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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  • 16 Nov 2017 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN

    Type of school: Small (<900 students), all-male liberal arts college

    School locale: Crawfordsville is a small city of about 16,000, located about a 50 minute drive from Indianapolis and about a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago

    Classes you teach: Behavioral Neuroscience, Introduction to Psychology, Research Methods & Statistics, Human Sexual Behavior, Drugs & Behavior

    Average class size: Usually small, but a bit variable! My largest class is Introduction to Psychology (typically capped at 40 students, but often with approximately 30 students), but this semester, I have one advanced course with 7 students, a first-year seminar with 15, and will have a half-semester course with approximately 20 students starting in October.

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

    I am not sure if I can recall one specific piece of advice, but I do feel that I have been fortunate to have an excellent community of mentors and colleagues here at Wabash, and in my earlier teaching positions (as a visiting professor at Knox College, and as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota). In each of my institutions, I have been grateful for the advice and support I found when I had concerns in my teaching and other professional work. Recently, though, one question that I recall being posed at a conference session (on how to structure a faculty development program) has been resonating with me: How can we make the best use of our limited time? As I enter mid-career, I find it just as much of a struggle to do everything that I think should be done. I think this is true for many of my colleagues as well, and we are all looking for ways to focus on our core work of educating students, while also balancing our service and research. I find questions such as this one to be very useful, especially as the semester ramps up, as an opportunity to step back and reflect on how well my activities – how I spend my time – matches my priorities.

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

    Earlier in my career, I think I was most influenced by P. F. Kluge’s Alma Mater, in which Kluge describes his experiences teaching at Kenyon College, his alma mater. I read the book as an undergraduate, and I found the portrait of the college professor presented by Kluge to be compelling, and one that I had in mind as I took my first full-time teaching position as a visiting professor (at my alma mater, Knox College). More recently, I have found myself often returning to Maryellen Weimer’s work, especially her posts on the Faculty Focus blog. As Wabash College’s Coordinator of Faculty Development, I have found the Faculty Focus pieces to be very useful in my own teaching, and as resources to share with my colleagues.

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

    My main research is in the neuroscience of learning and memory, and I especially enjoy talking with my students about memory in my behavioral neuroscience courses. I find memory, such a critical part of our identity, to be endlessly fascinating, and I always enjoy getting the opportunity to talk with students about what we know about the physical processes that support memory: what is it about our brains that allows us to lay down some lasting trace? Why does memory sometimes fail us? What can we do to intervene in disorders that impact memory? Like many areas in neuroscience and psychology, I feel that we are living through an opportune moment, in which we have learned a great deal about these processes, but that there are still many exciting puzzles to solve about memory.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    Last year, I experimented with having students self-grade their exams, after having a conversation with a colleague in our department who was interested in the technique. It was the first time that I had used the technique, but I found it especially interesting after coming across a journal article by Nelta Edwards on using self-grading in a social sciences statistics course. I found the experience very useful, though admittedly time-consuming, as I dedicated most of a class session to having students grade each question on their own exams. When looking over the scores students gave to themselves, I found that I largely agreed with my students’ self-assessment (though, I was likely influenced by my awareness of the scores students had given themselves). I did find that students who I assigned low scores in some cases overestimated their performance (which can be a useful opportunity for conversation, to help students be better able to recognize what a strong answer should look like), and in some cases, I was able to correct an important misconception that a student had, but was not clear from the answer given on the exam, so that self-grading became another opportunity for review and learning.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I prefer smaller discussion-based courses, or smaller courses in which I combine short periods of lecture with discussion, where students have opportunities to make sense of class material and put it into their own words. The challenge, however, is to ensure that students are keeping up and engaging with the readings (and are prepared for discussion). So, I have moved towards the use of low-stakes reading responses and reading quizzes (to help me quickly assess my students’ preparation), but also to scale back some more dense and technical readings (or provide reading guides) in some of my upper-level courses.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Outside of class, most of my work is done in my office. I prefer to have an open space, where I can easily meet with students. So, I have placed my desk and computer against a wall, and have several chairs and a small side table arranged around the room, allowing me to meet with one to three students easily. I prefer this style to one where I have a desk between myself and my students, which would feel more formal than I typically want my meetings to be. In my neuroscience courses and in summer research, I spend a fair amount of time working in our behavioral neuroscience lab with my students, which has several open spaces that I can configure for work in behavioral testing or other lab work.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Learning how to learn is a critical outcome.

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

    One that comes to mind was not in one of my own courses, but one of my colleagues’ classes. Several years ago, I agreed to hand out an exam in a section of Introduction to Psychology while a visiting faculty member was out of town for a job interview. But, when the day came I forgot about the exam, and did not arrive until well after the class should have started. By that time, many students had left, and it was too late to hand out the test. I felt terrible about the error, and my main concern from that point on was to ensure that the students in the course knew that the error was mine, and did not believe that their professor had failed to show up.

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

    I think that some of my students might be surprised to learn that I was the first member of my immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree (from Knox College, in Illinois), and that I was a Pell Grant recipient (along with other need-based aid). Some have seen a talk that I gave at Wabash, but many students would probably also be surprised to learn the origins of my last name, Schmitzer-Torbert – my wife and I chose to hyphenate our last names, and I was originally the Torbert, and my wife was the Schmitzer.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    In August, I started reading George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, but now that the semester is in full swing, I may not be able to finish it for some time! However, I am fortunate this fall to be teaching a first-year seminar, which I have designed around how we can use science fiction to explore what it means to be a person, and the implications that some potential technologies will have for our identity as humans. For that course, I have assigned several books that I enjoy, including Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Professionally, the most important tool for me is simply my laptop, and a high-speed internet connection, and I would have to drastically change my work habits if I did have access to both! Recently, cloud file storage has also become a very important tool for me. Using Dropbox and Box (which Wabash has recently adopted) makes it easier for me to have access to key files from any internet connected device. These services have also made it much simpler for me to share files with colleagues, collaborators and students. Over the summer, I worked with two students on research project in which we used video recordings of rats trained to find food on a maze. With Box, I was able to easily share the video data with my students (about 33 GB of video), so that they could process each file (to allow us to track our rats’ position during the task). In the past, this would have been a much more difficult process.

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

    Wabash has a small faculty (less than 100 full time faculty), and one of the aspects of our college that I have always valued is the strong sense of community and collegiality. In my typical day, I will most often run into colleagues whose offices are on my floor (which includes four of our five Psychology faculty, and three faculty members from Economics this year). Our conversations are generally a mixture of socializing (asking about family members, and activities), talking through issues that come up in teaching (asking if one of our students is doing well in another faculty member’s course, sharing ideas for handling group projects, etc.), and talk about other issues (at the College or beyond). I hope a visitor to our floor would find a friendly, welcoming group, and feel comfortable joining in!

  • 30 Oct 2017 5:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Miami University Middletown

    Type of college/university: State institution, regional commuter campus

    School locale: Small town

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology; Foundational Experiences; Career Development; Psychology Across Cultures; Personality; Abnormal Psychology; Research Design & Analysis; Introduction to Counseling; Special Topics in Psychology; Psychology Capstone Experiences;  Independent Studies in Teaching, Community Service, and Research

    Average class size: 25-30

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
    When I was in graduate school, Bill Buskist did a workshop just for our graduate student teaching cohort. In several ways, he not only discussed but modeled how our primary job as educators is to make learning real…and personal. He made every person in that small room matter. To this day, I’ve tried to remember to show instead of say what’s important. I use nameplates in my classes so that I know all students’ names within a few weeks. I am always looking for ways students can see or apply their lives in the constructs that we discuss in class. They may study a list of facts for an exam and remember it for a moment…but if they can see an idea in their lives, they will remember and revisit it much more often and more deeply. If they know we see them, they will feel they belong in higher education and be more eager to work for and learn from us.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
    Recently
    , I have been influenced a great deal by a series of works by one of my mentors and friends, career advising guru, Drew Appleby. See, for example, Appleby & Appleby’s (2006) Teaching of Psychology article entitled, How to Avoid Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process. For years, I have taught psychology because I love the subject, and my students do, too. My students, however, do not always know how to translate this thing they like into a viable career or calling. If I cannot prepare them for life after graduation, I feel I am not doing my job. A lot of my emphasis on experiential learning – including service-learning, research mentoring, and community placements – is founded on the idea that I need to help provide them the skills and experiences they can sell in a job or graduate school interview.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
    My absolute favorite class to teach is Psychology Across Cultures. Many young people do not yet grasp just how much their culture or cultures have shaped them. This seems especially true for a lot of my students who are White, working-class Americans, and/or first-generation students. I love exploring my students’ cultural identities, then having them learn about others, so that all can develop the three core components of intercultural competence: knowing about one’s self and other cultures, caring about culturally different others, and being able to act effectively and appropriately in new contexts.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.
    For my Psychology Across Cultures and Introduction to Psychology courses, I pair with English as a Second Language professors to have our U.S. domestic and international students perform a series of four shared cultural experiences across the semester in a program called Crossing Borders (Wickline, 2012). In large group and small group experiences, students discuss themselves, their families, and their cultures while experiencing new things together - for example, a basketball game, hayride, rodeo, pottery painting, bowling, or dinner at a new restaurant (perhaps with chopsticks). They learn to expand their comfort zones, try new things, and see new layers of similarities AND differences between themselves and others. When it works well, they stay in touch on WeChat or Facebook or develop organic friendships that last beyond the classroom and semester.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?
    I am a huge advocate of active and experiential learning. For example, I can lecture about intercultural competence and empathy until I am blue in the face, and students will go, “Sure, sure. That’s important.” However, that does not touch them or teach them empathy. Instead, if I start the first five minutes of Psychology Across Cultures in sign language…then French…then Spanish instead of English…well, then students know for themselves, even if briefly, the frustration that English-learning international students go through almost every day of their lives in a new culture. I can talk about discrimination, privilege, or prejudice in the same way with the same effect. However, when our Crossing Borders partners go out to eat together in public, and people stare at them or make rude comments, then my domestic students know what it feels like to experience these things. In a similar way, service-learning helps students know what to do with the collection of facts they have learned in classes so they know things, not just know about things. I find most forms of active or experiential learning help students go much deeper on Bloom’s (1956) learning taxonomy when compared to lecture or reading alone.

    What’s your workspace like?
    My workspace takes three forms. During the day, I am mostly in my office, which is decorated with photos, art from previous students and colleagues, and posters from large scale community events my students and I have hosted over the years. As I have a lot of community partners and mentees, my second workspace is the local coffee shop – planning meetings always seem to go better over shared food or a latte! My third workspace is my brown recliner, where I work in the quiet of the very early morning in my house, uninterrupted, before my family wakes up. Although it does not always work, this vampirish schedule enables me to keep more daylight, evenings, and weekends as sacred time, set apart from my job. I’ll admit I am giving up on work-life balance, for this seems to always make work and non-work life compete. My new goal is work-life integration, as both my family and my vocation are huge parts of who I am.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style: Challenging, Supportive, and Personal

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Get wet – you see rainbows when facing rain.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.
    One day in Psychology Across Cultures, we did what I call “Snowball Stereotypes.” Each person writes down a stereotype she or he holds (whether or not they believe it), crumples it up, and throws across the circle a few times until they are randomly distributed. We then flatten, read, and discuss them. The point is to show that stereotypes do not belong to any one group: We all have ones we working through, holding onto, or re-learning, and we have stereotypes about a wide variety of kinds of people (e.g., age, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). This particular day, several of those stereotypes were about African Americans. We ran out of time to mention how we often have these stereotypes but we want to unlearn them – or how our families gave them to us, but we are embarrassed by them. Thus, it sounded at first like these are all stereotypes to which my students were wedded. Two of my three students with African American heritage left angry and disheartened, which they shared with me in my post-class reflection assignment, noting they wish we had more time on the topic. Per their request, the next day back in class, we deferred the day’s topic and returned to stereotypes so the group could process and unpack everyone’s reactions. Both African American students showed relief, noting how important this was to revisit the topic and deepen the discussion so they could begin to trust our class (mostly White people) again.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    I could probably beat most of them at air hockey. I was a mime for 4 years in college – it’s part of what got me interested in the formal study of nonverbal communication, which I am still doing. Lastly, I have also travelled to 15 different countries (and mimed in 4 of them).

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    I am catching up some Malcolm Gladwell books on my own and loving Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty series with my kids.

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    That would have to be my laptop with WiFi connection. Some days I cannot bear to sit in my office with no windows any longer and need to catch some sun, even if I am still working. There is a balcony at my office building that frequently beckons my name…

    What’s your hallway chatter like?
    It seems that higher education, like many careers, is asking for more and more of us with fewer resources, time, or staffing. We are all trying to work smarter, not harder, and find ways to manage the load. Particularly for my adjunct friends, that also means finding ways to manage the bills – part-time educators are so needed, so dedicated, and so underpaid. Some days “supporting each other” means sharing teaching joys and ideas over the copy machine. Other days it means sharing concerns and struggles over margaritas, coffee, or chocolate. Either way, my colleagues are some of the best and hardest working people I know. They care deeply, and they wear it on their sleeves, in their classes, day in and day out.

     


  • 30 Sep 2017 11:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Marian University (Wisconsin)

    Type of school: Private Liberal Arts College

    School locale: Small town/rural

    Classes you teach:

    I primarily teach Statistics, Research Methods, and General Psychology; I also occasionally teach Social Psychology and Cognitive Psychology

    Average class size: 20

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

    I was told about NITOP (National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology) from a fellow graduate student and my undergraduate mentor. They attended the conference as graduate students and couldn’t say enough good things about it. They both went directly to teaching jobs after school, and I knew I wanted to do that too, so I decided it was important to go. My first time at NITOP was during my last year in grad school. I learned so much from the other attendees that I immediately started using the ideas I had, in the class I was teaching in the spring semester. I’ve now gone a second time and the feeling is the same. I got a chance to meet up with folks I met last year and meet some new ones. I think the best thing about NITOP is the collaborative nature of it. Everyone loves teaching so much and just want to share their experiences, ideas, and even their materials!

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

    If I had to pick one thing its David Gooblar’s Pedagogy Unbound blog on the ChronicleVitae. I get the most out of talking with other teachers, so blogs and articles like David’s are among my go-to when I’m not conferencing.

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

    I love teaching statistics. It’s one of those classes that is hard from the start because students don’t want to be there. I really push my students with application based assignments, exams, and projects so I know some students leave still hating it. But every class also ends with a handful of students who really got a lot out of it and some who even say they loved the class. With a class like statistics, that’s the best feeling!

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    One of my favorite assignments is from General Psychology. I have students create a study plan for an upcoming exam based on principles of learning and memory. It asks students to think about how things like operant conditioning or the testing effect can help them be better studiers. Some students really get into it and I’ve gotten some great plans.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I’m only in my second year of teaching full time so I’m still exploring, but I have had good success with short lectures meant to build on readings with more emphasis on in-class work. In statistics, I like that it gives me time to work one-on-one with the students who really need the help and allows for students to help each other. I love hearing a student explain it to another student in a different way than I’ve taught it.

    What’s your workspace like?

    I’m pretty Type A so I like to keep my workspace organized and clean, with everything at my fingertips. When my desk and office get messy mid-semester, I have to take the time to organize and clean out or I can’t get anything done. I also like to have a lot of color around the office to combat the boredom of white cinder blocks. I like to tell myself it makes up for not having a window (it totally doesn’t).

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Evolving. Research-based. Real-world.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Develop independent learners with real-world applicable skills.

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

    This spring I lost my voice out of the blue for a couple of days. On the worst day I had three classes to teach. In one of my classes I had to write on the board instructions for the day and had the students work through the posted lecture on their own. I then went around whispering to students who had questions. Luckily, a lot of students were absent that day.

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

    I’m a bookaholic. I read more than 100 books a year. Mostly fiction.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I just purchased The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King. I saw the trailer for the movie and it had Idris Elba in it. I knew I would want to see it, but I also knew the book would be better so I’ve got it on the docket.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    E-readers. It’s the bookaholic in me. While I definitely prefer the paper versions of books, the cost savings and convenience of reading from an app on my phone or tablet wins out.

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

    We mostly chat about work related things. There has been a lot of new initiatives on campus that have sparked great conversations. We also talk a lot about our kids. As a mom of a toddler, I get a lot of great advice and stories from moms whose kids are older; I also get babysitters!

  • 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. 
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