Alfonso Díaz Furlong: I'm a member of STP, and this is how I teach

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

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

 

Type of school: Public University

 

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

 

How many years have you taught psychology?

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

 

Classes you teach:

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

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

 

Average class size:

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

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

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

 

What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s your workspace like? 

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

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

Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

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

 

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

Love learn, enjoy, share knowledge and help others

 

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

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

 

What about teaching do you find most enjoyable?

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

 

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

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

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

 

What are you currently reading for pleasure?

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

 

What tech tool could you not live without?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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