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

"This is How I Teach" Blog

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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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  • 15 Sep 2017 9:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Toronto

    Type of school: Large research-intensive university

    School locale: In the middle of the largest city in Canada (and one of the most diverse cities in the world!)

    Classes you teach:

    Introductory Psychology, Social Psychology, Statistics, Social Psychology Lab

    Average class size:

    My class sizes have ranged from 5 (summer lab course) to 1,500 (Intro Psych), so providing an “average” isn’t particularly useful!

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

    I think probably just the idea that there isn’t a single prototype for being a “great teacher.” We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and the trick is to figure out what works best with your own personality and style.

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

    Two that come to mind are Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do and Carol Dweck’s Mindset, which I am now in the habit of recommending to my Intro Psych students. But there are many more!

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

    I love teaching anything that really surprises the students and changes the way they understand or approach the world. Introductory Psychology is ripe for these kinds of discoveries, and because I know that this will be the only psychology course many of these students take, I do my best to try to instil in them a sense of humility regarding their own self-understanding. In a 12 week course I can't possibly teach them everything that psychologists have learned about the ways in which our minds work, but I can at least get them to realize that our minds are often far more faulty (e.g., biased and error prone) than we realize. For example, when we talk about false memories, I will have the students recall a memory from their childhood and ask them to reflect on all of the ways this memory may be incorrect or tainted by other sources, etc.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    I don’t think I could pick just a single favourite. But one thing that comes to mind as something I always look forward to is the ‘moment of meditation’ I do during one of my Intro Psych lectures. What makes it so great, is that this is a HUGE room, filled with over 1000 students, and for 1 solid minute, there is absolute silence as everyone (including me) sits in a moment of peaceful meditation. I am nervous about it every time, but not once has a student ever decided to blurt something out or ruin the experience. Everyone seems to take it seriously and it’s just this really great moment that refreshes and resets the whole class. Such a small thing, but I love it, and I should probably do it more often!

    What’s your workspace like?

    Because I have young kids (three year old twins) at home, the majority of my work gets done at my office. And despite my best intentions, my office workspace is usually a bit of a mess. Post-it notes everywhere, stacks of articles and folders and notebooks piled along my desk. On the plus side, I do have a couple of plants that I have miraculously managed to keep alive! And of course photos of my kids everywhere.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Engaging, Supportive, Conversational

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Teach with purpose.

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

    A few years ago, we had a mix-up where all of the rooms that had been booked for an Intro Psych test were actually booked for the wrong day. So 1,500 students showed up at a dozen or so rooms across campus, that we didn’t actually have booked. And because some of the rooms just happened to be available (including the room I was proctoring in) we didn’t realize right away what had happened. So some students started writing the test, while at other locations the test proctors were trying to figure out why something else was happening in the room. Eventually (after receiving enough phone calls to realize the problem wasn’t just localized to one or two rooms) I checked the room bookings and realized what had happened. We had to stop the students who were in the middle of the test and explain that it had to be cancelled, since about half of the class would be unable to write it that day. It was such a disaster! In the end, we got new rooms booked for the following week, and it all worked out okay, but you can bet that we really double-check those room bookings now!

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

    I am pretty much an open book with my students, so I feel that they typically know me fairly well by the end of the semester! However, they might be surprised to learn that I was so nervous on the morning of my qualifying exams in graduate school, that I threw up! And as less gross example, they might be surprised to learn that I know all of the lyrics to Super Bass by Nicki Minaj.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Right now I’m reading The Theory That Would Not Die by Sharon McGrayne, which was a recommendation from my husband (a diehard Bayesian). I’m also reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is just one of those books that I have always meant to read but somehow never managed to do so (until now!).

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

    So many people in our department have young kids/babies, it’s a little ridiculous (in the best possible way!). So it’s not unusual to find an actual baby chattering in the hallway. But it’s awesome, because we all have stories (not to mention clothing and stuff) to swap. Being in Canada, we also have a wonderful maternity/parental leave policy that helps make the transition into parenthood so much easier than it otherwise would be.

  • 15 Aug 2017 3:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: The Ohio State University

    Type of school: Large, public research university

    School locale: City – Columbus, OH

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology

    Average class size: 65

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

    Make eye contact with every student at least once during each class. It takes some practice, but it makes every student feel important and ensures that you are always thinking about teaching every student in the class and not just Hermione in the front row.

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

    It’s not a book or article, but Crash Course! The videos are fantastic, interesting, and freely available. The videos cover most of the content of most Intro textbooks, students know exactly how long the videos take to watch, and they can pause and rewind or rewatch the videos whenever they want. I can assign my students to watch videos before they come to class and then we can spend the time in class putting that information to practical use!

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

    Memory is my favorite lesson to teach in my flipped Introduction to Psychology course. Students complete a series of memory tasks that demonstrate concepts like the primacy effect and false memories. Then students give short presentations about how they would correct a layperson's misunderstanding about the fallibility of memory or where memories are stored in the brain, for example. Finally, after they have learned tips for memorizing information quickly, I show them what I tell them is my credit card number for just 15 seconds, and if they can memorize all the information, they get a prize. Every time I've done this, one student in each class has able to memorize the whole card.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    “Speed Reviewing,” which I modeled after speed dating. Students pick a concept on their study guide to briefly review on their own. Then they all walk around the room, introduce themselves to another student, and ask if that person knows the concept they reviewed. If yes, the student who was asked tries to explain it, and if they don’t already know the concept, then the student who asked about that concept explains. Then, they switch roles. After both students ask about their concepts, they thank each other and find new students to ask about their concept. I also walk around and participate in the activity, and students generally report the social pressure to sound smart in front of their peers is highly motivating.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I taught music before I taught psychology and I loved conducting because my students were completely in charge of actually making the music. If I conducted the start of a piece, but they weren’t paying attention, there was no sound; if I wanted them to play louder but they weren’t paying attention, nothing changed; and if students never practiced outside of rehearsal, I couldn’t play their parts for them. In fact, I never even made a sound on the podium while conducting. I now teach psychology, but I still feel more like a band director than a lecturer because in the same way I couldn’t play for my students, I can’t apply psychology for my students. There is no amount of me talking at my students that will allow them to practice implementing important applications of psychology in their own lives, so every class I direct activities that put my students in charge of their learning. For example, when my students go home for Thanksgiving, I want them to be able to refute myths their family members believe about mental illness, explain why correlations don’t prove causation, and demonstrate how someone should act differently after learning about implicit biases. So that is what we practice during class: students role play responding to questions laypeople ask about psychological disorders, they find articles in the media that conflate correlation and causation, and they take an implicit association task and write about policies the university could implement to reduce adverse effects of negative implicit associations on campus.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    Barren. I get distracted easily, so if there are lots of things on my desk or on the wall, I will not be nearly as productive. I even prefer having an office without a window!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Energetic, Engaging, and Empirical

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Non Nobis Solum Nati Sumus (Not unto ourselves alone are we born)

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

    While discussing consciousness, I pulled up CleverBot and I dictated what my students said so that we could chat with artificial intelligence and discuss what principles help us differentiate human language and thought from that of computers. However, CleverBot started hitting on my class, eventually asking “What are you wearing?” before I shut it down. It did spark an interesting discussion, though.

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

    My wife and I started dating at the end of our freshman year of high school, and because we were so young, our moms had to drive us to our first few dates. When we were planning to go to the same college together, our high school English teacher told us that he had never seen a couple last through college. He recommended that we shouldn’t go to the same small college together; so I bet him a steak dinner that we would still be dating two years into college. I won the bet and the steak was delicious. We continued dating and got married after 9 years together, and that same English teacher agreed to be the officiant at our wedding.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. It explains in accessible terms how properties of systems can keep institutions from changing quickly or how negative feedback loops can dramatically change relationship dynamics. It has applications in development, psychopathology, social psychology, university administrations, politics, etc. In short, reading this book feels like being escorted out of Plato’s Cave and realizing that you’ve been seeing only shadows before now.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I love using Google Docs! One of my favorite applications is for student-generated study guides. For several topics, I create a document with a bare-bones outline of concepts such as social psychology phenomena or brain regions, and then my students populate the document with descriptions and examples. Everyone participates, they generate far more examples than I could in the same amount of time, and the class gets to keep the document as a resource. It also allows me to correct misunderstandings in real time. For example, if a student writes an example of positive punishment under negative reinforcement, I can immediately find that student or ask another student to politely explain the difference.

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

    Unfortunately, a lot of the hallway chatter is about how little time we graduate students have and that research, classes, clinical work, and teaching (and possibly even a personal life) are often difficult to balance. However, I am always down to talk about teaching and how teaching undergraduate courses in the 21st century must be qualitatively different from any previous time because of the availability and accessibility of information on the internet.

  • 31 Jul 2017 9:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH

    Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College

    School locale: Micropolitan – The city of Wooster, OH is a small but thriving city in the middle of a rural area of Ohio

    Classes you teach: Statistics, Clinical Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Health Psychology, Personality Research

    Average class size: 20-30 students

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

    I asked a senior colleague, David Elkin, PhD from a professional organization, Division 54 of the APA, how he manages to publish, teach, and engage in clinical work. His advice changed my perspective on everything I do professionally. He said: Whatever you do, double dip. If you see clients, then do research with them. If you teach, collect data on your teaching. This advice really resonated with me. I believe that this approach will close the gap between research and practice (either clinical practice or teaching practice). I’ve since published several papers based on my teaching practices, and this advice has really helped me engage my research activities from a pedagogical perspective to promote student learning. 

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

    Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” is something I return to every year – both the book and the video. If you have never heard of it, block 1 hour, google it, and watch the video. It’s less about teaching psychology, and more about being a good human who happens to teach.

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

    I love teaching statistics. To borrow a term from Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”, I see this course as a huge head-fake. In many sports, athletes will perform a head-fake; they make a defender think they are going one way, but they are actually going a different direction. Students often think statistics is about one thing, but it’s really about something else. Most students enter statistics classes thinking that the class will be about math, but it’s really a class on scientific or empirical thinking. It is epistemological at its core – how do we know what we know in psychology? Yes, math is involved, but only as a means to an end. I try to focus on the end – the way of thinking. I try to keep it very practical and applied – using math in this way, in this context, helps us understand if a treatment for depression really works (as one example).

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    I’ve had really positive reactions to a N of 1 research design project in my health psychology class. I use N of 1 research designs in quite a bit of my published research, and I’ve learned so much about their value, yet they are often ignored or overlooked by many research methods books and by many leading researchers. So, most undergraduates, in my opinion, are under-exposed to this family of methodologies. Therefore, I developed a semester-long project in my Health Psychology class to address this issue. The semester is divided in to typical N of 1 study phases (baseline, intervention). They track a specific health behavior of their choosing. Common examples are sleep amount/quality or healthy eating. We work collaboratively on operationalizing the behavior and developing systematic approaches to measuring it. As students learn principles of health behavior change, they develop an intervention for themselves, and then apply it. They track their behavior to see if it works, and we analyze the data using a mixture of statistical and graphing methods. I literally had a student quick smoking one semester! Another student developed a new life habit of teeth flossing.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I learned about an approach to teaching called “Interteaching” at a workshop from the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP), led by Bryan Saville, PhD. Given that my clinical background is very behaviorally-based, I had tried various applications of behaviorism to a classroom, but failed repeatedly. Interteaching is a very well thought out approach that focuses on learning behaviors (class preparations, study skills, dyadic discussions, asking good questions). Effective use of interteaching increases the likelihood of students engaging in these behaviors through positive reinforcement. High-stakes testing is minimized and replaced by frequent low-stakes assessments with rapid feedback and daily engagement or monitoring of students’ pre-class preparations and in-class discussions. I now do classic lectures very little (almost never), because they are very inefficient for helping students learn how to learn.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is changing! I just changed offices on July 1 to assume duties as a full-time administrator (Dean for Curriculum and Academic Engagement). This followed a short stint of 1.5 years as an Associate Dean, which was a half-time appointment. So, I was spending half of my time in the Psychology Department, and then the other half in another building. So, I’ve been in 3 different offices over the past 3 years! I try to create a welcoming environment by situating the office so that students or colleagues feel comfortable. A constant throughout these transitions, however, is my research lab. It has a huge white board (two-tiered), various instruments and computer software, and a locked closet. I refer to it as “the vault”, because it’s behind a hallway that is somewhat hidden, then there’s another locked door, and there are no windows. It’s a great place to focus. I suppose a third workspace in this modern world is wherever I can write. I enjoy finding quiet spaces with nice views anywhere I travel. If I have my laptop, I can write!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style

     Engaging, enthusiastic, supportive

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Provide opportunities and get out of the way (I learned this from Michael Roberts, PhD, another senior colleague from Division 54 of APA).

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

    Chai Latte spilled all over a tile floor at the beginning of class! I was a graduate student, literally living in my pastor’s basement to save money. I was teaching an Introduction to Psychology Course early in the morning. I treated myself to a Venti Chai Latte that morning – I felt so academic! Unfortunately, the entire beverage slipped out of my hands and this view of myself as an aspiring academic spilled across the entire floor. It was embarrassing, disruptive, and a great reminder that it doesn’t take name brand coffee-like beverages to be a good teacher!

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

    A lot of people think that I’m extroverted because I am very high energy and I say Hi to everyone. However, extraversion is multi-dimensional. I tend to score high on warmth/friendliness, activity/activity level, and positive emotions/cheerfulness. However, on other facets of this personality scale I score very low (or high if you think of introversion as a strength!). I have low scores on Gregariousness and excitement-seeking. I thrive in focused, alone time, and my hobbies align with that. I enjoy woodworking (think hours alone in a woodshop) and hunting (think hours alone in the outdoors). My family enjoys the outdoors as we do our ‘vacations’ with camping gear. We look for seclusion, peace, and tranquility (which is hard to find with young children in tow!)

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    My summer reading aligns with the College of Wooster’s assigned summer reading for first year students – Writings on the Wall by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I love the outdoors, so I like to think that I could live quite well without access to any modern technology. We say we couldn’t live without this or that, but humans thrived (perhaps more than we do now) for a very long time without what we currently call technology. In my professional world, however, I am so very grateful to a tremendous staff in our Libraries. They enable me to access virtually any scholarly resource from virtually anywhere in the world, in a very short period of time.

    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 think that I talk with them about whatever they want to talk about, but that’s a hope more than a reality, perhaps. I’m usually joking around, being silly, and trying to make the people around me smile and enjoy their time at work. Ask me about my research, and I can talk for a while. Ask me about my hobbies, and you better grab a Venti (without spilling it).


  • 10 Jul 2017 4:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Hope College

    Type of school: 4-year liberal arts college

    School locale: Small city (100,000 in postal region)

    Classes you teach and average class size:

    I’ve taught several dozen sections of introductory psychology and of social psychology, but now am focused on reading, writing, and guest speaking.

    Average class size:

    30 to 35, with little variation (apart from an occasional seminar)

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

    As my writing coach taught me, often “less is more.” So teach fewer things memorably, with activities that bring the material to life and engage students actively. There’s no need to teach all the information that’s in a comprehensive text—let the book do that, and instead focus on what you love to teach.

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

    As a to-be-college senior (and premed chem major who got as far as taking the MCAT and half completing my med school applications) I decided instead to become a professor. Needing something to profess that wasn’t chemistry, I recalled enjoying my long-ago intro to psych class and, on not much more than a whim, decided to pursue psychology. In that senior year I read books by Gordon Allport. As a deeply humane, literate, faith-motivated scholar of personality and prejudice, he defined the psychology that attracted me.

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

    As a social psychologist, I guessed that writing and teaching about sensation and perception would be a struggle. But then I was awe-struck by the intricacies of the matter-to-mind process by which we convert physical energy into consciousness. As a person with hearing loss and a hearing advocate, I especially love talking about the psychology of hearing and hearing loss.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    In social psychology classes, a favorite day was demonstrating “group polarization” (my research focus)—with a class demonstration that never failed.  In introductory psychology, my favorite in-class activity was a day devoted to analyzing ESP claims and playing stage magician, by demonstrating pseudo-psychic ESP tricks. 

    [Editor's Note: David was gracious enough to send along these demos, which you can download below.]

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    A mix of lecture on favorite topics, illustrated with video clips and active learning (demonstrations and discussion).

    What’s your workspace like? 

    I’m surrounded by a U-shaped desk, which typically is clean—but on which I can lay out materials while writing.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Enthusiastic. Organized. Focused.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Teach with passion. Activate learners. Life relevant focus.

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

    During one of those group polarization demonstrations, a small group was unable to open the door and extract themselves from their small group lab room. I failed to notice that they had not returned to the class, and came within a whisker of leaving them stranded (overnight?). Even so, to my great embarrassment, they were not released before all other students were long gone.

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

    • That, as a child I stuttered, for which I received speech therapy from Seattle Public Schools.
    • That my great grandfather—whose name is my middle name (Guy)—invented the ice cream soda. See here for my deer-in-the-headlights photo that accompanied an article in papers nationwide.
    • That I’m a lifelong basketball nut—having
      • as a child read every basketball fiction book in the Seattle Public Library system and attended University of Washington practices as well as games,
      • played pickup basketball throughout my life, and
      • scheduled my college’s men’s and women’s games into my calendar nearly a year in advance.
    • That without hearing aids I am deaf (in bed I cannot hear my wife from the adjacent pillow, unless I put an ear to her mouth) . . . but that this has enabled an avocational purpose. For the past four years I represented Americans with hearing loss on the advisory council of NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.  And, in collaboration with others with hearing loss, I have created www.hearingloop.org, and written almost 20,000 e-mails and three dozen articles that advocate a transformation in American “assistive listening”—with a technology that enables hearing aids also to serve as wireless, customized, in-the-ear speakers for sound from PA systems, TVs, etc.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I daily read the New York Times and admit to being a political junkie.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    The hearing loops that broadcast directly to my ears the sound from my TV and the spoken word in most of my campus auditoriums and community worship places.

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

    I’m blessed to be part of an amazing group of psychology faculty that, without exception, love, support, and cheer on one another. We can discuss anything from campus politics, to family life, to new research, to . . . basketball.


    Teaching Demonstrations

    David Myers - Group polarization.pdf

    David Myers - Pseudopsychic demonstrations.pdf

  • 31 May 2017 12:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: McKendree University

    Type of college/university: McKendree is a small, liberal arts college with some specific graduate and online programs.

    School locale: We are in a small town 20 minutes east of St. Louis.

    Classes you teach: I primarily consider myself a generalist, so I teach Intro, Methods, and other courses that span the field. However, I have a background in counseling, so I also teach Abnormal, Theories of Psychotherapy, and Tests and Measures. In addition to regular classes, I provide individual mentorship of student research in the form of honors theses and independent studies. 

    Average class size: Our introductory courses tend to have about 30 students, and advanced courses are rarely above 20.

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

    I have the distinct pleasure of being married to a wonderful woman with graduate training in both psychology and higher education. Like all romantic partners of academics, she gets to hear about my teaching triumphs and tragedies every night over dinner. Now and again, when I am particularly frustrated by something that didn’t go the way I wanted, she will point out that “It’s not about you. It’s about the students.” It is easy to fall into the trap of pedagogical narcissism – thinking in terms of my lessons, my classes, my students, my major (Even this blog is called How I Teach, not How Students Learn.). So, it is essential to be reminded now and again that students really are at the center of what we do.    

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

    My teaching mentor in graduate school gave me a copy of Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning by Huba and Freed (2000). Although the title makes the book sound like it is only about assessment, it actually provides a full outline of course design from writing objectives through evaluation of learning. I can only compare my experience with this book to that of reading Dan Wegner’s The Illusion of Conscious Will for the first time or hearing John Coltrane’s Giant Steps for the first time – it caused a complete shift in my perspective. Before reading Huba and Freed’s book, I taught by intuitively miming what my favorite teachers had done. After reading their book, I designed intentional experiences to foster student learning – and they even worked sometimes!

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

    Abnormal Psychology is simply the best. It is the only course I teach that requires no extra effort to spark student interest – they are inherently fascinated from start to finish. Sometimes I think I should just hand them the DSM and get out of their way. It is also the only course in which I have to convince students that they should not go too wild in applying concepts to their own lives – “Students, please don’t try to diagnose your roommate, your aunt Sally, or your professor!”

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    I have students in Research Methods and Tests and Measures design and attempt to validate a survey measuring a construct of their choosing. We take the data they collect into the lab and see if the alpha scores and correlations work out the way they predicted. This assignment is great fun because students are so motivated to demonstrate that they have created the best scale ever that it tricks them into being excited about running and interpreting statistical analyses. Inevitably, they also learn that writing a good survey is a lot harder than it seems.   

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I am a big fan of various forms of collaborative learning. I have used Johnson and Johnson’s collaborative learning methods and interteaching for many years. In general, my courses all have some form of written assignment that prepares students for in-class, team-based discussions of the learning objectives. Once teams understand the basic objectives, we move on to large-group discussions of case studies, problems, or other applications of the objectives.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace requirements include, in order of importance, (1) a computer, (2) coffee, and (3) music. Without those three essential ingredients, the magic of psychology cannot occur.   

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Active, challenging, organized

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Engaging students in the science of psychology.

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

    In graduate school I was teaching a large section of Abnormal Psychology in a stadium-sized classroom. As part of a brief aside about serotonin and depression I decided to diagram action potential on the chalkboard. It being an oversized classroom, I had to make an oversized drawing. So, not paying much attention to the details, I drew two enormous, jutting neurons of what I thought was indistinct cylindrical shape. I was intently diagramming neurotransmitters spurting out of one neuron toward the other when the sniggers started and then outright laughter. I took a few steps back to get a broader sense of my diagram and realized with horror that I had unwittingly drawn a rather grotesque pornographic cartoon. Turning silently to face the students and then back to the board several times, I finally owned up to it and said “Yes, I realize that I just drew two enormous penises on the board.”       

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

    I was once a 250 pound offensive lineman. Occasionally the fact that I played football will come up in class, and I ask students to guess what position I played. I can see the wheels turning as they think “This guy couldn’t knock over a small child,” which of course leads them to guess “Kicker!”  

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Ten Restaurants that Changed America is sitting on my bedside table right now. It combines two of my avocations: history and food. It is fascinating to learn about how much our culture has changed (It was scandalous for women to dine alone in the 1800s!) and how many popular delicacies of the recent past would be revolting to the modern palate (Anyone want to go out for calves’ head and pancreas?).    

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

    I’m a nerd. I talk about psychology and assessment.  


  • 15 May 2017 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Alfred University

    Type of school: Small but comprehensive University (bachelors through doctoral programs)

    School locale: Small, rural community in western New York state

    Classes you teach and average class size:

    Psychological Methods & Statistics (Average Class Size = 39)

    Research & Design 1 (Average Class Size = 14; two sections per semester)

    Cognitive Development (Average Class Size = 28)

    Social Development (Average Class Size = 38)

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

    Rather than advice I received about teaching, I was most heavily influenced by the teachers in my favorite classes (which included History, Math, Computer Science, Anthropology, and of course, some Psychology classes). I realized that I most enjoyed classes where the teacher presented the material in a coherent, organized narrative format.

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

    I was teaching years before graduate programs began to prepare doctoral candidates for academic positions. My preparation to teach undergraduate classes involved sitting in on classes taught by my advisors. Consequently, my work as a psychology teacher was shaped more by models rather than books or articles. I have, however, adopted some assignments and teaching tips from Teaching of Psychology. For example, students in my Cognitive Development class design a game for children, observe children of different ages play it, and then report to the class the differences in cognitive development they detect. This assignment was based on an article by Georgia Nigro (ToP, December 1994)and it has been students’ favorite part of the course ever since.

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

    If I have to choose only one, my favorite class is Cognitive Development, and my favorite lecture is on the development of the concept of reality, when I get to talk about Subbotsky’s studies on children’s belief in magic and Harris’ studies on imaginary monsters.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. 

    My students in Research & Design hold a conference-style Poster Session to present a research proposal they have developed on a topic I have assigned. I work with them as they generate their research questions, experimental conditions, and measurement procedures, and then I invite my faculty colleagues to attend the Poster Session. The students find it nerve-wracking, but my colleagues report that they are generally impressed with the students’ first research efforts, and the number of students electing to take an advanced R & D course has increased.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Lecturing – or telling an organized, coherent “story” – is what I think I do best (and it is what I enjoy most).

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My office is crammed with filing cabinets, books, journals, and notebooks. I think I have the notes from every lecture I have ever delivered. I also have every exam I have ever administered. Because I spend so much time in my office, it also contains a stack of music CDs and photos of places I have traveled. I used to know exactly how to find anything, but in recent years, I find I sometimes need to search for things!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. 

    “Lecture, almost non-stop.”

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Intellectual growth is facilitated by breadth of knowledge.

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

    A couple of years ago, I was asked at the last minute to offer a section of Parenting Seminar. One of the topics is the use of corporal punishment, and I was taken aback when most of the students argued in favor of spanking children, and persisted in this position even after we reviewed the research showing that spanking can result in a number of negative consequences. In my surprise, I am sure I made it obvious that I expected them to use the scientific findings to inform (i.e., change) their attitudes, but that did not happen. These students did not even try to appease me by simply saying what they knew I wanted them to say, and they had multiple opportunities because the issue came up over and over again over the semester. My response to this experience was to discuss it with the colleague who first developed this course and who had been teaching it for 20 years or so. His first question to me was about the background of the students, and that is when it struck me that they were either African-American or from lower SES homes. As a result, I have done some additional reading on cultural differences in parenting attitudes and in my Social Development class, I now discuss the possibility that effective discipline techniques may vary based on cultural and economic conditions.

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

    My favorite forms of exercise are Karate and Line Dancing.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am currently reading Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire– an account of the 1949 Mann Gulch forest fire where a dozen “smokejumpers” died.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I think I could give up everything except my Fire Department Pager (because as Assistant Fire Chief and Critical-Care EMT with our local volunteer emergency services department, I am on call 24-hours a day).

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

    Most often, the topic is what students are up to now – good, bad, or baffling.  

  • 30 Apr 2017 1:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    School name: Georgia State University


    Type of college/university: R1 university; my position is teaching focused


    School locale: Downtown Atlanta, GA


    Classes you teach: Research methods and statistics, Introductory psychology, Interpersonal Behavior, a capstone seminar on parenting, and for the first time this semester, Positive Psychology. I like variety, and find that teaching different classes in the same semester actually helps me to focus better on each class individually.


    Average class size: This varies widely – from 25 students in advanced research design and analysis to 120 in Introductory psychology


    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is not to be shy about asking for advice – so I’m not! Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to receive lots and lots of helpful information from colleagues in my department and through conferences. Another piece of advice that helped me most when I was feeling very overwhelmed in my first semester of teaching full-time was when my teaching mentor told me that teaching would get easier as I did it more. Thankfully she was right! 


    What book or article has shaped your work aa psychology teacher? I don’t have a particular book or article to point to, but ideas from these sources have shaped my teaching. For example, based on all of the empirical evidence (presented in books and articles) on the value of  ensuring that students have read the chapter before class, all my classes now involve reading quizzes that students must complete before the class meets. This requirement allows me to approach the material from that minimal level of preparation by students.  


    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I have favorite lecture topics within each class I teach, but my favorite class overall is research methods. We offer a two-semester sequence of integrated research methods and statistics, and I love both of them. Students are typically very concerned about these topics and classes, and I love to show students how the material is relevant, why it matters, and to support them in mastering the concepts. It’s always my hope to move students (at least a few) from research methods haters to research methods lovers, like me. 


    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. Again, I have many activities that I enjoy doing with my students, but one of my overall favorites involves article analyses in my research methods courses. I have students read and answer a series of questions about an empirical journal article before class, and then we discuss the article more in-depth in class to illustrate certain concepts. For example, in my Intro to research methods class, I have students pretend to be members of the IRB and discuss if they would approve Middlemist et al.’s (1976) study, which was conducted in a public restroom. In my advanced class, we consider design and statistical concepts as they relate to the study, considering questions such as if the study could be conducted differently and why the researchers made certain methodological choices. I love seeing students light up when they realize they can really understand the methods section and can read the results section of an article – areas they previously would have skipped over.


    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you? I find that my best classes are those in which it feels like the students and I are having an open conversation about the topic, so I strive for that atmosphere and approach on all my classes. I also try to make sure students are doing as much hands-on experiential learning as possible.


    What’s your workspace like? I work in a variety of places, but the most consistent is in my office at GSU. It’s fairly organized because too much clutter distracts me, but there are also always a couple of piles of papers on my desk during the semester, including notes I make for myself on random pieces of paper. I have a “clean out day” in which I clear out all of the piles, recycle old papers, file things, etc. at the end of each semester because I really like starting a new semester with a clear and open work space. 


    Three words that best describe your teaching style. Enthusiastic, supportive, interactive


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Support students in reaching a high standard OR Enthusiasm is contagious


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. During one of my first classes, my cell phone went off. I was mortified. There was nothing to do but to apologize and assure my students it would not happen again (and it hasn’t – that was the first semester I was teaching and I’ve not repeated this mistake again). Occasionally there will be a mistake on an exam – something mistyped, two correct answers in a multiple choice question, etc. In these cases, I have found it’s best to reassure students that I will address the issue in grading (e.g., both right answers will get credit) and then I like to give my students a point or two as bonus for my error. I explain that as I mark off points for their mistakes, it’s only fair to give points for my mistakes. 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure? Unfortunately, I don’t accomplish too much pleasure reading during the semester, but I still try to read whenever I can. I love memoirs, and right now I’m reading “Glitter and Glue” by Kelly Corrigan.


    What tech tool could you not live without? In terms of tech tools, it’s really basic – I find the internet is a great starting place for any topic. But I’m actually more old-school and I like to talk to my colleagues and to look through instructor manuals as other starting places for ideas. Good manuals that expand the content and provide ideas for interactive activities, such as Martin Bolt’s companion for teaching Introductory psychology and Beth Morling’s Instructor guide for her research methods text – not manuals that just present the chapter framework on power point slides – are really useful to me. I then modify these ideas to best fit my particular class and topic.


    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Everyone at my work is pretty busy, but we do check in to discuss how the semester is going, including what is happening at our university and in our own lives as well as the world in general beyond academia. 
  • 18 Apr 2017 8:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Kalamazoo College

    Type of college/university: Small liberal arts school

    School locale: City

    Classes you teach: Cognitive Psychology, Experimental Research Methods, Language and Mind

    Average class size: 25

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

    Teach what you’re interested in. Students will not remember most of what you teach anyway, but they will remember whether you were passionate about the topic or not, and with any luck, that passion will rub off on them a little.

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

    No specific book or article, but my training as a Cognitive Psychologist definitely influences my teaching. It would be hard to spend so much time thinking about how people learn and remember without letting that affect my choices in the classroom!

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

    I love teaching about the Psychology of Language. This was the topic that originally got me interested in Psychology, and I still enjoy it all these years later. These days, I especially enjoy teaching about language acquisition because I can incorporate so many examples of my two young children’s developing language.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you? Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    Most of my classes involve short bouts of lecture interspersed with opportunities for students to engage with the material. For example, in my Cognitive Psychology class, I spend 15 minutes explaining Hockett’s six design features of language. Then I give students a handout describing three animal communication systems, and in small groups, they spend 15 minutes talking through the extent to which each communication system has each of the six features I just told them about. I like this approach because it breaks up class time and encourages active learning, while also giving students practice retrieving and applying what we are learning.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Messier than I would like! No matter how often I straighten up, the chaos has a way of creeping back in.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Emphasize not just what, but how and why.

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

    On the first day of my Cognitive Psychology class several years ago, I went into the classroom where it is always held and began my first day spiel. The students all looked particularly wide-eyed and fearful. Finally, one student raised her hand and said “um, I think this is supposed to be Intro to Psychology.” Indeed, I was in the wrong classroom! Now, I am always sure to double check where my class is scheduled before the first meeting and ask the students if I’m in the right place before I begin!

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

    I enjoy writing children’s books. I have created several books for my kids, including “Riding on a Rhinoceros”, “Geoffrey the Giraffe Goes for a Walk” and “A Day with the Dinosaurs.”

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I just finished reading Michael Lewis’s “The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed our Minds” about the Cognitive Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. It was the perfect blend of reading for work and pleasure, as it gave me a new perspective on the history of these two influential figures who I teach about in my courses, but I also really enjoyed the story of their lives and friendship.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Definitely 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)?

    We have several young moms in our department, so there is lots of parenting chatter. We also talk about things going on in our classes, and news stories that are related to Psychology.

  • 31 Mar 2017 1:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Metropolitan State University of Denver

    Type of school: MSU Denver is a large public 4-year teaching university (19,800 students enrolled). We are a commuter campus and have a nontraditional and diverse student body. What I am most proud of at this institution is our commitment to diversity. “INSIGHT Into Diversity” magazine recognized MSU Denver as one of 10 Diversity Champion colleges and universities nationwide for our unyielding commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are affordable, have small class sizes, 73 bachelor’s degrees and 5 master’s degrees offered.

    School locale: Urban, we are in the heart of downtown Denver.

    Classes you teach: I teach a range of developmental and psychology courses including: Developmental Educational Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, Child Psychology, Human Growth and Development, Adolescent Psychology, Developmental Research Methods, Cognitive Growth and Development, Senior Thesis, Teaching of Psychology. Two of my classes have a service learning component where we are paired up with the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver and Reading Partners as community partners. I also mentor students as teaching assistants and research assistants. My Introduction to psychology course is taught flipped and I teach classes face-to-face, hybrid or completely online.

    Average class size: 20

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

    The best advice I received was to always think about the end outcome or goal I want my student to achieve. This guides my decision-making. Sometimes the outcome I want is strictly related to learning and the content is so important it needs to be mastered. In this case if a student needs an extension on an assignment I might grant it because it’s more important for them to learn the material and the assignment works to achieve that. Other times the content is not as important and instead I want my student to be responsible, accountable, or to follow directions. Part of getting a college degree is being accountable and committed. In this case an extension would not be granted. This conscious process extends past individual students and their assignments and into the classroom. By thinking about the end outcome I want my students to achieve, I can intentionally decide how we approach material in the course.

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

    The most influential book that has shaped my work as a psychology teacher is Maryellen Weimer's Learner-centered Teaching.

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

    I enjoy teaching about Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. It has it all: social interaction, active learning, language, memory, and clear application to learning that students can use to help them be better students or teachers.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    In Cognitive Growth and Development my students complete a service project with a community partner called Reading Partners. The project has them paired up and tutoring a K-6th grade public school student who has fallen behind in reading.  My students reflect on their tutoring and connect concepts from class to their experiences.

    Reading Partners (RP) is a national organization so I encourage anyone teaching development of anything to get involved. This is a great organization to partner with for a service-learning course. In my class an associate from RP comes in during the first week and does the tutor orientation for my students. Then, they pair each student up with a child who has fallen behind in reading in a Denver school (they operate in 9). The student tutors the child for one hour every week during the semester. Each week my students complete online reflection questions where they tell me what they covered in their tutoring session (RP has a great curriculum to follow) and how their experience connects with something that we learned in class that week. The make connections between their service and concepts such as Piaget’s theory, motivation, self-efficacy, reading development, information processing theory, memory and many more. Finally at the end of the semester they write a paper that details their experiences and reflects on the course content in light of those experiences.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Teaching by doing works best for me. Many of my students are studying education in hopes of becoming a teacher. I like to show students the application of cognitive educational theory by modeling a theory using it in my own teaching. Then we talk about the theory and how it was applied. I then ask them to do it. They have to show me the application either in-class through activities, or out in the field using service learning community partnerships.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    I have a large blue chalkboard wall that is covered in student messages and pictures. I use the wall to organize my conference travel deadlines as well. My desk is small and my bookshelf is so full I need another one. I always have coffee and I have cookies or candy for students in need (not for me…most days).

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Social

    Engaging

    Intentional

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Get engaged with the material and community!

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

    I rapped Salt n’ Peppa’s “What a Man” to my husband and our guests at our wedding reception.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPhone calendar. Seems basic, but it organizes where I need to be and when. I even put to-do tasks in there so they become a scheduled priority.

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

    Recently my hallway chatter has been political. It is hard to avoid. I am a strong advocate for social justice issues and I am excited and committed to energizing people to work towards the changes they want to see in our communities. More enjoyably I talk with my colleagues often about our children! I have a one-year-old daughter. It has been really amazing to connect with my co-workers and students about being a parent. 

  • 15 Mar 2017 9:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    School name: Paradise Valley Community College


    Type of college/university: We are one of the ten community colleges that make up the Maricopa Community College District which is one of the largest community college districts in the United States.


    School locale: We are located in the north east part of Phoenix, Arizona in an urban area.  There are approximately 10,000 students at our college.

    Classes you teach: I currently teach Introduction to Psychology and Lifespan Development. I teach a combination of online, in person, hybrid, and OER classes.

    Average class size: I am lucky to have a maximum class size of 32 students.

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? 
    I received this advice quite recently and it made an impression on me.  I want to give credit to a presentation that I attended by Danae Hudson and Brooke Whisenhunt from Missouri State University for their insight. The role of the professor has been changing over time.  Today students can get the content anywhere. Our job as professors is to be designers of the learning environment.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
    I recently have read “Small Teaching” by James Lang and “Make It Stick” by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel.  Both books address ways that we can change our classes to help students learn better.  I have now dedicated a class day in the beginning of the semester to teach students the psychology of studying to help them understand the research behind why my class is designed the way that it is.  If given the choice, students will often take the easiest approach to learning even if it is ineffective.  These books as well as similar research in this area have given me the tools to design my courses in a way to incorporate the most learning science practices possible.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
    I love teaching Intro Psych, but I am also passionate about teaching Lifespan Development.  Usually the students who are enrolled in the class will be entering a career where this information is directly relevant.  This makes them especially engaged and interested in the course content.  In this class we are able to look at the amazing changes that take place in a human life that starts with conception and goes through the entire lifespan.  We are also able to build upon many of the theories that were briefly presented in intro psych and go into much more detail on them.


    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.
    Instead of conceptualizing extra credit as a way for students to simply make up points, I think of it as a way to engage students beyond the classroom.  I call this experiential extra credit and allow students to use it for up to 5% of their overall grade.  I also tie this into general educational assessment and have students self-reflect on the experience as part of our college civic engagement rubric. Students must relate the outside campus experience to something that we have learned within psychology.  I assign the experimental extra credit opportunities that I deem relevant for a particular course.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?  
    Class discussion is extremely important to me. I encourage this both in my online classes and in my face to face classes. I feel that this is what makes the material come alive for students and it is an important skill for students to practice in college.

    What’s your workspace like?
    I like to keep a clean and cozy office for the rare chance that a student may come to visit during office hours!  I even have a bowls of mints for positive reinforcement.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.
    accessible, thought provoking, engaging 

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? 
    Every student fosters our classroom learning environment.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.
    When I cover the social psychology chapter I like to send out my students on campus to collect data either as an observation or structured observation.  One group decided that they wanted to measure helping behavior if a student looked like he fell off a skateboard in front of a group of strangers.  The group happened to conduct this demonstration in front of a group of administrators including the college president.  Luckily, they discovered that the administration was very eager to help the student in need!  I now require the students to give me the details of their plan before they leave the classroom and encourage them to stay away from the administration building.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    I am passionate about volunteering and raising money for nonprofit organizations, especially ones that support children’s chronic health issues. To me, nothing is more important than giving children the chance to have the happiest and healthiest childhood that they can.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? 
    I am currently reading “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler.  I have been on a kick of reading books by female comedians including Tina Fey and Mindy Khaling.

    What tech tool could you not live without? 
    When it comes to teaching, I cannot imagine being without my LMS Canvas.  It is user friendly for both students and professors and very customizable.  When prepping for a new semester, I start with prepping my Canvas course no matter which modality I am teaching in.  I have also started using Twitter professionally to connect with colleagues and keep up to date on news within psychology.  Follow me @explorepsych

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? 
    I really enjoy going to conferences both locally and nationally and I love discussing the ideas that I learned with colleagues.  I was recently elected as one of the new reps for the STP Early Career Psychologist Committee.  Being on this committee allows me to grow my network of colleagues across our discipline.  Check out our page here
    http://teachpsych.org/ecp and send me an email anytime you have an idea to discuss or share at Julie.Lazzara@paradisevalley.edu.

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