Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

This is How I Teach

Subscribe here to get email notifications of new blog posts.


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" is edited by Maggie Thomas (Earlham College) and Beth Morling (University of Delaware).

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   Next >  Last >> 
  • 05 Feb 2015 2:47 PM | Anonymous

    School name:  Mount Royal University

    Type of college/university: Undergraduate university in Calgary, AB, Canada

    Classes you teach: Stats I and II, Research Methods I, Social Psychology, Environmental Psychology 

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

    I don’t think I can narrow it down to one thing. I was fortunate to take a graduate seminar in teaching while completing my PhD and everything I learned in that class helped prepare me for teaching.

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

    During that seminar I read What the Best College Teachers Do, which provided a great introduction to teaching. More recently I’ve enjoyed reading How College Works (Chambliss & Takacs, 2014). It is a great reminder that students value relationships with instructors and that conversations with students about their writing are extremely important.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    I love teaching statistics because it is a challenge every time. It requires convincing students about the importance of statistics and that stats can be enjoyable (or at least bearable). Some students fear the calculations but they soon realize talking and writing about the statistical concepts clearly is a much greater challenge and I like helping them work through that.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

     What’s your workspace like?

    I have a large desk, which you might think would be helpful, but mostly it allows me to organize things in piles. There is also a large window in my office that I appreciate. There was a view of six trees from it until this past September. We had a snowstorm in Calgary that month that damaged trees throughout the city, including a large number of trees on our campus. Now there is only one tree standing outside the window. (There is a copy of Teaching of Psychology on my desk and I swear that it was not planted for the photo.)

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, approachable, challenging

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    To learn, students must engage.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    At some point I got into the habit of labeling assignment files ass#.doc. This wasn’t a problem until one day in class when we were discussing random assignment. After asking some questions a student answered with “random assignment”, which is the term I was hoping for. I wanted to emphasize the answer by writing it on the board, but instead of writing random assignment I wrote random ass! (exclamation mark included). Laughter ensued and I quickly realized what I had done. Lesson learned – be more careful with my abbreviations.

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

    I bike to campus and continue to do so during the winter here in Calgary.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Mosquito Coast, which is the upcoming book for my book club.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    A word processor. (I don’t even have a cell phone.)

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

    We will often talk about how classes are going (the answers depend in part on what point of the term it is) and also larger issues at our institution and about post-secondary education. We also find time to chat about our lives outside of work.  

  • 21 Jan 2015 3:25 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Moravian College


    Type of college/university: Liberal Arts College


    School locale: Small City


    Classes I teach: Social psychology, Psychology of Adjustment, Research Methods, Statistics, History & Systems, Positive Psychology, various Special Topics Courses/Seminars, Introductory Psychology


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

    Two slightly incompatible suggestions: Stay two weeks ahead of the class where preparation is concerned and depart from preparation when the unexpected or spontaneous happens during class. Oh, and I try not to lecture too much, encouraging discussion instead.


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

    Bill McKeachie’s classic Teaching Tips, of course; also James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Richard Russo’s Straight Man, and the original Compleat Academic edited by Mark Zanna and John Darley.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    When I teach social psychology, I love to teach about judgmental biases for two reasons. First, students are always surprised to learn about our all-too-human foibles and second, I have the chance to share my own inferential pratfalls with them. Psychologists—me, anyway, are not immune. Life outside the classroom is complex and few of us recognize our own errors in the moment. It’s only later, when the passion is past and the chance to reflect is present that we can (hopefully) recognize them.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I’ve been doing a quick and easy self-serving bias exercise since I began teaching. I have students jot down a list of their personal strengths and then, a few minutes later, their perceived weaknesses. I then have them quickly tally up the number of strengths and weaknesses in their respective lists—the former usually outnumber the latter. I then ask for examples of strengths and weaknesses and write them on the board. It usually becomes apparent that the “weaknesses” aren’t really so “bad “(who doesn’t procrastinate about something?) and that many of them are the sort of “self problems” people share on job interviews (“Well, I sometimes work too hard and expect too much of myself”). The limits of these supposed weaknesses allow us to return to the notion of the self-serving bias and to view it as protective form of social and self cognition.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I recently began weekly exams in my Adjustment class and I really like how their regularity encourages students to keep up on the material. In upper-level classes, I like to give in-class essay exams at midterm and then give all essay take-home tests for the final.


    What’s your workspace like?

    My college office often looks like the aftermath of a train wreck—students laugh about it—so many project piles here and there, stacks of books and files. In my darker moments when I view the chaos that is my office, I remember my graduate mentor’s wise observation: Never trust anyone with a clean desk and a clutter-free workspace, as it means they really aren’t doing much. My study at home, which is in slightly better shape, has two desks—one for planning things and editing, and the other for writing. Both my campus and my home office have too many books but I suppose there are worse things than having too many books.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Socratic, humorous, anecdote-based.


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be engaging, emphasize writing and observation, end well.


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    Most of my embarrassing moments deal with technology—the video or statistical software I loaded and used effortlessly in my office fails to work when I am live in front of the class. This fall, for example, I was showing some YouTube videos of social psychology experiments and none of them--none--would load properly. Soon the students were offering advice--the kind that has a vague whiff of “I can’t believe you can’t do something so easy!” to it--there were some eye-rolls assessing my competence, which were no doubt deserved. But I keep at it.


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

    Although my classroom persona may say otherwise, I am actually a rather shy person.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I try to read widely. I am currently reading a novel called The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai. I love to read about architectural history and Japanese gardens. I read a lot of cookbooks and use them, too. Our campus-wide faculty reading group will be discussing the book How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching this spring.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I love my Macs, but I still rely on yellow legal pads and a good pen.


    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 the hassles and uplifts associated with teaching, and share what activities work and which ones don’t. We try to avoid complaining about what students don’t know or, worse, hearkening back to some “golden age” when students were “perfect” (I would not want to see myself when I was a first-year college student—yipes!).

  • 02 Jan 2015 9:49 PM | Anonymous

    School name

    Sewanee: The University of the South

     

    Type of college/university (e.g., R1, community college, small liberal arts school, high school)

    Liberal arts school. And one with many unique traditions as well (see the photos with me in my “teaching gown” in this post).

     

    School locale (e.g., small town, rural area, city, country/region)

    Rural area, on a mountain plateau in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee

     

    Classes you teach

    Principles of Psychology (our Introductory course for intended majors), Social Psychology, Positive Psychology, Research Methods and Data Analysis, The Self-Concept and Self-Esteem. (And many more in the years to come.)

     

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

    I have two pieces of advice that I think are worth sharing, both of which I received when I was just beginning to teach my own courses while in graduate school.

     

    The first is that there is no one “best way to teach” or one “best teacher” out there in the world. This conclusion was a bit of an amalgamation of a bunch of different pieces of advice I’d received at the time. I’d had a variety of great teachers and mentors as an undergraduate and graduate student. Some where the loud, in your face, rev students up with excitement type; some where the inquisitive, cerebral, and brilliant type; some where the caring, thoughtful, and remarkably understanding type. But these teachers were all effective to me, each for their own reasons, and each because they took who they were and they applied it to their jobs as teachers. Different methods work for different instructors. We in psychology know that the “fit” between the person and the environment is very important for understanding psychological processes.  Why should the task of teaching be any different? As someone who was just beginning to teach, with all the anxieties and frustrations that come along with starting something new, this advice helped calm me. It made me realize that I should not be concerned if I did not have all the answers about how to teach and how I wanted to teach. It also made me realize that I had to figure out who I wanted to be, who I was in the classroom, and how those things could merge with one another.

    The other piece of advice that I’d like to share was also one that has protected my ideas about teaching and dealing with students ever since I started teaching. The advice is that “professors don’t give grades; students earn grades.” At the face of it, this seems like a really true and simple idea, but I often find new and experienced professors alike concerned that they are “giving” students bad grades. I would assume (and hope!) most of us do not sit at our computers and arbitrarily assign bad grades to students. No, not at all.  We probably have fair tools for assessing student learning and explicit criteria for what it takes to perform well and to perform poorly, and when students meet the criteria for high grades, they get them. This idea that students earn the grades they get also takes into account a number of factors that professors may be blind to when it comes to students’ lives. When I have honest conversations with students about a poor performance on some graded work, they often say things like “I just didn’t study as hard as I should have,” “the first exam was tougher than I thought it would be,” or “I had other things going on and this assignment didn’t get as much of my attention as it should have.” (Is this reminding anyone of discussions related to external attributions yet?) The takeaway point I get from conversations like this is that poor grades are often a result of students EARNING those poor grades. They can, and hopefully will, do better, but they’ll have to earn those better grades too.

     

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

    There are many books and articles that have shaped my work as a teacher. Certainly, the excellent contributions in journals like Teaching of Psychology have been a great source of ideas about many of the nuts and bolts of teaching.

    But two books in particular stand out as having an impact on my long-view of teaching and have been invaluable resources for me. The first is Ken Bain’s “What the Best College Teachers Do.” Bain does an excellent job profiling and interviewing excellent college teachers in a variety of subject areas. They teach in different ways, but they all have one thing in common: they make a substantial, long-term impact on the way students think, act, and feel. It’s a great read. My recommendation: read it at the beginning of a summer right before you are preparing a new course. And keep at the forefront of your mind the ways that new course will not just be a new course on a particular topic, but one which will profoundly influence the ways students will see the world. (OK, maybe I set some pretty lofty goals.)

    The second book I want to mention is Parker Palmer’s “The Courage to Teach.” Simply put, this book is inspirational for people who wish to make teaching their life. It was the first book I came across that helped me put into words what I felt about teaching: that teaching and the learning life was something I cared about very deeply, and it was OK to experience significant emotions about teaching. Early in the book, Palmer notes that as teachers we all have good days and bad, but that he wanted to write “for teachers who refuse to harden their hearts because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life (1998, p. 1). I was hooked then and there.

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    Each of the courses I teach has a special place in my heart for one reason or another. But if I had to pick, I'd say the one I enjoy teaching the most is Positive Psychology. It's a bit out of the ordinary for me, because I have a very heavy research/experimentation focus to the scholarship I do. But to be able to work with students in a critical examination of their sense of self, their emotional experience, and their day-to-day existence is a real treat for me, and the students enjoy it as well. Many students pursued psychology as a field in search of answers to questions about happiness and optimal functioning (myself included), yet most psychology courses fail to provide any clues about how to achieve these things. We are also at a point in time where students have lives that are jam packed with obligations, and they are often struggling with the idea of whether or not they have achieved  “enough” to move on to the next stage of life successfully. (And professors often feel the same way, which is why I usually participate in all of the homework assignments in the class along with my students). Positive Psychology gives us a chance to say to ourselves, “wait a minute, valuable, pleasurable, and fortunate things are happening every day; let's take notice.” I don't think people do that enough: students, professors, or otherwise.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but one I’ve been enjoying quite a bit lately has been a behavioral shaping activity that I use in my Principles of Psychology course (and I’m fairly sure I stole this from someone in STP. So thank you!). After talking about topics and learning and behaviorism for awhile, students are often skeptical of just how significant rewards and punishments can be. So I ask for a student volunteer to be the “learner” and step out into the hallway for a minute while the rest of the class and I decide what type of task we want the “learner” to demonstrate. They usually pick something like “write her name on a particular chalkboard.” Once we agree on what the desired behavior is, we have the “learner” come back into the room and cheer for behaviors which get closer to the desired goal or boo for behaviors which are farther from the desired goal. All the students are quite amazed at how significantly this influences behavior and how closely the “learner” often gets to a very specific behavior. Some students also rightly recognize that this is like the game of “getting warmer-getting colder” that they played when they were kids. Then I tell them it seems that they have been dabbling in behavioral principles for quite some time already.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    I teach at a small liberal arts school, so I count myself as fortunate to have small class sizes which do not inhibit the learning techniques I can have students engage in. I use a wide variety, including exams, discussion, application-type papers, extrapolation-type papers, and so on. I have not been as concerned about which of these are or are not effective; I’ve been more concerned with how each one may get at a different type of learning and skill. Exams are great for checking knowledge; papers are great for measuring student’s ability to thoughtfully respond to a topic and communicate effectively; discussions are great for developing and advancing ideas and debating. In my classroom, each of these has a role in shaping what I hope to be citizens who are thoughtful, knowledgeable, and interested in topics related to psychology and the life of the mind.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    I have been very fortunate to move into a rather large office space, which has afforded me the opportunity to shape it in whatever ways that I find most conducive to how I like to do my “work.” I spend a lot of time in my office, so having it be the space that I wanted it to be was very important to me. But the “work” that I do there is quite varied. I have a large desk with organized stacks of papers and folders which all have a dedicated purpose. I have a wall full of shelves which has books, journals, readings for ongoing classes, and stacks of research articles organized by topic or ongoing manuscript task (as you may have guessed by now, I use the traditional “academic stacking system,” but always in an organized fashion). Mixed in with these readings and work-related items is a significant amount of personal memorabilia (e.g., photos, cards, gifts, Frisbees). I like having this stuff around, and I think it also helps students realize that professors are actually real-life people as well. Oh, and I have an area where I make tea and lots of chairs in my office. Our students our very engaged with their professors, and I often have visitors in my office. This is particularly true during my “tea student hour,” which I hold weekly on one afternoon a semester.

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Engaging, funny, thought-provoking

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Do what you love every day. (Teach.)

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I haven’t had something I would call a disaster, but there is one moment I can recall where I learned something in the classroom that would forever change the way I go about teaching. For the second class period for the first class I ever taught, I had structured a lecture in a way that had me just listing off facts and findings from the field of psychology. I was using PowerPoint as a backdrop, and I found myself just going through one slide, then another, then another, where I was just telling students information. After about 5-10 minutes of this, I came to a realization: I thought to myself “this is pretty boring for me.” Then I came to a second realization: “if this is pretty boring for me, someone who is invested in and cares about this field of work, imagine how boring this must be for students!” From that moment on, when structuring class time, I’ve made sure not only to think about what I will be teaching, but also what and how students will be learning. (And I never lecture for anymore than 5 minutes or so without having some direct student involvement.)

     

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

    Many years ago I came across the psychological concept of self-complexity: the idea that one's sense of self can be composed of many different aspects, and that having more aspects of the self is generally helpful in fighting stress. I thought that was a valuable way of thinking about the self, and an apt description of how I generally am. As such, students may be surprised at the various aspects I've incorporated into myself over the years (although, in truth, I don't mind admitting most things about myself, and many of them may not be "surprises" to my students). 

    But here are a few potential surprises. I am a fitness enthusiast, and this has led me to run one marathon, take countless hikes of very long duration, and play Ultimate Frisbee all across the US, as well as in Canada and Ireland. About once or twice a year, I grow out my beard to a significant length, shave it into a mustache for one reason or another, then shave my face entirely. (My students then realize what 16-year-old-Dr.-Troisi must have looked like.) As a product of a rich liberal arts tradition, I was the editor of a national literary journal while in college, and I still write a poem from time to time. And even though I work very hard as a teacher and researcher, I still enjoy the occasional break for a console video game. 

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Although I have been very busy with work-related tasks lately, I have been very slowly moving through “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl and Salman Rushdie’s memoir “Joseph Anton.”

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    This is about as low-tech of a tech tool as you can get, but my number one thing would be email. It’s how I communicate with everyone. It’s how I keep track of things I need to do. It allows me to know which tasks are on my plate and which tasks are on someone else’s plate. It allows me to touch base with all of my students all at once and lets them have a “paper trail” for things like assignments. Without email, my life as a professor would be very, very different.

     

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

    Most of the time the hallway chatter is about something related to our department or our university. At this point of this writing we are in the process of hiring 2 faculty members, so lots of our chatter has been logistical discussions of who is making sure the candidate does not get lost in the shuffle of interview activities. Otherwise, many of our conversations are about students, class activities and tasks, and our courses. I work with a group of individuals who cares about teaching very much, so we are always thinking and talking about it.

     

  • 23 Dec 2014 11:24 PM | Anonymous

    School name: University of California San Francisco (as well as Alliant International University in San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley)


    Type of college/university: UCSF is a public university, and it’s the only campus in the 10-campus UC system dedicated exclusively to the health sciences. UC Berkeley is also a public university, while Alliant is a not-for-profit private university.


    School locale: Definitely an urban setting


    Classes I teach: I spend about 60% of my time as a clinical health psychologist in private practice and about 40% of my time teaching. Mine is not the standard university faculty profile, but I know that I'm not the only psychologist who cares about teaching and has put together a bit of a patchwork of both volunteer and paid teaching activities.


    At UCSF I hold a volunteer faculty position as clinical professor, but it’s a role that I have expanded quite a bit given my excitement about the work. In a course called Foundations of Patient Care, I am the assistant course director for faculty development and I teach a section of the course in addition to sections in a Brain, Mind, and Behavior module and a Social and Behavioral Sciences module. This all occurs at the UCSF School of Medicine. I also teach a section of Interprofessional Development Education for the combined Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Physical Therapy. At Alliant International University, I'm an adjunct professor and have taught courses on ethics, intercultural awareness development, and death & dying, and I’m scheduled to teach a course on psychology & palliative care in the 2015-2016 academic year. Finally, I teach in the UC Berkeley Extended Education program, providing workshops on palliative care and on ethics (the latter is a workshop that is mandated for licensed mental health professionals in California to take every two years).


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

    The best advice was actually about learning. My uncle was a university professor, and one day when I was in high school I was very proud to say I got straight A’s for the first (and only) time. His response: “Well, that tells me you weren’t challenged enough.” Once I got over having my feathers ruffled by that, I realized that he was right. To this day, I tell my students, “This course is a great place to do your best and find out what are your next steps. I encourage you to come right up to your learning edge… and then dance.”


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

    Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency by Cooke, Irby, and O'Brien. I have been teaching in a medical school since my clinical psychology postdoc fellowship; this book really opened my eyes to how the role of the medical educator is one that nurtures the lifelong learning stance of the physician and, by extension, the quality of care patients and their families receive. My unique training as a psychologist allows me to bring the concepts of psychology into a related health care field and teach some important psychological concepts in a non-psychology setting. Plus, author Molly Cooke was my co-facilitator for a decade, so I learned a great deal just through our regular teaching interactions.


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    My favorite course is the Foundations of Patient Care course I teach at UCSF. This is a two-year sequence in the essential core curriculum for the medical students. The students are divided into small groups of 7-8 people, each with a co-facilitator team of a physician and a non-physician mental health professional, and I’ve taught a succession of these small groups since I started my postdoc fellowship in 1995. Affectionately (and privately), I subtitle the course, “How to Remain a Human Being While Learning to Become a Physician.” Although it focuses on what most people think of as “bedside manner,” students taking this course are also given exposure to the fields of cultural competence, interprofessional education, grief and bereavement, health care disparities, sexuality, professional development, heuristics, human development, health policy, and ethics. My role is to help the students, as fledgling physicians, learn how they can provide high-quality medical care while they also optimize their patients' experiences in the health care setting. I thrive in the longitudinal nature of the course, and the co-facilitator pairings have been instrumental in allowing me to learn more about the culture of medicine while also demonstrating how these young physicians-to-be can make use of what has been studied in psychology and how that knowledge can contribute to quality health care.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I have an exercise I call, “What’s in a Name?” and have used it in my courses in intercultural awareness development as well as in the very first week of classes for first-year medical students. Students pair up and find out information about the name of their partner, and then introduce their partner to the larger group (or a small subset if I’m working with a large group of students, like the roughly 160 students who arrive each year for medical school). The questions include: how the person likes to be addressed; the person’s full name at birth (and when they got the name); who gave the person that name; if the person was named for anyone, and if so for whom and why; the etymology of the name; and any changes to the name over the years and what prompted the change. In addition to getting to know each other through this ice-breaker exercise, my students quickly see that there are differences between them that aren’t necessarily easily seen, and that each person has a unique story.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I use a lot of problem-based learning in my courses, and I make sure to include a written assignment that requires a student to get out into the community, whether that’s taking a tour of a hospice or interviewing a member of an institutional review board or ethics committee.


    What’s your workspace like?

    Well, in none of my teaching settings do I have my own workspace! I do have my private practice office where I do most of my course preparation, but often my teaching workspace is in a café on the UCSF campus where I go to review upcoming classes and catch up on the educational research literature.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Responsive, challenging, and humorous


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Passionately involve yourself with your students’ learning.

    The result of this was certainly brought home to me when I won the 2013-14 UCSF Essential Core Teaching Award for “Inspirational Teacher.” This is a school-wide recognition where both the nominations and the selection are handled by the medical students themselves.


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I had a day-long workshop to teach on a Saturday, and less than an hour into the day my data projector light blew out. There went all my work making engaging presentation software slides! Fortunately the handout I created had the majority of the information from the slides, so I just got from behind the lectern, sat on the table at the front of the room, and we proceeded to complete the rest of the day using the information the students had in their hands. Since I could look at my laptop for cues to send people on breaks and lunch, the day turned out surprisingly well, and the students appreciated my (seemingly) imperturbable nature.


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

    Three weeks before I started my psychology fellowship I rode my bicycle for 7 days (including 3 “centuries,” which are 100+ miles days) as part of a fund-raising ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit AIDS service organizations in those two cities.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I actually just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and chuckled throughout the book. As the youngest of my husband’s and my four children recently left home, with nary a twinge of empty nest syndrome I am catching up on some of the classics I missed along the way. Next up: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Wi-fi. My students bring laptops and tablets to work on the problem-based learning cases we have available on line, and it allow us to focus on developing clinical thinking and interpersonal team building skills, leaving more didactic learning to time outside of class.


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

    My chatter tends to happen at faculty development meetings and in my café “office” and is a blend of how our own offspring are doing (and how we are doing with our offspring!) and figuring out how to best approach the total curriculum revamp for the medical school that will début in in the 2017-2018 school year. I suppose my closest colleagues and I can be called “health professions education wonks;” we’re as interested in educational scholarship (both consuming it and creating it) as we are in the actual teaching of the curriculum and the professional development of our students.

  • 08 Dec 2014 8:19 AM | Anonymous

     School Name: Rochester Institute of Technology

     Location: Rochester, NY  

     Type of college/university: Masters Granting Department

     Classes I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology  (Undergraduate and Graduate),  Experimental Methods, Evolutionary  Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Interpersonal Relationships

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

    Not to be afraid to say “I don’t know, but let me get back to you on that.” I have always found that this is an acceptable answer, especially when you get back to the class the next period on what the answer is (or what the controversy is). I think this is especially important today as students can get surface-level answers with a quick google in class, but you as the instructor can give a better answer.

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

    McKeachie’s Teaching Tips

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach: Introduction to psychology.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment:  One of my favorites is my first day activity where I pass out a “Quiz on Commonsense Psychology”. Of course, the list of 25 questions is simply a collection of commonly held myths of psychology. I make the students get up and move around the class related to their answers and have them discuss why the answered the way they did. This activity and its discussion never fail to get a few laughs, and it spins nicely into my discussion of research methods and pseudo-science which follow in the subsequent days.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    For me, it really depends on the class; in my lower level classes I like to have students do exercises that force students to relate the topics to their own lives. In my upper level classes, I like discussions of recent empirical articles (the discussions are done both online and in person).

    What’s your workspace like?  I teach in many different classrooms which range in size and scope. My office is has my desk, a work station (really just a small desk) for meeting with and helping students, along with many photos of my family and some mementos from my years in academia.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style: Passionate, interactive, lively

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?  Science, writing, and critical thinking; oh my!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?  I am an internationally awarded amateur winemaker and brewer.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My laptop; it is how I do nearly all of my work.

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

  • 21 Nov 2014 2:11 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Austin Community College

    Type of college/university: community college

    School locale: Mid-sized city (Austin, TX)

    Classes I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Human Growth and Development, Human Sexuality


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

    Teach to your strength. You can refer the things you don't feel comfortable with or assign it as a reading and then discuss but no one is an expert in every area.


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

    M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled and Leo Buscaglia's Living, Loving, Learning. 


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    My favorite course is Human Sexuality. It was always my favorite topic to cover in the intro class. Then I found out from a colleague how uncomfortable she was in handling that topic. That's when I decided to get trained and teach the course. I feel like it has more practical information for students and no topic is dull. Students have strong opinions on every construct covered. I also love teaching Human Growth and development. Since most of my students in that course are nursing or allied health majors, I treat each discussion topic as how should we, as a health care institution, approach it. This gets them out of their own head and forces them to think in a larger context.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I teach using the Michaelsen, Knight and Fink model of Team Based Learning. I love this process because I get to watch as students struggle and discuss the topics. Their explanations simply blow me away. I break each class into 5 units so they have 5 controversial topics that they have to make a decision about as a team. This is where the bulk of the great discussions take place.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Team Based Learning and clickers (student response system). I have combined these two techniques to provide students with quick feedback and to guide my instruction. I haven't graded a scantron in 10 years.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I work from behind the multimedia station for presentation but wander around the room as they work in teams. I truly have become the "guide on the side."


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Clicker Team-based Learning


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Everyone can learn, if they want to.


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    In team-based learning I had one student who did the ultimate betrayal to his team. They enter their agreed upon answer using the electronic response pad. The team had agreed upon an answer but he entered what he was "sure" was the correct answer, twice. He was wrong on both occasions. It was very difficult to get them to rebuild their trust and he had gotten very depressed. I literally had to force them to work together as a team. They survived and made it through.


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

    I'm pretty much an open book in class. My students know I'm a grandfather and that I work in the transgender community but my biggest hobby, origami, never comes up in class. Everyone else who has been to my office knows I do an inordinate amount of origami (no piece of paper is safe). However, this never comes up in class. 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The Internet. ;o) I read a lot of articles (never was big on fiction or novels). I’m halfway through Sex at Dawn, and about a dozen books I have on my Amazon Kindle account.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPhone. I can do so much with it and my iPad that I forget sometimes that I've only had it for 7 years and the iPad for 4.


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

    The changing state of education. As my colleagues eschew flipped classrooms, MOOCs and blended learning, I tell them they are reacting very much like the music industry did when Napster came along. When one colleague quipped back, "So yeah, how's that Napster thing working out," I responded, "It's not but iTunes is (number one music seller), as is iTunes U."

  • 03 Nov 2014 5:49 PM | Anonymous

    School name - Lindenwood University at Belleville
    Type of college/university - small liberal arts school
    School locale - small town, Belleville, Illinois
    Classes you teach - Principles of Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Learning and Memory, Human Sexuality, Human Development, Advanced Research Methods, Senior Seminar

    What's the best advice about teaching you've ever received?  
    Love what you do.  If you love the material and love teaching, that energy and exuberance translates over to the students who pick up on your enthusiasm.  I've seen this work with even the most taciturn students.

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

    No single piece of work comes to mind but instead a culmination of a variety of research on the teaching of psychology.  I often find tidbits that are both intuitive and seemingly painless to implement that then shape how I teach classes in the coming semester.  If the methods pan out, I keep them.  If they end up being more trouble than they are worth, I revise.  Teaching is such a process of evolution!

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  
    My hands down favorite class to teach is Behavioral Neuroscience.  I love that it is largely new, and often frightening, material for students who have been more focused on psychology and less on the biological aspects.  It is a highly interactive class that always gets students loving the material by the end.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  
    My favorite in-class activity is during the vision portion of the Behavioral Neuroscience course.  I introduce trichromatic and opponent-processing theories and provide several examples of after-images which the students always love.  We discuss how opponent-processing occurs in the retina and that complex cells in the brain allow for motion after images.  I then have students look at various stimuli and either switch eyes, demonstrating that color after images only work in the same eye that saw the initial stimuli, but that motion after images persist regardless of which eye saw the movement.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
    What works best for me (and also my students) is to provide a lot of graded opportunities.  My classes typically include 4 exams, in-class reaction papers where students react to an ethical quandary or other dilemma, four written assignments, and a final project that is presented during finals week.  For example, in my Behavioral Neuroscience class, their final project is to put together a 3 to 5 minute "Brain Awareness" video that demonstrates some aspect of neuroscience to a lay audience.  They are usually freaked out at the concept of creating a video but often step up to the challenge with wonderful and entertaining results.

    What's your workspace like?  
    My work space is usually covered in my pile of junk that I've dumped out of my bag.  I swear that I organize and re-organize almost daily!  It's my biggest struggle.  Otherwise, I have a lot of room to work and my office includes a small table so I can have more personal conferences with students rather than me sitting in the "big chair" to talk to them.  I love that the arrangement of the room does not allow for a desk to sit between myself and the student, aiding to the open and friendly environment.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 
    Passionate, consistent, and interactive.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Get students to ask critical questions in life.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you've had.
    During my first or second year teaching, I thought it would be fun for students in my Human Development class to present a "Day in the Life" of a person of a certain age group.  I assigned them to various groups and gave them ages, ranging from infant to elderly.  The instructions were vague; I thought this would allow them to be creative.  The idea was to present what it was like to be a 3-year-old, for example.  Several groups took creative license and role-played, providing factual and entertaining presentations of a "Day in the Life."  More than half the class, however, got up and gave a Powerpoint presentation with a laundry list of physical, cognitive, and socioemotional changes that occur in the life of the person.  I was upset at first but I realized that the fault truly was mine for not giving them a clearer idea of what I was envisioning.  I am happy to report that I did this project again this past semester and everyone in the class demonstrated a creative application of the assignment with Powerpoint nowhere to be found!  The things we learn after teaching for 9 years.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? 
    They would be surprised to learn that I had a pretty bad fear of public speaking when I was an undergraduate.  In fact, I had no intention of ever becoming a professor because it involved public speaking.  I was forced to teach two chapters of Introductory Psychology as part of my Master's teaching assistantship and that experience changed my worldview.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.  I make a point of reading for pleasure each and every night, even if I ultimately fall asleep while reading.  As I get older, the number of pages read before I wake up with the Kindle pressed to my face has definitely diminished.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    I'm actually pretty low tech.  I don't have a smart phone (nor do I want one).  I would be pretty lost without my desktop (I'm so old school I'm not a fan of laptops either), but I think I'd ultimately adapt.  

    What's your hallway chatter like?
    Most of the discussion revolves around changes at the University.  Given that we are a young campus, there are almost always new developments happening.  It seems as though we take a new step nearly every day and there is usually a buzz of excitement regarding the future of LU-B and how we are going to get there.  Other conversations revolve around our students, their successes and struggles, and our own personal lives.  It's a wonderful atmosphere to work in.  

  • 22 Oct 2014 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Earlham College

     

    Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College

     

    School locale: small town

     

    Classes I teach:

    Introduction to Psychology; Research Methods in Peer Relationships; Adult Psychopathology; Developmental Psychopathology; Senior Research

     

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

    The best advice was actually the first time I taught a class. Someone told me that I wouldn't be particularly good at it that first semester, but that I would get better. That was really helpful. My first semester was OK, but I tried to do too much and there was a lot I wanted to change. Because of the advice I had, I didn't feel like a failure -- I just felt normal. Subsequent semesters were much better as I learned from my mistakes.

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    The courses I teach on psychopathology are my favorites. I always have students who are doing service-learning placements. Sometimes all the students are doing placements as a requirement of the course; sometimes it is an optional additional credit. They work 2-3 hours per week out in the community for most of the semester. I have them respond to journal prompts, lead discussions in class, and present on their experiences at the end of the semester. It's really satisfying to read their reflections and to see them change throughout the semester. I don't think there's a good way to demonstrate the complexity of real-world people and institutions within the classroom. Students learn a lot more when they are out in the community, but reflecting on their experiences in a structured way and making connections to class material.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    In Developmental Psychopathology, I developed a "case" for students to practice assessment on. Students are given a brief intake description of a child. In small groups, they talk about the case and what kinds of assessments they want, such as unstructured interview with the mom or behavioral checklist from the teacher. They have to ask for each assessment one at a time, take it back and talk about how the information has influenced their case conceptualization -- what they think is going on with this kid and his family. I have 15 or so prepared assessment reports for this assignment. We usually take a full class period to do it, and the groups never get all of the possible assessments. Then we talk about each group's view of this child, possible diagnoses, broader family issues, etc. Pretty much every time, the groups end up with different perspectives because they collected different pieces of information. I use this to show them that diagnosis is a complicated process and the kinds of questions we ask (assessments we get) can really change our perspective. The students almost always comment that the assignment was very difficult but also illuminating and enjoyable.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    In my introductory courses, I use a lot of quizzes. I post questions from previous tests into online quizzes that are completely non-graded. I also give quizzes with questions similar to the test in class, scored taken/not taken. Since I've started doing this, particularly the in-class quizzes, I've seen test scores go up. I believe this is largely from improved study skills. A lot of students have pretty bad metacognitive skills and overestimate what they know. The in-class quizzes give them firm evidence that they need to study.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    Controlled chaos. Mostly. Sometimes just chaos.

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Organized, Fast-paced, Applied

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    My first semester teaching in graduate school, I was teaching sensation and perception, and I pronounced "timbre" like "timber." A very nice, polite student waited until the other 300 students had left the lecture hall to come up and mention that it's actually pronounced "tam-ber." Oops.

     

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

    They seem easily surprised. Most recently one of them was surprised that I was also a religion major in college.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Five Billion Years of Solitude

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    computer

     

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

    Probably too much chatter. We talk about food and cute/absurd things we've seen on Facebook. 

  • 05 Oct 2014 7:54 PM | Anonymous

    Editor's note: Amanda is the 2014 winner of the Mary Margaret Moffet Memorial Teaching Award! Congratulations, Amanda!

    Zionsville Community High School, Zionsville, Indiana. My town is a suburb northwest of Indianapolis with approximately 1,800 students. I teach AP Psychology Honors, Psychology, and U.S. History

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? 
    This question makes me laugh because most of the advice I received wasn’t great advice. Some examples include: “Work smarter, not harder,” and “You just gotta throw a lot at ‘em and hope some of it sticks.” I’ve learned ways to “work smart.” I prioritize. I avoid busy work for myself and my students. I assess what’s essential and not frivolous activities. However, I also know you have to work hard to be a successful educator. I put a great deal of energy into professional development, sharing with others, and using what I learn from them. 

    I also believe that it’s important to provide students with as much information as I can, but I also know students have limits. I don’t have to inundate them with an information overload. I want students to be critical thinkers and walk away with a clear understanding of the content. It’s not about being a minimalist, but it does mean I’m selective about what I “throw at ‘em.”. 

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 
    The book that shaped my work as a psychology teacher is one I wrote myself. Last year I compiled a Psychology teachers resource guide. It was a body of work I created over the past 16 years. It contained 50 lesson ideas that correlated to each of the National Standards for Psychology, AP Psychology Standards, and our local standards in Indiana. Not only did I “shape it,” but it “shaped me” as I reflected on what I teach, how I teach, what I assess, and how I assess. 


    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 
    My favorite topics to lecture on are ones for which I have many mnemonic devices. I love not only teaching the content, but I also enjoy giving students techniques for recalling difficult material. When we cover the structures and functions of the brain, I have an extensive list of “memory tricks” to help them remember the content. It’s very gratifying when I have a student who has gone from high school Psychology and through graduate school who still remembers to think of the thalamus as “Thelma (thalamus) the switchboard operator who sends sensory information where it needs to go” or “Amy the emotional girl (amygdala)” and others in the long list of mnemonics we use.  


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    My favorite in-class activity is when students reflect on how the content connects to their own lives. Sometimes during the unit on Development, for instance, they’ll write journal articles, make a baby book, or create a Power Point or Prezi on how the theories to their own lives.
     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)
    Some of the teaching strategies I use include class discussion, daily reading quizzes, on-line lab activities, and chapter tests. I find that with the use of frequent assessments students retain more information. We sometimes do projects, but I find students getting wrapped up in making something look pretty, but it’s weak in content. I am enjoying our 1:1 student:computer ratio, and I’m deliberate about infusing meaningful technology into my teaching. One of my goals this year is to learn better ways to do this. 

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is often looks like a disaster zone, but I can usually find what I’m looking for! I like having what I need within arm’s length, and I use a lot of ancillary materials. I usually have a stack of papers to grade, and one that’s been graded and is ready to hand back. I’ve got my plan book – hard copy and on-line copy, folders for each subject and each unit, and usually a few empty Diet Coke cans. I have funny pictures of students, my daughter, and one of my brother and I when we were preschoolers eating corn on the cob at the Indiana State Fair – my diplomas, certificates, and thank you notes from students and parents. These things are my security; they are what makes me smile; and they are what keep me moving!


    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 
    Storytelling, humorous, interactive


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Help students become the best they can be. 

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had. 
    My disasters usually happen in U.S. History and not Psychology. For example, I interchange the words pregnancy and presidency all the time: “During Ronald Regan’s pregnancy….” The kids crack up when this happens, and I have no idea why I do this. Is it a Freudian Slip?  

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? 
    Early in my teaching career, I spent Spring Break in Okinawa, Japan visiting a friend of a friend whom I’d only met one time before. I was so excited, as I also teach U.S. History, to visit a location with such historical significance. Since I could only afford the plane ride, the friend let me stay in a comfortable guest room and was my personal chauffeur for the entire week – free of charge. It was my most unique and memorable spring break. I spent the plane ride each way grading Psychology research projects. 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure? 
    I’m not…What is this “reading for pleasure” of which you speak? Honestly, what I read for pleasure are cookbooks. I love trying new things, and cooking is my outlet at the end of a busy day.

    What tech tool could you not live without? 
    I’m learning to use Weebly, and we have Canvas as our course management system. I love both of these!

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?  
    We usually don’t talk about school in the hallway – when we’re talking to kids, it’s usually about a recent sporting event or extra-curricular activity.  

  • 21 Sep 2014 4:07 PM | Anonymous

     School name: College of the Holy Cross

     

     Type of college/university: Liberal arts college

     

     School locale: City of Worcester, MA

     

     Classes I teach:

     Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, Health  Psychology, Psychology of Stigma

     

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

     Create ways to empower students to become the “teachers.” If you want students to think deeply about a concept, create an opportunity for them to explain the concept to other students. And, if you want students to become more invested in the course, create spaces for them to be part of the process. For example, instead of telling students what the “ground rules” are for conversations about sensitive topics (e.g., racism), I ask the students to generate their own ideas about how we can engage in civil discourse. Nine times out of ten, they come up with the same list of items that I would have given them. But because I created space for students to become their own teachers, they take more ownership of the conversation and get more out of the class. 

      

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

    Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. It has inspired me to empower students to become be active participants in the production of knowledge rather than to treat them as passive recipients of my own knowledge.

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    Hands down, my favorite lecture topic is the social construction of prejudice. I ask students to watch “A Class Divided” - the Frontline depiction of Jane Elliot’s “Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes” experiment - before coming to class. We then recount the steps Jane Elliot used to create a new prejudice from scratch. First, she identifies brown eye color as a devalued characteristic, a stigma. That single social categorization now creates two classes where there once was one. Then, she commits a series of illusory correlations, inferring the brown eye color is associated with negative behaviors. Soon, she’s created stereotypes and prejudice that have a life of their own. And then the students are in on it. They begin to engage in confirmation bias, only noticing information that confirms their new stereotypes.

     

    Once we unpack these steps together in class, students start to see how prejudices are socially constructed. And, then the real fun begins. Because once students understand the mechanics of how a prejudice is created, they can start to see these dynamics unfold in their daily lives. Suddenly students start to question their own stereotypes based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. They start to notice racial bias in the media. And, from this space, we can then begin to unpack stereotype threat and understand how these stereotypes can threaten performance and well-being. In fact, you can even see evidence of stereotype threat in the underperformance of the brown eyed children when they are in the devalued group. The film provides such a rich starting point from which to launch into these topics and it is arguably one of the most dynamic conversations we have all semester!

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Lawrence, S. M. (1998). Unveiling positions of privilege: A hands on approach to understanding racism. Teaching of Psychology, 25, 198-200.

     

    In this activity, students are asked to construct a mobile and are randomly assigned to a low or high resource group. Because they work in separate rooms to create their mobile, they have no idea that the resources are unequal. But, when they all return to the classroom, the inequality is apparent. They see it. But more importantly, they feel it. I could lecture for hours about the social dynamics of inequality--how the low status group always notices the difference but the high status group is relatively blind to it, for example--but creating a way for students to experience it for themselves is so much more powerful. This simple idea--that creating ways for students to experience the lesson first builds incredible bridges for them to then understand it more deeply later--has totally changed the way I approach all my courses

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I use a lot of group work and think-pair-share in class. My exams are usually mixed format and always include an essay that requires application of course material to novel real world situations.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    Our building used to be a women’s dorm, so our offices are actually quite large. There’s enough room for my desk and a small table with chairs, which is really great for student meetings.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    I queried my students for this answer, and they say: engaged, passionate, and rigorous.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Engaging courses create lifelong learners.

     

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I hate to admit this, but the second time I was an instructor in grad school, I passed out one of the exams with the answer key stapled to the back. Yup. You read that correctly! I had accidentally given all the students the answers. Luckily, one of my more conscientious students raised her hand and asked if I had meant to do that. It was totally embarrassing, but I’m glad I got that epic of a mistake out of my system early on in my teaching career!


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

    I was the first female competitive power-lifter at my high school and won my weight division in a regional competition. As my colleagues will tell you, those skills still come in handy when changing the enormous water cooler bottles in our faculty lounge!

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’m working my way through Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    The Internet, Dropbox, and power point clickers, in that order.

     

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

    Like most places, the chatter varies from the mundane (“The printer is jammed again?!”) to the meaningful (“Is higher education really ‘doomed,’ as the recent Atlantic article would lead us to believe?”). But, there is almost always someone laughing. And that sort of easy-going, collegial environment is a big part of what makes Holy Cross such a great place to be.

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