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

"This is How I Teach" Blog

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Teaching shouldn't be a private activity, but often it turns out that way. We don't get to see inside each others' classrooms, even though we'd probably benefit if only we could! In order to help Make Teaching Visible, we've introduced this blog, called "This is How I Teach." We will be featuring the voices of STP members twice a month. Psychology teachers will tell us about how they teach and what kinds of people they are -- both inside and outside the classroom. 

Are you interested in sharing your secret teaching life with STP?

We’d love to hear from you!  To get started, send your name, institution, and answers to the questions below to the following email: howiteach@teachpsych.org.  

  1. Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
  2. What are three words that best describe your teaching style?
  3. What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

"This is How I Teach" edited by: Maggie Thomas, Editor (Earlham College), Rob McEntarffer, Associate Editor (Lincoln Public Schools), and Liz Sheehan, Associate Editor (University of Kentucky)

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  • 31 Oct 2018 11:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Maine at Farmington

    Type of school: public liberal arts college (~1700 students)

    School locale: small town in rural Maine

    Classes you teach: Child and Adolescent Development, Research Methods, Sophomore Seminar

    Average class size: 15-30

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

    My teaching mentor in grad school, Dr. David Zola, modeled “ways of being” in the classroom that have shaped my teaching practices. One of the things he believed was that students learn best when they are active. Even in large lectures, Dr. Zola would have students discuss and apply concepts with each other. The lecture hall would roar with the noise of many conversations and he would smile knowingly at his teaching assistants as if to say, “This is learning. This is the way you teach!”

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

    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is a book that has shaped how I live in and out of the classroom. The premise is that vulnerability, although often viewed as weakness, cultivates so many positive things in our lives. Putting yourself in front of a group of students in an authentic, open way can be a vulnerable position. But, the reward of seeing students grow and growing as a teacher makes the risk worth it.

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

    My favorite course to teach is Research Methods. Every semester, the 15 students each develop their own research project. The questions they seek to answer are always very interesting. The course is different every semester because the projects the students choose are unique to them. Although the main content of research methods stays the same, the way we work to apply the concepts to each individual project changes and keeps the course exciting.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    In Child Development, during the prenatal portion of the class, we read and talk about innovations in conception and genetics. Each semester there are current events and news articles related to beginning of life issues. This semester we read about the 3-person embryo technique and about how scientists can create egg cells from stem cells. The new science is always changing and students seem very interested in keeping up to date.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I focus on how students can apply abstract concepts or theories to something in their own life. This is easy to do in a course like Child and Adolescent Development, where all students have direct experience with many of the ideas. I also try to have students apply information to their future personal or career lives (i.e., Why might a parent need to know about this theory? How might a teacher use this concept in a 3rd grade class?).

    What’s your workspace like?

    The psychology building at UMF is an old church, complete with a steeple. The 8 psychology faculty are the only ones housed in this building, which also includes a small classroom and psychology student lounge. When I arrived 5 years ago, I was given the opportunity to choose a paint color for my office. I chose purple; the space feels warm and cozy. My large desk serves as both a workspace and a small group meeting space for my students and myself.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Goal-oriented, Collaborative, Relational

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Create learning goals. Develop relationships. Revise. Repeat.

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

    One day deep into the spring semester I walked into my Sophomore Seminar class and saw 12 exhausted faces staring at me. The goal for the day was to discuss and apply some of the theory from the reading about procrastination to our everyday lives. The irony of the topic (procrastination) was not lost on any of us. The semester had been full of short days (literally, Maine has less daylight in the winter), cold weather, and rampant flu-like illness. My students were exhausted, and I’d guess many of them hadn’t completed the reading. None of them looked energized for discussion. I tentatively began my planned class. Within 2 minutes, I could tell we weren’t in a learning frame of mind. I paused and considered how to correct our course. I acknowledged the exhaustion. I recognized the “human” in all of us. Then I made the suggestion that we walk the 3 blocks to downtown and grab some coffee. They were over the moon. We went downtown, got coffee at Dunkin’, and sat in the downtown gazebo casually discussing the reading for class. The biggest lessons I acquired: Learning doesn’t always happened as planned. Learning doesn’t always happen in the classroom. Cultivating relationships pays big dividends.

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

    My students might be surprised to learn that I’m an introvert at heart. Teaching is often an extroverted job. Whether I am enthusiastically getting up in front of groups of students or working to make individual connections in office hours, much of what I do at work revolves around social interactions. I think my students might be surprised to know that these interactions are not what “charges my battery.” Instead, I draw energy from lingering over a warm cup of tea with a book. Or, I find calm in my newest hobby-- sewing and quilting.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I commute 2 hours each day and so my “reading” for pleasure often comes in the form of audiobooks in my car. I vacillate between listening to fun popular fiction books (currently Crazy Rich Asians) and podcasts (like Psych Sessions Podcast co-hosted by Neufeld & Landrum).

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I’m wracking my brain and habits on this one. The truth is I could live, and probably live better, without most of them. Many of the tech tools that we use on a daily basis actually facilitate our disconnection with others in the “real world.”

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

    Many of my colleagues are regularly in their office with doors open. We pop into each other’s spaces and discuss the hits and misses of our latest class. We talk about challenging moments or funny missteps in and out of the classroom. And more often, we discuss the latest news headline or the most recent tweet.

  • 15 Oct 2018 3:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Missouri State University

    Type of school: 4-year public institution, with Master’s degrees, and professional doctorates

    School locale: Springfield, MO

    Classes you teach:

    Introductory Psychology
    Abnormal Psychology
    Psychopathology (graduate)
    Clinical Communication Skills (graduate)

    Average class size:

    330 for Intro Psyc
    30-40 for Abnormal Psyc
    9 for graduate classes

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

    I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years! Coming to understand that “covering content” is not what teaching is all about and not what students are going to remember from my course was very liberating. Over the past decade, I have seen my role change from “content provider” to “designer of the learning environment.” This role is so much more fun and one where I believe my SoTL skills can be put to good use. 

    Some other advice that really promoted a paradigm shift for me came from Carol Twigg and Carolyn Jarmon from the National Center for Academic Transformation during the early stages of our course redesign of Introductory Psychology. They taught me to consider the financial costs associated with teaching and to use that information to determine how my time is best spent. Since we now teach 330 students as a team (faculty member, graduate assistant, and 6 undergraduate learning assistants) it doesn’t make sense for me to spend my time entering grades on Blackboard. Instead, I use my time to analyze the class homework data and tailor our upcoming class accordingly. Every class is interactive (even with 330 students) and recognizing that the ability to have that type of class emerged from a financial analysis years ago is pretty cool!

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

    What the Best College Teachers Do (Bain). I also attended one of Ken’s workshops in 2010, which was career-changing for me.   

    How Learning Works (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, Norman)

    Make it Stick (Brown, Roediger, McDaniel)

    And of course, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology and Teaching of Psychology journals.

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

    I love all the courses I teach. But Intro Psyc is probably my favorite. My favorite classes are the ones where we have all 330 students participating in an activity – The Human Neuron for the Bio chapter, Shallow vs Deep Processing Experiment for Memory, or Classically Conditioning them with Fun-Dip in the Learning chapter.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    In addition to the ones I mentioned above, I also hold a special “study skills” class for all the undergrad courses I teach. I wait to do this until after the first exam (you probably know why) and love the opportunity to provide them with evidence-based strategies and some of the rationale about why they work and why the typical study strategies students often use aren’t generally very effective.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I try to practice what I preach. So, I attempt to model “best-practices” for teaching and learning during my classes. I use just-in-time teaching to plan the class for the day, the students answer numerous clicker questions throughout the class, I use peer-instruction, and interactive activities to help the students elaborate on the concepts. I’m also trying to do a better job of making the connections between the various topics/chapter more explicit. Intro Psyc is a survey of the field, but it is not 16 distinct topics. My goal is for students to start to see some of those “Big Ideas” running throughout the course and develop an appreciation for the science.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is generally pretty tidy and organized. It can get out of control briefly but then I have to clean things up before moving on to the next task. Our building was just renovated and I moved into my office in August – I’m taking a minimalist approach because our offices are so small now. What I’ve realized is I really don’t need much more than a computer these days!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Energetic, Warm, and Data-driven

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Appreciating psychological science while learning how to learn.

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

    The year was 2008….my babies were 16 months and 5 months (yes, they are 11 months apart and I did not sleep for over 2 years!) I was teaching 150 Intro Psyc students and about halfway through the lecture I scratched my shoulder. I felt something strange and had the slow realization that what I was feeling was the inside seam of my shirt. I had been wearing my shirt inside-out all day and no one had said anything to me. I ended up finishing class 30 minutes early because I just couldn’t go on!

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

    I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada and I’m still Canadian. I completed my undergraduate degree in Vancouver and then moved to Baton Rouge, LA to attend LSU for graduate school. There was some definite culture shock! But, I loved it and still cheer on the LSU tigers. I also met my best friend (Brooke Whisenhunt) in grad school. We have that one-in-a-million situation where we both got jobs at Missouri State University and have worked side-by-side for the past 15 years. It has been a dream come true.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I honestly don’t have much time for pleasure reading. But, the next on my list is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I saw him speak at APA this past summer and it was amazing!

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Definitely my iPhone. I wish I could say I would be able to function without it, but I believe my entire life is contained in that little device.

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

    Honestly, we talk most about improving our teaching to better help students. Our Intro Psyc teaching team of faculty is very close and we are always looking for new interventions to try and new ways to measure learning. Most of us are also moms so we talk a lot about the ups and downs of raising children.

  • 15 Sep 2018 1:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Louisville (UofL)

    Type of school: Large public research institution

    School locale: In the city of Louisville, with Churchill Downs (the home of the Kentucky Derby) located just a few miles away from campus.

    Classes you teach:

    Human Development, Advanced Issues in Human Development, Learning Theory & Human Growth & Development (Educational Psychology), Learning Systems: Theory & Practice. I have also taught Research Methods, Measurement & Evaluation, a seminar on Understanding Genius, and independent studies on a variety of topics (achievement motivation, gifted education, and independent studies on teaching human development/educational psychology courses).

    Average class size:

    My class sizes have ranged from ~10 (doctoral student seminars) to ~40. What’s most fun is the diverse mix of students in these classes. The Learning Theory & Human Growth & Development course has music education undergraduates alongside MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) graduate students. One semester, that class had juniors and seniors, MAT students, and two doctoral students (Curriculum & Instruction and Nursing), which was a really fun challenge!

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

    Make changes thoughtfully and intentionally. There is always this temptation to make lots of big changes to a course, whether after learning about a new technique that sounds intriguing, coming across a cool reading, or responding to student feedback (course evaluations or mid-semester feedback). Being adaptive in teaching is important, but it quickly can turn into too much of a good thing. Make several changes at once and it’s hard to isolate what exactly was the cause of any improvement, so then you’re left not really knowing what works and what doesn’t. I’ve found this to be especially true when making mid-course changes, such as considering changes after mid-semester feedback – you might end up changing something that had been working. I try to keep in mind that any change I make should be thoughtful, intentional, and carefully implemented.

    I wish I could remember who gave me this advice, but I think I’ve heard it from several mentors and colleagues over the years. It’s probably the advice that I give most frequently to others, too.

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

    It’s tough to pick just one. Make it Stick was incredibly helpful in supplying clear explanations of cognitive psychology principles that improved my teaching. Similarly, I love The Learning Scientists blog and website for a wealth of resources on how to implement those cognitive psychology techniques.

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

    I always joke with students that, "This course is my favorite to teach because every course is my favorite to teach!"  I think each course is my favorite for different reasons; it's just as exciting to push the doctoral students to become theoretical scholars in the Advanced Human Development seminar as it is to get emails from the pre-service teachers and counselors in my courses about how they are putting the content into practice. Each course challenges me in different ways, too.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    I have a huge fondness for myth-busting, so it might be a tie between debunking learning styles or debunking self-esteem myths. For the latter, I have students engage with two vignettes highlighting times that facets of my self-concept and self-esteem took a hit (snippets from a particularly brutal manuscript rejection and tough feedback from a lesson I took with an elite equestrian). As they answer questions around the vignettes to figure out the structure of self-concept and its relation to self-esteem, they also get to see me as a real person who receives failure feedback.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    My teaching is an eclectic mix of highly-interactive lecture interspersed with retrieval practice, small group and whole-class discussion, and activities.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Organized chaos. I know where things are, but it doesn’t always look that way.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, authentic, demanding.

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

    One that I’m willing to share for a wide audience? I’ll go with a hilarious embarrassment. It was my first year teaching at UofL and I was getting my PowerPoint set up for one of the classes in Learning Theory & Human Growth & Development. The projector screen was one of those pull-down screens with the string. For some reason I couldn’t get the whole first slide to show. I was talking through some of my frustration with students who were sitting in the front row of the class – trying to sound smart by reasoning that I just needed to adjust the screen resolution on the monitor.

    And that’s when one of the students gently pointed out that it wasn’t the screen resolution. I just hadn’t pulled the projector screen down all the way. And if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, it was the week that we were covering giftedness. Which meant that I had chosen the Far Side “Midvale School for the Gifted” cartoon for the first slide – a kid pushing on a pull door. There’s really nothing much to do in these situations except laugh at yourself.

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

    I think my students would be shocked to know that I hated developmental psychology when I took the course as an undergraduate - especially because I eventually earned my Ph.D. in it and I love teaching human development courses now! I even include “Fall in love with human development” as a learning objective for each course. At the time, I was adamant that I would not take another course in development. Looking back, it's an important reminder that whether we want to or not, we serve as ambassadors for our disciplines. I carry that forward with me now by trying to be the best ambassador I can for my content area.

    For something a bit more lighthearted, one of the lesser-known facts about me is that I make really good homemade limoncello. It takes about two hours to carefully peel all of the lemons and then close to three months for it to age properly.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Like most fans of David Foster Wallace, I’m forever able to say that I’m reading Infinite Jest.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Notecards. I was recently discussing this with a colleague and we agree that while high-tech classrooms can be cool, we can accomplish a lot of magic with just notecards and sticky notes.

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

    There is a lot of talk these days about our new president, Neeli (yes, she prefers to be called by her first name). She is our university’s first female president and has brought a lot of positive energy to our institution. It’s not often you hear about a president giving out their cell phone number to every student they meet – so that’s certainly generated some hallway buzz!

  • 20 Aug 2018 1:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    School name: Woods Cross High School

    Type of college/university: Suburban high school

    School locale: 13 miles north of Salt Lake City)

    Classes you teach: AP Psychology, Introductory Psychology, Quest (a credit recovery course for students to help them get on track to graduate)

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

    The best advice I ever got as a teacher was during my student teaching. Pam Olson, my coordinating teacher for math (I taught math for 15 years) told me that the best thing a teacher can do is let go of her ego. She went on to discuss how teachers who struggle often get caught up in battles of ego. Egos affect interactions with students or colleagues or parents. If you can let go of your ego, you can avoid all kinds of problems. I have found this to be such sage advice. When difficulties have arisen for me as a teacher, it usually goes back to ego issues more than anything else. I also find that I can have a much better relationship with my students when I check my ego at the door.

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

    In all honesty, it was the Myers Psychology textbook (maybe 2e) that my AP Psychology teacher adopted in 1992. In the spring before my senior year of high school, my psychology teacher came to me and asked me to look over a set of three textbooks to help him choose the best book for a new class that would be offered the following year – AP Psychology! I distinctly remember looking those books over very carefully. As a junior in high school, I knew I loved psychology. However, helping to select that text and subsequently taking the first AP Psychology class my senior year, solidified my decision to major in psychology and become a teacher. I read the text cover to cover my senior year, not because it was required, but because I could not get enough. When I began teaching AP Psychology eight years later, I was THRILLED to recognize the author, his unique and funny voice, and a newer edition of the book I had loved. David Myers’ texts have shaped my courses and helped lead me to make the decision to become a high school psychology teacher.

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

    My students joke that I start every unit with the statement, “This is my favorite unit to cover in psychology.” Their joke has merit. It is REALLY hard for me to pick just one. Every unit has its own fun activities and demonstrations and applications to real life. Just when I start to tire of a topic, it’s time to move on to another “favorite” unit.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    As stated above, where do I begin? I have been to so many amazing workshops and conferences. I have had the pleasure of learning from so many phenomenal teachers. I have a favorite activity with every unit. My “go to” favorites are usually the ones that don’t take very long and really help the kids to deeply process the information. I’ve listed a few below, but I could go on and on and on:

    Neurinal (field trip to the bathroom to demo the neuron), Pavlov and lemonade (this one quick demonstration works better than anything else to teach classical conditioning concepts and kids never forget), Andrea Yates article to teach perspectives and writing FRQ’s for AP, M & M’s to teach statistics, using social media to dispel the myth that we only use 10% of our brain.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I use many different cooperative learning techniques. My classroom has nine tables of four and from the first day of class, my students learn about the necessity of discussion. They speak the language of psychology daily through small group, partner, or whole class discussions. I am also very structured in this approach, which helps the students and me to stay focused. They number off and take turns. Everyone has to contribute. A quiet class or a class where I lecture the entire time is very much out of my comfort zone. I also make my students get out of their seats and move every 20 minutes for at least 30 seconds. I have a variety of strategies for doing this. I believe it really helps with the climate of the class, the comfort of the kids, and the ability to process information.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My classroom has nine tables of four. I set things up from the “front” where I have a screen and a computer. However, I constantly walk around the room and monitor or participate in discussions. When I’m planning lessons and grading, I have my own desk, table, and computer off to the side in a corner. Though, I rarely sit at my desk when students are there.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    I asked students to help me with this: Passionate, Organized, Energetic

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? 

    Love the students, love the subject, take risks!

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

    I have certainly had embarrassing moments that I was just able to laugh off, like walking around with my shirt tucked into my underwear for an entire class. I even walked into the class next door to take photos in order to use up a roll of film (yes, I have photo evidence) and showed off my underwear to a second class. A kind student took pity on me and told me at the VERY end of class.

    I also had a glitch one day teaching functions in math. I could not say the word “function”. I kept dropping the first n in the word. The more I tried to say the word, the more I fumbled to pronounce it correctly. It was a disaster. The poor students couldn’t focus and I had to do the entire lesson over again the next time. I just had to let my ego go, laugh at myself, apologize to the kids, and move on.

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

    I still get nervous before the first day of any class. I have two tattoos

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? 

    I just finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and started The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

    What tech tool could you not live without? 

    Projector, clicker, and PowerPoint (boring, yes, but PowerPoint structures my classes and contains clips or prompts for discussions, demonstrations, and activities)

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

    We talk about students, parents, other faculty members as well as our own kids and pets. I share a back room and eat lunch with a big group of English and math teachers. We usually talk about the math and English departments and each other. We are great friends.

  • 03 Aug 2018 9:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Washington & Jefferson College (W&J)

    Type of school: Small Liberal Arts College (about 1400 students)

    School locale: Washington, PA – small town about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh

    Classes you teach: First-Year Seminar, Elementary Psychology (semesters 1 & 2), Cognitive Psychology, Sensation & Perception, Advanced Laboratory in Sensation & Perception (capstone)

    Average class size: 12-25 students

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

    Learn how to say “no”! While this advice wasn’t initially about teaching specifically, this advice has been useful in keeping my academic life organized. My graduate advisor, Gordon Legge at the University of Minnesota, gave me this advice when I was spending most of my time teaching instead of finishing my Ph.D. research. The advice allowed me to finish my Ph.D. successfully. In semesters at W&J that I overcommit myself outside of the classroom, I struggle with teaching and advising. When I say “no”, even occasionally, teaching and advising goes back to being my primary role … and love.

    What book or article shapes your work as a psychology teacher? 

    I guess the one book that has influenced my teaching most recently has been Small Teaching by James Lang. While there are lots of teaching books on my shelves, one of the things that Small Teaching has helped me with is understanding that making the classroom a better place doesn’t necessarily require extensive makeovers. Sometimes a small change, or a small addition, or a small subtraction is enough to make the environment of the class better. Since I have tried to make all of my classes very applied in nature, the chapter on “Connecting” has been particularly meaningful in helping me think about how to work with students to connect ideas that we discuss in class and/or things that they read about outside of class time. The time commitment to more intentionally do that kind of connecting work really is quite minimal compared to the work to learn the topics. But, making those connections really is a big part of a liberal arts education.

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

    Although my field is cognitive and perceptual psychology, and I teach Cognitive Psychology, Sensation & Perception, and a capstone on the topic of reading, my favorite course by far is actually my section of our First-Year Seminar titled “The Art and Science of Vision and Visionaries”. We teach approximately 15-20 sections of First-Year Seminar every fall, each topic-based and decided by the individual professor but centered around students learning about the key set of skills that they need as students. The topics are just “excuses” to teach a good course about the liberal arts and what it means to be a good college student.

    My course is split into two halves. The first half of the course is about visual perception, but with the spin that we learn about principles of visual perception and cognition through the study of art. We’re lucky that we live near Pittsburgh and have fabulous art museums in the city. I have the students go to the Carnegie Museum of Art early in the semester and then again later in the semester and I ask them to think about how they have changed (or added to) their way of viewing artwork. I sometimes try to get them to the Andy Warhol Museum or the Mattress Factory, very different types of art museums to see if what they have learned can transfer to different types of museums.

    The second half of the course is about visionaries and how and why people get placed into that category. So, we read Where Good Ideas Come From, learn a little about Steve Jobs, and watch Flash of Genius as a few of our examples. It’s a good excuse to think about how good ideas come about throughout a liberal arts education with an important message that often those ideas don’t appear in a formalized educational setting. The course and topics also provide a good basis for discussing how a liberal arts education is set up to allow the type of visionary thinking that we read and watch in the course.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    One of my favorite in-class exercises comes about halfway through my Cognitive Psychology class. While I start the first day of the semester talking about study skills, and how those important study skills are informed by research in Cognitive Psychology, once we have studied attention and memory in the class, we are ready to talk about how we can actually support those study skills experimentally. The students in the class have read the assigned textbook pages in the Goldstein Cognitive Psychology textbook, they have done a series of CogLab exercises on memory, and they have read articles by Willingham (including “What Will Improve a Student’s Memory?”) and Roediger & Pyc (“Inexpensive Techniques To Improve Education”) on applying memory research to the topic of study skills. Students have also done brief presentations on the chapters in following books: Brown, Roediger & McDaniel (“Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”), Willingham (“Why Don’t Students Like School?”), and Lang (“Small teaching”). The students come to class and work in groups of 3 or 4 and are given the task below which they work on for the entire class period. The goal is to get everyone thinking about how what they have been learning can be applied directly to learning, and for our Education majors, to teaching.

    Assume you’ve been given a single exam question that says:

    • a.    Briefly describe each of the 5 study techniques covered by Goldstein on pages 202-204 (Elaborate, Generate & Test, Organize, Take Breaks, Avoid Illusions of Learning) plus the additional technique I mentioned on Day 2 of the semester (Match Learning & Testing Conditions).
    • b.    Briefly describe two pieces of evidence to support each of the 6 study techniques (thus 12 total pieces of evidence). Your evidence should come in the form of: 1) Experiments we’ve discussed in class; OR 2) Experiments from your text reading during the last couple of weeks; OR 3) Examples of principles from “What Will Improve a Student’s Memory?”; OR 4) Examples of principles from “Inexpensive Techniques to Improve Education”; OR 5) CogLabs we’ve completed and discussed in this unit
    • c.    Briefly: How would you apply these techniques specifically to set up a study strategy for Exam #2?

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I still use lecture as a teaching tool in most of my classes, mixed with activities, class discussions, projects, presentations, discussions of primary source articles, etc. When we renovated our building a number of years ago, we decided that we wanted a seminar-style room to facilitate classes like our capstones and other smaller classes like our First-Year Seminar classes taught by Psychology Department members. The room, and the U-shaped setup of the tables, allows for a natural setting for discussions and presentations rather than lecture. Although the picture shows what the room looks like during a First-Year Seminar writing exercise, the important thing is that the room structure helps to facilitate the desired teaching and learning techniques for many of my classes.

    What’s your workspace like?

    While I want students to see my office as a “professional” space, I also want them to feel comfortable coming to visit. So, I’ve tried to put as much of “me” in the space as I can … soccer, Cleveland, NASA, Star Wars, family / kid pictures, etc. These extra things in the office provide a comfortable environment for me to work, but also provide a relaxing space for current students to visit. The space also provides some additional ways to make connections with current students, but also with prospective students and their parents when they visit campus. I do like to watch visiting prospective student parents gazing at the things in the room while I talk with their son or daughter. I have also tried to pilfer just about every extra chair around the building so that I can host groups of students or prospective families.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Supportive, practical, integrative

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Teaching with an eye toward real-world applications

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

    The easiest example that comes to mind (yes, more than one example comes to mind!) is my first, and only attempt to teach our Mind, Brain, and Behavior course early on in my time here at W&J. The folks in the MBB program were trying to find new instructors for their program’s introductory course, and for someone interested in Cognitive Psychology, it seemed like a natural fit. Well, I made the mistake of trying to teach the course based on a syllabus from someone that had taught the course previously. I did try to modify the syllabus to be slightly more psychological than philosophical given my interests, but I didn’t do enough. I’m quite sure that there were class days where I was just as lost in the material as my students were. I tried to run the class as a discussion class but I wasn’t well enough prepared to do that, and the students certainly didn’t have the background, and I didn’t do a good job of preparing them for those discussions. It really was a horrible class. I occasionally still have a nightmare about that class! I didn’t give up on the techniques that I tried in that class … I’ve applied those in other classes. But, I never taught the class again. Maybe it’s because I was hiding under my desk when they went looking for people to teach the class in later semesters. The MBB program was later cut from our curriculum. I’m a program killer!

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

    I occasionally wear jeans or shorts! While there are lots of ways to present yourself as a teacher, I’ve always done dress pants and shirt/tie in the classroom since arriving at W&J. During the winter, I like sweaters, and occasionally on a course evaluation I get a comment about my “matching” sweater and socks. But, once in a while on a final exam day, or a sports event on campus, or just wandering aimlessly around Washington, PA with my wife and daughter, I run into students or alums, and lo and behold I’m wearing jeans or shorts. It’s funny how many times students will remark on how “normal” I seem outside of the classroom. In the midst of a busy, and sometimes stressful college career, I’m not sure that students always think of faculty also as “people.” Being Facebook friends with a small subset of students after they graduate has also helped to reinforce the idea that professors (and students/alums!) are normal people, parents, citizens, etc. I’m looking at my wall of fun quotes in my office from former students and one of them commented: “Once you graduate college, it’s funny how you realize that your professors who you thought were so perfect are really just like you.” I love that many of my former students are now also parents and I get to follow their parenting adventures on Facebook as I struggle my way through being a parent of an 8-year-old.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’ll just be honest. Right now I’m not reading anything for pleasure. A lot of my reading time is devoted to reading articles and books to prepare for my classes. We’re in the midst of the Middle States Reaccreditation process, reading applications for a Visiting Assistant Professor, doing a departmental self-study, preparing for college-level Strategic Planning, etc. I’m lucky at this point if I have the reading energy for the weekend newspaper right now! At some point, I’ll get back to reading for fun!

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I don’t know if this is a good answer, but I don’t feel particularly married to any tech tool. I use PowerPoint in many of my classes to show primarily graphs and figures, but almost never text. I still like using the chalkboard more than any technology. I use Sakai, our Learning Management System at W&J, as a place to make links and articles available to my students during the semester to read. But, in cleaning files this summer, I came across the big stacks of handout originals that I used to use instead of Sakai. I’m happy to not be killing as many trees, but I feel like I could live without Sakai if needed. Maybe it’s a good sign that there aren’t technologies that I feel like I could live without. As I mentioned before, Facebook has become a wonderful tool to stay in touch with students that have graduated from W&J. I’m in touch with many more alums in the Facebook era than I am in the pre-Facebook era.

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

    At the time I am writing this, W&J is in the midst of many transitions … President, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vice President of Enrollment … and others. So, naturally some of the hallway discussions are about how all of that uncertainty has an impact on students, faculty, and staff. But, I find more often than not that discussions are about ways to help students succeed at W&J … specific students or students in general. I am also really fortunate to have an office neighbor who also has an 8-year-old daughter, so sharing kid stories is always an important part of nearly every week!
  • 17 Jul 2018 3:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Eastern Illinois University

    Type of school: Regional public 4-year institution

    School locale: Charleston, IL (Rural Illinois with lots of corn and soybeans!)

    Classes you teach:

    Most commonly I teach biological psychology, sensation & perception, and psychology of learning.

    Average class size: 40-50 students

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

    I’m not sure where I first heard it and it’s not on the forefront of my consciousness when teaching, but in practice I think I’ve followed the advice that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

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

    I don’t think there is any one book or article. Rather, I’ve learned so much from STP colleagues, teaching conferences, books and articles on teaching techniques, and conducting my own classroom research. Together, these simple means have had a large cumulative effect on my teaching and my students.

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

    I love teaching hard things that students are capable of learning (action potentials, neural convergence, sensory transduction, positive vs. negative reinforcement and punishment). I love teaching students about their everyday experiences (color vision, thirst, emotion, sound localization, sleep). I also love teaching students about male and female prenatal sexual development (it’s astounding).

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    My all-time favorite activity is the Play-Doh brain. I assign different parts of the brain to small groups of students who try to come up with a creative way to remember the name of the brain structure and its associated function (e.g., “hippocampus” sounds like a hippo on campus, which would be learning and remembering just like the hippocampus does). Students are also asked to mold a 3-D Play-Doh representation of their assigned brain structure. As each group shares with the rest of the class the name of the brain structure and its function, I add their Play-Doh brain structure to the developing brain. By the end, we have a wonderfully colorful brain, which I then have a student cut in half (midsagittal section) and hold up for the class to see. This can serve as a springboard for teaching about split-brain behavior J. The next class period, I bring a Jell-O brain colored to look like a real brain and quiz students on a few brain parts before I take a bite of it.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I frequently use in-class polling questions and peer discussion of answers. More recently, I’ve been using online cumulative quizzes over each chapter for all of my courses. Students are saying they are learning more and are less stressed!

    What’s your workspace like?

    My office is 9x12 (I counted the squares on the floor), with one file cabinet, three large bookshelves, an office desk and chair, and three other chairs. My walls are decorated with family photos, three framed diplomas, and a few quotes “Blessed are they who go to college and never get out, for they shall be called professors” and “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” In February of 2016, I bought an under-desk elliptical to get more activity at my desk (over 5,000 virtual miles so far).

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, encouraging, engaging

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

    I had a student pass out after watching the re-enactment video of Phineas Gage’s accident. Fortunately, the student recovered quickly, but I don’t show it anymore in class.

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

    I was on a Latin ballroom dance team in college.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I don’t have much time for leisurely reading, but the last book I read was a powerful story by Chris Williams “Let It Go: A True Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness.”

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Classroom polling software

  • 15 Jun 2018 2:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Ball State University

    Type of school: Public Research Institution

    School locale: small Midwestern city

    Classes you teach:

    Introductory Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, Graduate Neuroscience, the capstone research course for seniors

    Average class size: 40 for undergraduates, 25 for graduates

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

    Treat every day like a new day with the students.  Love what you do.  Balance enthusiasm with rigor.

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

    The journal Teaching of Psychology.

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

    I absolutely love teaching students about the neural action potential.  I also enjoy the lecture I give on “zombie” parasites in mammals.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    I have the students “act out” the action potential physically.  I like that one a lot.  Also, we run a dissection lab every term in the cognitive and grad classes that is a lot of fun, and dissect sheep brains with plastic utensils in turkey tins.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I’m a lecturer, but I move a lot, and I use a lot of physical demonstrations to get scientific points across.  Short, regular quizzes also seem to work well to assist students in learning the materials and retaining them. 

    What’s your workspace like?

    I do almost everything on the computer with very little paper these days, so it is digital!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Energetic, enthusiastic, engaged

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Students engage when materials are relevant to them.

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

    I once, in my first year of teaching, had a piece of candy in my pockets that melted everywhere, ruining my pants!  The students whispered about it, but I laughed it off and kept going.  I thought for sure it would be the end of my reputation with the students, but my reaction and ability to keep going seemed to gain me some respect.

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

    I think they’d be surprised to know I like musicals (they all already know I love zombies).

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    A mystery series called The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency about a woman P.I. in Botswana.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My laptop.

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

    We chat about our children; we are a very family oriented department!

  • 16 May 2018 1:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Gannon University

    Type of school: Small, Catholic Liberal Arts College

    School locale: Urban (Erie, PA)

    Classes you teach:

    Psychological Statistics (Introduction to Statistics), Honors Psychological Statistics, Online Psychological Statistics, Positive, Motivation and Emotion, Industrial-Organizational, Social

    Average class size: varies from 10-25

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

    Students don’t like surprises. Given them a detailed schedule the first day of class. Stick with it. Be clear in your expectations.

    These details may seem more mundane than planning an inspiring lecture or creating a psychometrically appropriate exam, but people like clear expectations. 

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

    Make it Stick.

    Also, Malcolm Gladwell’s work showed me how effective it is to teach a psychology theory by way of personal anecdote, historical event, or TV show/movie reference.

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

    In my statistics class, I have a Harry Potter-themed review lecture for teaching ANOVA and a Hunger Games review lecture for t-tests that I really enjoy. On those days, all of my examples are based on story cannon and psychology. So, the students perform a one-way ANOVA that demonstrates that Death Eaters score higher on Fascism scales than do members of the Order of the Phoenix or a random sample of wizards. And on t-test day, my students analyze data that reveals that in Panem, Capitol Leadership and Rebel Leadership score in a statistically similar manner on the Machiavellianism scale.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    When I teach Positive Psychology, I emphasize that we aren’t studying happiness, per se, but individual differences and societal support that lead to high achievement and striving. During the second meeting of the class, everyone gives a “Best Self” talk: They describe a time in their life when they were doing their very best. The stories my students share? One of our majors talked about over coming depression and suicidal thoughts. One student’s mom had a stroke, and my then-16 year old student had to keep her family together. Another was cheated on and dumped and then took up running to get over the loss and ran their first 10K. Another related being kicked off a college sports team due to partying and low grades, then getting their life back in order. One student worked really, really hard to earn straight As while working night shift for a whole semester.

    That day of class is a sacred day. Many students make themselves vulnerable by sharing very bad things that happened to them. I think we all remember that each and every one of us has done hard things and has lived to tell the tale. It also sets the stage for class and discussions of resiliency, optimism, and grit.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    Just use as many vivid examples as possible. By the time you are a college professor, your mind has been trained to think very abstractly and extensively about statistics, research methods, and psychology. Your students are not at that level. I think that using different examples and encouraging your students to come up with their own examples helps to avoid the “illusion of knowing” that comes with memorizing a dictionary definition of a concept without really understanding the concept.

    What’s your workspace like?

    I have a really messy office but I am particular about lighting and food. I hate florescent lights and have two lamps and a window to light my office. I also have lots of tea and snacks. My favorite teas are Wegmans Green Jasmine and Harney & Sons Green Tea with Coconut. I am usually snacking on trail mix, baked chick peas, oatmeal, and Dr. McDougall cup-o-soups.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Dress, boots-or-flats, cardigan-or-blazer.

    And, yes, I know exactly what you mean, and I refuse to change my answer.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be enthusiastic. Be genuine. Read the room.

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

    I had a teaching assistantship my first year of graduate school. I assumed that I would hold office hours and maybe run a lab section. However, a week before classes started, I learned that I would be teaching two 60-student sections of Introduction to Psychology. I would receive twice weekly training via a practicum class lead by an experienced teacher.

    For that entire first semester, I was nauseous and nervous EVERY DAY before teaching my two sections. On top of that, I had my own graduate level stats class (which also made me nauseous), which occurred directly in between my two sections of Intro. I was already struggling with my first year of graduate school and it was just so hard. But I kept showing up, I kept trying, connecting with the students with silly stories and pop culture references, and now I love teaching.

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

    During that horrible first semester of graduate school? I failed my very first stats exam. Like, I REALLY failed it. My professor, Dr. Britt, even put a “See me” under my terrible grade. I still have that blue book. 

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I listened to the audiobook for The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman over the summer/fall. It was FANTASTIC. I really recommend audiobooks for busy people who have time to listen to a book while exercising/commuting/doing chores.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Outlook Calendar. I know that isn’t a very interesting technology tool, but my memory is garbage and I have two kids and a husband and we’re a lot to keep straight.

    I also love Twitter (@notawful). I use it to share posts from my blog about teaching statistics. Twitter has allowed me to connect with people I would never have the chance to meet otherwise and make psychology and statistics friends. I also like having a social media outlet that is purely professional in nature.  

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

    We’re a small department with pretty awesome psychology majors, so most of the hallway chatter tends to be between instructors and students or among students. I once overheard our majors have a very enthusiastic discussion about why they wanted a pet ocelot.  

  • 15 Apr 2018 11:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Hunter College, City University of New York

    Type of college/university: Public University, 23,000 students including undergraduate and graduate students.

    Classes I teach - Introduction to Research Methods, Learning Theory, Psychology 100, Evolution and Behavior, Ethology-Animal Behavior                                                

    Average class size: 35-40 students

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

    “Learn all your student’s names. Acknowledging their real presence in your classroom assists in building an environment of mutual respect and collaboration. Sometimes the simplest gestures can have the biggest impact.” From a presentation by Kathleen Cumiskey, Chair of the Psychology Department at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.

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

    Not a book or an article, but an event, Pedagogy Day (2015) at the CUNY Graduate Center was where I found a community of like-minded professors. Professor Aaron S. Richmond (Educational Psychology and Human Development at Metropolitan State University of Denver) presented an evidence-based guide to university teaching which has served as a foundation for my growth as an educator.

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

    My favorite course to teach is Learning Theories 350. There are usually about 35 students and for most of them it’s their last year and often their last class. I see this as an opportunity to make sure that students leave school knowing how learning has been studied, how to learn, and most importantly, loving to learn.  My not-so-secret goal is to create lifelong learners.

    Since most students are very interested in how they can learn better, we start the term with a study skills exercise including a reading, creating their own PowerPoint on the reading, and presenting it. After all that talk about deep encoding, the bounce back to Aristotle’s “Laws of Association” makes sense and Pavlov’s cortical mosaic concept is more accessible. From there-on-in the class follows the association theme from anticipatory association, to associations between behaviors and outcomes, right through to Hebbian synapses and all bright lights in the brain.

    The syllabus progresses from lecture/discussion to an experiential assignment for each learning theory. Supplementing these basic elements are frequent 10 question quizzes and opportunities for extra credit. The quizzes serve to keep everyone’s “head in the game”. As experienced students, they know that if quiz grades get wobbly they need to study more. They can also take advantage of extra credit opportunities that may include three paragraph responses to “thought questions” like; “How has learning changed your behavior?”; or respond to a posted NY Times editorial on lecturing vs active learning.

    Learning is a topic that has strong personal connections for my students and in many cases for their children. Many of the students are the first in their families to go to college, often their parents have worked very hard to give them this chance. A student of mine once commented that I teach like there is something at stake. I replied, “There is” and we both knew what I meant.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    One of the challenges of this course is that a lot of the content has been covered in other classes. They already know about salivating dogs and Bobo dolls. This is where the experiential part of the lesson comes in.  In writing about this aspect of the course one student commented; “With every new lecture, followed a discussion or a group assignment that would demonstrate why a particular school of learning theory was beneficial and what importance it holds in terms of application to the real world, as well as how we as students can benefit from it.”

    An example of these group assignments is, “Operant Conditioning for a Better World”. This team project asks students to identify an issue, (like recycling, or people standing front of the subway doors) and create a strategy to change behavior using stimulus, response, and outcome. Students love activism and this project brings out some great ideas. For instance: A proposal to place specially designed recycling bins outside the subway entrance that dispense a free 1-way subway pass to recyclers.  The subway pass was also suggested as a reinforcer at polling places to increase voting. (This is NYC we spend a lot of time on the subway.)

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    Early in the class I set a simple framework in place. I call roll for the first two weeks. There is so much power in connecting a name to a face and it’s a sign of respect. That shared smile of recognition is so comforting.

    The second structural element, is establishing teams of four to five students. These teams are not self-selected; everyone starts as strangers and through the term they become friends and study partners. Many students don’t like teamwork, which I understand, but as someone who worked in the outside world, I know that learning how to collaborate is a skill that will be useful for the rest of their lives. I share this with the class and I’m met with a sea of “nobody’s messing with my grade” stares. Class discussions about team dynamics and learning are helpful and by the end of the term, we have a classroom full of vibrant ideas and just the right amount of competition between the teams. Team projects are a significant percentage of their grade.

    With this framework we build a community, where everyone has a role and a path to success. I teach, they learn; we all understand that neither role is passive.

    What’s your workspace like?  

    Most of my class prep is done in my office at home. There is a window, a desk, my laptop, a view of the sky, and carefully managed piles of materials for each class. At my desk is an old-style metal office chair covered with this wonderful teal leatherette. Oh, and lots of books.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 

    Intense, Engaging, Responsive

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? 

    Learning is a Life Skill.

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

    No disasters really, and embarrassment is an everyday fact of my teaching life. It is unfortunately true that I do not know everything about everything.

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

    My students are pretty unflappable, but this might interest them-When I was 6 months old I moved to Shiraz, Iran for a year.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I read a lot of everything both highbrow and low. Just finished “The Pyramid of Mud” a mafia mystery by Andrea Camilleri. Before that, Joan Didion’s amazing essays on California in the sixties: “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.”

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Blackboard and My iPhone make life so much easier. With mobile apps I can work wherever I am – a mixed blessing.

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

    We often talk about how to get enough sleep.

  • 15 Mar 2018 1:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Carleton College

    Type of school: private liberal arts college

    School locale: small town (~20k) Northfield, Minnesota

    Classes you teach:

    Principles of Psychology, Sensation & Perception with lab, Human Expertise, Psychology of Spoken Words

    Average class size: 15 (seminar) – 35 (introductory course)

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

    “Bring yourself into the classroom.” When I first started teaching I felt like I had to maintain a formal, professorial demeanor. Once I gave that up and embraced my more informal, zany style, I had more fun, and the students did too. I regularly give examples from my own life - sharing my perspectives and being open with students seems to help them be more comfortable with me and willing to ask for help.

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

    Teaching Introductory Psychology: Survival Tips from the Experts. It was the first teaching book I ever read and I still regularly think of the advice in it. One suggestion it gives that I try to use regularly is to teach by telling stories. For instance, when I introduce the idea of localization of function in our neuroanatomy unit, I begin with, “In the spring of 1861, a man was admitted to a hospital outside Paris. He was only able to speak a single syllable, but could do it with inflection and expressive hand gestures,” and then go on to describe Leborgne meeting Broca and what we have since come to learn about the neuroanatomy of language production. Telling the detailed story of a single person seems to engage students and make them more curious about a particular phenomenon.

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

    I love all my courses equally, but Sensation & Perception is a favorite. This involves teaching students basic, factual information (e.g., anatomy of the inner ear), processes (e.g., how acoustic signals are translated into neural code in the inner ear), and more high-level abstract concepts (e.g., how we recognize spoken words). Sensation & Perception is also quite interdisciplinary, and I like getting to draw on psychology, neuroscience, physics, and philosophy all in the same course. It's also a lot of fun to get to explain familiar phenomena like why people have the flavor preferences they do, why being drunk makes you dizzy, why spicy food burns, etc. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    On the first day of my intro psych class, I give small groups of students a fictional research summary to evaluate. They all receive the same brief introduction and methods section, but different groups get different (contradictory) results. I ask students to explain why the outcome occurred and whether it is what they would have predicted. Over the years I’ve been doing the exercise, 76% of students have reported that they would have predicted the results, despite the fact that there the two outcomes were contradictory. I use this to demonstrate hindsight bias and emphasize the importance of empirical testing, because our intuitions can’t always be trusted. (If any future students are reading this - don’t wreck my demo, ok?)

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    In a typical class period, I’ll lecture for 10-15 minutes, then ask students to work in small groups to answer discussion questions, solve a problem, design an experiment, or apply something from the reading or lecture to a novel issue. We then discuss as a class and repeat the process. I like moving back and forth between a more traditional lecture format and more flexible, small group work. The discussion time also gives students who are nervous about asking questions in front of the whole class an opportunity to talk to me one-on-one.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Typically tidy, but with cups of tea and whatever I’m reading close to my computer.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, interactive, rigorous.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Hook ‘em and they’ll work to learn it.

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

    The teaching issues that stick with me tend to be the minor, but more frequent missed opportunities. I’ll sometimes realize after a class period (or even a whole course) that there was a much better way to present information, a clearer example to give, or a more interesting way to frame a problem. I have to work hard not to kick myself for missing an opportunity to have done something better. Luckily, there’s always next time!

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

    In college, I was premed until I failed the first few tests in intro bio. I considered going to grad school for linguistics.  I came very close to quitting my PhD program. I think career paths are much less straight than students assume.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Vacationland by John Hodgman

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I rely on GQueues for task management, Slack for team communication, GoogleDocs for collaboration, Dropbox for storage, and R for data analysis.

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

    These days it’s mostly about my two small kiddos and who is sick with what that day. When it’s not the middle of Minnesota winter, I also find myself talking about running and outdoor adventures, movies, my art, and what is going on around town.

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