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

Laura Terry - This is How I Teach

29 Nov 2017 2:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School name: Grand Canyon University

Type of college/university: Private Christian University

School locale: City; Southwest; Phoenix, AZ

Classes you teach: General Psychology; Senior Capstone Class; graduate classes in Social Psychology, Human Development, and Ethics.

Average class size: 90 students in General Psychology classes; 30 students in Capstone classes; 10-20 students in online graduate courses

Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Psychology is such an exciting field. I may be biased, but I think we have the most interesting and relevant topics to present, which leads to really fun and engaging activities for students. I try to meet the needs of every student in class by considering different learning styles and presenting information in various ways. However, I love hands on activities. For that reason, I really like a neuroscience activity that I do at the beginning of the semester in my General Psychology class. Student are asked to create a neuron using every day household items. When they share their projects with their classmates, they are asked to describe how their selected item illustrates and represents the actual neuron and its functions.

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. Conditioning videos - Students are asked to create a video that demonstrates classical or operant conditioning. They work in small teams and make short 1 - 3 minute videos that are later shared in class. After presenting their videos, they are responsible to describe the different elements of classical or operant conditioning that were included in their video.

What teaching or learning techniques work best for you? Several years ago, I decided to give blended learning a try, and it was worked out really well in my classes. Through the blended learning experience, I have become a more dynamic instructor. My classes have evolved from passive environments where I lectured and students took notes to classes where students are actively involved and engaged. Students still take notes, but they also participate in activities to help to apply the information that is being covered. In all of my classes, I have incorporated more active learning activities and less lecture. In addition to lecture, I incorporate videos, case studies, presentations, technology, and independent and group activities to present and apply the course content.

What’s your workspace like? I have a variety of work spaces. Pictured is my office on campus. I spend time working with Instructional Assistants and students in my office. I also mentor adjuncts. This provides a nice place to meet and chat with them. My couch at home is another comfy work space that I love! When it comes to grading, this is my workspace of choice.

Three words that best describe your teaching style. Active, Engaging, Enthusiastic

Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I am not sure if this qualifies as a disaster, but every semester, I fight the technology distraction battle. This semester to overcome this problem, I implemented a technology-free lecture period into my classes. I am working to teach students to use technology as a tool rather than allow it to be a distraction. So far, this new classroom policy has been working very well. Students take notes by hand during lecture. Then when they are participating in classroom activities or assignments, they are permitted to use laptops or tablets. So far…so good!

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I am fluent in American Sign Language. I learned to sign when I was in middle school from a girl who transferred to my school and quickly became my best friend. Learning sign language provided me with more than the ability to communicate in another language. It provided direction and purpose for my life. I earned my bachelor degree in deaf education. Then, I was accepted to a fully funded graduate program in School Counseling at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, which is the only university that fully focuses on education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world.

What are you currently reading for pleasure? The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. Gordon describes how important positive energy can be to steer life in a successful direction by sharing a story about George, a hypothetical character, and how is life is changed when he was forced to ride Joy’s Energy Bus. She shares the ten rules he used to turn his professional and personal life around. Every leader should read and implement these rules into running successful teams. Every person should read and implement these rules into relationships with their spouse, family, friends, and coworkers. Focusing on the positive completely changes a situation - perspective is everything.

What tech tool could you not live without? My clicker! It was not until it ran out of batteries one day that I realized how much I relied on it. A clicker allows me the freedom to move around the classroom as I lecture while easily clicking through PowerPoint slides. I am not tied to the podium in the front of the room, which definitely helps with classroom management and making connections with the students.

What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Life events seem to be a popular topic this year. One colleague became a grandparent, one is getting married, one is in the process of adopting, and several have children, so these stories permeate the halls. Occasionally, we will talk about research projects or presentations that we are working on. We often work on these together and so chatting in the hallway quickly between classes may be the only time we can find to collaborate.

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