students have also challenged and inspired me in my work as an instructor and psychologist. While I have not engaged in teaching in the fall semester, I have found other ways to engage in informal instruction (i.e., assisting colleagues who are teaching and mentoring students. I am always grateful for the insights I gain from students in the student-instructor relationship.

  • 10 Nov 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month’s corner focuses on how research can inform one’s teaching. This is an important topic given that there is a myriad of ways in which instructors tend to utilize research in their courses. Here, some of the GSTA committee members share their own stories when it comes to teaching practices that are informed by research, as well as general practices of assessment and how those inform their future instruction.

    Authors: Jackson Pelzner, Chris Kleva, Morgan Franklin, William Ridgway

    Jackson: I think when it comes to teaching, understanding research is critical to our roles as instructors. Whether in the form of new teaching practices or new discoveries in experimental research, I think we owe it to our students to provide a course that keeps up with the current trends. When I started out in this graduate program, I was mainly interested in how we use mental representations to improve learning. My thesis focused on how we form mental representations from visual narratives (e.g., comics/graphic novels) to aid learning. Because of this interest, I tend to use a lot of images with my slide text seeing as I have a good understanding of dual code processing. Being a memory researcher gives me the added benefit of applying my research to my course because I know several mnemonic strategies that can help students. Likewise, I spend a good amount of time in between semesters improving the structure of my course so that students avoid many of the pitfalls in human memory. Altogether, I think being a graduate student researcher and instructor allows me to approach the topics in my course with both a more critical eye as well as the ability to convey my expertise in learning and memory.

    Chris: Similar to research, teaching is ever-evolving. One strives to become better at teaching, but one must continuously work towards improving and adapting in order to be effective and successful. For me, teaching is not merely the act of sharing knowledge but requires the tailoring of how the knowledge is being shared with others. To that end, I attempt, to the best of my ability, to match my teaching methods to ensure the needs of each student are being met. I emphasize effective communication with my students and prioritize making myself available. In my own research, investigating which characteristics both teachers and students find most important in the classroom, effective communication is frequently highly ranked. While I encourage students to meet with me outside of office hours, I also try to arrive to each class early and stay until each student has left. My intention is that this allows time for students to approach me to ask questions if they are anxious or nervous to set up another office time or to speak in front of the class. While I hope to foster an environment where students can express to me when they are struggling and how I may improve, I also rely heavily on structured, formal evaluations from my students mid-way through the semester and at the end of the semester. This allows me to adapt and improve my teaching to ensure I am successful in sharing knowledge with students in a way they gain the most.

    Morgan: I try to supplement my teaching with research wherever possible. This may include digging into the literature surrounding whatever topic I may be discussing in lecture so I may support my information with data, or it may include assigning additional readings (peer-reviewed articles) related to a particular week’s content. I discuss articles in class with my students and work with them to build skills of critical analysis of research.

    William: Throughout my time in academia, I have come across many helpful resources when it comes to effective teaching practices. From research that focuses on basic skills for facilitating student learning, to understanding students, there exists a wide range of resources. For example, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2013) is a phenomenal resource for instructors. When it comes to the teaching of forensic psychology, I utilize a variety of empirical articles while also relying on notable forensic cases that tie together many psycholegal concepts. One of the ways in which I approach the teaching of psychology is to begin with the idea of skepticism and how that mindset can be quite useful. Influenced by the work of Scott O. Lilienfeld, I make sure to lay a foundation comprised of many key principals that students should consider, such as ruling out rival hypotheses (Have important alternative explanations for the findings been excused?), correlation vs. causation (Can we be sure that A causes B?), falsifiability (Can the claim be disproved?), replicability (Can the results be duplicated in other studies?), extraordinary claims (Is the evidence as strong as the claim?), and Occam’s razor (Does a simpler explanation fit the data just as well?). Overall, the emphasis of scientific skepticism and informing students of a basic framework for scientific thinking is crucial.


    Svinicki, M. D., & McKeachie, W. J. (2013). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. Wadsworth.

  • 10 Oct 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Quite Quitting in the Classroom

    Authors: Skye Mendes, Madeline Bruce, Jackson Pelzner, William Ridgway

    One topic of conversation that has been getting attention this year is quiet quitting. This work-related narrative refers to maintaining one’s duties without subscribing to the cultural notion that work is life. One of the primary reasons for which individuals are finding themselves engaged in the process of quiet quitting is that it emphasizes a healthier work-life balance while simultaneously safeguarding mental health. In fact, individuals across the board have experienced heightened rates of burnout while also reporting marked increases in cognitive weariness, emotional exhaustion, and physical fatigue since 2019 (Abramson, 2022). More recently, the conversation surrounding quiet quitting has also expanded to comprise actors in academia, with undergraduate and graduate students reporting increased levels of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wang et al., 2021). In addition, new survey results from 1,000 current students between the ages of 18 and 24 ranked mental health as most important when compared to good grades, physical health, relationships, and finances, respectively (Beard et al., 2022). Given that students have reported increased disengagement, and the need for more mental health support services, we focus on viewpoints surrounding quiet quitting and potential ways in which instructors can become more involved in addressing such issues from a multitude of vantage points.

    Skye: “Quiet quitting” has been interesting to unpack: if people in the workplace perform the minimum job duties to acquire their paycheck, rather than going above and beyond and wrapping their identities in work, that seems to be reasonably described as “doing their job.” Going above and beyond in the workplace certainly has classroom parallels (i.e., working hard may help accelerate career growth, and going above and beyond in their undergraduate education is generally an essential ingredient for students who aspire to graduate school). In my previous work, I had the “new manager” realization that I would have to learn to manage the employees I had rather than the ones I wished I had. Though management is much more enjoyable when employees are all on their “A game” and teaching a class where one hundred percent of students are highly engaged is a joy, neither is typically a reality. When it comes to the idea that “quiet quitting” is creeping into academic spaces, I think our call remains the same: teach the students we have and meet them where they are at. This includes if their goals (e.g., simply passing the course) are not what we wish in our psychology-loving-nerd-heart-of-hearts for their goals to be (e.g., stellar enthusiasm for mastering all objectives from our carefully curated syllabus). Since we design courses and enter the classroom each day with plans for keeping students engaged, it can understandably be tough to see students seemingly “checking out,” and it may take the wind out of our sails to feel like the course experience is now more transactional than transformational. But in meeting students wherever they are at, we get not only to push the students who are highly engaged and enjoy their excitement and riveting questions, but we also get to check in on students who might otherwise start to fade into the background, which can itself be a transformational experience for them to be seen and heard at a time when they may be struggling. When I am privileged to have the more honest and vulnerable 1:1 conversations with students and tell them I do see them and I respect how tough their balancing act can be (e.g., our course, financial stress, mental health challenges, family problems, other courses, etc.) and I’m happy to help them project what they need to do to meet their goals for their course performance and calibrate accordingly, I tend to see engagement quickly go up. Perhaps in those moments of outreach, they see they have a teammate and not someone who will shame them, especially not if their available resources (mentally, fiscally, etc.) mean they’ve chosen to engage in “quiet quitting.”

    Mads: I’ve mostly heard “quiet quitting” in the context of the corporate world, where people try to reclaim their work-life balance back from meaningless paperwork deadlines in jobs where they do not feel they will grow professionally or personally. So, to think about “quiet quitting” in the context of higher education, where the purpose has historically been to grow, to wonder, to discuss, even outside the class, leaves me a little discouraged. Are students quiet quitting out of a “C’s get degrees and that’s fine with me” mentality, or have recent events left students questioning the meaning of their education? Surely, the pandemic, recent social events, and the rising cost of a college degree, have likely left all of us questioning what really matters to us and what education should look like in the grand scheme. We have an opportunity now to shape our day-to-day toward what can be most meaningful. I’m not sure what the answer is, and I imagine that a student stepping away from timely assignments can be understood a multitude of ways. However, I do wonder if quiet quitting in the classroom is a signal that we need to reorient our daily grind back toward what education can be: empowering our next generation to grow.

    Jackson: This is a difficult topic to drill down. Overall, I think it is important to find the right balance between work and life. There are times when I find myself more on the side of “life” than “work” to my own detriment. Personally though, I do not buy into the notion of “quiet quitting” in academia. For one, instructors or advisors at the undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively, are not forcing their students to be present. Unless you are on a full scholarship, you are paying a lot of money to acquire an education, one that you voluntarily signed up for. If you want to do the bare minimum to get a passing grade, that is perfectly within reason. Balancing multiple classes, work, experiments, and publishing is hard given the limited number of hours in the day and overcoming the mental fatigue that comes with it. I am very empathetic to that. However, I still come back to the idea that at this stage you are only hurting yourself by not making the sacrifices required to succeed. How do we deal with this growing issue as instructors? Personally, I do not take offense to students that “quietly quit.” It does, however, concern me to the extent that I want to have my students learn and take away the same enjoyment that I experienced as an undergraduate student. At the end of the day, you get what you put into it. If a student decides to “quietly quit,” I think there are many other pathways one can take in life that can motivate them to give their best and find enjoyment.

    William: The concept of “quiet quitting” can be unique in the context of academia. When it comes to individuals quitting the notion of going above and beyond—primarily applied to industry settings—to achieve a healthier balance between work and life, academia and the pursuit of one’s degree often entails a specific framework. Students attempting to achieve the result of a degree comprises many layers and complexities. The balance of coursework, academic programs, and community service—just to name a few—typically place individuals in an environment where there is always something to be working on. Granted, the extent of day-to-day involvement can vary from student to student depending on what they choose or are required to take on throughout their university experience. Nevertheless, the act of consistently placing certain priorities over others is not a novel concept. Where the difficulty lies is where to focus efforts that will help combat quiet quitting, to further help students. On the one hand, one’s academic experience is what you make of it and depending on the extent to which one takes on an extensive amount of work, will influence the need at times to make certain sacrifices when it comes to a personal life. Thus, while there may exist a plethora of resources that can be of great assistance to students, there comes a point where it is ultimately up to the student in terms of how far they are willing to push that threshold of a healthy work-life balance to achieve a particular outcome. On the other hand, some may present the argument that quiet quitting is a feature of, or exacerbated, by poor management. As instructors, it is important that we both maintain and encourage transparency with our students. Maintaining clear expectations for the course, scheduled check ins, and the fostering of a supportive environment, will help to ensure that we consistently participate in such a way that allows students to know that we as instructors are one of many reliable resources for them.


    Abramson, A. (2022). Burnout and stress are everywhere. Monitor on Psychology, 53(1).

    Beard, J., Dinh, D., Jain, P., Leng, A., Marvin, D., Phan, N., … & Williams, B. (2022, September). One-third of college students quiet quitting to preserve mental health. Intelligent.

    Wang, C., Wen, W., Zhang, H., Ni, J., Jiang, J., Cheng, Y., ... & Liu, W. (2021). Anxiety, depression, and stress prevalence among college students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of American College Health, 1-8.

  • 01 Sep 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With the upcoming semester starting, this corner focuses on how to handle moments in which you as an instructor are asked questions to which you do not know the answer to. This topic is particularly geared toward first-time instructors and highlights the various ways in which one can responsibly address such moments.

    Authors: Skye Mendes, Morgan Franklin, Christopher Kleva, Madeline Bruce, and William Ridgway

    Skye: For some educators, the instances of being stumped with a question posed by a student might be navigated without any increase in heart rate, however, for those starting out—and whose “not knowing” may possibly be perceived with bias by students based on the instructor’s age, race, gender, ethnicity, or potential disability—can interpret such a moment as a somewhat threatening. Will students think I am not competent in this area? Will they remember this during the teaching evaluations? As with all things related to teaching, I try to guide my approach with a core belief that is clearly seen and understood by each student: I care about their learning. This approach almost always includes (1) expressing appreciation for the question and acknowledging any ways it demonstrates the type of critical thinking the course aims to develop, (2) letting them know I’m uncertain of the answer but I am excited for us to figure it out, (3) making a plan to figure it out, depending on the type of question and context (e.g., modeling the process of finding information in the text or literature, facilitating class discussion and having the group generate plausible answers based on prior knowledge before we look it up, or offering to delve into the topic myself after class), and (4) following through on making sure we get to the bottom of it if it cannot be resolved during class. Again context-dependent, the last step may involve follow-up at the beginning of the next class session, the inclusion of an answer and source in a class announcement post, perhaps an office hours meeting, or even facilitating a connection to someone more expert. Even if the question is resolved one on one with a student, I aim to make sure the answer gets to the whole class, whenever possible and appropriate, to show that I value their curiosities.

    Morgan: As instructors, I think it's natural for us to encounter situations in which we are uncertain or do not feel confident in our knowledge of the subject. These situations have occurred most frequently for me when lecturing over broad content (e.g., Introduction to Psychology) and when assigned to instruct courses that I feel to be outside of my research and clinical focus. In these situations, I think it's best to be as transparent as possible. I often inform my students of my own limitations in the content I am teaching, and/or communicate to them the "lens" that I am lecturing through (i.e., clinical). When my students have questions about content that I do not feel I am competent in, I have sometimes put them in contact with someone who does. I've been fortunate to make connections with many peers and professionals pursuing other specialties who are always open to discussing their areas of expertise with my students in more detail, should they have questions. If possible, it may also be helpful to students to invite guest lecturers who can provide more detail about the content. I think this is beneficial both in terms of providing students with greater depth and specificity in their learning, but also from a professional development perspective by providing students closer contact with professionals in that specific area of research. In situations in which the former options are not easily feasible, I do handle information-seeking myself and provide resources so that I may discuss what the literature shows with my students in a collaborative way. My hope is that bringing research to them and engaging in this process together will model literature review, as well as the critical assessment of research.

    Chris: There’s a clear power dynamic within a classroom, which is fueled by the assumption that the professor has all the answers. I am humbled by seeing the faces of my students when they ask me a question and I respond, “That is a great question! I don’t know.” Those three words can be incredibly difficult to say because there is an inherent questioning of one’s knowledge but it’s also where learning can begin. Pre-pandemic, I would invite students to come to office hours so we could brainstorm ways of seeking out an answer or simply update the class during our next lecture. Since many courses have gone virtual, it has been easier to meet with students and share how I seek out answers to questions I don’t know. This may include how to use our library databases, skim through a journal article or reaching out to colleagues in the field of interest through email and introducing my inquisitive student. I hope my students learn two important lessons that they can carry throughout their lives: (1) it is OK to say, “I don’t know” and (2) there are a myriad of ways in which one can seek out knowledge.

    Madeline: I will pass on advice that my mentor gave me: Find an “old head who earned their greys.” I believe he was playfully referring to himself, but he lived this advice and had his own go-to colleagues despite his seniority. In other words, find a mentor you trust and go to them. As we transition out of our student role, it’s easy to cling to the idea that you’re on your own, or that you should know everything and if you don’t, that somehow reflects poorly on you. This is not the case. We are all in this together. Our practice of psychology—from teaching, to research, to consulting, to clinical care—improves when we seek out others. Being open about this collaborative process with students and modeling it for them will go a long way to alleviating their nerves about needing to know everything off the top of their head and shows them how to collaborate with others regardless of their field.

    William: Instructors will at some point encounter a question they cannot immediately answer. How one approaches this moment is crucial. It is a universal certainty that one does not know everything, yet there are moments or positions we find ourselves in where we tend to ignore this simple truth. Arguably, this can be quite applicable to first-time instructors who at times dread the idea that their students may view them as lacking an ideal level of competence if unable to provide an answer to each question provided to them. As a result, some may default to persuasive bullshitting to manage social impressions or increase status. One problem with this approach is that the trust between instructor and student is put at risk. In the end, it is best to be honest when asked a question to which you do not know the answer to. Doing so will allow you to maintain trust while demonstrating a quality that is often undervalued: humility. Afterall, humility is what makes us real.

  • 06 Jul 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Now that we find ourselves amid the summer months, it is important to address ways in which instructors can better prepare themselves for upcoming online courses. We highlight ways in which one can effectively engage students while remaining cognizant of key features unique to summer online courses.

    Authors: Morgan Franklin, Chris Kleva, Skye Mendes, and Jackson Pelzner

    Morgan: I have primarily taught online over the summer. While I’ve taught online over the fall and spring semesters as well, there are several factors I like to keep in mind when structuring and teaching my summer courses. One of these is simply the condensed time in which courses are taught; It’s incredibly important to be mindful of the mental, physical, and emotional workload that objectives and assignments will place on both you as the instructor, as well as students. It is also important to consider outside factors for students. Summer is usually a time for students to recuperate, visit family, re-energize and recenter. I think it is important to do our best to foster balance for students to buffer against burnout in the fall semester for students and instructors alike.

    Chris: Teaching an online course during the summer can be an extremely difficult feat. How do I condense a 10- or 12-week course into 4-6 weeks? How can I balance trying to engage my students with the material while also trying not to overwhelm them? There are two important features needed for a successful online course: communication and a distinctive structure that allows lecture materials to be delivered in a multitude of ways. Due to the condensed nature of an online course, I send multiple announcements throughout the week to ensure we’re all on the same page. During asynchronous courses, I’ve started to host a live lecture each week, so students can attend and ask questions. The live lecture is recorded and uploaded for other students to watch and hear student questions. Lastly, I incorporate podcast episodes and TED Talk videos to complement the lecture and textbook material.

    Skye: My biggest advice for cultivating skills and discovering technical tools for teaching online is to check out the available training and faculty development resources that may be available at your institution. If many courses (or entire degree programs) are offered in an online modality at your university, chances are good that there are experts on campus who know the ins and outs of what has worked well for others, and particularly how to integrate those techniques and tools with your institution’s learning management system (e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, etc.). Best of all, these training resources are generally available for free to those affiliated with the university, as opposed to paying for outside workshops. If your own institution does not have robust offerings, others will have some of their guides and resources freely accessible online. Don’t be afraid to poke around to see what peer institutions are up to in online learning!

    Jackson: As an exclusively online instructor now, I can attest to the notion that distance learning provides challenges that otherwise would not be experienced in an in-person setting. Without diving into many examples of what has or has not worked in my approach, my best advice for other instructors is to treat your course as though you were an enrolled student. Ask yourself, “Would this be worth my time if I were enrolled in this online course?” For this reason, I tend to stray away from discussion boards or posts. While I can see the benefit of including a place for open dialogue and discussion for an instructor, many students will not treat it as such. I place the most effort into the lectures and slides. If the information is structured in such a way that it is relatable to their everyday experiences, that is the starting point for any meaningful online engagement.

  • 05 Jun 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By William Ridgway, Jackson Pelzner, Morgan Franklin, Skye Mendes, Morgan Franklin, Christopher Kleva

    As we journey into the summer months, it is important to discuss ways in which we can implement self-care strategies. Whether you plan on writing a funding application, working on specific research, or spending time preparing for an upcoming class, we highlight the importance of prioritizing one’s mental health and the need to take a step back every now and again.

    William: Often, the summer months signify an opportunity to work in such a way that allows us to continue our academic journey in a productive way, yet rarely includes time for ourselves. As graduate students, it is important to remain equally committed to oneself and academic journey. Given that graduate students are significantly more likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population (Evans et al., 2018), a good work–life balance is essential when it comes to positive mental health outcomes. Be sure to maintain or develop a healthy routine of sleep, nutrition, and exercise. In addition, let go of the seemingly endless workload. Learn to accept that there will always be something for you to work on and that taking time for yourself is perfectly fine and an essential part of life.

    Evans, T. M., Bira, L., beltram Gastelum, J., Weiss, L. Todd, & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36, 282–284 (2018).

    Jackson: Like most, I always look forward to the summer months to catch up on other projects that may have been set aside during the semester. What is important to remember though is that this is an opportunity to rest. Though the grind never ends, the pace of each day certainly slows down considerably. There is time to evaluate the previous year but at least for part of the summer you should step away from work and change things up. Personally, I gravitate toward activities that keep my mind stimulated but not overworked, like reading and playing golf. This approach works best for me because it doesn’t feel like starting up a cold engine when the Fall semester rolls around and I’m balancing teaching and academics once again. Overall, I think it is essential to our mental wellbeing that we slow things down and change up the day-to-day flow.

    Skye: Many of us appear quick to selectively ignore practical findings about wellbeing and the importance of rest. Whenever there is a semester break or a time of slightly fewer obligations, that time tends to be dedicated to getting done what we couldn’t in the thick of the semester. A lesson many have been humbled to learn the hard way is that when we are physically ill and cannot work, the world keeps spinning and the consequences of our unexpected pause are typically not as disastrous as we may have thought. Of course, when we design our own breaks proactively, we can strategically minimize interruptions to overall goals and plans. If as a reader you are someone who struggles with planning breaks, I hope you will commit to scheduling time this summer to do whatever feels restful. Looking back on the last few years in my PhD program I certainly regret the times I overaccommodated work demands during visits with family back home far more than I have ever regretted the times I begrudgingly tucked the laptop away to be more present in my life. Some of my best, most creative thinking about youth development has hit me while sitting poolside, flanked by nieces and nephews with no laptop in sight.

    Morgan: We all wear a lot of different “hats” in this field: student, instructor, researcher, clinician. Responsibilities do not slow down for many of us over the summer. It is important to have practices and create routines that limit the potential for burnout. In the past I have not set enough boundaries with my time. I wanted to always be available to my students to answer any questions/concerns, and this often interrupted other work and added stress. Over the past year I have found it helpful to set boundaries and stick to them. I am intentional about shutting down my computer and stepping away from my work at 8 PM every night. I also have found it helpful to schedule specific periods of time in which I am responding to student emails and holding office hours. This has helped create more structure in my own schedule. Over the summer, I think it’s also important to give yourself a break, and to make it an actual break! Do not bring work with you and set an away message for your email. Give yourself permission and time to have fun, relax, and rejuvenate. Finding a way to balance self-care with work is crucial. As one last note, remind yourself that self-care does not also have to be productive. In the past I placed pressure on myself to always be doing something that fosters personal and professional growth in my self-care time, and this often increased my stress.

    Chris: I frequently catch myself thinking that next week will be better. This thought is all too common in academia. The logic being that once I get past this deadline then I will be less stressed and have more time for other tasks that have been neglected. Over time, the thought changes slightly. Over the past couple of weeks, I have thought how once I get through this semester, then the summer will be better. I have come to learn that the to-do list is ever growing and there are always tasks that need to be prioritized, whether it be grading assignments, writing up a manuscript, or finishing therapy notes. Balancing productivity and self-care are a constant battle but the approach to a successful work/life balance is one that must be individualized. For many, self-care is preserved by setting boundaries and protecting one’s weekend. For example, from Friday evening to Monday morning, laptops remain closed, email notifications are silenced, and spending time with family and friends is the priority. It has taken me over two years to figure it out, but I’ve learned to balance productivity and self-care in a manner that works best for me. Remember, life does not stop while you are in graduate school. Similar to a car that needs the occasional oil change, we all need our own self-care, in whichever way works best for us!

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   Next >  Last >> 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software