Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

This is How I Teach

Subscribe here to get email notifications of new blog posts.


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" is edited by Maggie Thomas (Earlham College) and Beth Morling (University of Delaware).

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   Next >  Last >> 
  • 20 Jun 2015 11:04 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Lincoln School

    Type of school: We’re Pre-K through 12; I teach in the upper school.  Lincoln is the only all-girls’ Quaker school in the country, and one of only a handful in the world.  Our mission is all about enabling women to become leaders who practice such values as equality, simplicity, and non-violence.

    School locale: Providence, Rhode Island.

    Classes you teach: Intro to Psychology, AP English. 

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

    Regarding the teaching of Psychology (specifically when covering sleep and dreams): don’t let students talk about their dreams.  I’m not quite that strict, since this is often the topic that gets kids to sign up for class to begin with, but I’ve learned the hard way that you really do have to keep it under control.  Regarding teaching in general: not advice I got but advice I witnessed.  I once saw Leonard Bernstein giving a master class in conducting.  It was immediately clear—from his smile, his voice, his energy, his direct engagement with the workshop participants—that he was holding nothing back.  Here was a guy who thought of himself as a composer and conductor, and yet when he was teaching he was 100% there in the moment and present to his students.

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

    To Know as We Are Known by Parker Palmer is my all-time favorite, for its model of the truth-centered classroom.  More recently, How We Learn by Benedict Carey; fascinating and immediately applicable to test design, lesson plans, and writing prompts.

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

    I love classes that focus around the “Don’t believe everything you think” axiom. These tend to be topics in cognition (especially automatic negative thoughts and blocks to problem solving), memory (especially its reconstructive aspects) and, perhaps most enjoyably, sensation and perception.  Something as simple as the Muller-Lyer illusion can bring forth all sorts of realizations about the need for critical thinking and self-awareness, and also offer a chance to put psychology into the context of culture, which we can always do more of.  I also enjoy using demonstrations of, say, the waterfall effect or why the moon seems bigger on the horizon.  The giggle factor in these classes is usually pretty high, which makes learning fun and memorable.  The ooh-ah factor is also high: students being blown away by something real and immediate, which they still talk about months later.  We might even find ourselves developing a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of human fallibility.  My favorite student comment to emerge from these classes: “I feel like I’ve been lied to my whole life—by my own brain!”

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.  

    Anything that gets kids up and moving after lunch, like shouting out the structures of the limbic system while bopping around to “The Chicken Dance.”  This kind of thing is a great prelude to more reflective or intellectually intensive work.  Another assignment is as simple as it is effective: go out this weekend and look for examples of what we’ve been studying in class.  Any number of students will come in on Monday morning who can’t wait to talk about what they found.  Not only has their learning helped them understand the world a little better; they also discover that their teachers aren’t just making stuff up.  I think they find this second discovery more revelatory than the first.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?  

    Group work every day; I find jigsaw groups especially effective.  Also frequent low-stakes tests, including tests before learning the material.  The questions tend to present real-world scenarios, so that taking the test is itself a means of advancing the learning process.  Each test or quiz also contains bonus review questions that connect new learning to old.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    I begin the school year with bare classroom walls.  Each day a different student brings in a quote that she’s written on a brightly colored index card, which she reads and then puts up on the wall.  Plus, each time the class does a writing assignment, I look for “Moments of Greatness”—a terrific insight, an elegantly made point, some graceful prose—which I type out on a piece of paper and read to the class.  These also get posted on the wall.  By the end of the year, all the walls are covered with “Moments of Greatness” sheets and inspiring quotes on cards of all colors, a physical reminder of the community we’ve created.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Make-'em-laugh, make-'em-cry, make-'em-think (okay, so I cheated . . .)

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be mindful of Tao te Ching chapter 17.

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

    I was a literature professor back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  One day, we were having a great discussion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I wanted to ask the class, “At this point, how does Huck feel?”  But I got the first letters of “Huck” and “feel” mixed up.  Fortunately, these were college students and thus way too mature to find this amusing (they only laughed for twenty minutes).

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

    I didn't set out to become a teacher.  When I was a young man, I was a professional musician.  When I was a little boy I wanted to be an astronaut.  Preferably the first person on Mars.  Neil Armstrong had beaten me to the moon, alas, but I had a speech all prepared that would have put his “One small step” thing to shame.  I wish I could remember it now.  Or maybe not.  

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Backpacking With the Saints by Belden Lane, an exploration of wilderness walking and inner experience.  And Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, an epic murder mystery about the legacy of the civil rights era and the secrets between fathers and sons.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Um . . . fire, I guess.

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

    Most of my colleagues got to Lincoln School by a scenic route: some had other careers first, some have terminal degrees, some are fresh from a really interesting undergraduate program.  But everyone has a great story to tell and everyone is really dedicated to the school.  So, while there’s the usual grumbling about the grumbling that students do, there’s a whole lot more talk about how one kid or another has finally experienced that major breakthrough she’s been working toward.  It’s inspiring to see how well my colleagues know their subjects and how much they care about their students.

  • 05 Jun 2015 3:40 PM | Anonymous

    School name:  The Ohio State University

    Type of college/university: Large, four-year, public research university

    School locale:  Columbus, Ohio (moderate sized city)

    Classes you teach:  Teaching of Psychology (graduate seminar/practicum), Social Psychology, Data Analysis/Quantitative methods. 

    I am also the Program Director for Introduction to Psychology (supervise 30 GTAs) and the Coordinator for Social Psychology.  I supervise 12-20 undergraduate course assistants each term in Independent Study in the Teaching of Psychology

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

    I don’t know if this is advice or feedback, but the one statement that has had the most impact on my teaching was from a student, almost 15 years ago.  On the end-of-term survey one student wrote, “Just because we heard it once doesn’t mean we learned it!”  This really hit home and made me think about how I structured my classes, which at the time were really mainly lecture-based.  Since then I have increasingly focused on how students can apply and use the information covered in a course, not just listen to me talk about it or memorize it for a test. 

     Another piece of advice that has always stayed with me (and one I now give frequently, too) is to give students an outline.  This advice was from Bob Arkin, faculty coordinator for the social psychology course here at OSU.  An outline shows students the underlying structure of the material—how topics hang together, how they are nested, how they relate to one another. Plus, making an outline of your lecture helps you be more mindful of the organization and structure of your class.

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

     In 2005, I read an article by Buskist, Benson, and Sikorski (2005) titled The Call to Teach. I was just transitioning back to academia from industry and the idea of teaching as a “calling” really resonated with me.  As far as books, Doug Bernstein and Sandy Goss-Lucas’ Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide (now in a second edition!) is a wonderful practical volume filled with all kinds of good advice that I wish I had known when I first started teaching. I still pull Don Forsyth’s Professor’s Guide to Teaching off my shelf from time to time too—great book.

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

    I absolutely love teaching statistics and data analysis.  I spent about 15 years as a data analyst and research consultant, and I honestly can’t think of a more practically relevant topic, no matter what students will go on to do after graduation.  The world needs people who understand data!


    In the summer I teach a 12-week course on the Teaching of Psychology for graduate students. I lead a general seminar, then the GTAs split into separate practica led by senior TAs who have experience teaching a particular course.  It’s a blend of general pedagogy and hands-on, practical course development to help new instructors be prepared and confident for their teaching assignments in the fall. 

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    One of my favorite in-class activities is one I developed for social psychology based on personal experience at a company retreat.  In one session employees were split by division and given a table piled with various supplies. We had to use the supplies to build a specific structure.  Given what we had to work with, this seemed like an impossible task.  Still, we were determined that the Research team needed to win (or rather, destroy the other teams).  Let’s just say it became very competitive very quickly and involved some “covert operations.”  At the end of the task, the organizer pointed out that we should have just pooled our resources and collaborated; what we needed to complete the task had been intentionally divided among the separate units.  What a perfect example of intergroup bias—as a social psychologist I couldn’t believe that I fell for it! 


    After that experience I created a class activity that has never yet failed to produce similar results.  At the start of class, I bring a stack of newspapers and some rolls of masking tape to class, and I tell the students we are going to do a group activity.  I divide the class into 3-4 person “teams” and give each group a newspaper and tape.  On the board I write this goal:  Build the tallest, sturdiest tower possible using only the materials provided in the time given.  The tower must be free-standing (not taped to ceiling or floor), but there are no other rules.  Students get about 7 minutes to build a tower, and typically the “competition” really heats up.  In all the years I’ve used this activity no one has ever collaborated or even shared supplies!  As soon as they are assigned to a group, the competition kicks in. At the end when I ask, “why did you compete?”  there is always a stunned silence as the realization sets in that they could have collaborated…  it just never occurred to them.

     Sometimes I manipulate the resources available to “enhance” the bias—one team might get extra paper, or another team might get an almost-empty roll of tape that runs out before they finish, giving us more to talk about when we debrief the activity.  This sets up many issues covered in intergroup relations/stereotyping and prejudice -- the minimal group paradigm, realistic group conflict, ingroup favoritism, outgroup derogation, and more.  It’s memorable, effective, and fun. 

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

    I strongly prefer anything that involves practical application of course material.  For example, I love to assign a paper that asks students to “Be a Target of Persuasion” and reflect on the appeals used by someone trying to sell them something.  I always assign a project in my stats course that asks students to apply their knowledge of statistical techniques to a question of interest to them.  A student once analyzed whether his iPod really shuffled songs at random, and another collected data at her job to test whether the way she asked customers to join a loyalty program made a difference in whether they signed up.  The final exam in my stats course this semester includes a take-home task.  I’ll provide a large dataset (one of many available online; check out the Pew Research Center for example) and ask students to use the data to explore several specific questions as well as to develop some original hypotheses to test.  I love the authenticity of that assignment and I wish we had done that in my stats class back in the day!

    What’s your workspace like?

    My office is tucked at the back of the Introduction to Psychology office, a large office space for the graduate instructors teaching Introduction to Psychology.  I work closely with the graduate student coordinators for Intro Psych and Social Psych and I love talking with them about their ideas for the course. Nothing makes me happier than when someone stops by to chat about teaching. (The photo shows graduate teachers Jenn Belding, Kristie Harris, and Maggie Mehling.)

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Engage, apply, assess

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Connect what students learn with what they do.

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

    Well, it wasn’t exactly teaching, but… once when I was giving a presentation to a large group of people I got a little carried away and walked towards the screen to gesture at a graph….and walked right off the back of the dais!  Since then I prefer not to teach or present on a stage if at all possible. 

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

    In grad school I did not enjoy teaching (I was terrible!) and I did not want to pursue a career in academia.  After graduate school I worked in government, public relations, communications research, and later at a research consulting firm.  As much as I enjoyed an applied setting, it didn’t take long for me to realize how little the general public knows about psychology.  I actually found myself doing a lot of teaching—explaining psychology, statistics, and research methods to colleagues and clients.  This motivated me to come back to college teaching as an adjunct, simply because I realized how important it is for people to understand what psychology is all about and how it’s relevant no matter what one’s occupation or field of study.  Coming back to teach college students after gaining some real-world experience, I had a completely different attitude and perspective. I wanted students to understand the ideas and concepts in the courses I taught, but I also wanted students to see how they could use and apply the content in meaningful ways no matter what their majors or planned careers might be.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I love to read and am usually reading two or three books at a time.  I tend to be pretty eclectic, but I particularly love biographies and non-fiction.  I couldn’t put down Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan and The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande.  Right now I’m reading Anjelica Huston’s autobiography Watch Me, and I cannot wait for Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman to come out.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I really love my presenter because I have a hard time staying put behind a podium (see most embarrassing moment above).  I am also a huge fan of Twitter--I thank Beth Morling @bmorling for her recommendation to sign up! (follow Missy at @mjbeers1)

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

    I love to talk about assessment and so it’s easy to strike up a conversation with me about that anytime, anywhere!  Be warned!  

    I have an (almost) teenage son I adore more than anything, and I always enjoy talking with other parents about our kids. On holidays and days off school I love when kids drop by the office.  You very well might see me holding one of my colleagues’ adorable babies when I get the chance.

  • 26 May 2015 9:54 AM | Anonymous

    School name: The Pennsylvania State University

    Type of college/university: 40,000+ state university (R1)

    School locale: small college town in the middle of Pennsylvania

    Classes I teach:

    Research Methods in Psychology, Introduction to Social Psychology, Psychology of Gender, Elementary Statistics in Psychology

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

    My mother was a special education teacher for 20 years. She taught me that under the right guidance any student can find success.

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

    I’m not sure that I can point to a single “thing” that has influenced me. I believe that it has been the influence of many great educators in my life. From elementary school through my graduate education I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated and energetic teachers.

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

    My primary interest is in issues of social justice, so I am very invested in topics related to prejudice and stereotyping. Many of my students have never been asked to consider what it means to live life without the privileges they take for granted. When I can sense that their eyes are opening to the prevalence of bias in the world, then I know I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I have a lecture I give on the social psychology of our judicial system. During the lecture I wander around the front of the room (as I usually do) and then when we talk about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony I ask them how many times I touched a table at the front of the room.  It’s a nice way to illustrate how eyewitnesses can misremember and be perfectly confident in their memories. (I never actually touch the table J.)

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Most of my classes are rather large (90, up to 320 students) so I do rely on multiple choice exams for pragmatic reasons.  I also incorporate “In-Class Assignments” to stimulate participation and generate discussion among the students during class time.  My research methods class is a writing course, so my students complete a series of written assignments including a formal research proposal paper that is designed to prepare them for the rigors of graduate school.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Picture a paper recycling center after a tornado comes through.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Lively. Unpredictable. Engaging (I hope).

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Make theories relatable, knowledge empowering, and learning interesting.

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

    It’s a familiar story. An entire lecture built around a series of short videos… on the day that the classroom internet connection is broken. I turned it into a discussion of Dollard’s frustration-aggression hypothesis so it wasn’t a complete loss.

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

    I spent five years working as a stone mason in New Mexico and Oregon before going on to graduate school. Beating rocks with a hammer all day long makes one appreciate the intellectual pursuits in life.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    James, A. (2012). Assholes: A theory. New York: Doubleday.  I do work in academia after all.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I’m going to be a bit of a wise-guy and say chalk. I rely heavily on PowerPoint presentations but in almost every class I end up drawing something on the chalk board to help clarify a point or answer a question from a student.

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

    We have a very supportive cohort of instructors and professors here so much of the talk is related to student issues. You also might hear, “how was your weekend,” “did you catch the game last night,” or “it’s how many weeks until the end of the semester?!”

  • 05 May 2015 1:30 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC)

    Type of college/university: community/technical college

    School locale: Pewaukee and Waukesha, Wisconsin (growing suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology; Psychology of Human Relations; Abnormal Psychology; Developmental Psychology, Think Critically and Creatively; and Introduction to Ethics

    Expertise: Students benefit from my diverse graduate education, including master’s degrees in I/O psychology and counseling psychology and a PhD in educational psychology.

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

    Focus on the learning activities. Like many teachers (as opposed to learning facilitators), I once believed that the learning activities were predominantly what the students did on their own outside of class (e.g., read the book, listen to lectures, take notes, study). While effective learners do choose to engage and direct many of their own learning activities, most students need careful coaching to grow into self-directed learners. When I first started teaching, I focused too much on the learning materials (e.g., the textbook, lectures) and the learning assessments (e.g., the exams, papers) and too little on creating engaging learning activities that direct and inspire students to actually think about, discuss, and apply the course content. Learning has to be facilitated and nurtured. Diverse, engaging learning activities help to make the content matter and stick.

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

    Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is one of many books that have forever impacted the way I facilitate learning. A key to transforming students to learners is encouraging them to embrace the role of effort and strategies, not luck or talent, to educational and career success.

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

    I start every course by sharing psychological research on memory, learning and motivation that informs educational and career success. This research is presented across two class sessions, Crush Bad Study Habits (to share learning strategies) and Don’t Eat the Marshmallow (to share motivational strategies). I aim to directly address the fear, misconceptions, and bad habits that some students bring with them to class. These sessions help students critically examine the way they learn and the way they think about learning. Companion learning activities help students develop a concrete plan for learning success that incorporates these strategies. Follow-up mid-course and end-of-course journals give students an opportunity to reflect on the implementation of their plans. Recently, the content of these two sessions has been shared across the campus in two popular 30-minute workshops.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Collaborative reflections that are embedded in blogs, journals, and discussions are a key component of my courses. It’s important that learners think critically about, discuss, and apply key psychological concepts and principles. For example, learners share direct quotes from the readings and other learning materials that really got them thinking and pose open-ended questions to involve others in analysis and reflection both in-class and online. It’s amazing how many helpful and interesting learning activities (e.g., media, self-assessments, observations, demonstrations, interviews, animations, and more) can be effectively embedded in collaborative reflections and other assignments.

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

    When it’s all about learning, it’s nearly all about the learning activities. Over time, my courses have moved away from the traditional “couple of exams and a paper” structure. I design my courses to emphasize several low stakes in-class and out-of-class assignments, including mastery quizzes, private and public journals, online and in-class discussions, interviews, observations, reflections, presentations, and more. Some of these activities are also aligned with learning resources I share via social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, and with guest presentations. These activities require learners to retrieve, think about, discuss, and apply course concepts. Whenever possible, assessments are designed to emphasize learning, not grading, by employing mastery and collaborative features.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My most productive workspace is my home office, where I am surrounded by plenty of rich resources and can play music and work with Mac products. My workshop at WCTC offers plenty of natural light and opportunities to collaborate with faculty across a variety of general educational disciplines.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Students become learners.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Make it relevant, personal, thoughtful, social, and fun.

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

    Asking who has the phone that keeps vibrating and realizing it’s your own phone reminds me that we all forget to silence our technology at times.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I am introverted. Early high school experiences in forensics helped me gain confidence as a public speaker, but I enjoy and am most productive during my private time.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I like to combine pleasure with work. The 2014 book, Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain, by Dr. Timothy Verstynen and Dr. Bradley Voytek, is perfect. I also enjoy reading the tweets of colleagues around the world.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    OmniFocus. When people wonder how I manage to get so much done, I have to give much of the credit to effective planning and time management, which is made possible by this powerful personal productivity application.  

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

    That’s easy! Zombies. Thank goodness there will soon be both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. I’m eager this fall to teach a Walking Dead edition of Introduction to Psychology, where key psychological concepts and principles will be illustrated from events and issues raised in the TV series.

     

  • 23 Apr 2015 3:03 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Whitworth University

    Type of college/university: private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church

    School locale: Spokane, WA – a midsize city in the inland northwest

    Classes I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Belief in Weird Things, Psychological Statistics, Research Methods in Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Senior Thesis

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

    It takes a lot of work to prepare an effective lecture that appears effortless.

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

    My interest in psychology is how to take what we know about memory and apply it to education. So I read various empirical journal articles that apply teaching or studying techniques into the classroom. These readings shape how I develop my assignments and deliver my lectures.

    However, it was actually my undergraduate advisor, Bret Roark at Oklahoma Baptist University, who shaped my interest in teaching and my overall approach to the classroom. He is an amazing teacher and as a student I thought he was a natural teacher who must have always been that good. However, he once shared a new teacher mistake he made as he started teaching, and I realized even the “natural” teachers develop over time and must spend many hours preparing classes and developing their skill.

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

    I enjoy each class I teach, but I particularly enjoy teaching students how to apply what they learn about memory into how they study. 

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    To teach the concept of mental set I modified the methods from an experiment examining whether seeing previous examples makes it difficult to produce creative work into a class activity. Students play the role of a toy developer and must produce a creative monster toy made from a paper bag and other arts and crafts materials. Some of the students see pictures of previous monster bag toys and others do not. The students vote on the most creative monster, and typically we find those students who did not see previous examples produced more creative monsters. I have learned you can’t go wrong with arts and crafts.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Right now I have students teach a 15 minute lecture or write a paper explaining that topic. I examine how they perform on the unit and final exam questions covering those topics, and I am finding that students who teach the lecture answer more questions correctly than those who write the paper.

    What’s your workspace like?

    It is currently decorated with paper bag monster toys. It is a good conversation starter.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Engaging, structured, applied

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    I expect students and myself to work hard.

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

    I gave a unit exam intended for my cognitive psychology class to my intro to psych students. It created about 3 minutes of intense anxiety for the students until we realized what happened.

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

    How messy my office drawers are.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Disappointment with God by Yancy and The Kitchen House by Grissom

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPhone.

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

    My department is amazing and we really enjoy talking with each other. We spend a lot of time talking about food.

  • 05 Apr 2015 3:10 PM | Anonymous

    School Name: University of Houston-Victoria

    Type of University: Small Liberal Arts School


    School Locale: 
    Multiple locations. We have three sites, two in the suburbs of Houston and our main campus in Victoria, Texas, which is a small town.

    Classes I Teach: Biological Psychology, Learning, Animal Behavior, Social Biology, and Sport Psychology consistently, and Methods, Statistics, Human Sexuality, I/O, History & Systems, and Psychopharmacology occasionally. This is a small school, so we have to be diverse to allow variety in student electives.

    What's the best advice about teaching you ever received? Dr. Cross at St. Louis University noted to stay focused on the goal of any instruction or assignment. Also, my mentor Mr. Perkins who supervised my student teaching when I earned my Secondary Teaching Certificate in chemistry and biology, told me not to be afraid to admit that I don’t know the answer to a student question. The students respect honesty and realize that no one knows everything.  “I don’t know, what an interesting idea” is one of my very common answers to student questions.

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

    I read the journal Teaching of Psychology, but most of my inspiration comes from my own teachers, the good and the bad. I model myself on the instructors I admired and respected.


    What’s your favorite lecture topic or course to teach? I actually have two favorite areas to teach: brain physiology and learning. These two combined pretty much sum up psychology. The biological basis of behavior (physiology) and the input of the environment (learning), reflect nature AND nurture.

    In terms of a favorite topic, my favorite is probably operant conditioning... I teach this in a very hands-on approach using a diagramming procedure that the students use for each paradigm. Once they catch on, they become pretty good at determining if they have made a mistake in their assessment of a situation and they then self-correct. I have students call me years later and tell me that I am helping raise their kids via the information they learned in class.  Many students have previously been bored out of their minds with the topic of operant conditioning, and enjoy a different approach.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment: One favorite exercise is related to diagramming operant conditioning. We split into groups to diagram reasons why someone would exhibit a “stupid behavior.” Then I put on the board "I stay in an abusive relationship."  There are lots of murmurs, "I wouldn't, I would leave, etc." The students then come up with at least three reasons per group why someone would stay in an abusive relationship. When we put our results on the board they find out they have to write very small because we completely cover the board with many more than three example contingencies per group. When we finish, someone will note that the behavior isn't "stupid" at all. This is an excellent exercise to reinforce that all behavior must be viewed from the point of view of the person/animal involved and not our own. In addition it helps encourage a more gentle judgment of the behavior of others.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I try to mix things up using lecture (gasp!--I think it works, and that is why it has been around so long), lots of demonstrations, examples the student can relate to from their own lives, and then student practice. I change my techniques to fit the material. Similarly, depending upon the material, I use pop quizzes to keep students up to date on reading, practice in-class or at home to encourage integration and primarily exams for assessment.

    I generally give four exams and a cumulative final in my classes. If the students are happy with their grade having taken the four regular exams I let them skip the final. I always thought it was pointless to take finals after I had already demonstrated that I knew the material. Some say finals measure retention, but in my view, that would only be true if we did a “pop” final that was a surprise. Otherwise, students who cram for exams will just cram for the final, too. If my students want to demonstrate at the end of the semester that they have learned material they previously missed, the option of the final is available. Dropping an exam also relieves me from being judge and jury regarding student excuses for missed exams. If they miss one I ask no questions and automatically count it as excused but they then need to take the final.  This is probably the most common piece of advice I give junior faculty.

    What’s your workspace like?: My workspace is as varied as my classes. I work from home for my on-line classes, and I share office space on campus. Currently I can see my bottle-fed calf Sweet Pea, a couple of horses, and a hay field out my window as I type this in my home office.

    What are three words that best describe your teaching style? The three words that consistently come up in my teaching evaluations: Fair, fun, and hard. Hard is a good thing since they actually learn!

    What is your teaching philosophy in eight words? Share my passion and treat all students fairly.

    Describe a personal teaching disaster (or embarrassment): There are so many to chose from!  Once I walked into the lecture hall and was confused that the students were not in every other seat, every other row, for our exam. I said “Come on guys, you know the drill.” Once I got every one seated correctly another instructor walked up behind me and said “How did you get them to do that?” Whoops, I was in the wrong room! Much laughter followed, I took a bow, and scurried away. Really, I am not clueless. There were a lot of familiar faces in this class that overlapped with my own.

    What is something that students would be surprised to learn about you? That I actually use what I teach. I travel the country and abroad to give clinics on how to train horses using the material from my learning class. Several of my horses have been national champions. I also train other animals the same way. For example my cows come when called and exhibit some rather "un cow-like" behaviors like giving me hugs and kisses. Some past students have seen photos of me in barn clothes working cattle and they ask if it is actually me since I clean up pretty well for class.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? Neuroscience and the Law, (guess I really am an über-nerd!). And of course, equine periodicals like Equus.

    What is a technology tool you could not live without? Blackboard, since I teach multiple classes using it.

    What's your hallway chatter like? Issues related to our university’s multiple locations and transitioning from an upper-level institution to include freshmen and sophomores.

     

  • 31 Mar 2015 2:22 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Seton Hall University


    Type of college/university: medium-sized university granting primarily bachelor’s and master’s degrees


    School locale: technically we are located in the Village of South Orange, but we’re in the NYC metro area


    Classes I teach: Orientation to the Psychology Major, Biological Psychology, Research Methods, Neuropsychology of Religious Experience, Psychopharmacology (graduate)


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

    Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to a student question, but look up the answer and get back to them.  Particularly now that students can look up the answer to a question in real time during class, fumbling your way through an answer when you don’t really know it will almost certainly backfire.  Be a role model for your students with an attitude of intellectual curiosity and be sure to follow up with them.  I can’t count the number of students who said they were surprised that I looked up information and mentioned it at our next class meeting!


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

    There are many, but two that stand out are McKeachie’s Teaching Tips and Effective College and University Teaching, edited by Buskist and Benassi.



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

    I have two favorite courses: Biological Psychology and Research Methods.  Both of these courses have a well-deserved reputation for being challenging, and although the content of each course is different I see my role as fundamentally similar: it’s my job to demonstrate how the material is relevant to my students’ professional and personal lives. 


    In Biological Psychology, I point out that whether or not they end up working directly with clients, an understanding of the relationship between biology and behavior will undoubtedly be useful.  Topics such as the nature of the placebo effect, stress and stress-related illnesses, and the mechanism of action of psychotropic medications are almost certain to be directly relevant to them at some point in their lives, and knowledge of the biological components of these topics is essential for a fuller understanding of them.


    In Methods, I emphasize that we are constantly presented with all types of advice, much of which is contradictory: the “best” diet, the “best” way to raise children, the “best” way to deal with stress.  An understanding of how to appropriately design a study to answer a research question and the types of conclusions that can be drawn from a particular type of design can help us to determine the validity of this advice and, in turn, can help to enhance our own lives as well as the lives of those around us. 


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    My techniques vary based on the course material.  Some courses lend themselves to a discussion-based format, others may work well with a “flipped” technique, and still others may be best served in a more traditional lecture format.  Regardless of the course structure, I always strive to be transparent and consistent to the greatest extent possible.  I develop rubrics and give them to students, explicitly describe class procedures in the syllabus and follow them during the semester, and do my best to be explicit and consistent in grading.


    What’s your workspace like?

    At the start of each semester, my office is pretty organized; there may be piles of papers, but they are mostly arranged in a coherent fashion.  As the semester goes on, though, the number of piles increases and the level of organization decreases.  Typically by the last few weeks of the semester my office is barely controlled chaos.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, challenging, transparent.


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Teaching is a privilege. Treat it as such.


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

    I’m not shy about bringing up my life outside the office, so I don’t think there’s much that would surprise them.  Students who talk to me outside of class – or even those who pay attention to the types of examples I use during class – soon figure out that my primary hobbies are running, cooking, and eating (although not necessarily in that order).  Students may be surprised at the extent to which I do these things with my colleagues, though.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’m between books right now, but next on my list is Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To by Beilock. As a relatively new department chair, I also want to re-read Straight Man by Russo.


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

    Because we genuinely get along with each other, our hallway chatter is an equal mix of the professional and the personal: one minute we may be talking about our research, construction projects on campus or some new academic initiative, the next a new restaurant or weekend plans.

  • 05 Mar 2015 9:47 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Utah Valley University
    Type of college/university:  Regional Teaching Institution
    School locale: Metropolitan area
    Classes you teach:  General Psychology and Cognitive Psychology mostly

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

    The best advice I’ve ever received about teaching was from Doug Bernstein as he talked to my graduate cohort during our teaching experience. We were talking about teaching general psychology, and he told us to incorporate the fun things. Trying to cram too much content into one period is overwhelming. He suggested spending the class period on three or four fun (and important) topics, which would do a lot more for student learning and interest.

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

    McKeachie's Teaching Tips (various editions) has been the book that has contributed most to my development as a teacher. It is a wonderful review of the most important concepts related to teaching and is filled with resources should a reader desire to investigate a topic in more depth.

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

    I think that the day I look forward to most is the day in sensation and perception in which we discuss top-down and bottom-up processing. It gives me a chance to use some powerful demos to show how our expectations can dramatically influence perception.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Here’s the demo I use for top-down and bottom-up processing: http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking/stairway-to-heaven-backwards.html. Go ahead--try it! Listen to the song backwards and see if you can figure out the message before you read the lyrics. Then listen to it again with the lyrics showing!

     What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Discussion following a demonstration or activity is what works best for me. I always make sure to choose something that demonstrates the concept in a real-world setting. I strongly prefer things that make the students get up and “do” something.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Every Friday, my office is spotless. The rest of the week the cleanliness of my office is directly related to how productive I am. The more work I am doing, the more behavioral evidence of productivity appears on my desk. In addition to small piles of books, papers, and journals, I have a standing desk, a space heater, and a natural light emitter.

     Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, questioning, exploratory
    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Leave them wanting (and thinking) more!

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

    One day, I was teaching research methods. We were discussing hypotheses. I was trying to make some point while using the words “TESTABLE” and “EMPIRICAL.” What came out was “TESTICLE.” Yeah… never lived that one down.

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

    When I was much younger, I used to sword fight in living chess matches.

     What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’m currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert.

     What tech tool could you not live without?

    I think I could not live without my phone. It lets me keep track of all my appointments and reminders.

     What’s your hallway chatter like?

    I think it depends on to whom I am speaking. With most folks, I talk shop. With others, we talk about personal things. With my favorites, we can all pile into my office and take a 10-minute break playing a game like Swish or Scattergories. (I use those games as an activity in my classes, so they are always sitting around).

     

  • 27 Feb 2015 6:33 PM | Anonymous

    School name & locale: I teach at Boise State University, in Boise, ID; I am a full professor and I’ve been here since 1992. It’s a beautiful place in southwest Idaho, and Boise is the capitol of Idaho.


    Type of college/university: Boise State is comprehensive 4-year university, offering bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates. In the Department of Psychology, we only offer the bachelor’s degree, and currently we are the third largest major on campus, with 1,106 majors.


    Classes I teach: The semester I am writing this (Spring 2015) I am teaching our Introduction to the Psychology Major course (online) with 180 students and a section of our Research Methods course (face-to-face) with 40 students. I also teach General Psychology, Statistical Methods, Psychological Measurement, and the Capstone Perspectives course from time to time.


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

    I just don’t think I can pinpoint a singular piece of advice as the best ever. I’ve now been teaching for 25 years (the first three at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, and the remainder at Boise State), and the accumulation of classroom teaching experiences, attending workshops at the Center for Teaching and Learning, attending teaching sessions at regional and national conferences, talking with colleagues about teaching, studying (and contributing to) the literature on the scholarship of teaching and learning – all of these experiences (and more) have contributed to the “best advice” I have ever received.


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

    If I have to name one source regarding shaping my work as a psychology teacher, it would be the journal Teaching of Psychology. It’s been amazingly helpful over the years, and I’ve been privileged to contribute to it on occasion. A second choice for me would be McKeachie’s Teaching Tips.


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

    Well, if I were to pick a specific lecture topic, it would be my ESP lecture in the Sensation & Perception unit when I teach general psychology. At a NITOP conference in the early 1990s, I saw David Myers from Hope College do a series of ESP demonstrations that could be used in the classroom to help promote critical thinking and generating alternative explanations. The newspaper “trick” was so memorable that many students, years after the course was over, would see me somewhere in the community and ask me “how did you do the newspaper trick?” Just last year I had the chance to have dinner with Dave at the Stanford One Psychology conference, and I was able to thank him, in person, for being such a generous colleague.


    Regarding my favorite course to teach, it would have to be Research Methods. I think that scientific reasoning combined with quantitative methodology provides a rich skill set to students that can help them lead reasoned personal lives and successful professional lives. We practice research skills by conducting original survey research. My ultimate goals are to help students build confidence in what they know and what they can do as well as continue to hone skills that will lead to success in college and beyond.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I’d say my favorite in-class activity is the use of clickers. I used clickers in my classes for the first time Fall 2008, and I’ll never teach a course again without the use of clickers or some other electronic audience response system. It changed the way I teach forever. You can instantly know what the real understanding of your students is at any moment on any topic, and if only 14% of students can successfully differentiate an independent variable from a dependent variable based on a clicker question, I get immediate feedback, and students get that feedback as well. You don’t race through “the material,” but you slow down and teach, explain, use analogies, etc., until the bottleneck is resolved. It may not be the clicker device, per se, which makes the difference but the pedagogical change in my own teaching which ultimately makes the difference.



    Editor's Note: Eric said that his best teaching days are those when his students are actively engaged with one another. He also said he loves the name folders. 


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Here’s a bit of a twist – what teaching and learning techniques do not work best for me – in general, multiple choice tests. To be honest, I use multiple choice items with my clicker questions, but the purpose is for readiness assurance. I do not give multiple choice tests nor quizzes. My primary focus regarding undergraduate education in psychology is on skill development. I do not know of a single occupation in the United States where a college graduate can be gainfully employed taking multiple-choice tests for a living; thus, I’d prefer my students not practice that skill as much as they do. I’d prefer to focus my efforts on practicing more marketable skills like critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and others. Multiple-choice testing isn’t evil, but I believe an over-reliance on that technique is to the detriment of our students.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I work on the principle of “pile reduction theory,” meaning that I have each project piled up in either the home or school office, and I work to reduce the number of piles. Rightly or wrongly, I use my email inbox as a do-to list, so as pile reduction theory applies, the fewer emails in my inbox, the more “caught-up” that I feel (which may or may not be the appropriate perception). But feeling “caught up” does feel pretty good!


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Fair, rigorous, skills-centered


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Help students see the practical applications of psychology.


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

    It was Fall 1991 and I was teaching a History and Systems course at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. It was the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, classes were still in session, and students did not want to be having class the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. The classroom had individual chair desks and a smooth tile floor – these details will matter shortly. One student in particular did not want to be there, and she made her voice heard. Then she made her voice heard again that she did not want to be there. Then again. Finally, I said that if she wanted to leave (without any repercussions), she could leave. But she stayed and continued to pester me from the front row. Eventually, I just lost my cool. I went over to her desk, grabbed it (not her), and pulled the desk (and her) across the in front of the classroom, out the door, and into the hallway. Then I went back and grabbed her backpack and handed it to her out in the hallway. Some students loved it and some students were taken aback. It was a terrible teaching mistake – after Thanksgiving break I apologized to the student publicly in class (on the good advice of my department chair) and she completely shut down for the rest of the semester—and understandably so. I lost the opportunity to be her teacher that day because I lost my cool. It was a rookie mistake, and one that I have not repeated.


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

    I think my students would be surprised to learn that I actually have a life outside of psychology and the University. I love my family dearly and dote on them whenever possible. I’m actually a decent landscape photographer, and in another lifetime did substantial darkroom work. I also like woodworking, mostly small projects like turned pens and bandsaw boxes, and I’m about to build my first piece of real furniture – a small table for the entry in the home that Lisa and I enjoy so much. I’m not a cook by any means, but I’m pretty good on my Traeger grill.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’ve got a bunch of books going, but the main one is Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014). I have to admit that I just don’t read fiction; it’s just not pleasurable for me. Reading for work is actually fun, because I don’t spend enough time reading for work.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    There are so many! But I would have to say my cell phone, because it has become such a multi-purpose tool and it serves as my electronic tether to so many additional tech tools.


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

    Our hallway chatter is pretty typical, either about meeting that just ended or a policy change or something happening on campus. I’m fortunate to have a cordial relationship with all of my colleagues, and I am lucky to have so many great friends in psychology scattered all over the nation. It’s a good life!

  • 05 Feb 2015 2:47 PM | Anonymous

    School name:  Mount Royal University

    Type of college/university: Undergraduate university in Calgary, AB, Canada

    Classes you teach: Stats I and II, Research Methods I, Social Psychology, Environmental Psychology 

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

    I don’t think I can narrow it down to one thing. I was fortunate to take a graduate seminar in teaching while completing my PhD and everything I learned in that class helped prepare me for teaching.

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

    During that seminar I read What the Best College Teachers Do, which provided a great introduction to teaching. More recently I’ve enjoyed reading How College Works (Chambliss & Takacs, 2014). It is a great reminder that students value relationships with instructors and that conversations with students about their writing are extremely important.

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

    I love teaching statistics because it is a challenge every time. It requires convincing students about the importance of statistics and that stats can be enjoyable (or at least bearable). Some students fear the calculations but they soon realize talking and writing about the statistical concepts clearly is a much greater challenge and I like helping them work through that.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    I have a large desk, which you might think would be helpful, but mostly it allows me to organize things in piles. There is also a large window in my office that I appreciate. There was a view of six trees from it until this past September. We had a snowstorm in Calgary that month that damaged trees throughout the city, including a large number of trees on our campus. Now there is only one tree standing outside the window. (There is a copy of Teaching of Psychology on my desk and I swear that it was not planted for the photo.)

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, approachable, challenging

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    To learn, students must engage.

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

    At some point I got into the habit of labeling assignment files ass#.doc. This wasn’t a problem until one day in class when we were discussing random assignment. After asking some questions a student answered with “random assignment”, which is the term I was hoping for. I wanted to emphasize the answer by writing it on the board, but instead of writing random assignment I wrote random ass! (exclamation mark included). Laughter ensued and I quickly realized what I had done. Lesson learned – be more careful with my abbreviations.

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

    I bike to campus and continue to do so during the winter here in Calgary.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Mosquito Coast, which is the upcoming book for my book club.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    A word processor. (I don’t even have a cell phone.)

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

    We will often talk about how classes are going (the answers depend in part on what point of the term it is) and also larger issues at our institution and about post-secondary education. We also find time to chat about our lives outside of work.  

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   Next >  Last >> 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software