School name: Utah Valley University
Type of college/university: Regional Teaching Institution
School locale: Metropolitan area
Classes you teach: General Psychology and Cognitive Psychology mostly
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received about teaching was from Doug Bernstein as he talked to my graduate cohort during our teaching experience. We were talking about teaching general psychology, and he told us to incorporate the fun things. Trying to cram too much content into one period is overwhelming. He suggested spending the class period on three or four fun (and important) topics, which would do a lot more for student learning and interest.
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
McKeachie's Teaching Tips (various editions) has been the book that has contributed most to my development as a teacher. It is a wonderful review of the most important concepts related to teaching and is filled with resources should a reader desire to investigate a topic in more depth.
Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
I think that the day I look forward to most is the day in sensation and perception in which we discuss top-down and bottom-up processing. It gives me a chance to use some powerful demos to show how our expectations can dramatically influence perception.
Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
Here’s the demo I use for top-down and bottom-up processing: http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking/stairway-to-heaven-backwards.html. Go ahead--try it! Listen to the song backwards and see if you can figure out the message before you read the lyrics. Then listen to it again with the lyrics showing!
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
Discussion following a demonstration or activity is what works best for me. I always make sure to choose something that demonstrates the concept in a real-world setting. I strongly prefer things that make the students get up and “do” something.
What’s your workspace like?
Every Friday, my office is spotless. The rest of the week the cleanliness of my office is directly related to how productive I am. The more work I am doing, the more behavioral evidence of productivity appears on my desk. In addition to small piles of books, papers, and journals, I have a standing desk, a space heater, and a natural light emitter.
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Enthusiastic, questioning, exploratory
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
Leave them wanting (and thinking) more!
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.
One day, I was teaching research methods. We were discussing hypotheses. I was trying to make some point while using the words “TESTABLE” and “EMPIRICAL.” What came out was “TESTICLE.” Yeah… never lived that one down.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
When I was much younger, I used to sword fight in living chess matches.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I’m currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert.
What tech tool could you not live without?
I think I could not live without my phone. It lets me keep track of all my appointments and reminders.
What’s your hallway chatter like?
I think it depends on to whom I am speaking. With most folks, I talk shop. With others, we talk about personal things. With my favorites, we can all pile into my office and take a 10-minute break playing a game like Swish or Scattergories. (I use those games as an activity in my classes, so they are always sitting around).