School name: Missouri State University
Type of school: 4-year public institution, with Master’s degrees, and professional doctorates
School locale: Springfield, MO
Classes you teach:Introductory Psychology
Clinical Communication Skills (graduate)
Average class size:330 for Intro Psyc
30-40 for Abnormal Psyc
9 for graduate classes
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years! Coming to understand that “covering content” is not what teaching is all about and not what students are going to remember from my course was very liberating. Over the past decade, I have seen my role change from “content provider” to “designer of the learning environment.” This role is so much more fun and one where I believe my SoTL skills can be put to good use.
Some other advice that really promoted a paradigm shift for me came from Carol Twigg and Carolyn Jarmon from the National Center for Academic Transformation during the early stages of our course redesign of Introductory Psychology. They taught me to consider the financial costs associated with teaching and to use that information to determine how my time is best spent. Since we now teach 330 students as a team (faculty member, graduate assistant, and 6 undergraduate learning assistants) it doesn’t make sense for me to spend my time entering grades on Blackboard. Instead, I use my time to analyze the class homework data and tailor our upcoming class accordingly. Every class is interactive (even with 330 students) and recognizing that the ability to have that type of class emerged from a financial analysis years ago is pretty cool!
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
What the Best College Teachers Do (Bain). I also attended one of Ken’s workshops in 2010, which was career-changing for me.
How Learning Works (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, Norman)
Make it Stick (Brown, Roediger, McDaniel)
And of course, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology and Teaching of Psychology journals.
Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
I love all the courses I teach. But Intro Psyc is probably my favorite. My favorite classes are the ones where we have all 330 students participating in an activity – The Human Neuron for the Bio chapter, Shallow vs Deep Processing Experiment for Memory, or Classically Conditioning them with Fun-Dip in the Learning chapter.
Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.
In addition to the ones I mentioned above, I also hold a special “study skills” class for all the undergrad courses I teach. I wait to do this until after the first exam (you probably know why) and love the opportunity to provide them with evidence-based strategies and some of the rationale about why they work and why the typical study strategies students often use aren’t generally very effective.
What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?
I try to practice what I preach. So, I attempt to model “best-practices” for teaching and learning during my classes. I use just-in-time teaching to plan the class for the day, the students answer numerous clicker questions throughout the class, I use peer-instruction, and interactive activities to help the students elaborate on the concepts. I’m also trying to do a better job of making the connections between the various topics/chapter more explicit. Intro Psyc is a survey of the field, but it is not 16 distinct topics. My goal is for students to start to see some of those “Big Ideas” running throughout the course and develop an appreciation for the science.
What’s your workspace like?
My workspace is generally pretty tidy and organized. It can get out of control briefly but then I have to clean things up before moving on to the next task. Our building was just renovated and I moved into my office in August – I’m taking a minimalist approach because our offices are so small now. What I’ve realized is I really don’t need much more than a computer these days!
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Energetic, Warm, and Data-driven
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
Appreciating psychological science while learning how to learn.
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.
The year was 2008….my babies were 16 months and 5 months (yes, they are 11 months apart and I did not sleep for over 2 years!) I was teaching 150 Intro Psyc students and about halfway through the lecture I scratched my shoulder. I felt something strange and had the slow realization that what I was feeling was the inside seam of my shirt. I had been wearing my shirt inside-out all day and no one had said anything to me. I ended up finishing class 30 minutes early because I just couldn’t go on!
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada and I’m still Canadian. I completed my undergraduate degree in Vancouver and then moved to Baton Rouge, LA to attend LSU for graduate school. There was some definite culture shock! But, I loved it and still cheer on the LSU tigers. I also met my best friend (Brooke Whisenhunt) in grad school. We have that one-in-a-million situation where we both got jobs at Missouri State University and have worked side-by-side for the past 15 years. It has been a dream come true.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I honestly don’t have much time for pleasure reading. But, the next on my list is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I saw him speak at APA this past summer and it was amazing!
What tech tool could you not live without?
Definitely my iPhone. I wish I could say I would be able to function without it, but I believe my entire life is contained in that little device.
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
Honestly, we talk most about improving our teaching to better help students. Our Intro Psyc teaching team of faculty is very close and we are always looking for new interventions to try and new ways to measure learning. Most of us are also moms so we talk a lot about the ups and downs of raising children.
PSYCHSESSIONS UPDATE: Listen to this 2018 conversation between Danae, Garth, Eric, and Brooke about an exciting intro. psych redesign project. You can hear the "origin story" of their intro. psych publishing project (a digital-first publishing idea based on learning science principles!)