Raechel Soicher: I am a member of STP and this is how I teach

27 May 2020 9:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School name: Oregon State University

Type of school: 4-year university

School locale: Corvallis, Oregon

Classes you teach: Quantitative Methods in Psychological Science, Research Methods, Intro Psych

Average class size: 25 (online), 50 (in-person)

What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? In my first ever workshop about teaching college, the facilitator said “What would it mean for a student to get a C in your course”. My naïve reply was that it would mean the student came to class every day. The facilitator challenged me to really think about what I wanted the students to experience in my class and how they would demonstrate their learning. That has always stuck with me when creating my courses or planning class periods.  

What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? I’m currently reading “Radical Hope” by Dr. Kevin Gannon. I’m only two chapters in, but he has very eloquently captured my every emotion regarding teaching. I highly recommend it to folks.

Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  I’ve taught an incredible range of courses – I was a community college professor before I came back to school for my PhD. But truly the one I’ve enjoyed the most is online stats. The course is usually full of non-traditional students who have previously struggled with statistics. Connecting meaningfully with them and helping ease their anxiety and increase their mastery of the subject is incredibly fulfilling.

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  My favorite approach to in-person or hybrid teaching is Interteaching. In this class format, students complete a “Preparation Guide” for their homework, which asks them to apply what they learn in the course readings to real-world situations. Then, in class, they spend most of the time co-teaching in small groups. Only 1/3 of each class period is dedicated to lecture, during which the instructor covers only what is requested by the students. This format has allowed me to engage more meaningfully with students and motivates their learning to a greater degree than other formats I’ve tried.

What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I’m a big fan of any strategies that engage students with the material, make it relevant to them, and encourage them to ask a lot of questions. I love to see them make connections between the material and their own lives or have an a-ha! moment where they’re able to achieve something they didn’t think was possible. 

What’s your workspace like?  As a graduate student, my “work” desk is in a shared office space of 13 cubicles. Luckily, my desk is alone under a window and next to the coffee pot. My home office is complete chaos – a laptop connected to an extra monitor and books and papers everywhere. It’s a wonder I can even get any work done.

Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Flexible, compassionate, engaging

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? A pedagogy of “radical hope”: life-affirming and inclusive. (Credit to Kevin Gannon)

Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. When I first started as an Assistant Professor at a community college in Florida, I was trying to embrace the “flipped classroom”. As part of this, students were required to come to class with their notes prepared and I would take attendance by visiting each student at the start of class. One day, some students arrived late and so I didn’t grade them (per the class policy). The student interrupted me during lecture some time later to ask why, I explained the class policy, and he stood up and yelled a bunch of profanities at me and left the classroom. I was stunned. I actually excused myself to go cry in my office for about 10 minutes. Then I returned to class and kept teaching. I think about that experience a lot.

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? My students would probably be surprised to learn I quit my first PhD program. I went straight out of undergrad and it was a terrible fit for me. I left after 4 years to pursue teaching.

What are you currently reading for pleasure? I am part of a book club with some of my friends. We just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow”. It took me 125 pages to get into, but it turned out to be an absolutely delightful story with a few good life lessons peppered in.

What tech tool could you not live without? My “Happy Light”! Probably not the type of answer you were looking for but the PNW gets a bit dreary and I’m originally from Florida. My happy light helps keep me sane (plus my Vitamin D supplements) during the winters and soggy springs in Oregon.

What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Hallway chatter usually involves me trying to convince all the other graduate students how important teaching is and why they should love it as much as I do!

PSYCHSESSIONS UPDATE: Listen to Raechel talk with Eric about starting her dissertation and her love of teaching during this great PsychSessions podcast!



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