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

Vishal Thakkar: I'm a member of STP and this is how I teach

15 Aug 2022 12:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School name: Tarrant County College Southeast Campus (TCC) and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW)

Type of school: TCC is a two-year college and UTSW is a medical center with no undergraduate students.

School locale (including state and country): Dallas, Texas

How many years have you taught psychology? 1.5

Classes you teach: TCC: General Psychology, Lifespan Growth and Development, Biological Psychology, Research Methods; UTSW: Research Design and Multivariate Statistics

Specialization (if applicable): cognitive, behavioral neuroscience

Average class size: 15-20 students

What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  The best advice about teaching I have ever received is probably: (a) to never reinvent the wheel since thinking simply is often more powerful than trying to think extravagantly and (b) always take a deep breath since that’s all it often takes to soak in the fun part of the job, solve a problem, or have a great idea.

What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Transforming Introductory Psychology edited by Regan Gurung and Garth Neufeld, Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning by Pooja Agarwal and Patrice Bain

Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I really enjoy teaching case studies in the neuropsychology world since they offer a lot of depth and insight into behavior and how the brain functions. I also love teaching about research methods, design, and statistics. No matter what subfield people pursue, this topic is fundamental and follows us everywhere! I think it also helps us understand the world around us and formulate opinions in a world that relies on data and statistics.

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. One of my favorite activities that I did as a student was a year-long research project that turned into a poster to present at a departmental end-of-year event. It taught me a lot about IRB submissions, the research process, working in teams, and putting data into perspective. As an instructor, I really enjoyed having my students complete an assignment where they could create a 10-minute mini podcast episode on a psychological topic of their choice or write a letter to someone in government about how the topic can apply to policy advocacy and change. Students did a great job with this, and I saw how much they learned and applied to the real world!

What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I really enjoy structuring most classes by doing a few minutes of review at the beginning, outlining the objectives of the current day, going through lecture and activities for that content, and then ending class with anonymous (e.g., Poll Everywhere) review questions that help prepare for assessments.

What’s your workspace like? I need a clear workspace! I really only keep what I am actively working on in front of me, and that includes only having computer programs or internet tabs open if I am using them. This helps me stay focused on the task instead of bouncing back and forth and losing trains of thought. I will often have a cup of coffee, a water bottle, and music or a podcast in the background.

Three words that best describe your teaching style. interactive, real-world, and enthusiastic

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Equip students with skills to evaluate and understand the world.

Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. My first semester at TCC, I was teaching introduction to psychology. When building the syllabus, I never marked Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and other holidays, so a student genuinely thought I expected them to attend class during the holidays.

What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? I always believe that everyone has their own story. Teaching gives me an opportunity to get to know people from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life. It makes teaching psychology a more meaningful experience since everyone can share their views or personal experiences in class, helping everyone understand these concepts in the real world.

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? My students are sometimes surprised to learn that I am a vegetarian, have officiated a wedding, and was in the hospital for 30 days in fifth grade (something tied to cerebellum first, then malaria the second time).

What are you currently reading for pleasure? Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

What tech tool could you not live without? Laptop! I do a lot of writing and journaling for fun, and the laptop holds all of it.

What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Coffee, recent sports games, funny stories from class, board games, and TV shows (huge fan of shows like Brooklyn 99, Schitt’s Creek, Friends)



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