School name: Whitworth University
Type of college/university: private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church
School locale: Spokane, WA – a midsize city in the inland northwest
Classes I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Belief in Weird Things, Psychological Statistics, Research Methods in Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Senior Thesis
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
It takes a lot of work to prepare an effective lecture that appears effortless.
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
My interest in psychology is how to take what we know about memory and apply it to education. So I read various empirical journal articles that apply teaching or studying techniques into the classroom. These readings shape how I develop my assignments and deliver my lectures.
However, it was actually my undergraduate advisor, Bret Roark at Oklahoma Baptist University, who shaped my interest in teaching and my overall approach to the classroom. He is an amazing teacher and as a student I thought he was a natural teacher who must have always been that good. However, he once shared a new teacher mistake he made as he started teaching, and I realized even the “natural” teachers develop over time and must spend many hours preparing classes and developing their skill.
Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
I enjoy each class I teach, but I particularly enjoy teaching students how to apply what they learn about memory into how they study.
Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
To teach the concept of mental set I modified the methods from an experiment examining whether seeing previous examples makes it difficult to produce creative work into a class activity. Students play the role of a toy developer and must produce a creative monster toy made from a paper bag and other arts and crafts materials. Some of the students see pictures of previous monster bag toys and others do not. The students vote on the most creative monster, and typically we find those students who did not see previous examples produced more creative monsters. I have learned you can’t go wrong with arts and crafts.
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
Right now I have students teach a 15 minute lecture or write a paper explaining that topic. I examine how they perform on the unit and final exam questions covering those topics, and I am finding that students who teach the lecture answer more questions correctly than those who write the paper.
What’s your workspace like?
It is currently decorated with paper bag monster toys. It is a good conversation starter.
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Engaging, structured, applied
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
I expect students and myself to work hard.
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.
I gave a unit exam intended for my cognitive psychology class to my intro to psych students. It created about 3 minutes of intense anxiety for the students until we realized what happened.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
How messy my office drawers are.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
Disappointment with God by Yancy and The Kitchen House by Grissom
What tech tool could you not live without?
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
My department is amazing and we really enjoy talking with each other. We spend a lot of time talking about food.