Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

This is How I Teach

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Teaching shouldn't be a private activity, but often it turns out that way. We don't get to see inside each others' classrooms, even though we'd probably benefit if only we could! In order to help Make Teaching Visible, we've introduced this blog, called "This is How I Teach." We will be featuring the voices of STP members twice a month. Psychology teachers will tell us about how they teach and what kinds of people they are -- both inside and outside the classroom. 


Are you interested in sharing your secret teaching life with STP?

We’d love to hear from you!  To get started, send your name, institution, and answers to the questions below to the following email: howiteach@teachpsych.org.  

  1. Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
  2. What are three words that best describe your teaching style?
  3. What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

"This is How I Teach" edited by: Maggie Thomas, Editor (Earlham College), Rob McEntarffer, Associate Editor (Lincoln Public Schools), and Liz Sheehan, Associate Editor (University of Kentucky)

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  • 10 Feb 2016 7:08 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Loras College

    Type of school: Small liberal arts college

    School locale: Dubuque, Iowa – small city

    Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Psychology & the Arts, Motivation

    Average class size: 25

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  

    To always be sure I tell students what I want or expect from them, rather than assuming they should just know. Over the years, I’ve expanded this to the more global: Avoid making assumptions about students in general. This includes assumptions about their expectations, previous experience, or intent behind their behaviors. When I approach a situation in the classroom without those kinds of assumptions but with openness and curiosity, my students and I communicate much better with each other.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 

    I tend to learn more from talking to or watching other teachers than from reading. Teaching Introductory Psychology: Survival Tips from the Experts, edited by Sternberg, was very helpful when I first started. Right now I’m transitioning to a flipped classroom and for help with that I have learned a lot from the blog, Casting out Nines, by Robert Talbert.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My favorite course to teach is Research Methods. When I was a student, this is the course that convinced me to become a psychologist. Within the first few days of that class, I fell in love with the idea that there were techniques that could allow me to find answers to my questions about the world. It felt so empowering. After many years of teaching, I still enjoy introducing students to research and encouraging them to see it in that way.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    One of my favorite assignments was designed while team teaching with a history professor. Students individually chose nonprofit organizations related to causes that had personal meaning to them. For the history component, they wrote papers analyzing the social context and historical background of the larger issue associated with the organization’s mission. For the social psychological component, they each created and delivered presentations using persuasive techniques designed to convince the class to donate to or volunteer for their causes. We did this assignment for several years. Students enjoyed it, and I learned something new every time.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    My favorite active learning strategy is case study analysis. In more advanced courses I use cases that students may think about over a few class days. In courses like Introductory Psychology I rely on brief application cases designed to help students show they understand a few specific concepts.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My office is in a very old building that has been renovated many times for different uses, so it’s full of creaky floors, noisy pipes, and inconsistently-sized rooms. In other words, it has character. I have a rather large office that allows me both a desk area and a kind of sitting area. I like being able to shift from a more serious workspace to a more informal social space. I also learn about what visitors expect from a meeting, depending on whether they immediately select the chair next to my desk or one in the more conversational area.

    Three words that start with E and that best describe your teaching style.  

    Challenging, thoughtful, compassionate.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Show leadership in the classroom, personally and intellectually.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. 

    I have a lazy habit of sitting on desks and tables when I am talking to a class. One specific embarrassing moment was when I sat on a desk that was unstable and slipped off onto the floor. That alone would be embarrassing enough, but I also let out a loud squeal of surprise that I’d never heard myself make before (or since). Dead silence in the classroom for a beat. Then I made a joke about not realizing I could make a noise like that. Huge laughter. We went back to work.  Now I’m much more careful about where I sit. (I also got very high teaching evaluations from that class. Go figure.)

    The worst serious teaching disaster I’ve had was several years ago when I was teaching students in a special internship program our college developed. The students spent one semester away from our residential small town campus, living in Chicago. They were placed in internships, did community service, and took two college courses. I traveled to Chicago (about a three hour drive) one day a week to teach one of the courses, a general education course in psychology. It was a small group of students, and they were completely uninterested in doing academic work. I had a whole exciting course planned that would use different locations throughout the city for experiential learning. But they were exhausted from their service and internships and the excitement of living in the city. Every week they hijacked class time to process their experiences and vent their frustrations. I had to rethink the entire course on the fly. I never could tell if they were getting anything at all out of my class. It was not a successful teaching experience. I learned several things, though. 1) You can’t always give students what they want, but it’s important to pay attention to strong student reactions. Even if your original expectations are fair and reasonable, there’s usually something going on that you should know about. 2) Let go of assignments or assessment techniques that aren’t working, even mid-semester. Forcing things doesn’t usually make them better. 3) If something isn’t working, involve students in the process. Now when things don’t seem to be going well in a class, I immediately create a short anonymous survey, asking for feedback about the original course plan and giving at least one idea for a change. I have found that even a small change which is relatively meaningless to me is still often enough to create a more positive attitude in class.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    That I was a business major as an undergraduate and originally planned to be a CPA.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mystery novels

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My wireless presentation remote. Best money I ever spend for my classroom. 


  • 20 Jan 2016 8:15 PM | Anonymous

    School name: University of Delaware (I’m in a teaching-focused position)

    Type of school: R1 University. We offer the Ph.D. in social, clinical, cognitive psychology and in behavioral neuroscience.

    School locale: Medium-sized university town

    Classes you teach: Research Methods. Cultural Psychology. The Social Self (400 level). Teaching of Psychology (Graduate).

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  

    First, set aside “sacred time” for writing in your schedule. Lots of people say that, because it works. Good college teachers are scholars, and scholars write.

    Second, Stephen Chew is my evidence-based teaching mentor. I like to say, All I really need to know, I learned from Steve Chew. Through him, I learned about the “rule of three” (students need at least three exposures in order to master a new concept) about the power of misconceptions, about concept inventories, about metacognition. He can be your hero, too:
    Here’s his video series for teachers.

    For their small teaching gifts, I’d like to thank my Twitter friends who push wonderful content and tips at me every day. There’s Sue Franz and her
    Technology for Academics blog, which taught me, for one, about akindi. Thanks, too, to Jessica Hartnett and her “not awful and boring” blog, and for introducing the makeameme website. I went a little crazy with that last semester. For example:

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 

    For course design, Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences is probably the most important. Fink suggests that we design courses with the end in mind. What do you want students to be able to do when the course is over? (that’s your learning goal) What does it look like when they can do that? (that’s your final assessment). How do you get them there? (those are your teaching and learning activities). I mention this approach in every presentation I give, and my graduate course in the teaching of psychology is designed around his self-directed guide.

    My daily teaching style has been inspired by examples from The Learning Gap, by Hal Stevenson and James Stigler, a book I’ve assigned in cultural psychology classes. This book reports their investigation of primary school teachers, students, and parents in Japan, China, and the U.S. It’s about gradeschools, but I’ve found it applicable to teaching college classes. They describe how Asian teachers achieve coherence, give feedback to students, and develop learner-centered classrooms. For a taste of what it covers, read this short piece from the NYT.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    I love it all! Research methods is one of my favorites because students have the steepest growth curve in that class. They come in to the class thinking that every study has to generalize to the population of the world. But they leave being able to identify, graph, and critically evaluate almost any psychology study they encounter in the popular press. I love teaching cultural psychology because some of the studies we read simply blow them away (It doesn’t get much better than Heine et al., 2001). And I love teaching Social Self, because students are so excited to read the literature on self-justification, self-control, and self-esteem. Students are particularly engaged when they notice the huge gap between the promise of high self-esteem and the empirical reality of it. In contrast to what they’ve heard, people with low self-esteem have good relationships; high self-esteem isn’t a social panacea, and saying “I love myself” makes low-self-esteem folks feel worse. What’s not to love about all this wonderful content?

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    Psychology teachers have the best content in the world, but our main goal is to educate scientifically minded, quantitative reasoners. Therefore, I have the most fun working with students in class to understand empirical evidence. My favorite activities involve describing a result to them and asking them to create a table or graph that depicts it. Alternatively, I’ll show them a “scary” graph or table of results, and we’ll figure out what it means. Students feel so empowered by this process!

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    In upper-level classes, I give students their final exam questions in advance. These are difficult, essay questions in which students are asked to combine, evaluate, or apply the empirical research they’ve read all semester. In Social Self, they prepare 8-10 questions and I choose 4 for the final. Students end up reviewing and consolidating almost everything they’ve read, and we have great conversations in office hours as they develop their answers. I’m willing to share example questions with folks who send me an email.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My favorite part is the huge window. And inspired by a contributor to this blog, I transitioned to a stand-up desk. I love it because I get uncomfortable sitting down for too long. But my office is not that well organized or decorated. In fact, when I see the offices of the other How I Teach contributors, I feel I need to step up my game! Somebody, please come decorate my office. Thank you.

    Three words that start with E and that best describe your teaching style.  

    Empirical, enthusiastic, engaged.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    “Write the perfect test, then teach to it.”

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had. 

    I can’t believe I’m telling this story, but for a few years, I would abbreviate the word “thought” on the whiteboard when we would sketch out arguments or graphs. (I can’t bring myself to put down how I spelled it; you can look it up.) Every time I did it, I’d hear some students giggle, but I thought it was because the abbreviation was kind of cute. FINALLY, students in my class informed me that the word has a crude slang meaning! I was SO embarrassed. The next class period, I solemnly promised the class that I would never have used a crude, misogynistic term in jest. Thank goodness I have good rapport with students! It has often prevented small missteps like these from escalating.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    I totally resonated with something Neil Lutsky wrote on this blog’s inaugural post: “do students realize how much skin I have in every class?” I leave every class thinking, “Oooh—I gotta fix that.” “I better start next class by saying …”  or “I wish I had time to ….”
     
    Also, I’m not sure they’d be surprised, given my enthusiasm in the classroom, but I was a cheerleader and on the drill team in high school (Kearney High School in Nebraska!).

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I love fiction and I’m a bit of an Anglophile. I learned about Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) books when the author died last year, and I’m reading them one after the other. They are all so different from each other and from the stuff I read at work. I’ve also read every book by Joanna Trollope. The characters in her books are so well-behaved!

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Yes. J

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

    I like to say that I have a “3-3-3” load: Three classes each semester and three boys at home. I actually limit hallway chatter to get work done. I live a pretty wonderful but pretty dull life, and if forced into small talk, I’m one of those people who can only discuss “stuff I heard on NPR.” I’m such a cliché!

  • 08 Jan 2016 12:17 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Mississippi State University

    Type of school: Mississippi State University is a doctoral Very High Research Activity Land Grant institution, according to the Carnegie classification.

    School locale: Starkville, MS, a rural town of about 20,000 people. The student population literally doubles the size of the town. We have around 400 undergraduate majors in psychology, and over 20 graduate students in PhD programs in Clinical Psychology and Cognitive Science.

    Classes you teach: I have taught both undergraduate (General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Psychological Statistics, The Teaching of Psychological Statistics) and graduate (Psychopathology, Personality Assessment, Behavior Therapy, Clinical Practicum) courses.

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  

    The best advice I ever received about teaching was to be true to my own personality. When learning to teach, it is easy to attempt to emulate your favorite teachers and recreate the experiences you enjoyed most as a student. However, techniques that work for one teacher do not work for everyone. There is an interaction with your own personality, such that you need to find what works well for you. Some teachers are loud and boisterous comedians; others are quiet, reflective intellectuals. Finding a mechanism that best conveys your passion for the discipline and your strengths is the road to being a truly excellent teacher. We all have something that drew us to this profession. Identifying and communicating that passion is the best thing any teacher can do.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 

    While many would not consider this a book on teaching, per se, Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered has had the most profound effect upon my teaching. I consider myself first and foremost a scientist; as such, I believe the scientific method has value for informing any of my professional activities, especially teaching. I strongly value a scholarly approach to my work, including evaluating my teaching by systematically operationalizing my goals, measuring outcomes, and evaluating data to inform my decisions. A key step is going to the literature to identify evidence-based techniques or assessments. As part of the field, I feel that I should participate in generating that literature, especially if what I have found in my own classroom could be beneficial for someone else. Thus, the scholarship of teaching and learning drives most aspects of what I do in the classroom.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My favorite course is the one that many students seem to most dread: Psychological Statistics. The reason I adore this course is it is one of the rare times when we get to have an answer, versus generating another question or facing the ubiquitous conclusion “it depends.” Statistics is not about number crunching (although I believe uninspired instruction can make it so). Instead, it is learning a new way of thinking about the world. It is a perspective on how to answer a question and how to interpret the information around us. People intuitively use statistical concepts on a daily basis, but without making an understanding of those concepts explicit, we are prone to many interpretational and decision-making errors. My goal for the course is to help students be savvy consumers of information. I want them to be able to know when a number is misrepresenting a concept, or when they need more information to make a complete conclusion.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    Because of my goal for my Psychological Statistics course, my approach to the course focuses on application and interpretation from start (measurement of the construct and the properties of scales of measurement) to finish (decision making in the context of uncertainty and error). I utilize a low-tech approach to foster active learning: good ole’ fashioned worksheets. A class period involves a reciprocal interaction of didactic presentation paired with work on a problem, such that I introduce an idea and students work on pieces of it, cumulatively building until we have completed the analysis. The worksheet in class scaffolds students’ initial exposure to the material so that they can try it on their own for homework. It also doubles as their note taking, forcing students to engage with the most important concepts of the lesson. Because there is a worksheet every day, it serves as a convenient way to take attendance as well. The worksheets provide a valuable, low-stakes form of feedback, as I can see where students are struggling and what concepts may need to be revisited.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    One of my favorite activities in my Psychological Statistics class occurs when we work on the scales of measurement. I ask students to define the level of measurement (nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio) for a variety of seemingly straightforward variables, like color. We then discuss their answers and I present alternative conceptualizations of the variable that could fit. To continue with the example of color, most students readily state that it is a nominal variable (“Red is different from blue is different from yellow, and they are just different”). However, I then ask them about shades of color, and how they could blend into each other in a continuous gradation. I bring up the notion that color is light reflecting off of surfaces, and different colors correspond to different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. When conceptualized as a wavelength, color becomes a ratio variable, as the zero is meaningful (i.e., the absence of a wavelength). The activity forces students to recognize the active role they play in defining the nature of a variable, based upon their expectations and use of the variable, and how their measurement of the variable determines its properties. Another example is the rating of a Likert-type scale. We usually end up having a vigorous discussion about whether we can consider such ratings an ordinal or interval in scale, highlighting the fundamental difficulty of comparing responses between participants (Are they using the same starting points or internal scales as others?). We then generalize this idea to its implications for psychological research and what we know about common findings.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    I regularly get comments from my colleagues about the arrangement of my office. The institutional norm is to have a desk in the middle of the room with student and teacher sitting across from each other. I very purposefully moved my desk against the wall, so there is nothing between the student and I, and I have to turn away from other things (like my continually updating email) so my attention is not divided. I believe strongly in the importance of being accessible to my students, and something as simple as the arrangement of furniture can play a key role in that message. When these same colleagues ask about it, they are shocked to hear that students notice and appreciate the difference. They worry that the arrangement might invite a weakening of professional boundaries; however, I have found that appropriate boundaries are not set by the physical environment, but by my demeanor and the expectations I hold (both explicit and implicit). The benefits, on the other hand, include students feeling more of a connection with me and feeling that I am truly interested in their success, which increases their motivation to do well in the course.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Actively inquiring passion

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Guide students to think independently through active questioning

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had. 

    One semester, at the request of my department head, I pilot tested an online homework system for my statistics class. A departmental committee, of which I was a part, wanted to look for ways to improve our statistics-research methods sequence. We investigated several options, and made an informed decision to select a program that looked like it would incorporate excellent pedagogical principles, such as promoting active learning and adapting to student learning needs. However, it was an abysmal failure. It continually crashed and I had no power to correct the system or help with technical issues. The built-in pedagogy became a crutch that students leaned upon to get a good grade on homework but left them unprepared for tests because they could not do it on their own. Student ratings at mid-semester were so bad that we agreed to abandon the system altogether.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    First, my students are always surprised about my age. Apparently I have a young face. Next, students are surprised that I am inherently an introvert. I get very excited about the things I teach, and they translate my enthusiasm into extroversion. If left to my own devices, I will happily blend into the background and watch others, rather than be the center of attention.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    At the moment, I am reading Wicked after having the privilege of seeing the show on Broadway. However, if you examined my Kindle, you would find a plethora of fantasy novels. My most recent favorite has been Brandon Sanderson’s series The Stormlight Archive. It highlights fantasy’s defining feature better than any other series I have read: The readers are thrust into a world where the rules are entirely different from our own, and we must stumble along with the characters while trying to discern how it all works.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Most people who know me recognize that I am something of a technophobe, although that is not quite the right word. I am reluctant to adopt new technologies simply because they are new. I want to see what it will do that I cannot already do some other way. That said, I have become dependent upon my Surface Pro 3. I travel a fair amount, and it is far easier to lug around than any laptop. The touchscreen technology makes it far more intuitive to interact with, and it can do anything that an ordinary laptop can do.

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

    A group of faculty in my department go out to dinner every Friday night. Living in a small town, we have to make our own fun, and this dinner is the primary way we do so. It is an excellent chance to decompress about all the stresses of the week, to complain about our sorrows and rejoice in our successes. We talk about a little bit of everything, ranging from interesting things our students said or did to what is happening in our favorite TV shows. 

  • 23 Dec 2015 9:32 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Eastern Connecticut State University

    Type of school: We are “Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university”. We primarily serve undergraduate students (especially first-generation students) but have a handful of masters programs as well.

    School locale: Small town – Willimantic, CT, former “Thread City USA” due to the American Thread Company and other textile businesses, which left the area several decades ago.

    Classes you teach: Cognitive Psychology, General Psychology, Behavioral Science Statistics, Research Methods I, Research Methods II, Sensation and Perception, and a freshman colloquium course on Psychology in South Park

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  

    Some of my colleagues argue that you should never go into class too prepared, in order to be ready for interesting sidetracks that the class may want to take. I cannot completely follow this advice – I have to feel as though I am prepared enough to handle not only the content, but also potential questions that might arise. I put a lot of time into preparing not only what content I will cover, but how I will cover it, and I use my prior experiences to hone that content and the delivery to improve each semester.

    I do try wherever possible to encourage students to ask questions and I freely admit when I do not know the answer. Some classes (and some students) are more willing to engage and ask questions, and I encourage this without letting a sidetrack take us too far from my goals for that class period. Students do not realize how important they are to the class – their enthusiasm and energy actually improve my teaching and the experience of the other students.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I attempt to use what I know about cognitive psychology to improve the learning experience – incorporating videos and activities to “break up” class to help them stay attentive, and making explicit connections to their own lives and experiences to promote memory associations. I also plan very carefully across all my classes so that I don’t have multiple major assignments coming in at the same time so that I can return graded work as soon as possible.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 

    As a graduate student at Penn State, I took a course on How to Teach Psychology. The reading material in that course included McKeachie’s Teaching Tips and Perlman, McCann, and McFadden’s two-volume Lessons Learned: Practical Advice for the Teaching of Psychology. These materials ensured that my first teaching experiences as a graduate student were successful, and many of the skills that I learned in that class I have carried with me to this day. Some of my favorite strategies have remained the same in the ten years since: using low-stakes weekly writing assignments and in-class activities that require thinking in-depth about the topic and discussion with nearby peers. I have also adapted my teaching due to interactions with other teachers.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    My absolute favorite class to teach by far is my freshman colloquium course, Psychology in South Park. In it, first-semester freshmen psychology majors view episodes of the animated television show South Park that have been selected by me to portray a handful of relevant psychological topics. The course as I teach it currently is cross-listed with an introductory psychology course, and the episode viewed each week contains a portrayal relevant to the topics being covered in introductory psychology at that time. (For example, the episode Follow That Egg! shows an example of a terrible experiment, to go along with the “research methods” content, and the episode Grey Dawn shows cognitive impairment in elderly drivers, to go along with the “aging” content.) Students watch the episodes as a class and research the topic(s) they identified in the episode using PsycINFO. After discussion with their peers as well as some guidance from me, they individually write analyses of the accuracy of the show, focusing on all the major psychological concepts present. Last year, I created a psychological critical thinking program that taught students incrementally how to critically evaluate the episodes, and was able to show that they did improve on critical analysis and written communication as the semester progressed. I am replicating the study this semester. Students love the course because the content is fun, even if they have to write a lot more than a typical course. Besides this, they are learning skills of research and analysis that will benefit them as they progress through the psychology major.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    In my Cognitive Psychology course, I always conduct an in-class activity on false memories. Using the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm, 15-word lists of words are read to the students. They are asked to try to remember as many of the words within a list as they can. This length (15 words) surpasses human short-term memory capacity, but the words are all related to each other, which boosts memory. The problem is that the most “obvious” word that should be in the list is not. (For example, in a list with rye, butter, and toast, the obvious word “bread” is missing.) Using three separate lists, I can generally get at least half of the class to “remember” the word that wasn’t on the list at least once across the three trials.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    I almost always require students to complete online quizzes (using our learning management system, Blackboard Learn) over the reading prior to covering the content in class. They are told that the purpose is to ensure they are reading prior to class. The quizzes are short (10 or 20 questions depending on the class) and mostly multiple choice. They are permitted two attempts and their higher score is kept. They are encouraged to complete the quiz once, then review the reading to determine why they missed the questions they did prior to completing the second attempt. These quizzes boost student knowledge in the critical topic areas and also provide a boost to their grade that is a function of the effort they put in.

    I also require weekly journals, also submitted through Blackboard, which require students to make an explicit connection between some topic learned in class or through the reading that week to a current or recent event in their life. Making these associations may help students better learn and remember the topic. (My department also has an unofficial rule that all of our courses will require substantial writing in order to develop written communication skills. I find these brief writing assignments are much easier to grade than longer research papers and frankly over the course of a semester, students are typically writing just as much as if they had written a longer term paper.)

    The biggest practice that has helped me tremendously as a teacher is that I now only use PowerPoint for picture and video materials (and I do try to use as many relevant pictures and videos as I can). Several years ago, I made the transition from using word-laden PowerPoints to using the old-fashioned chalkboard (or these days, whiteboard). Since making the transition, students are more attentive and more inquisitive rather than merely copying down words. I make sure that I begin every class with a written outline on the board and write down any words that I want to make sure they spell right or that I want to emphasize, so I know they’re getting the “bones” of the lecture just fine. By not trying to frantically write down all the words on a slide, they are able to simply listen, and over the course of the semester, most learn to pick out the most important information.

    To supplement instruction, I provide a list of Suggested Review Questions that students can use to guide their note-taking as well as their studying for the exam. All exam questions are drawn from the material that appears in the answers to the Suggested Review Questions, although I rarely use the same wording. Focusing studying on using these questions promotes active memory retrieval and thus may help with retention of the material.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    In the office, I try to keep the materials on my desk in neatly-stacked piles. My desk is shaped like an L with a computer at the junction, and I’ve rotated the desk so that I see the door and can immediately greet students who come in. The part of the desk facing the door has my materials for the next day of classes and the stuff I’m working on at that moment; the part of the desk against the wall contains printed materials for upcoming class periods, old and future lecture notes, and materials needed for my many roles on university committees. It often has my lunch or snack too. Tacked onto the corkboard on the wall above my desk, I keep the page from the syllabus of each course I teach outlining the required reading, assignments, and topics for each day of the semester. This ensures that I can always quickly determine what is coming up by just looking up.

    I attempt to use every spare moment of the day to squeeze in work. I sometimes work from home, using my home desktop computer, and I also often grade exams sitting on my couch. I also prepare a lot of my lectures, at least on paper, in the cafeteria of a local school while my son is at his weekly Cub Scouts den meeting. If I’m alert, I try to work because there is always something I could or should be doing.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Current, relevant, evidence-based (the hyphen makes it one word!)

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Help students see the connection to their lives.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had. 

    Several years ago, I was teaching two sections of my Psychology in South Park class – one for psychology majors and one for non-majors. In the section of non-majors, two male students behaved in inappropriate ways and challenged my authority as the instructor on several occasions. It started on the very first day, when one of the students interrupted my comment that “The course won’t be all about watching South Park; you’re going to have to do some work too” with “no, we don’t!” This caught me off-guard that somebody would be so brazen on their first day of class as a freshman. The second male argued with me (loudly) in front of the class about a point penalty on a paper, insisting that what he did wasn’t wrong. Later in the semester, he rudely interrupted a presentation on academic integrity, insisted that using the same paper for more than one class was alright to do. There were many other incidents that semester as well. I have never in all my years teaching experienced such an utter lack of respect; fortunately, it hasn’t happened since.

    I also unintentionally induced a seizure in an epileptic student when I showed videos of the phenomenon change blindness in my Cognitive Psychology course. I now always provide a warning prior to showing the videos in class!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    I actually have pretty severe social anxiety and hate being the center of attention. This probably sounds bizarre coming from somebody whose career is being the center of attention. I perform well in front of a crowd while teaching or giving a presentation because I know what I want to say and I tell myself that people are listening because I know things that they want to learn. I practice exactly what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it, and this practice allows me to manage the anxiety. Informal social situations where I don’t know people well and there’s no “script” provoke a lot of anxiety in me and really tire me out. I get especially anxious if I am in a crowd and people are too close to me, so poster sessions at conferences are my worst nightmare.

    In addition to working hard at the university, I serve the community by being a founding member and officer of the PTO at my son’s school and I both sing soprano and ring handbells in my church choir.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure, but if I can spare the time I “binge read” for entire days. I particularly enjoy books made for children and teens, such as the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Harry Potter. Most recently, I re-read Watership Down. I find that reading the books as an adult gives me a different view and appreciation of them than when I was a child. I get more out of them, and especially love to think about the historical context of the books and the events within.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Although probably not your idea of a “tech tool”, I can’t live without Google and YouTube. I depend on them to find interesting real-world relevant issues and videos for my classes. I find Google Scholar to be much easier to use than PsycINFO when searching for full-text research articles. I don’t have any fancy tech tools except an original Kindle Fire – finances are too tight for expensive fancy gadgets.

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

    We talk about contract negotiations (which are going on now – see https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/10/09/connecticut-state-u-professors-see-administration-proposal-attack-tenure) or other things related to school culture and events, especially funny things that happen in class. My favorite topics though are cool videos, news articles, or research studies we’ve seen, especially things that are related to psychology. We also talk about our children; across the department, there are 11 of them under the age of 10!

  • 07 Dec 2015 12:53 PM | Anonymous

    School: University of Houston-Clear Lake

    Type of college/university: Master’s comprehensive: about 9,000 students; about half of the students are undergraduate, half are pursuing Master’s degrees, 2 Ed.D. programs; Hispanic Serving Institution; many first generation students

    Locale: Regional state university in suburbs of Houston near NASA

    Classes I teach: Careers and Writing in Psychology; Psychology of Women; Social Issues Methods and Analysis; Social Issues Seminar; Graduate Internship, Psychology of Gender, Race, and Sexuality

     What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    Give up control. My friend and colleague Dr. Lillian McEnery told me to try new things in the classroom, even if it scares me. One thing I have come to accept is that there is no perfect course or assignment or activity. You just have to trust yourself and your students that if you try something and it flops, you have the skills and community spirit to pick back up and try something else. This freed me to do much more in the classroom to increase student engagement, get me away from the “sage on the stage” model, and create a brave space for learning.

     What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997), Teaching to Transgress (hooks, 1994); Teaching Critical Thinking (bell hooks, 2010); Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (Tatum, 1997); Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Friere, 1970)

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    In my courses, students learning about group privilege and intersections of identity for the first time is both a pedagogical challenge and huge reward for me as a facilitator of growth. These topics are most commonly 100% new to my students. Therefore, there is an extremely high payoff when they begin to understand these new concepts and apply them to their lives. At this point in my career, I am turning my efforts to creating resources for other faculty that need support in their teaching about privilege and intersectional theory.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    My very favorite assignment is my Intersections of Identity Education Project. Students choose an aspect of intersectional theory such as the intersections of race, gender, and social class to examine women of color in poverty versus middle class. They research the chosen intersection and create a product to be used for public education about intersectional theory. For example, one male student created and provided workshops on masculinity, homophobia, and human trafficking to juvenile detention officers. Another contacted a non-profit immigrant advocacy group in New York City and developed brochures for distribution to migrant domestic workers to inform them of their legal rights. His resulting brochures had already reached over 1,000 workers by the end of the semester. Projects also included a documentary emphasizing how Asian women and men are portrayed in popular films, a board game designed to teach players about oppression, privilege, and intersectionality, and videos on ways forms of privilege intersect.

    See website for pedagogical resources and more examples: https://sites.google.com/site/drkimcase/intersections-project

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    For assessment, I lean most heavily on reflective papers that incorporate critical thinking while making connections across course materials. I also tend to use reading quizzes to keep students on track so they do not fall behind on reading. My exams are usually a mix of multiple choice, short answer and essay. For graduate classes, all exams are take home and might require 20 hours to complete.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Two widescreen monitors, Doctor Who and Wonder Woman action figures, mini-fridge close by for Snapple, clean and uncluttered, candy jar for visitors, wide array of colorful pens and markers within reach, 4 X 6 foot wipe off board for planning, listing, and imagining.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    interactive, inclusive, reflective

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Toward engagement, critical analysis, and social justice action.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    Teaching my first course in as a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, the city was struggling after a White police officer shot and killed another unarmed Black man, Timothy Thomas (2001). Still under city-wide curfew and civil unrest all around, our next syllabus topic was white privilege. During that class, a white woman passionately yelled out “they’re all animals” in reference to Black Cincinnatians expressing their outrage about police violence and racism. I was more than completely unprepared for how to handle such a volatile statement in a racially diverse class of 70 students. My memory is hazy, but I think I tried to say something about seeking to understand the perspective of others even when it is difficult and uncomfortable. In my mind, this has always been my biggest pedagogical fail.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    I am a member of an exhibition dance team, Collective Sound Cloggers. We clog at festivals, events, Disney World, schools, etc. Our dances are set to a mix of rock, country, pop, folk, and traditional clogging music. For more see our website: http://collectivesoundcloggers.org/

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The Crow Road by Iain Banks- great mystery novel about a Scottish family and coming of age

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My Android phone. Perhaps sadly, I allow work email to spill over into time when I should be away from work. Also, I use my phone a lot to post teaching items (e.g., videos, articles, blogs) on the Facebook page I created about teaching privilege studies and intersectional theory.

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?  

    In our break room, we have a large table we jokingly refer to as the “Table of Knowledge.” During lunch, faculty gather and discuss a wide range of issues such as the latest political candidate’s anti-immigrant comments, student plagiarism, deconstruct media messages about the Houston anti-discrimination law, ideas for supporting students with disabilities, or university policy changes and the potential impact on student learning. Some days, we just talk about what happened on The Walking Dead or other favorite shows.

  • 10 Nov 2015 4:57 PM | Anonymous

    School: California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB).

    Type of college/university: We are a small, liberal arts university within the behemoth of the Cal State system.

    Locale: We are located just outside of Monterey in Seaside, California. Seaside is on the central coast of California and it is arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. I am so lucky to be here.

    Classes you teach: I have been at CSUMB for 11 years and I have taught all across the curriculum. However, my training is in developmental psychology and I have been able to focus on courses in that area as of late. My favorite course to teach lately is socioemotional development.

    What's the best advice about teaching you've ever received?

    I'm not sure I've received much advice about teaching. I hope I'm part of the last generation of PhD students who received little to no training about teaching in their doctoral program. I have always loved teaching and after hiding that interest in graduate school I have been able to let it shine at CSUMB. The challenge is that we don't have enough time to really talk about teaching. So I read a lot of books about teaching and I try to go to the teaching parts of conferences at WPA, SRCD, and APS whenever I go to those conferences. Almost everything I read shapes my work as a psychology teacher. From the how-to teaching guides to the novels I read for fun, there is always a gem to grab that helps me think deeply about my teaching.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

    There are so many great topics that I love to teach in my classes, from attachment to language development to "correlation does not equal causation." To me, what makes a great topic is whether I can make a smooth connection between the topic and something going on in the real world. Right now I am particularly focused on attachment and love. It seems that so many people are struggling with insecure attachments and lack of love in their lives so it's an easy topic in which to get students interested. It also gives me an excuse to have students read Love at Goon Park by Deborah Blum about Harry Harlow's monkeys, attachment, and love. And I also want students to read Love 2.0 by Barbara Frederickson. 

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    My favorite in-class activities are ones that combine active learning and technology. One thing I like to do is discuss studies that students haven't read about yet and have them predict the results. I'll ask them to draw their predictions. This was so interesting the first few times I did it because I purposely was vague about the type of visual display students should use. In psychology we tend to focus on bar graphs but the students were not constrained by thinking they should use bar graphs only. Some used line graphs, pies, and even drawings of people and objects. Then I asked students to take pictures of their displays with their phones and upload to our class Evernote notebook. Then I could show some of the pictures on the pull-down screen. We then discussed whether others would interpret what the author intended and what revisions one would make to improve the display's ability to communicate the data.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
    The teaching and learning techniques that work best for me are what I think of as "baby steps" throughout the term. I know everyone is busy and I myself juggle a lot of things. I try to teach the students that it's better to make slow and steady progress on something then to never start something because there's no time. So I have students to take short quizzes every week or every two weeks and I like to them to write a little each week. I use Evernote and ask that students make at least one note a week in their notebook that relates to the class material. I also love to have students speak in class. Oral communication is tough to practice and master but so critical in our world. I ask students to be part of class discussions during class, to sometimes present at the front of the room, and to do a short oral presentation at the end of the term.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is quite luxurious. Our psychology department just moved into a new building and I happened to be assigned too large of an office. I'm the chair of the department so that was part of the decision as well. It does help that I have a conference style table for meeting with the various groups I am part of on campus as well as my research students, a computer station for doing my writing and preparatory work for class, and a "lounge" area for those personal conversations I might have with students that seem to be facilitated by comfy chairs!

     Three words that best describe your teaching style

    Experimental; communication-intensive (students writing and speaking a lot); and flexible.

     What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Care about students and they will learn.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.

    I am sure I have had many teaching disasters over the years and the lovely adaptive aspects of memory have erased them from my mind. I'm pretty good at making lemonade from lemons so I am sure that I have convinced myself that it was actually a good thing that such and such did not work out because then we got to do something else in the class room that I hadn't thought about before.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    Something my students would be surprised to learn about me is that I got a C in my introductory psychology class. It was a big, early-morning lecture at UCLA. I would usually make it to class, fall asleep some way into it, and then take off. It's good for students to know that their seemingly smart professors didn't and don't always succeed at everything academic. It's helpful to perform poorly sometimes. It shows us where we need to put our efforts. 

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I love to read and I usually have half a dozen old-fashioned books and kindle books in progress at any given time. Right now I like Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. She is a researcher-storyteller and I aspire to be that. She is amazing at it and her messages are so important for everyone. We are flawed human beings and that's a good thing. 

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My tech tool that I could not live without would probably be cloud storage and especially Google Docs. Google Docs has solved the problem of never knowing which version was the most recent. And I love that many people can work on the same document at once, it saves everyone's work, and you can see other people typing!

    What’s your hallway chatter like?

    The hallway chatter is either about kids and how challenging it is to be a working parent OR about how psychology can get more respect as a science on campus.

  • 23 Oct 2015 9:24 AM | Anonymous

    School names

    Marian College (now Marian University) and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

    Types of schools/locale

    I taught near or in downtown Indianapolis for my entire 40-year career.  I spent my first 27 years at Marian College (a small, private, residential, Catholic, liberal arts college with 60 psychology majors) where I chaired the Psychology Department for 21 years.  I was then hired as the Director of Undergraduate Studies at IUPUI (a large, public, commuter, metropolitan, research university with 600 psychology majors) where I remained until I retired in 2011.  IUPUI created my new position and hired me to bolster their undergraduate experience and heighten the sense of community within their department that I had established and nurtured at Marian.  I spent the next 13 years doing everything in my power to accomplish these two lofty goals, and I was gratified at my retirement party when my chair said, “Drew clearly met the goals he was hired to achieve. Our undergraduate students are better prepared for graduation and life after college, they better understand how their psychology major can help them to achieve their goals, and they are more connected to the department through the various activities he developed.  His impact on our students and department will be lasting.”

    I was taught to be the “sage on the stage” in graduate school, and I continued this role very successfully for the next 27 years.  I worked hard to develop my speaking skills, but I grew increasingly less fulfilled with my classroom “performances.” I began to desire a different relationship with my students—one in which I could trade my sage role for that of a “guide on the side.” Although it took me several years and a great deal of work to adjust to this radial change of pedagogy, I can honestly say that I made a complete transformation from lecturer to facilitator of active learning. 

    Classes you taught

    Excelling in College, Study Skills, Freshman Learning Community, Student-Athlete Learning Community, Orientation to a Major in Psychology, General Psychology, Honors General Psychology, Psychology as a Social Science, Honors General Psychology as a Social Science, Advanced General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Human Growth and Development, Honors Issues Seminar in Human Development, Human Learning and Cognition, Human Information Processing, History and Systems of Psychology, Professional Practice in Academic Advising, Professional Practice in Teaching, Capstone Seminar in Psychology, Internship in Psychology, and Readings and Research in Psychology

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

    I heard Charles Brewer give a presentation titled Ten Things I Would Like to Tell Beginning Teachers when I attended my first psychology teaching conference in 1984.  His advice had a profound effect upon my teaching, and I would like to share some of Dr. Brewer’s tips (CB) along with an expansion of each one based on my four-decade career as a college professor (DA). 

    CB:  Be clear about what your educational objectives are, and be sure your students are clear about them as well.  DA:  Be sure you able to assess the degree to which your students have actually accomplished your educational objectives when they have completed your courses.

    CB:  Know the facts thoroughly, but go beyond the facts.  Emphasize concepts and principles which have wider applicability than isolated facts.  DA:  Be sure your students not only remember what you teach them, but also comprehend, apply, analyze, and evaluate what they have learned so they can use these critical thinking skills to create knowledge of their own in the future.

    CB:  Be willing to say "I don't know," but try to decrease the frequency with which it is necessary to do so.  DA:  All but the least able students will know you are bluffing if you make up an answer to a question they ask or try to talk your way around it. Show respect for your students by telling them their questions are those whose answers you would like to learn yourself, and show respect for your colleagues by telling your students that you will learn from your colleagues by asking them for the answers and then bringing those answers back to the classroom.

    CB:  Communicate with clarity and conciseness.  It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make things simple.  DA:  Follow definitions of hard-to-understand concepts with real-life examples. These examples will not only enable your students to better understand the concepts, but also realize that the subject matter you are teaching is relevant to their lives.

    CB:  If you expect your students to be interested in and excited about what you want them to do, it is essential for you to be genuinely interested in and excited about what you are doing.  DA:  Be interested in, excited about, and true to your discipline. If your discipline has a code of ethics or set of principles and/or methods that pertain to teaching, follow them without fail.

    CB:  Be impeccably fair with each and every one of your students.  Be friendly with all of your students, but familiar with none of them.  DA:  Create clear and thorough course syllabi that will enable your students to know exactly what you expect them to do, be confident in their ability to perform well, and understand that you will not play favorites.

    CB:  Strive to maintain appropriately rigorous academic standards.  A common problem of beginning teachers is their almost pathological need to be liked by their students.  Being respected is more important; few respected teachers' classes are flooded with mediocre students who get A's without doing any serious academic work.  DA:  A counter-intuitive phenomenon I experienced during my 40-year teaching career was the strong, positive correlation that existed between the amount of effort I required my students to expend in my classes and the scores I received on their end-of-semester evaluation forms.  Students do not mind working hard if they believe their hard work will product valuable outcomes.

    CB:  Maintain close ties with colleagues of all ages; you will learn a lot from them.  You will learn valuable lessons about Zeitgeist and perspective from older colleagues and the younger ones will teach you how to stay intellectually alive and to have a healthy skepticism about traditional ways of doing things.  DA:  If your discipline’s professional organization has a teaching division, join it and participate actively in it. If your discipline has a journal devoted to teaching, subscribe to it and read it.

    CB:  The most important influence a teacher can have on students is to help them learn how to learn independently.  Self‑education is the only kind of education of any lasting consequence.  DA:  Alfred North Whitehead once said, “Knowledge does not keep any better than fish.” The current knowledge in many academic disciplines goes out-of-date very quickly. Therefore, it is crucial to help students understand that the knowledge we teach them (i.e., the overt curriculum) is far less important than the skills we require them to develop in order to acquire this knowledge (i.e., the covert curriculum).

    CB:  Be willing to work incredibly hard for intangible rewards which often don't come until years after your students graduate.  In important ways, teachers affect eternity; they never know where their influence stops.  You must learn to be patient, with your students and yourself.  DA:  Maintain ties with your former students. I have continued to mentor and support my former students since I retired by providing them with career-related advice; writing them letters of recommendation; and helping them with personal statements, resumes, and CVs.  These relationships have provided me one of the most important “purposes” of my retirement by allowing me to continue being part of something bigger than myself, which is helping my students continue to succeed (e.g., I keep a list of my students who have reported to me that they have earned a graduate degree, which now has 150+ entries). The only thing I expect from my protégés in return is that they pay it forward by providing the same kind of mentoring to others in the future that I provided to them in the past. 

    What shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    My work as a psychology teacher was shaped by one book chapter, one conference, one book, and one set of guidelines.  I spent my first two years in college as a biology major, following in my father’s academic footsteps to become a dental educator by completing all the required courses for dental school.  Unfortunately, I neither enjoyed nor performed well in these courses and finally came to the unfortunate—but very realistic—conclusion that I would not be a successful dental student.  Luckily, I enrolled in an introductory psychology class the following semester during which I experienced a truly life-changing epiphany when I read my textbook’s chapter on human learning and memory.  As I read it, I quickly became aware that the way I had been studying during my first two years of college was all wrong, and that if I applied the methods I was learning in my textbook to help me study (i.e., transfer information from my sensory memory to my working memory and from my working memory to my long-term memory), my grades would improve.  I was right.  My newly developed metamemory helped me understand, appreciate, and utilize the memory-improvement techniques from the chapter such as distributed practice, depth of processing, the self-reference effect, and mental imagery.  I was astounded by how my test performance increased, and I promptly fell in love with—and changed my major to—psychology. 

    The conference that shaped my work as a psychology teacher was APA’s National Conference on Enhancing the Quality of Undergraduate Education in Psychology that took place at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 1991.  According to its director, Tom McGovern, the goal of this conference was “to synthesize the scholarship and practice of the teaching and learning of psychology in order to produce a practical handbook for faculty who work with undergraduates in our discipline.”  I was one of the 60 psychologists invited to participate during this five-day event, and the opportunity to work with the super stars of psychological pedagogy like Bill McKeachie, Diane Halpern, and Ludy Benjamin on such a crucially important project was a life-changing experience.    

    The book that shaped my work as a psychology teacher was the Handbook for Enhancing Undergraduate Education in Psychology edited by Tom McGovern that was the result of the St. Mary’s Conference.  This book literally became my educational bible.  It was the first place I went whenever I needed information on topics such as active learning, advising, assessment, community building, curriculum, diversity, and professional development.  If I could not find the information I needed in the book, I solicited it from one of my 59 co-authors.  I became a living testimony to the efficacy of Tom McGovern’s goal.

    The set of guidelines that shaped my work as a psychology teacher was the original version of APA’s Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major that was published in 2006.  This document was created by my colleagues and I who served on the APA Board of Educational Affairs task force that developed goals and outcomes for undergraduate psychology programs that could be broadly applied across diverse educational contexts. It served as a strong force for assessment by focusing on the measureable student learning outcomes (i.e., knowledge, skills, and attitudes) that psychology majors should possess when they complete their degree.  The processes of helping to craft this amazing document—and then using it at IUPUI to restructure curriculum and enable students to understand the reasoning and value behind the courses they were required to take—awakened me fully to the rationale behind the structure, function, and consequences of the course of study known as the psychology major.  In essence, the Guidelines helped me to integrate the roles of teacher, advisor, and mentor during the latter part of my teaching career.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 

    My favorite course to teach was B103 Introduction to a Major in Psychology, which was a course I created to produce savvy psychology majors who can provide clear, coherent, confident, and educated answers career-planning questions such as the following.

    1.    What occupations can I enter if I major in psychology?

    2.    Which of these occupations can I enter with a bachelor’s degree and which will require me to earn a graduate degree?

    3.    What specific sets of knowledge, skills, and characteristics (KSCs) must I possess to enter and succeed in these occupations?

    4.    How can I use both the curricular and extracurricular resources and activities of my undergraduate education to develop these KSCs?

    Although I was officially designated as their teacher, I was really my students’ mentor during this class, and I was not hesitant to tell them that.  In fact, I used the following section of my syllabus to explain how I would play out this role.

    The Role I Will Play in This Class

    I will serve more as mentor than as a teacher in this class. Although I know a considerable amount about the careers that psychology majors can enter, I cannot possibly teach each one of you about the career to which you aspire. What I can do is to provide you with a strategy to research your careers and to become aware of and utilize the resources that will provide you with the information you will need during this research process. My favorite definition of a mentor is as follows: A mentor is a more experienced person who is willing and able to provide guidance about how to accomplish important goals to a less-experienced person. That is exactly what I will do in this class. The series of questions you will answer as you write your “book” will guide you while you investigate yourself, your major, and your path toward your career. In essence, I will provide you with the opportunity to do what you have always known you should have been doing all along, which is to give careful thought about how you will use your undergraduate education to prepare yourself for your life after you graduate.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    My favorite assignment was the “book” I required my students to write in my B103 class.  This was my favorite assignment because it allowed me to teach, advise, and mentor all at the same time.  I provided them with eight basic questions that become the titles of their chapters, each of which contained a set of sub-questions that required them to ponder, investigate, and write about themselves, their major, their career choices, and their strategies to attain their careers.  The textbooks for the class were my book (The Savvy Psychology Major) and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. These two books—and a variety of on-line and on-campus resources—contained the information students needed to answer the eight questions in a professional manner within the context of their own unique career aspirations. My TAs and I provided my students with copious amounts of feedback on both the APA style and content of each chapter, and I required them to revise their chapters on the basis of this feedback.  At the end of the semester, they collated all of these chapters into a book and submitted it for my final evaluation and grade.

    As you might expect, my students were initially stunned, horrified, and outraged at the prospect of having to write a book, especially in a class that earns them only one credit hour. However, as the semester progressed, they began to understand the value of this arduous task as demonstrated by the following comment taken verbatim from one of my end-of-semester student evaluation forms.

    "I discovered quite a bit about myself by writing this book. … B103 finally forced me to do some serious self-reflection and to honestly evaluate my true interests and goals. I am now confident that I am in a major that is appropriate for me and that I am getting very close to successfully deciding what type of graduate program I will pursue. B103 scared me, stressed me out, and made me a better, more complete person all at the same time. I have realized over the last few months that the reason I was floundering around with no direction was because I was hoping everything would just magically fall into place. Through some serious soul searching, caused mainly by the stress of having to make certain decisions in order to successfully write my chapters, I learned I have never had to truly fight for anything in my life before and now the time has come for me to make a plan and aggressively go after and fight for the things I want for my future. I have also realized I am capable of achieving anything I want if I plan ahead and try hard enough."

    What teaching and learning technique worked best for you?

    My most effective teaching strategy to improve student learning was to require my students to come to each of my classes knowledgeable about the subject matter that was to be covered in that class.  In my B103 class, that meant I required my students to complete a reading assignment prior to each class and to take a short quiz on that material that began at the exact time when the class began.  This caused my students to come to class, to come to class on time, and to come to class ready to engage in active learning rather than skipping class, arriving late to class, and acting like spectators—rather than active participants—in my class.  My teaching assistants graded the quizzes in class, recorded the scores, and returned the quizzes to my students.  I then went over each question, provided the correct answer, and encouraged discussion to clarify any questions my students had about the material covered in the quiz. 

    Four words that best described your teaching style.

    The four most common words my students used to describe my teaching style were PASSIONATE, CHALLENGING, CARING, and ORGANIZED. 

    What was your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Education is learning how to learn.

    Tell us about a teaching embarrassment you’ve had.

    My most embarrassing teaching moment occurred early in my career when I almost gave the same lecture twice in a row to one of my classes.  It was a lecture on Piaget that I was giving in all three sections of my Introductory Psychology class and both sections of my Human Growth and Development class over a two-week period.  Giving the same lecture so many times must have disoriented by memory, but certainly not my students’ memory.  After about five minutes I noticed that no one was taking notes and everyone was looking at me in a very strange way.  When I stopped to ask them why they were acting this way, one of them very diplomatically informed me that I was repeating exactly what I had said during the beginning of my last lecture.  Given that the title of one of my previous lectures on human memory had been “How We Remember and Why We Forget,” I decided to turn it into a teachable moment by asking my students to use what I had taught them about forgetting to explain my error.  If my current memory serves me correctly, we had a productive discussion and a hearty laugh about my embarrassing error. 

    What is something your students were surprised to learn about you?

    My students were surprised that higher education is the Appleby family business.  One of the most gratifying aspects of my career was that it provided me with the rare and wonderful opportunity to collaborate professionally with my father and my daughter, both of whom held the rank of full professor and served as chairpersons of their departments. I co-authored my very first publication with my father. It was an article published in 1977 in the Iowa Dental Journal titled “A History of Teaching by Television.” Twenty-eight years later, the third generation of college educators in the Appleby family (my daughter Karen, who is a sport psychologist) had her first paper (titled “Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process”) accepted for publication in Teaching of Psychology, and I was her co-author.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I have started to read for pleasure again, and I have rediscovered two of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen and Calvin Trillin. If you have time to read, I strongly recommend Trillin’s About Alice and Anna’s Blessings, One True Thing, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life. You will learn many valuable life lessons in these books, including the one most important to me: Do everything in your power to show the ones you love how much you love them because you never know what life is going to throw at you, and you do not want to regret the things you did not do, but know you should have done. I helped my students to become savvy psychology majors. These authors can help all of us become more savvy human beings.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I could not live without my desktop computer.  Although I derive pleasure from my other electronic devices, my desktop is my work horse because it provides me access to email, Google, Word, and PowerPoint.
  • 12 Oct 2015 2:06 PM | Anonymous

    School: The Ohio State University

     Type of college/university: 4-year, land-grant, large university

    School locale: City – Columbus is the capital city of Ohio (about 822,000 people)

    Classes you teach
    Human Sexuality, Adolescent Sexuality, Abnormal Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics/Data Analysis, Delinquency, Psychology of Gender, occasionally Health Psychology – most of my classes have 80-120 people enrolled, so
    these are generally LARGE classes

    What's the best advice about teaching you've ever received?
    Hmmm…I didn’t really get a lot of teaching mentorship as I developed.  I mostly tried to emulate the most influential instructors I had.  One important thing I learned from watching them was to be passionate about the content of the course and teaching.  A good teacher’s passion for the subject can overcome any reticence a student has about taking the course.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
    I simply love every edition of the Teaching of Psychology journal.  I learn so much about what others are doing around the world in their classrooms & I get so many ideas that I want to try in my own.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Oh, goodness, I love all my courses.  I love to teach data analysis because it is a subject that most students dread taking and I like the challenge of getting them to see that it can be a really enjoyable, interesting class.  I also really like seeing students in that course think they can’t do it at first, but then find out that they can & have these great success experiences.

     The human sexuality course is definitely the most fun and “easy” course for me to teach.  Though it is a very personal and difficult topic for many people to talk about, my method of coping with difficult emotions is to use humor, so that class is full of fun and laughter.  It is also an elective course, so students are taking it because they want to and not because they have to. 

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)
    I’m really working on “hybridizing” most of my courses.  I would like to move away from lecturing “at” them for every class meeting and having a real combination of discussion, activities, and lecture.  In most of my advanced classes, I have them take their quiz/test on the reading material before we ever discuss it & then I give them 5 or so minutes at the beginning of class to re-acquaint themselves with the reading, so that we can have a good discussion, rather than only 3 or 4 people out of the 80-100 present participating.  Starting this term, OSU has site-licensed a classroom response software package that’s making it possible for everyone to participate in discussions and polls, which I think is helping with the discussion aspect.

    What's your workspace like?
    Ha!  My desk is always a mess.  I clean it every single term as soon as I finish sending the last of my grades to the registrar – it is a ritual of mine.  Every single term, I say that the next term will be the one where I keep my desk clean all the time, but that has yet to happen!

    My office is decorated to the hilt – I spend the majority of my awake hours in that space, so I want it to be a reflection of me and the things that are important to me.  I have a lot of OSU Buckeye paraphernalia and pictures around the office, many pictures of my family, posters from theatrical productions of which I’ve been a part, and a lot of plants in the window (including orchids and African violets which are often blooming).  The top shelf of my desk is decorated with Thank You cards from students – there must be 200 up there now.  I keep meaning to go through them and make more room up there, but every time I take one down and read it, I remember the student who wrote it & I’m unwilling to part with it.  Maybe I need a bigger shelf!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.
    Enthusiastic, Engaged , Entertaining

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Hook them with what I love about psychology.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you've had.
    I haven’t really had any major disasters, but I tend to have a lot of technical hitches – I am very dramatic in my presentation, so I’ll give this big hype on how fantastic this next video clip will be & then we all have to wait around for 5 minutes because I can’t get my link to work, or the computer has timed out, or some other snafu.  I also teach my honors data analysis class in computer lab with a Smart Board and I have started telling my students at the beginning of the term that the room and I have a love-hate relationship because I can only get that thing to work for me about 50% of the time.

    Also, I have a strong fear of turning around to write on the board in classes because I am paranoid that my pants will have split open without my knowing, or I will have chalk all over my derrière and I will be the only one who doesn’t know about it.  None of this has ever happened yet, but it is still on my mind every time I write on the board – thank goodness for Power Point saving me from doing that very often!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    I’m actually a bit socially anxious and I am not quite as strongly extroverted as I appear.  I get really nervous going into new social situations and I also need a lot of quiet recharge time to be as energetic as I am in classes and with students.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    I’m just finishing The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty and I’ve decided once I finish that, I’m going to re-read the Harry Potter series.  It’s been a few years and I miss that magical world.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    For teaching – powerpoint, my remote clicker/laser pointer, YouTube

    Personally – I am attached to my smart phone in a very enmeshed fashion – I absolutely love it & really like that I can Google anything I want no matter where I am

    What's your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
    It depends on the season – my next door office neighbor is also a big football fan, so we talk football in autumn – but she is also really interested in women’s studies and gender/sexuality issues, so we talk about politics, feminism, and other things in that arena year-round.

  • 20 Sep 2015 10:20 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Muskingum University

    Type of school: Small liberal arts school

    School locale: Rural southeast Ohio

    Classes you teach: My courses include Introduction to Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Learning and Memory, Psychopharmacology, Topics in Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Advanced Experimental Psychology 

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  

    The best advice came from an experienced professor who told me it was okay to let students fail themselves. In other words, I am not responsible for fixing all of their problems, or ensuring that all earn A’s. Now when students ask for extensions for papers or projects, I will usually grant them (minus a small penalty per late day), knowing that the final product is not often much different from the grade they would have received if they had completed the assignment on time. Thus, I do not have to determine the merit of each student’s excuse, while still being fair to other students.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 

    As is true for many other educators, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips was the first book I read about teaching. As a teaching assistant before reading his book, I had simply relied on my own knowledge and undergraduate experiences. The book helped me think about how to best teach a wide variety of students, especially those whose educational needs and desires differ from my own.

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  

    I love introducing students to the brain. Neuroscience intimidates many Intro Psych students, as well as those "forced" to take a biological psychology course as one of our core requirements for the major. Therefore, I enjoy watching them recognize how understanding the brain applies to their future careers in counseling, social work, teaching, etc. In the upper-level classes, students choose a topic of interest to them that I will not have time to cover in lecture. They research the biological explanations for this behavior or disorder and then give a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation to the class. Popular topics have included music's effect on the brain, sign language, synesthesia, and near-death experiences.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    In my Intro sections, I make neuroanatomy less intimidating by having the students work in small groups to create brains using modeling clay. I ask them to label important brain structures and fissures. This is a quick 10 minute exercise that really excites the students. The competition can be fierce to be voted as the best brain by their peers and myself. I provide a small prize for the winning group.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)

    Student presentations. I stumbled onto this type of assignment because grading papers was taking me too long, so I needed a different assignment that allowed students to focus on a topic of interest, without requiring so much of my grading time (which I save for grading essay questions on tests instead). I have incorporated these presentations into all of my 200- and 300-level courses, in slightly different ways for each course. However, these are usually 5-10 minute PowerPoint presentations on a topic chosen by the student, typically from a list of possible topics I provided. The most important part of these presentations is for the student to connect their topic to the concepts we have covered in the course. Therefore, at the end, they are required to include a slide listing all of the course vocabulary words discussed in their presentation.

    I usually schedule these presentations at the end of each chapter, or before each test. This ensures that not all of the presentations are at the end of the semester, but also that they serve as a review of the recently learned information, before the students are tested on that material. In between each of the student presentations, I try to stress important vocabulary words and connections to the information that will be on the upcoming test.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My office is relatively large, but windowless and cluttered. Pictured here is part of my lab space where I can run rat experiments, or write in a quiet space.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Enthusiastic, encouraging, and interdisciplinary

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Make neuroscience approachable, fascinating, and relevant to students.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had. 

    For my very first teaching experience in graduate school, I wore a denim skirt that buttoned up the front. I stood on a chair to write at the top of the chalkboard before class started, and three of the buttons popped open. Thankfully another three or four stayed buttoned, but I quickly sat down on that chair and pulled it under the front table. I now wonder how many of those students noticed my wardrobe malfunction and how many just wondered what I was doing under the table as I re-snapped those buttons.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

    I never wanted to teach. I was painfully quiet in my own undergraduate classes and avoided every possible opportunity to even tutor other students during those years. I was drawn to research because I thought it best fit my introverted personality. Then in graduate school I became involved in outreach activities to the local elementary schools. I loved watching those children see, hold, and understand the brain for the first time. Their enthusiasm was contagious and I realized that I could share my own love of neuroscience and research with many more people by teaching at a liberal arts school. Many students now think I'm very outgoing based on my teaching persona.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    It feels as if most of my pleasure reading is written by Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and Sandra Boynton, as I read with my 3 year-old son. But my own liberal arts education solidified my love of mystery novels. I was “forced” to take a Detective Fiction course in the English department as part of my undergraduate general education requirements, but the class ended up being one of my favorites. Currently, I am reading The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I have students turn in most of their assignments through BlackBoard. It would be hard for me to go back to organizing hard copies of all the paperwork turned in each semester.

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

    There are six of us in the department and we all genuinely like one another, so our discussions run the gamut of possible topics. We discuss everything from students’ research projects to pop culture, and everything in between. At least once a year we bring our families together at one faculty member’s house for fun and food. We also attend the Midwestern Psychological Association conference and together enjoy all the perks available in a big city.

  • 09 Sep 2015 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    Where I teach: Kwantlen Polytechnic University
    Type of college/university
    Mid-size public undergraduate university
    School locale
    Urban campus in a suburb of Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Classes I teach: Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics, Social Psychology, Personality Psychology, Cognition, Conservation Psychology, and the Psychology of Genocide

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
    To be yourself in the classroom and let your personality shine through your teaching. To tell stories if you are a storyteller, to use humour if it comes naturally, and to self-disclose if it feels appropriate. Also, to take a scholarly approach to teaching.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

    There are many such books (e.g., What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain), but instead I am going to go with a blog post by David Wiley titled “What is Open Pedagogy?”

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. 
    I love talking about the Stanford Prison study (no, it is not an experiment). But not in the way that you would think. I first teach it as Zimbardo would. And then I begin to ask a series of probing, Socratic questions that lead the students to deconstruct the study until it patently clear that the emperor has no clothes and that there is actually plenty of evidence that supports a dispositional interpretation.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    An in-class exercise that I primarily use to demonstrate the prisoner’s dilemma and group decision-making. The class is split into two groups, each of which is informed that they are the joint owners of a gas station. The owners of each gas station (which are located across the street from one another) must decide on the price of their gas without knowing the price across the street. This decision is made 14 times in order to simulate 14 days of competition. The exercise is inevitably engaging, hilarious, and illustrative.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
    I incorporate low-stakes mastery quizzing, peer assessments, and in-class exams with two stages - an individual attempt, followed by a group discussion and a second individual attempt.

    What’s your workspace like?
    I like to keep things fairly neat, with paperwork organized and filed, and books sorted by category on bookshelves (potential “behavioral residue” of conscientiousness, to use Gosling’s terminology). I also love to surround my space with art, old maps, vases, sculptures, and other artifacts (behavioral residue of openness?). And photographs of my boys, of course!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style
    Interactive, humorous, and experimental

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
    Fostering skill development via rapport, relevance, and rigor

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.
    One semester early in my teaching career I found myself teaching full time (four courses) at one institution while teaching two additional courses at another institution as an adjunct (you can probably guess that these were the days before our children were born). I recall one day in particular when I emerged from a meeting and entered my classroom, unable to recall with any certainty what topic we were meant to be discussing that day! Of course I ended up asking the class (after explaining the source of my discombobulation, which they found hilarious). We ended up referring to my case over the semester whenever we talked about the limits of human cognition.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    For about seven years I was a member of a professional dance company and performed in productions ranging from musical theatre to large arena shows, as well as television and (Bollywood) film. Interestingly, I have found that many of the skills I developed during this time transfer rather well into the classroom.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    Sacred Games
    by Vikram Chandra (set in my hometown of Bombay, India) and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    Confession: I use a fair bit of tech – Prezi, Skype, online peer assessment platforms, online office hour booking systems, Dropbox, Google docs, Wordpress, etc. But the tool that I find the most useful is undoubtedly Twitter. I have found that there is no better way to keep abreast of new developments, make connections, and disseminate psychological science widely. You can find me online @thatpsychprof.

    What’s your hallway chatter like?
    We talk a lot about teaching (challenges and strategies) and the scholarship of teaching and learning, but lately have been discussing open educational practices (e.g., open textbooks, open pedagogy, etc.) rather a lot. That last bit is probably my fault. When we are not talking shop we talk about what we are reading (we have a book club), our kids (many of us have young children), and when we will next get together outside of work (we are a pretty social bunch).

     

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