School name: Paradise Valley Community College
Type of college/university: We are one of the ten community colleges that make up the Maricopa Community College District which is one of the largest community college districts in the United States.
School locale: We are located in the north east part of Phoenix, Arizona in an urban area. There are approximately 10,000 students at our college.
Classes you teach: I currently teach Introduction to Psychology and Lifespan Development. I teach a combination of online, in person, hybrid, and OER classes.
Average class size: I am lucky to have a maximum class size of 32 students.
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
I received this advice quite recently and it made an impression on me. I want to give credit to a presentation that I attended by Danae Hudson and Brooke Whisenhunt from Missouri State University for their insight. The role of the professor has been changing over time. Today students can get the content anywhere. Our job as professors is to be designers of the learning environment.
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
I recently have read “Small Teaching” by James Lang and “Make It Stick” by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel. Both books address ways that we can change our classes to help students learn better. I have now dedicated a class day in the beginning of the semester to teach students the psychology of studying to help them understand the research behind why my class is designed the way that it is. If given the choice, students will often take the easiest approach to learning even if it is ineffective. These books as well as similar research in this area have given me the tools to design my courses in a way to incorporate the most learning science practices possible.
I love teaching Intro Psych, but I am also passionate about teaching Lifespan Development. Usually the students who are enrolled in the class will be entering a career where this information is directly relevant. This makes them especially engaged and interested in the course content. In this class we are able to look at the amazing changes that take place in a human life that starts with conception and goes through the entire lifespan. We are also able to build upon many of the theories that were briefly presented in intro psych and go into much more detail on them.
Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.
Instead of conceptualizing extra credit as a way for students to simply make up points, I think of it as a way to engage students beyond the classroom. I call this experiential extra credit and allow students to use it for up to 5% of their overall grade. I also tie this into general educational assessment and have students self-reflect on the experience as part of our college civic engagement rubric. Students must relate the outside campus experience to something that we have learned within psychology. I assign the experimental extra credit opportunities that I deem relevant for a particular course.
What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?
Class discussion is extremely important to me. I encourage this both in my online classes and in my face to face classes. I feel that this is what makes the material come alive for students and it is an important skill for students to practice in college.
What’s your workspace like?
I like to keep a clean and cozy office for the rare chance that a student may come to visit during office hours! I even have a bowls of mints for positive reinforcement.
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
accessible, thought provoking, engaging
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
Every student fosters our classroom learning environment.
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.
When I cover the social psychology chapter I like to send out my students on campus to collect data either as an observation or structured observation. One group decided that they wanted to measure helping behavior if a student looked like he fell off a skateboard in front of a group of strangers. The group happened to conduct this demonstration in front of a group of administrators including the college president. Luckily, they discovered that the administration was very eager to help the student in need! I now require the students to give me the details of their plan before they leave the classroom and encourage them to stay away from the administration building.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
I am passionate about volunteering and raising money for nonprofit organizations, especially ones that support children’s chronic health issues. To me, nothing is more important than giving children the chance to have the happiest and healthiest childhood that they can.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I am currently reading “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler. I have been on a kick of reading books by female comedians including Tina Fey and Mindy Khaling.
What tech tool could you not live without?
When it comes to teaching, I cannot imagine being without my LMS Canvas. It is user friendly for both students and professors and very customizable. When prepping for a new semester, I start with prepping my Canvas course no matter which modality I am teaching in. I have also started using Twitter professionally to connect with colleagues and keep up to date on news within psychology. Follow me @explorepsych
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
I really enjoy going to conferences both locally and nationally and I love discussing the ideas that I learned with colleagues. I was recently elected as one of the new reps for the STP Early Career Psychologist Committee. Being on this committee allows me to grow my network of colleagues across our discipline. Check out our page here http://teachpsych.org/ecp and send me an email anytime you have an idea to discuss or share at Julie.Lazzara@paradisevalley.edu.