Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

This is How I Teach

Subscribe here to get email notifications of new blog posts.


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


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

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

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

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

  • 03 Jul 2014 10:35 AM | Anonymous

    School name: University of West Florida


    Type of college/university: Regional Comprehensive University


    School locale: Pensacola, Florida, a military-friendly, tourist-oriented, and historically significant town (oldest American settlement in America) on the Gulf Coast {This “oldest settlement” is a controversial issue since the Pcola settlers got wiped out by a hurricane giving final honors to Augustine Florida for oldest continuous settlement in America}.


    Classes you teach (current): I’m returning to the classroom in the fall after ten years of service as a dean during which time I still taught honors introductory psychology. I will be teaching Honors Introductory Psychology and, for the first time, Positive Psychology.


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

    When you don’t know something, don’t fake it.  Turn it into a critical thinking moment and have the class speculate about how to answer the question.  If possible, come back with expert opinion in the next class.  This gem and many others from Bill McKeachie.


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

    The fabulous Teaching Tips by the fabulous Bill McKeachie.  I discovered the book in my first year of teaching and practically slept with it under my pillow.


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

    I most enjoy teaching intro and have done so for nearly every year in my career.  The reason I like it so much is that it gives me an opportunity to capture the most suited students for the major and also enlighten those who are not suited to the major to figure some other honorable ways to meet their career goals.  In this class, more than any other, students are capable of surprise and open to changing how they think.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    I love an ice-breaker activity that I think I originally learned from Norine Jalbert. In intro I want students to understand the difference between describing behavior and inferring meaning from that behavior, a fundamental goal of intro that often gets neglected.  To do that, I provide a list of several multiple choice questions about me that they must determine the right answer to merely from observation and intuition.  An example would be, “Who has kissed me on the cheek? The Governor, Denzel Washington, Steve Martin, or a member of Monty Python.”  They must generate a hypothesis, commit to it by holding up a color coded for the appropriate answer, and then engage in vigorous defense. It is a great way to illustrate hypothesis generation, the nature of evidence, and confidence in judgment, as well as allow students a little glimpse into me and my eccentricities.  By the way, the answer is Terry Jones of Monty Python.  Twice!


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Although I enjoy traditional test construction, I prefer the long-lasting learning effects (“velcro learning”) offered by authentic assessment strategies. An example is the final exam I have historically given in intro psych.  I rearrange chapters so that I conclude the course with personality, abnormal, and treatment. The final takes place on the last formal day of class.  I recruit a former student from the class to role-play a famous deceased person with mental health problems of the person’s choosing (e.g., Sylvia Plath, Zelda Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson, Kurt Cobain).  The class serves as an interviewing body with the obligation of coming up with an explanation of how the problems derived, a tentative diagnosis, and a provisional treatment plan.  There are some reliable outcomes from this event.  The class explodes with questions. Despite my warnings, students get sucked into personal judgment rather than professional questioning. Someone usually asks if it is “okay” to do additional research.  Typically, a student volunteers for the next class’s experience.  Instead of meeting to take a final, the class returns to discuss why their answers didn’t agree and what that means about the nature of the discipline. We then switch to discussing the experience of the course itself, returning to the syllabus and talking about ways their thinking should have changed. This arrangement allows me to end the class properly, a pedagogical necessity I learned from Neil Lutsky.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I’m currently moving into a new workspace after surrendering the luxurious digs of the dean’s office.  As the most senior member of the psychology department, I was offered a double sized office with lots of project and discussion space, bookshelves, and rooms for cherished artifacts collected over a long and satisfying career.  I have what one of my colleagues calls the “I Love Me” wall filled with diplomas, plaques, and tributes. I also have a Mary Englebreit poster (“Don’t Look Back”) featured prominently to remind me about the excitement that looms head.  I’m exquisitely lucky, knowing how little space most faculty typically have.  I do not have a separate lab as most of my colleagues do since my scholarship doesn’t usually involve data generation.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Passionate, fair, funny


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    I am a disturber of the peace (see photo)


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

    My favorite embarrassment story happened when I was teaching a large intro class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as an adjunct very early in my career.  My dread zone (we all have one) in intro is S&P.  Physics and I are just not on good terms and I always need to rehearse the basics to get through.  For some reason, this particular large class showed the spunk and curiosity that I claim to love but they peppered me with questions that I didn’t have the first clue how to answer.  For example, “Why do we see ourselves upside down in a spoon?”  I didn’t know we did, let alone know how to explain it.  “Why do car wheels appear to be turning the wrong way in movies?” They ultimately came up with an array of “stump the prof” questions to which I confessed both ignorance and amazement.  I promised to and did come up with viable explanations in the next class.  Because I am regularly the star of my own show on God’s comedy channel, that class just happened to be the class my brand new husband visited to watch me in action. Mortifying. It was an especially big Dufus Day but it certainly taught me not to be afraid of student curiosity.


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

    This gets more surprising to students as I get older, but I’m a Big T Personality.  I like scary rides, have driven my own motorcycle, and used to be a glider pilot.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I just finished David Sedaris’ Naked. I am about to start The Book Thief.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Powerpoint.  I love being able to blend images with bulleted text to make the key ideas more memorable. Powerpoint has maximized the artistry of my teaching.


    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most?

    It saddens me to say that the most animated conversation tends to come about in relation to student misbehavior - the newest strategy for cheating, the most outrageous incivility, the often expressed wish that our current students could be as good as we were. We are such deluded romantics!

  • 20 Jun 2014 11:34 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Rutgers University

     

    Type of college/university: large research university

     

    School locale: city

     

    Classes I teach:

    General Psychology, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Personality Psychology, Advanced Topics in Social Psychology, Research Methods in Psychology, Soul Beliefs

     

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

    The best advice I have received is not to talk at the students, but to is in the discussion. I do not “lecture” at them but include them in the process of learning.

     

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

    I love teaching social psychology because the students are amazed at their biases and the manner in which they think. I usually ask students questions relating to thoughts about the self and attribution of others and the reality is never what they think. We tend to believe we are better than we really are, that we make logical decisions, and that we know ourselves. In class we challenge these “common sense” intuitions and realize that we don’t really know ourselves and there is really no reason to try to uncover our self-serving biases.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    One of my favorites addresses the debate of similarity and complementarity. I have students get together with a partner with whom they are not familiar (one is a confederate). I tell one person either to always agree with their partner or always disagree (depending on the dyad). Before the exercise, many indicate that opposites attract, but after the exercise the individuals who had someone agree with them enjoyed the conversation much more than those who had someone disagree with them.

     

    When we talk about the bystander effect, I have a student lay on the floor at the beginning of class to determine if anyone would help the student. Almost no one stops and we talk about why they did not try to help the student.

     

    I am able to recreate the Asch study by having confederates give the wrong answer on the line matching task. Inevitably, almost everyone agrees with the incorrect answer and we discuss conformity.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I usually give online quizzes every two weeks, 3 midterm exams, an application writing assignment, and clicker questions (participation points). Given that my class usually consists of 400 students, I am limited on essay exams. Some students do not like having to attend class, but I tell them it is not the grade, but the experience. I try not to lecture, but have a conversation with the students. Even in a class with hundreds of students, I will ask for input and discussion. Just the other day I had students come up to debate whether personality can be defined by traits or situations and then the class voted on the team that gave the best arguments. I usually have demonstrations and students come up on stage to break up the class. I also tend to ask controversial questions to get students thinking about issues and themselves.

     

    I recently started teaching an online class called Soul Beliefs, which was created by Dan Ogilvie and Len Hamilton. Students discuss the soul in relation to psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, and religion.   The course consists of weekly in depth discussion, weekly assignments, and take home essays.

     

    In my abnormal psychology class, students can perform an abnormal behavior and record the reactions of individuals around them for extra credit. These videos have become very elaborate with music and interviews with people who observed the behavior.


    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is organized chaos. It may appear disorganized, but I know where everything is located. I have many books and many piles of paper and everything is where it should be.   


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Passionate, engaging, though-provoking

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Involve the students in the experience!

     

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

    We were talking about bullying and a student with awkward social skills kept waving his hand back and forth. A student behind the awkward student was making fun of him and, in a sense, bullying the student. I asked him if we realized the irony of the situation since we were discussing the topic of bullying and he stopped right away. I felt bad for putting him on the spot in front of other students.

     

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

    They would be surprised to know that I am actually a person. In my class, when I talk about the series “Breaking Bad,” or any pop culture reference, they start laughing because they can’t believe that I may have the same tastes that they do. They would also be surprised to learn that I am a procrastinator just like they are.

     

    When I talk about my previous careers, I always get laughs and chatter. For example, I used to work as a private investigator and they cannot reconcile that occupation with the professor who is teaching their class.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain. My students would probably be surprised to learn that I am actually an introvert.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My laser pointer.

  • 05 Jun 2014 11:54 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Hamilton College


    Type of college/university: Liberal Arts College (~1800 students)


    School locale: small town – in the quaint village of Clinton, NY


    Courses I teach: Introduction to Psychology, Child Development, Educational Psychology, Lifespan Development, Statistics for Psychology, Cognitive Development, specialty course called “Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology”, Collaborative Research, Senior Project


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

    The best advice I’ve received is to just be myself when teaching, especially on the first day of class when you are establishing a rapport with a new batch of students. Talk openly and have a conversation. Make the students feel that you are talking with them and not just at them. On a similar thread, during the term, make the class your own – Intro Psychology a la Kara Sage. Even if great ideas can come from outside your own mind, always try to put your own unique spin on the topics to make your class memorable.


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

    For teaching activities, I’ve consulted Favorite Activities for the Teaching of Psychology, edited by Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. and published by APA. That book offered some creative ideas to increase the interactivity of Introductory Psychology in particular. I also recently read Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle and had this as an assigned book for my class this past spring semester (Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology). The book was extremely timely and thought-provoking, focusing on how engrained technology is in our lives; it led to many interesting and reflective conversations with students. Lastly, an article by Sana, Weston, and Cepeda (2013) has influenced my classroom policies on technology use – Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. It often surprises students to read and discuss how technology use in class might be distracting for not just themselves, if they are tempted to flip to that Facebook page for a moment, but also affects the learning of others around them. I’ve been trying out different course rules around technology use, and having students read this article at the start of the term led to a great understanding of why we might opt out of students utilizing technology in class, especially given the prevalence of media multitasking.


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

    My favorite course to teach is "Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology" - a specialty course that encompasses aspects of many parts of psychology from developmental to social psychology, and most certainly the up-and-coming sub-discipline of media psychology. Discussing how pervasive technology is in our lives and the lives of Generation M (aka today's children) is such a relevant topic that fascinates both me and my students and also encourages skepticism since this a relatively new area of research. We spend most classes critically discussing recent research into such media and technologies as Facebook, virtual worlds, online gaming, television, and video games and the related effects on the person, from body image to self-esteem to friendships. There are a lot of anecdotes and thinking about how Generation M will grow up differently given that they are saturated with technology. There are also many discussions that borderline on the philosophical, such as if AI systems can ever be, or ever should be, considered human.


    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    A favorite in-class activity for Introductory Psychology is one titled Be the Neurologist. To help students learn about the various brain parts and their functions, they receive a list of brain areas and what behavior might be awry should that area have a lesion – for instance, touch sensitivity would be off if there was damage to the somatosensory cortex. Students are paired off and take turns being the patient (selecting one lesion) and the neurologist (conducting behavioral tests until they have enough evidence to substantiate a diagnosis). There is a lot of fun and laughter along with learning that comes with this activity, as the patient role plays the appropriate behavior and thus might showcase deficits in walking, talking, etc.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Over the years, I have determined that different techniques work better for different classes and that flexibility given a particular semester’s students is key. For Introductory Psychology, I blend some lecturing with interactive activities and videos to bring the content to life. An important goal is to establish that psychology is a science. The audience is typically freshmen with a handful of sophomores. For a topical course like Child Development, generally with a blend of upperclassmen enrolled, there is more discussion and reading of empirical literature for us to discuss. It is also interesting to focus on parenting and what lessons I can impart in that regard. For these courses that focus on development and education, including Child Development and Educational Psychology, an important learning technique is to offer hands-on experience with children. I have my students volunteer hours at a local daycare or school so that they can see “development in action” and we can discuss how the concepts from the course translate. Lastly, for a specialty course in an emerging field, like my Psychology, Children, Media, and Technology course, I utilize a discussion-heavy format where most class sessions are us (~20 students and myself) sitting in a circle and critically thinking through what the material for the day has to offer on our topic and extending that material with anecdotes, examples, and reflections.


    What’s your workspace like?

    Surprisingly neat and tidy! I am a very organized person, and I extend that to my workspace. I feel that it makes me more productive with getting tasks, like grading and reading, completed in a timely fashion. When I’m there, there is most often a large receptacle of coffee on my desk as well and perhaps a rubber duck or two (which I give out as prizes to kids who come into my lab and sometimes even my students). My bulletin board has a blend of personal and academic postings – from pictures of my honeymoon to printed copies of my publications.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Energetic, passionate, collaborative


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be yourself; Foster passion and critical/scientific thought


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

    I think the biggest disappointments come when I’ve put a lot of effort into developing a particular activity and it doesn’t seem to fly with a particular class, even if it worked well with other classes. I try out many interactive activities with my Introductory Psychology class in particular, and there is always at least one flop every semester that can be a bit of a downer. 


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

    My students might be surprised to learn that I am a Zumba fanatic and have a secret aspiration to be a certified Zumba instructor. A perfect activity for de-stressing and just having fun! 


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Based on a student’s recommendation, I am currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It presents one image of where technology could go in the future, and is an exciting and intriguing read.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    YouTube! In all of my classes, video clips are used as examples to bring concepts to life – let’s see babies babbling or cognitive behavioral therapy in action. The videos can really lift words off the pages of the textbook to illustrate concepts well.


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

    Students are very frequently in my office space and in my colleagues’ spaces, so there is much discussion about their busy schedules, lives in general, and whether or not they are going to challenge me to a game of Settlers of Catan. There are discussions of random teaching ideas that ensue between my colleagues and myself. With one of my colleagues in my office ‘pod’, we sometimes sit at a little table with some treats and chat about academic and non-academic topics when the day is particularly stressful for whatever reason – helps us both unwind!

  • 20 May 2014 7:06 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Delta College

     

    Type of college/university: Community College

     

    School locale: both rural and city locations

     

    Classes I teach:

    General Psychology (our version of Intro Psych) and Exploring Diversity in both traditional and online formats

     

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

    The best advice I have received is to “set the tone” on the first day of class through both the class activities and the syllabus. The first day of class can often predict how the rest of the semester will turn out in terms of student engagement and participation as well as the level of respect students have for the instructor. It helps to be authentic.

     

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

    Most recently, I have been impacted greatly by Stephen Brookfield’s book, The Skillful Teacher. As a result of the book (and meeting Dr. Brookfield in person--what a wonderful guy!), I use a Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ) at the end of every class. Students answer 3 questions that help inform what will happen the next class period. The information I gather from students enables me to better meet their needs both in an outside of the classroom and demonstrates to them that I care deeply about their learning and their overall experience in class.

     

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

    My favorite lecture topic is Social Psychology as part of the General Psychology course. There are so many ways to demonstrate the social psychology concepts that make this topic one of my favorites. I enjoy getting to use activities and videos for social Psychology concepts that tend to get students “all fired up.” The best part about teaching this section is helping students become more aware of their own biases so that they might become more empathic toward others. I find that students become quite passionate and seem to want to take action toward reducing stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    One of my many favorite in-class activities demonstrates “shaping,” “superstitious behavior,” and other general operate conditioning concepts. I get 5 volunteers to serve as pigeons/rats. Then, groups of their classmates must train them to perform a somewhat complex task (e.g., “take off your left shoe”). The catch is that the trainers may only use the word “good” as positive reinforcement. This activity always evokes lots of laughter and silliness (especially when there are very creative pigeons), yet it enables me to demonstrate several concepts. It’s super fun!

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Variety works the best for me. I know my students don’t like to be bored, and I certainly don’t enjoy hearing myself talk for 2-4 hours at time. My students are expected to explore the textbook prior to coming to class, and they sometimes have a quiz over information they have gathered from the text (via an “optional” Chapter Prep guide). There are 4 in-class tests and 3 critical thinking assignments (writing assignments.) I give students opportunities to learn from their mistakes, such as allowing re-writes of papers for additional credit. In-class time is an interaction (as much as possible. I don’t lecture at my students; I provide them with information and dialogue with them as we go. I also incorporate as much group-work and small group discussion as possible, and there is typically a smattering of mini-demonstrations, short videos, and practice activities. Students in my classes are provided with a large number and variation of opportunities for learning in my effort to reach students with diverse learning preferences and strengths.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is organized chaos. It is also currently cluttered with stacks of books, magazines/journals, and boxes of odd things such as handwarmers, mittens, and mints. I serve in various roles outside of teaching, and my workspace is really highlighting this at the moment!

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Dynamic, interactive, fair

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Be authentic and responsive, holding the bar high.

     

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

    One of my most recent embarrassing moments (I have had many) involved my first attempt at a mini experiment during teaching research methods. A colleague gave me the idea to do a JellyBelly taste test where the tasters would be blinded and would taste the same jellybeans with their noses plugged then open. I was very excited about the countless concepts I might demonstrate through this exercise, as well as the chance to have some fun with my students. Long story short, I realized in the middle of the experiment that I didn’t have enough jellybeans for all 4 of my participants. The experiment was ruined, for the most part. But, we had some great discussion about all of the problems with my experiment!

     

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

    When I was an undergraduate, I would shake uncontrollably, turn red, and start to tear up when attempting to give presentations. It was nothing like the confidence I display in the classroom as a teacher.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I don’t have much time to “read” for pleasure. So, I listen to books in CD while commuting. I won’t mention what I listen to as it might diminish my respectability in certain circles. ;-)

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Just the internet. I have gadgets (which, of course, give me greater access to the Internet), but I rely so heavily on the Internet for quick research and communication.

     

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

    It depends on who is in their office. I am in one office in a 4-person office nook. The other 3 offices are inhabited by some of my fantastic psychology colleagues. If “B” is in his office, we are likely chatting about teaching OR his love life. If “S” is in her office, we are likely chatting about kids or mommy blunders. If “D” is around, I stop in for personal or professional advice. 

  • 05 May 2014 9:15 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Columbia College


    Type of college/university: Small, single-gender liberal arts school

    School locale (e.g., small town, rural area, city, country/region: Columbia, SC.  It is a mid-sized capital city.

    Classes you teach:  Statistics; Research Methods; Learning, Cognition, and Memory; Biological Psychology; Introduction to Psychology; Drugs, Behavior, and Society; Psychology Lab; Psychology in the Workforce; Research Seminar; Academic Writing (an APA format prep course).

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

    A seasoned faculty colleague taught me that a true “crisis” in our business is rare.  Students can be prone to crisis mentality when there is a problem, and I sometimes remind them that it’s not like we’re in an ER saving a life with precious few minutes to spare.  Whether it is an IT problem, a missed homework or test, illness, or some other issue, there is nothing that can’t be handled calmly and efficiently.  The only exception I can think of is when a student is at risk for not graduating – that might constitute some urgency!

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

    Interestingly, it is Peterson’s (2009) article entitled, “Minimally Sufficient Research.”  It was in a special issue on improving psychological science in Perspectives on Psychological Science.  The article called into question the “more is better” approach to data analysis.  To summarize, Peterson found that the results of complex data analysis yielded essentially the same conclusion as a straightforward correlation – in other words, “more” was not necessarily better.  I still have the hard copy of that issue on my shelf.  I remind myself of that article when I start to put too much “stuff” into my classes, thinking more is better.

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

    My favorite course is probably Research Methods.  I love teaching it because students often comment that after the course, they can never look at a statistic or research finding in the same way because they have acquired a “critical eye.”  My favorite topic is item construction – students will bring in examples of surveys with poorly-worded items (such as a suggestion card at a restaurant).  They claim that they can’t take surveys anymore because they question the validity of the items.

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    One of my favorite activities in Research Methods is based on Rajecki’s (2002) Teaching of Psychology article on using personal ads for content analysis.  I like to do the content analysis as an in-class activity near finals week.  I’ve found some really amusing personal ads in our local free newspaper so it is a lot of fun for students to conduct and a great stress reliever.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I try to use a mix of assignments (in-class small group discussions, in-class reviews, traditional homework, and exams).  I think they all have merit.  In-class reviews seem to work best – in most of my classes, I lecture on a topic and then have students complete a short application assignment with a partner as a review to make sure they’ve “got it.”  Then, I ask them, “Would you be able to do this on the next exam?” to which they usually agree.  That seems to build their confidence.  If they don’t agree, we review the trouble spots.

     

    What’s your workspace like?

    I have a small corner office in a building that was originally the college’s infirmary.  It now houses faculty offices for our division.  It is rumored that the building is haunted, but I have yet to witness anything unusual.  My office looks out over the main green area of campus – it is great to see students reading, playing Frisbee, having class, or just hanging out on the Green when the weather is nice (which is often – this is South Carolina, after all). 

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    “No surprises” (that is, no “making it up as we go along” or springing assignments on students), “comprehensive” (if I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll try to find it), and “committed.” Teaching isn’t something I squeeze in between other obligations.  I am constantly looking for ways to improve students’ learning and I solicit feedback from them often.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    This quote is attributed to Plato (it’s longer than 8 words – sorry): “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”

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

    Oh, there are so many embarrassing moments to recount – most of them have involved me getting tongue-tied in front of class and as a result something amusing has popped out.  At least we all get a good laugh out of it!  Most of my disasters are IT-related (that is, something doesn’t work as it should, so I have to quickly devise a Plan B).  Perhaps this suggests that relying on technology for class is not always the best way to go.

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

    They would be surprised to learn that I am a real softy.  Students typically describe me as the “hard but fair” professor, which makes it sounds as if I am “tough” or even cold-hearted.  In fact, I am completely the opposite.  I get misty-eyed during sappy commercials or movies, and my children make me laugh constantly.  I love a good time and have a great sense of humor.  When students come to me with difficulties, I am very sympathetic and quick to accommodate.  Students might also be surprised to know that my husband and I enjoy riding our Harley and that I frequently attend DragonCon in Atlanta (the southeast’s complement to ComicCon). 

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    During the semester, it’s hard to find time to read books for pleasure, but I always have magazines handy for a mental break.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    YouTube.  I show a lot of video clips in class.  However, I wish there was an easy way to hide some of the more “interesting” sidebar ads.  We have had more than a few laughs in class over them.

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

    We like to talk about new restaurant finds, recipes, and life in general (kids, travel, weekend plans, etc.).  We also talk about concerns regarding the college.  We share the same struggles many colleges face with respect to “selling” a liberal arts education in the current economy.

  • 22 Apr 2014 9:36 AM | Anonymous

    School name: University of the Cumberlands

     

    Type of college/university: private liberal arts university

     

    School locale: We are located in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the United States (southeastern Kentucky)

     

    Classes I teach:

    I teach Research Design and Statistics, Learning and Cognition, I/O Psychology, Sport Psychology, Freshman Orientation Seminar, Senior Seminar, and various online courses.

     

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

    One of my teacher friends often reminds me that the good teachers are ones who can educate young minds without losing their own.

     

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

    McKeachie’s Teaching Tips is a resource I still consult often.

     

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

    Research Design and Statistics is my favorite course to teach. Many of my students refer to the course as “sadistics” when it begins. Often their fear is rooted in math anxiety. However, most of them beg for computation problems rather than conceptual problems as the course progresses. Moreover, most of them develop a much better understanding and appreciation of how numbers serve as tools to help address questions about human behavior. I see more cognitive growth in my Research Design and Statistics students than in any other course.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Although I have my “go to” activities and assignments that always go well, I do not have a favorite. In general, my activities and assignments are applied in nature. For example, rather than have students define change blindness I will ask them to give me an example of where they have seen change blindness in action this week. Moreover, I might ask students to do a change blindness “experiment” on their own, such as switch clothes in the middle of an event, report on how many people noticed the change, and give plausible reasons why the change was noticed or not.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Although it increases my grading load, I give students numerous opportunities to earn points during the semester. Students must provide some type of “deliverable” nearly every class period. By doing so I get a sense of which concepts need further explanation, students have ample opportunities to actively think about course material, and plenty of deliverables also minimizes situations where students beg for extra credit at the end of the semester.  


    What’s your workspace like?

    Because I have a heavy teaching load of face-to-face classes, online classes, and supervising independent research projects, keeping my workspace tidy often falls near the bottom of my priority list. I often quip that a cluttered office means a clear mind. Although I have never misplaced a student assignment or important document, I occasionally have trouble reading the notes I have written to myself. My handwriting skills seem to be decreasing with age.   


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Repetition boosts learning!

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Learning is an active and constructive process.

     

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

    A prospective donor to the university recently sat in on one of my courses. I was lecturing the students on the importance of proofreading their written work because there had been numerous writing errors in recent assignments. Shortly after my lecture I gave a handout to the class. The donor wryly pointed out to me that my handout contained a typographical error. He was right!

     

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

    My wife and I lived inside of a funeral home for a year.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Most of my pleasure reading these days is in the domain of success. I am intrigued by the fact that my students with the most potential (academically or athletically) are not necessarily the ones who turn out to be most successful. I want to learn more about what characteristics ultimately lead to success in life so I can try to help instill these characteristics in my students and children. I am an avid sports fan and read a great deal about sports too.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I would not want to go back to academic life without course management systems such as Blackboard.

     

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

    The hallway chatter in my department often involves student stories. Some of them are humorous such as telling my colleagues about a student who called to notify me he could not come to class on a cold day because he did not have an ice scraper to remove the ice from his car windshield (true story!)  Others are more depressing such as looking for advice about how to motivate a student taking a class for the third time who is failing the course again.    

  • 05 Apr 2014 4:08 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Northern Arizona University, Extended campus


    Classes I teach: child and adolescent development, developmental psychology, adult development, research methods, statistics, organizational psychology


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

    When I was in graduate school I read McKeachie’s Teaching Tips (11th edition).  It was a great read while starting out teaching. Also while I was in graduate school, I read Dempster (1993), Exposing our students to less should help them learn more, published in Phi Kappa.  I really tried to think about the less is more approach while feeling overwhelmed with what I had to teach students.  I also tried to connect ways to elaborate and it got me thinking more about the textbooks I choose (if I had the choice). 

     

    Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
    I really enjoy teaching developmental psychology courses, research methods, and statistics.  Recently, I have begun to teach more and more on-line (administrative request).  This has led me to shift a bit on my favorite lecture topics/courses.  In person, a few of my favorite topics are infant cognition (child and adolescent development), adolescent cognitive abilities (child and adolescent development), creating formulas in excel (statistics), and career and work (adult development and aging).


    I have found it easier to transition the developmental courses online.  For online courses, I keep the same shell recipe for the different courses I teach (with some adjustments).  This semester I am teaching research methods online -- keeping the rigor of the face to face requirements (4 credit writing intensive course).  I am focusing the semester on a broad research topic with the class first participating in survey research (I have students fill out a questionnaire during week 1 that serves as data for this project, and then they do a literature review of the topic and write up the findings as their first research paper write up) and then we move to experimental designs on the same topic (group based projects that they can collect data online).  I am hoping that this becomes a favorite course.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
    Anything that brings information alive to students and where they are connecting to the learning material.  I keep telling them the best way to know you “know it” is to be able to explain it to someone else and come up with your own examples.  Any activity I can develop or find that does that is a favorite.  My favorite assignment for developmental psychology was a service learning project I did while at Dominican University.  Student worked in a low-income Kindergarten or first grade classroom.  I had bi-weekly assignments connected to their classroom time.  The main project was to develop fun, educational games.  Students worked in pairs to develop games and the class chose four to be implemented.  The class worked on creating the materials to play the games in the classroom and for the kids to take them home.  We then had a game day for the classes and the kids took the games home.  Students then wrote a final reflection paper.  It took me a couple of iterations before I felt like the project really connected well with students and course content.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? 

    For online teaching, I use the exit ticket every week to check in on student learning (I also ask what they feel they learned really well).  For the exit ticket, students need to respond with an explanation or application of a concept covered that week along with a question they still have about the material.  Students look over each other's exit ticket posts and respond to peer posts.  The exit ticket is a weekly discussion board.  I follow up with a quick clip video of common topics students asked about in addition to responding to each student's posts.  

    I also use rubrics for grading papers, projects, and discussion boards.  I try to use as many assignments with an applied approach.

     

    What are three words that best describe your teaching style?

    practical, authoritative, invested

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Emphasize science, make it applied, and come alive.

     

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

    Last summer, as an adjunct I submitted copies for the final exam for an evening summer course.  The copy center moved with renovations going on, and it closed before my class started.  I only came to campus once a week.  The copies were not in my box.  Luckily I had access to a printer and could print them all off, but it was a rush and stressful.  Come to find out, in my panic, I did not see that they were in the mail box below mine.  I still can’t comprehend how I missed them.  We started class five minutes late and I was just glad the class was almost over. 

     

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

    I like driving stick-shift--I really wish I did not trade in my old car for a minivan I run a destination half-marathon race at least once a year.  My husband is Canadian.  Things they already know--I am an identical twin and mother of three children.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? 

    I just finished How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.  Before that I read Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. 

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I really enjoy using Poll Everywhere and I use YouTube weekly to post class quick clips.  And, I just got a new desk mount that allows me to work standing or sitting (see picture!).

  • 20 Mar 2014 11:17 AM | Anonymous

    School name: Carroll University

     

    Type of college/university: independent, co-educational comprehensive university grounded in the liberal arts tradition

     

    School locale: Waukesha, WI

     

    Classes I teach:

    Introductory Psych; Statistics and Experimental Design; Psychological Testing and Assessment; Experimental Social Psychology; Research Seminar; Specialty Courses (Web 2.0 Learning Tools; Happiness; Why War?; SPSS; Web-based Surveying)

     

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

    Be yourself. Don’t chase after “Best Practices.” Observe and reflect on what makes a teacher (in)effective at engendering learning, resilience, and love of learning. BUT DON’T try to be JUST like that master teacher.

     

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

    Postman and Weingartners (1971) Teaching as a Subversive Activity and most recently, Gardner and Davis’ (2013) The App Generation.

     

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

    Statistics and Experimental Design (PSY205). Here is what I tell my students at the start of this class: “Statistics is a way of thinking about things, and is a set of tools for answering questions. Using statistics on a regular basis is the best way to learn this language and to learn how to use statistical tools appropriately. Therefore, it’s very important that you attend labs, work on problems I assign you from the text, and actively participate in data collection exercises. To further help you understand uses of statistics I shall often share with you examples of applications of statistics from my own work of that of student and faculty researchers.”

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    Collecting meaning data, especially if related to a study recently published in a journal like Psychological Science or which can be used in conjunction with software such as Research Randomizer, SPSS, and Survey Monkey. This gives us data that we can refer to throughout the semester as we learn together.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    In my Statistics class, I give no quizzes or homework per se. There are five regular exams (criterion-referenced) which focus on being able to perform correctly the appropriate data analyses by hand and by computer, to interpret computer output, and to be able to write a report that a motivated layperson would understand. Students also take a comprehensive final examination whose emphasis is on demonstrating mastery of knowing what data analysis to do--and why that particular data analysis is appropriate. I use for a regular text and my own materials. There is a weekly lab taught by me where they learn how to use SPSS. I also introduce some additional software (StarQuiz) which allows for computer assisted review.


    What’s your workspace like?

    Cluttered but the source of much creativity, computation, and collegial conviviality. I have a lab room adjoining my office where six student research assistants continually provide me support and intellectual stimulation. I sit at a desk which has a Dell desktop sitting next to a MacBook Pro and an iPad. They get along. I am surrounded by books and students. My classes are within walking distance of my office. I have an open-door policy and am rarely alone.  


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Playful; Personalized; Patient

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Strive for consistent excellence; Listen; Reflect; Learn; Love

     

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

    Until I started college/university teaching, I suffered from a fear of public speaking.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.)

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I pride myself on NOT being dependent upon tech tools (but I’ve also been known to blog extensively about them).

     

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

    Alas, I am not known for my small talk--or for standing in the hall. Ars longa, vita brevis.

  • 05 Mar 2014 3:09 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Washington State University, home of the Cougars!

    Type of college/university: R1, though my position is as instructional faculty.

    School locale: Pullman, WA. Pullman is a small town in eastern Washington state. It’s surrounded by rolling wheat fields and gets plenty cold during the winters.

    Classes you teach: My primary teaching responsibilities include our statistics course, an enjoyable course on pseudoscience, Psychology of Women, and Social Psychology.

     

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

    Looking back on my entire teaching career, I can’t point to one piece of advice that I received that really helped me develop as a teacher. The piece of advice I gave my husband, who has recently become a professor himself, was to think first about the reputation he wants to have, and then teach according to this reputation. I would have loved to have that advice when I was starting out.

     

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

    I’m not sure I can point to a single book or article that has shaped my teaching, but I am a devoted reader of every issue of the Teaching of Psychology. I’ve learned many interesting techniques, new strategies, and student issues that constantly push me to try new approaches in the classroom.

     

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

    My favorite subject to teach is statistics. Statistics is a course that students mostly dread and is a course that can easily be taught in a way that perpetuates students’ dread. Every semester that I teach statistics, I challenge myself to make the course and material approachable and to teach it in a way that reaches the most students.

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    The in-class activity that I’m most proud of is titled Fantasy Football League: A z-Score Activity. It came about in a moment of panic, when my usual z-score activity failed and I had to quickly think of another activity to use in its place. The Fantasy Football League requires students to draft a fantasy football team consisting of one quarterback, one running back, one tight end, one wide receiver, and one kicker. Using the players’ fantasy football stats, which can be obtained from any sports-related website, students compute z-scores for each of their players and then compare their players’ performance to the other students’ players. By the way, the kicker is usually the best player on the team! I think it’s a fun and relatable way to introduce z-scores.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Because I’m constantly challenging myself to improve my teaching of statistics, I regularly modify my course. In the past, I’ve found that allowing open-book, open-note exams works well. Now that I’ve revised my course again to accommodate a much larger class (upwards of 160 students per semester!) I find that the old-school method of hand writing lecture notes to be amazingly effective. I find that it forces me to be precise in what I convey and how I convey it, and students appreciate it (probably because it slows me down).

    What’s your workspace like?

    I try to keep my office well organized and organize it frequently which I think is a carryover from my home life. At home I have a 2-year-old and nothing is ever fully clean or organized. At my office, I actually have control over how neat or messy it is, and I lean toward neatness.

     

    Three words that best describe your teaching style

    Approachable, Challenging but fair, Enthusiastic.

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Promote psychology as a science through approachable enthusiasm.

     

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

    I’m far more introverted than my students probably think I am and I’m fearful of public speaking. I had my students participate in an in-class activity where we correlated scores on the Big 5 introversion/extraversion scale with the number of times the students “flipped” a Necker cube. Because the class was small, I contributed my data to the data set. Once the students knew I was participating, a bet began among the students to guess my score on introversion/extraversion. The students all guess that I was far more extraverted than I actually am (my score nearly bottomed out on the scale)! My students were shocked!

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I have three books on my bedside table, one called Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wells, an American Academy of Pediatrics tome about child development through 5 years of age, and a How-To book on crocheting. The novel is my for-fun book, the child development book is so that I can read up on why my child is doing what he’s doing, and the crochet book is so that one day I can actually pursue a hobby!

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Only one??? I can think of four: my iPad, my laptop, my wireless remote control, and a document camera.

     

    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 probably a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to hallway chatter. In addition to being incredibly busy at work, I also have a busy home life with my 2-year-old son. So when I’m at work, I work and don’t socialize much. When I do chat with colleagues, it’s usually about teaching.

  • 20 Feb 2014 2:13 PM | Anonymous

    School name: 

    Centenary College of New Jersey


    Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College

     

    School locale: Rural

     

    Classes I teach:

    Intro Psych, Intro to the Major, Stats, Methods, Tests & Measures, Social, Personality

     

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

    This nugget: “Teach depth over breadth.” I heard it first from Wayne Weiten when I was a student in his Teaching of Psychology seminar at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. At the time, that advice made a lot of sense for us budding instructors who were hell-bent on covering as much material as we could in a 50 minute class session, and proving our competence. Now I take something different from it. There are very real limits to human attention and processing; we see this in our classrooms every day. So, it makes sense to dive deep with just a handful of themes during a class session. Differentiate formats of instruction, elaborate upon the themes, let students deeply connect with them, practice retrieving the information, and then assess students’ grasp both informally and formally. If anything, the textbook provides the breadth.


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

    I was first introduced to McKeachie’s Teaching Tips back in Wayne’s seminar, and I still pick it from time to time when I need to be reenergized about being a professor.

     


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

    My favorite courses, due to the content and importance within the curriculum, are Stats and Research Methods. But when taking my students' interests and motivations into consideration, it would have to be Social Psychology. In particular, one of my favorite topics to teach would have to be Sexual Strategies Theory. The topic and predictions from this framework always seem to elicit discussion--especially new empirical questions. I particularly enjoy integrating research components into courses, and so topics like this can get students thinking like scientists. Eventually some join the research enterprise...

     

    Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.

    My classes tend to be discussion-heavy, so I will often rely on activities such as minute papers, think-pair-shares, small group conversations, and then whole class discussion. I would say that I most enjoy bouncing around from small group to small group. That way I am able to gain some sense of how students are processing and relating to the information in real-time. I am also able to privately answer questions students would avoid asking in a whole class discussion. I can reinforce students’ insights and encourage them to share with everyone when we regroup and break into full discussion. For me, this type of interaction is simple to achieve in small to medium classrooms, and it accomplishes a number of immediate and longer term outcomes.

     

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I have occasionally made use of a “flipped” or “inverted” classroom over the last few years. I first toyed with putting up notes, reading quizzes, websites, YouTube clips, or pre-class assignments on my course management system. Eventually I got the bug, and uploaded my amateur podcasts and cheesy video lessons. I have found that this approach allows students to revisit lessons whenever, and for as many times as they would need. More importantly, perhaps, “flipping” can set a more interactive environment into motion within the classroom. In theory, students will come to class prepared and the level of discussion can be raised to a level much higher than it would in a completely traditional “read the textbook, take reading notes, then come to lecture, listen to me profess, and take lecture notes” mode of operation.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I have been told my office resembles a T.G.I. Friday’s with all the sports and college memorabilia on my walls and bookshelves. My office chair is a balance ball, so that gets looks too. As much as I enjoy that space, I have found that I am happier and more productive if I hold my meetings and do less cognitively demanding work there. For some reason I tend to do my best writing and class preparation holed up in the back of a Starbucks.


    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Conversational, comedy, collaborative

     

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    To be a firm--but fair--learning coach.

     

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

    I have not embarrassed myself lately, because I think I have reached the blissful state of not caring or “embracing the unexpected”… knock on wood. But back in my Master’s program, about 10 years ago, I was a guest lecturer delivering a Social lesson--attraction, mate selection, and the like--in a big auditorium. It seemed to be going well. The videos on PowerPoint were working, the dry erase pens in the classroom had ink. How rare is that? Students were respectful, attentive, interested (or at least well caffeinated), and even laughing at my jokes. I was feeling pretty good about things on all levels, in this, one of my first lessons at the university level. About 20 minutes in, my master teacher came up from the back row of the auditorium. I was shocked to see him on his way up to the stage. Was he bringing the hook to drag me off the stage? So, I asked him, “what’s up?” He whispered that I had a black streak on my face, completely across my forehead. I felt the blood immediately rush to my face. My cheeks became beet red, and then I playfully chastised the audience for not telling me I smeared dry erase ink across my forehead. I tried to recover, plowed on, and finished the guest lecture with no further hitches. This experience taught me two valuable lessons: 1.) use the back of your hand if you feel the need to touch your forehead while in the classroom, and more importantly 2.) you can recover from any teaching disaster with the right attitude.


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

    I was a washed-up college athlete and fraternity president before I found psychology.

     

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Alternating between classic ToP articles on Introduction to the Psychology Major courses and Zachary Lazar’s Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder.

     

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPad. I use it to help me put students’ faces to names, take attendance, and randomly select students to call on. Also, if I use slideware for a presentation, I prefer to control it and make annotations using my iPad.

     

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

    The second floor hallway in Bro Hall is rather lively, and as a new faculty member, I am particularly grateful for such a warm environment. During prime time many of us are riffing on events of the day, making light-hearted cracks about one another, or bemoaning the plight of the Mets, Giants, and/or Nets. It is also a hallway culture in which folks keep their doors open most of the time. This allows colleagues to pop in and consult about statistics, solicit teaching suggestions, and touch base with one another.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software