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)

  • 15 Mar 2018 1:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Carleton College

    Type of school: private liberal arts college

    School locale: small town (~20k) Northfield, Minnesota

    Classes you teach:

    Principles of Psychology, Sensation & Perception with lab, Human Expertise, Psychology of Spoken Words

    Average class size: 15 (seminar) – 35 (introductory course)

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

    “Bring yourself into the classroom.” When I first started teaching I felt like I had to maintain a formal, professorial demeanor. Once I gave that up and embraced my more informal, zany style, I had more fun, and the students did too. I regularly give examples from my own life - sharing my perspectives and being open with students seems to help them be more comfortable with me and willing to ask for help.

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

    Teaching Introductory Psychology: Survival Tips from the Experts. It was the first teaching book I ever read and I still regularly think of the advice in it. One suggestion it gives that I try to use regularly is to teach by telling stories. For instance, when I introduce the idea of localization of function in our neuroanatomy unit, I begin with, “In the spring of 1861, a man was admitted to a hospital outside Paris. He was only able to speak a single syllable, but could do it with inflection and expressive hand gestures,” and then go on to describe Leborgne meeting Broca and what we have since come to learn about the neuroanatomy of language production. Telling the detailed story of a single person seems to engage students and make them more curious about a particular phenomenon.

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

    I love all my courses equally, but Sensation & Perception is a favorite. This involves teaching students basic, factual information (e.g., anatomy of the inner ear), processes (e.g., how acoustic signals are translated into neural code in the inner ear), and more high-level abstract concepts (e.g., how we recognize spoken words). Sensation & Perception is also quite interdisciplinary, and I like getting to draw on psychology, neuroscience, physics, and philosophy all in the same course. It's also a lot of fun to get to explain familiar phenomena like why people have the flavor preferences they do, why being drunk makes you dizzy, why spicy food burns, etc. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    On the first day of my intro psych class, I give small groups of students a fictional research summary to evaluate. They all receive the same brief introduction and methods section, but different groups get different (contradictory) results. I ask students to explain why the outcome occurred and whether it is what they would have predicted. Over the years I’ve been doing the exercise, 76% of students have reported that they would have predicted the results, despite the fact that there the two outcomes were contradictory. I use this to demonstrate hindsight bias and emphasize the importance of empirical testing, because our intuitions can’t always be trusted. (If any future students are reading this - don’t wreck my demo, ok?)

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    In a typical class period, I’ll lecture for 10-15 minutes, then ask students to work in small groups to answer discussion questions, solve a problem, design an experiment, or apply something from the reading or lecture to a novel issue. We then discuss as a class and repeat the process. I like moving back and forth between a more traditional lecture format and more flexible, small group work. The discussion time also gives students who are nervous about asking questions in front of the whole class an opportunity to talk to me one-on-one.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Typically tidy, but with cups of tea and whatever I’m reading close to my computer.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Enthusiastic, interactive, rigorous.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Hook ‘em and they’ll work to learn it.

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

    The teaching issues that stick with me tend to be the minor, but more frequent missed opportunities. I’ll sometimes realize after a class period (or even a whole course) that there was a much better way to present information, a clearer example to give, or a more interesting way to frame a problem. I have to work hard not to kick myself for missing an opportunity to have done something better. Luckily, there’s always next time!

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

    In college, I was premed until I failed the first few tests in intro bio. I considered going to grad school for linguistics.  I came very close to quitting my PhD program. I think career paths are much less straight than students assume.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Vacationland by John Hodgman

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I rely on GQueues for task management, Slack for team communication, GoogleDocs for collaboration, Dropbox for storage, and R for data analysis.

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

    These days it’s mostly about my two small kiddos and who is sick with what that day. When it’s not the middle of Minnesota winter, I also find myself talking about running and outdoor adventures, movies, my art, and what is going on around town.

  • 28 Feb 2018 11:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Lake Forest College

    Type of school: Small Liberal Arts College

    School locale: Near a major city

    Classes you teach:

    Gender-Based Violence, Cross-Cultural Psychology, Community Psychology, Research Methods & Statistics, Introduction to Psychology Laboratory, First-Year Studies: Social Labels and Identity

    Average class size: 15

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

    Do fewer things well.

    My teaching mentor, Dr. Bette Bottoms, provided this guidance while teaching a “how to teach” course in graduate school. It’s now my mantra – for class lecture, syllabi, research, committee work…and life! Focus on a few things you can do well and farm out the rest!

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

    The classic, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, and recently, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).

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

    I love teaching z-scores in Research Methods and Statistics. Calculating probability using the Normal Distribution is such an elegant and beautiful visual on the whiteboard. It’s when I can really see statistics beginning to click in my students’ brains. It adds a tangible element to the rather esoteric study of probability theory.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    In my senior seminar, Gender-Based Violence, each student chooses a country and complies data on violence against women, violence prevention, and social services for sexual assault and intimate partner violence in that country. There is little psychological research on these topics, in comparison to the United States. Thus, students use new types of sources (e.g., WHO reports, United Nations Reports) to summarize the state of sexual violence globally. This assignment is eye-opening to cultural differences and attitudes about violence against women and children.

    Students write up a report on their chosen country, and we hold a session of the United Nations in our classroom. During the most recent session, we discussed how the refugee crisis intersects with violence against women, and what each welcoming country could do to address that violence.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    When I write my lectures, I always consider the question, “Why is this important?” I’m an applied community psychologist, so it’s hard for me *not* to think about real world applications of the material. For students, I think this grounds the lectures in the real world.

    What’s your workspace like?

    Standing desk with a table for meetings—I prefer a round table for meetings with my colleagues and students—we’re working TOGETHER.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Energetic, Fair, Clear

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

    Our statistics teaching lab has a telephone. During class the phone rang, and I looked at the students bewilderedly and asked, “Should I answer it?” They were just as surprised as I was, so I picked up the phone, turned on my pre-grad school telemarketer voice, and answered, “Hotchkiss Hall, Room 9.” It was a fax sent to the wrong number. The students cracked up and remarked on that day throughout the semester.

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

    I see many, many concerts and host bands passing through Chicago.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Without You There Is No Us by Suki Kim

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iphone

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

    Gardening, kids, and future avenues for students.

  • 15 Feb 2018 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: The Ohio State University

    Type of school: Large, public university

    School locale: Columbus, Ohio

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology

    Average class size: 60

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  Wow, it’s hard to think of just one piece of advice! My mentor, Missy Beers, always has nuggets of teaching wisdom that I take away from my conversations with her. One that sticks out to me is that there is no “perfect” teacher, and that the best teachers are the ones who are always assessing their effectiveness and adapting to meet the needs of their students.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Mindset by Carol Dweck. It helped me to adopt a growth mindset as a teacher and gave me tools to help my students develop a growth mindset as well.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I teach Introduction to Psychology and my favorite topic to teach is Memory. I love how relevant the chapter is to students' lives, as well as all the fun and memorable activities and demonstrations.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. My favorite in-class activity is one that I took from another instructor, Kristin Supe. On the first day of class, I ask my students to get into small groups and think of as many subjects/areas of study that are NOT related to psychology. Then, each group presents their list of topics to the class. If anyone in class can think of a way that a specific topic listed relates to psychology, we cross it off our list. By the end of the first day, our list is quite short. I take a picture of the list and return to it on the last day of the semester and ask students if, after learning about psychology for the last 12 weeks, they think we can cross any more topics off our list. Each semester I’ve done this, the list is eventually empty and students can see how psychology relates to so many other areas of study, often in unexpected ways.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? It really depends on my learning objectives for the topic. In general, using the process of backwards design has been a total game-changer in my teaching. My teaching techniques are now very much driven by my goals and learning objectives, which has led me to be much more intentional about my teaching methods and techniques.

    What’s your workspace like?  Organized! I have a hard time being productive if I don’t have a tidy workspace.

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

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Guide students to become curious and compassionate learners.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? That even though I am energized and outgoing when I teach, I am actually an introvert!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

    What tech tool could you not live without? My apple watch.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? It really varies. Sometimes my colleagues and I are chatting about psychology-related topics, while other times we’re talking about our weekend plans, or just catching each other up on our lives.

  • 31 Jan 2018 8:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Oberlin College

    Type of school: Small liberal arts college

    School locale: Small town: Oberlin, OH (population ~10,000) in a fairly rural area about 45 minutes west of Cleveland, Ohio

    Classes you teach:

    Introduction to Psychology; Research Methods; Cognitive Psychology; A Research Practicum in Cognitive Psychology; a seminar called Language & Thought

    Average class size:

    Intro Psych: 120

    Research Methods / Cognitive Psychology: 40 each

    Research lab / seminar: 15 each

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

    Make sure the students understand the question/problem/issue before you start explaining the answer.

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

    Bain (2004). What the best college teachers do

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

    My favorite course to teach is Research Methods because I love teaching students the analytical and quantitative reasoning skills that research requires. I like to help students who think they hate math develop their ability to make arguments with numbers. I like seeing students feel empowered as a result of learning the material. And I like grading / giving feedback in this class: because it can feel a little more "grounded" or "objective" than in more conceptual classes.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    At the beginning of each Research Methods class, I post a "question of the day." Students have about 10 minutes to work on it. Then we go over the problem together. It helps get the class started. And students show up on time, ready to work.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I try to make my courses as active for the students as I can. I don't love to stand in front of a room and talk at students. It's just not my style. I try to create to develop classes around questions/problems and tasks that are actively engaging for the students -- for which I am more of a facilitator than one-man-show.

    What’s your workspace like?

    I usually work in my office on campus or in my basement at home. My office on campus has a nice desktop computer and a large desk (that ends up sort of messy and cluttered, no matter how hard I try to keep it organized). I also have a nice desktop computer in the basement of my house. I usually work at home for a few hours in the morning before going into the department. It's a little less likely that I'll get distracted when I work at home. 

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Dedicated, student-centered, a-work-in-progress

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Inspire students to become excited about what they are learning.

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

    Every once in a while, there will be a (really bad) typo on a slide or handout. This is especially challenging in research methods, where we're working with formulas that are fairly rigid. I tell students in advance that this may be an issue. When it comes up, I try to be self-aware and self-deprecating -- students seem to appreciate that. Most importantly, I do everything I can to communicate the corrections. 

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

    That I was a pretty decent long distance runner in college (and for a few years after college). I ran a marathon in 2 hours 49 minutes in 2006 (6:30/mile pace).

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Tile -- which helps me keep track of my keys. 

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

    I have two daughters, 2 and 4. I talk a lot about them. Most of my colleagues also have kids, so it is fun to talk to them about being a parent. 

  • 15 Jan 2018 11:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Spelman College

    Type of school: A private historically Black liberal arts college for women

    School locale: City

    Classes you teach:

    Psychology of Women, Psychology of Racism, Research Methods in Psychology, and Advanced Research Seminar

    Average class size: 20

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

    The best teaching advice I received was that teaching is all about taking risks and failings are essential to bring clarity, understanding, and innovation into the classroom. Also, I was told to be honest and upfront with my students. In addition, it’s important to be thorough when instructing students to help them understand the purpose of assignments, in class activities, and course policies. I always try to reiterate the purpose of an assignment and in class activities.

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

    Two books that have shaped my teaching are Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks and Intersectional Pedagogy: Complicating Identity and Social Justice by Kim Case.

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

    My favorite course to teach is Psychology of Women. This course serves as one of the race and gender required courses for psychology majors and an option for the general women’s studies required courses for all students. I enjoy interacting with students and helping them explore the intersection of their own race, gender, and other cultural identities, while examining the social construction of gender. Specifically, I especially enjoy teaching about the experiences of women in the workplace because this is my area of research interest which focuses on how Black women and other women of color navigate through workplace politics.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    My favorite in class activity is a role playing activity on the topic of gender comparisons in social behavior and communication. The goal of this activity is to encourage students to develop their own critical intellect with regards to culturally inherited gender stereotypes. Also, it helps students look at their own assumptions about what it means to act like a man and what it means to act like a woman. I ask for two volunteers to come up to the front of the room. Using the gender binary framework, I assign the student volunteers to be either the man or woman, and according to their assigned gender, they are asked to do the following: a) walk to the other side of the room, 2) sit in a chair, and 3) and make a comment about a class topic. I then ask students, “Where do we learn gendered behavior?” and “How do your own behaviors relate to the gendered behaviors illustrated in the different scenarios presented?” Students openly express how their own behaviors were consistent or inconsistent with the actions of the student volunteers. At the end of the activity, students identified ways in which their own behaviors have been affected by gender stereotypes.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    Think, pair, and share using a photo, video, or discussion question is my personal preference. This strategy gives students time to think about their responses and helps all students become active participants in learning, especially those who might not feel comfortable sharing their responses with the entire class. Also, peer learning is an effective teaching strategy that I use involving student learning with, and from, each other. I have students serve as “discussants.” In groups of 3-4, students are required to facilitate class discussions based on their selected course topic using supporting materials, such as news, articles, media, and in class activities.

    What’s your workspace like?

    My workspace is cozy, but often times it is messier than I would like for it to be! I wanted to make sure that I created a vibrant office space where I would enjoy completing my work and a space that is a welcoming environment for my students and colleagues. I have inspirational quotes around my office and some of my favorite books. From time to time, I get compliments from students and my colleagues on my office.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Engaging, motivating, and inclusive

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Inspire students to be innovators and change agents.

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

    There’s been days where I could not say anything right. I would mix up my words or could not get the technology in the classroom to work. When it happens, I tell students that I am having an “off” day and I make sure I’m on point for the next class.

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

    If I was not a college professor I would have been the next Misty Copeland! At the age of four, I started taking ballet and tap dance classes. I also was on the dance team my senior year in high school and on the dorm stroll team in college. I always thought that I would become a professional ballerina and teach ballet classes for a living.  

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    My friends and I started a book club and we are currently reading bell hooks’ Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My laptop and cell phone!

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

    I typically talk to my colleagues about effective classroom management strategies, what’s happening on campus (there are always interesting things happening on campus), and plans for the weekend.

  • 18 Dec 2017 4:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: St. Catherine University

    Type of school: St Kate’s is a private Catholic university. The undergraduate college is for women only; its associates and graduate colleges are co-educational. I teach primarily in the College for Women.

    School locale: urban area

    Classes you teach:

    Seminar courses with service-learning, Learning Principles & Applications, General Psychology with Laboratory, History & Systems

    Average class size: 18

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

    I take a lot of my inspiration from great teachers I’ve had. It isn’t so much what they said or the advice they gave me, but what they did. They valued each student in their classrooms and taught with passion.

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

    Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. I read this book and attended a day-long workshop Fink was facilitating when I was a graduate student. It has shaped how I view the potential opportunities I have to work with students.

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

    My favorite course to teach is Learning Principles and Applications. I love digging deeper into topics students are only able to touch on in introductory psychology courses. I require students to apply and practice everything we learn about and I like to think students have as much fun as I do!

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

    In all of my courses students need to work in teams in some capacity and in one of my classes students work together throughout the semester on a research project. One of my favorite in-class activities is building team-work norms and skills. When I introduce that we will work together in teams for the semester, I put students into teams and I give them the task of building the tallest tower out of toothpicks and Dots. It’s fun and silly, but afterwards we have opportunities to debrief and talk about the essential components of team work and face-to-face communication.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

    I have embraced the flipped teaching style for content-heavy courses. Students tell me they prefer to watch lectures (or professionally produced videos) on their own time as they value the practice and application activities we engage in during class time. The in-class activities also allow me to tailor my instruction to students who are more advanced as well as intervene with students who are struggling with the fundamentals.

    What’s your workspace like?

    I think I’d lose my mind if my office weren’t neat and clean!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Relational, engaging, humble

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Building relationships, engaging students authentically, learning from students.

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

    In class one day I was going through an example of classical conditioning and it had something to do with sheep in a field with an electric fence. A student made a silly comment about the example and I responded with “Not baaaad.” I flushed at sharing such an awful pun and my students broke out in uproarious laughter. I thanked them for laughing with me at such a bad pun!

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

    In a seminar course in which we explore career options and discuss career preparation, I often tell students about how I worked at a one-hour photo shop after I finished my Master’s degree. (I’m not sure if they are more shocked that there used to be one-hour photo shops or that I had to work there after I earned a Master’s degree, but it opens the door to some great conversations about the paths our careers can take!)

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The book I’m reading now is kind of “meh.” But I love listening to podcasts! My favorites: More Perfect, Code Switch, and Radio Lab!

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

    It’s Minnesota, so we talk about the weather a lot! I also chat with colleagues about weekend plans, someone’s child care crisis (because there’s always one!), and great restaurants.

  • 29 Nov 2017 2:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Grand Canyon University

    Type of college/university: Private Christian University

    School locale: City; Southwest; Phoenix, AZ

    Classes you teach: General Psychology; Senior Capstone Class; graduate classes in Social Psychology, Human Development, and Ethics.

    Average class size: 90 students in General Psychology classes; 30 students in Capstone classes; 10-20 students in online graduate courses

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Psychology is such an exciting field. I may be biased, but I think we have the most interesting and relevant topics to present, which leads to really fun and engaging activities for students. I try to meet the needs of every student in class by considering different learning styles and presenting information in various ways. However, I love hands on activities. For that reason, I really like a neuroscience activity that I do at the beginning of the semester in my General Psychology class. Student are asked to create a neuron using every day household items. When they share their projects with their classmates, they are asked to describe how their selected item illustrates and represents the actual neuron and its functions.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. Conditioning videos - Students are asked to create a video that demonstrates classical or operant conditioning. They work in small teams and make short 1 - 3 minute videos that are later shared in class. After presenting their videos, they are responsible to describe the different elements of classical or operant conditioning that were included in their video.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you? Several years ago, I decided to give blended learning a try, and it was worked out really well in my classes. Through the blended learning experience, I have become a more dynamic instructor. My classes have evolved from passive environments where I lectured and students took notes to classes where students are actively involved and engaged. Students still take notes, but they also participate in activities to help to apply the information that is being covered. In all of my classes, I have incorporated more active learning activities and less lecture. In addition to lecture, I incorporate videos, case studies, presentations, technology, and independent and group activities to present and apply the course content.

    What’s your workspace like? I have a variety of work spaces. Pictured is my office on campus. I spend time working with Instructional Assistants and students in my office. I also mentor adjuncts. This provides a nice place to meet and chat with them. My couch at home is another comfy work space that I love! When it comes to grading, this is my workspace of choice.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. Active, Engaging, Enthusiastic

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I am not sure if this qualifies as a disaster, but every semester, I fight the technology distraction battle. This semester to overcome this problem, I implemented a technology-free lecture period into my classes. I am working to teach students to use technology as a tool rather than allow it to be a distraction. So far, this new classroom policy has been working very well. Students take notes by hand during lecture. Then when they are participating in classroom activities or assignments, they are permitted to use laptops or tablets. So far…so good!

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I am fluent in American Sign Language. I learned to sign when I was in middle school from a girl who transferred to my school and quickly became my best friend. Learning sign language provided me with more than the ability to communicate in another language. It provided direction and purpose for my life. I earned my bachelor degree in deaf education. Then, I was accepted to a fully funded graduate program in School Counseling at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, which is the only university that fully focuses on education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. Gordon describes how important positive energy can be to steer life in a successful direction by sharing a story about George, a hypothetical character, and how is life is changed when he was forced to ride Joy’s Energy Bus. She shares the ten rules he used to turn his professional and personal life around. Every leader should read and implement these rules into running successful teams. Every person should read and implement these rules into relationships with their spouse, family, friends, and coworkers. Focusing on the positive completely changes a situation - perspective is everything.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My clicker! It was not until it ran out of batteries one day that I realized how much I relied on it. A clicker allows me the freedom to move around the classroom as I lecture while easily clicking through PowerPoint slides. I am not tied to the podium in the front of the room, which definitely helps with classroom management and making connections with the students.

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Life events seem to be a popular topic this year. One colleague became a grandparent, one is getting married, one is in the process of adopting, and several have children, so these stories permeate the halls. Occasionally, we will talk about research projects or presentations that we are working on. We often work on these together and so chatting in the hallway quickly between classes may be the only time we can find to collaborate.

  • 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!

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