"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: Rob McEntarffer, Editor (Lincoln Public Schools), and Virginia Wickline, Associate Editor (Georgia Southen University)"
  • 30 Apr 2017 1:05 PM | Anonymous
    School name: Georgia State University

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

    School locale: Downtown Atlanta, GA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    School name: Kalamazoo College

    Type of college/university: Small liberal arts school

    School locale: City

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

    Average class size: 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What’s your workspace like?

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

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Emphasize not just what, but how and why.

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

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

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

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

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

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

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Definitely my iphone!

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

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

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

    School name: Metropolitan State University of Denver

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

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

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

    Average class size: 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

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

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

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

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

    What’s your workspace like? 

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

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  




    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Get engaged with the material and community!

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

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

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

    What tech tool could you not live without?

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

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

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

    PSYCHSESSIONS UPDATE: Listen to Bethany talk to about work-life balance, pervasive mommy-guilt, and the partial solution of double-dipping method. The interview closes with her new project, a blend of civic engagement and service learning, leading to the American Democracy Project.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 28 Feb 2017 4:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: APOLLON University of Applied Sciences and University of Bremen.

    Type of school: Both are universities in Bremen, a city in northern Germany

    Classes you teach: Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology
    Cognitive Psychology

    Average class size: APOLLON University: 12-20 students, University of Bremen: 40 – 200 students

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Well, I guess the most important thing that makes a good teacher is that one really loves what one does: An experimental psychologist who is really fascinated by what she/he does (e.g. designing and conducting experiments) is way better at educating students than one who just provides the course because he/she has to. Students recognize the teacher’s intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm and get motivated, too. Hence, good advice would be: in order to be a good teacher one should only teach topics (1) which he/she is burning for (in terms of being very interested in something) and (2) which match her/his competences and skills. To put a long story short: Motivation is contagious!

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

    Two books I really like due to their didactic qualities are “A student’s guide to Social Neuroscience” by Jamie Ward and “Discovering Statistics using …” by Andy Field [it’s a series of books providing hands on experience in statistics based on different packages like R (“Discovering Statistics using R”) or SPSS (“Discovering Statistics using SPSS”)]. “Teaching of Psychology”, the official Journal of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (APA Division 2), often comes up with great articles concerning the teaching of psychology: some of them have definitely shaped my work as a psychology teacher!

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
    Basically I like courses most which (1) illustrate how psychological theory can be applied to solve real world problems (e.g. “Applied Social Psychology”) and (2) integrate approaches from different (psychological) disciplines. My favorite course is social neuroscience because here theories and methods from Psychology and Neuroscience are integrated in a very sophisticated way. My favorite lecture topics are cognitive control (executive functions) and emotion regulation. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.
    This highly depends on the course: in courses on social psychology and counseling I use role-playing games (or other games in which students need to take over others roles or perspectives) in order to train certain communicative skills. On the other hand, in cognitive psychology courses for instance, I think it is important to get hands-on experience in experimental work, hence I give students tasks like designing an experiment on their own or writing a research proposal.

    What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?
    This again depends on the setting: when I give a lecture in front of 200 students I prefer to provide teacher-centered education, which means giving a classical lecture (standing and presenting in the front of a huge lecture hall). In smaller groups (up to 40) I prefer the student-centered approach, meaning that there is lots of interaction between teacher and students and that students work on several hands-on tasks in small groups.

    What’s your workspace like?
    Let me call it “creative chaos”: many books and manuscripts all over the place, some pieces of art on the walls and lots of interaction due to an open-door policy.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style. Open-minded, compassionate, interdisciplinary.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Motivation is contagious!

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.
    Once I was booked for a seminar, but the institution which booked me forgot to make any advertisement for my seminar. Hence, no one knew about it. Or no, one person did: one woman knew it directly from one of the oblivious organizers. But does it make sense to provide a seminar for only one person? Not really, don’t you think? Anyway, instead of going through the entire seminar we chatted about the seminar contents for more than one hour and I guess my lonesome student could even grasp some information from our chat. Hence, the situation was certainly embarrassing, but in the end not everything turned out being negative: finally one person got a one-to-one lecture (which is a quite good student-teacher ratio ;)       

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
    Well, I guess they would be surprised that I was a "goth" for quite some years when I was younger. I still love the music of Peter Murphy and Bauhaus and listen to stuff from Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), the Beauty of Gemina or Aesthetic Perfection in order to calm down (I believe that many people would rather get upset than calming down while consuming these sounds :)

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?
    Currently I'm reading two books in my free time: one of them is Neurotribes by Steve Silbermann (for quenching my thirst for non-fiction), the other (for quenching my thirst for fiction) is a novel from german author Frank Schulz called “Onno Fiets and the white Stag (German: Onno Fiets und der weisse Hirsch)”. Unfortunately the second one is only available in German, which is a great pity due to Frank Schulz being an amazing writer, perfectly combining intellect, humor and suspense enriched with psychological subtlety. 

    What tech tool could you not live without?
    In the domain of education there are many! The most important one to me is definitely the computer itself. Anyway, to give a more “fine-tuned” answer I choose for “presentation tools”, under which I sum up the projector, the pointer and the presentation software. These tech tools kind of revolutionized modern education standards (which does not necessarily mean that this revolution is per se positive!).

    What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
    Our hallway chatter has many facets: Topics range from teaching via research to private stuff like e.g. cooking, holiday/weekend plans or thoughts about the worlds’ current cultural and political developments.

  • 31 Jan 2017 11:41 AM | Anonymous

    School name: George Mason University

    Type of school: R1

    School locale: Fairfax, VA (Northern Virginia area)

    Classes you teach: Statistics, Research Methods

    Average class size: 34

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

    Teach in the style that works best for you – play to your strengths. There are so many great teaching ideas out there, that I often feel inspired and start thinking that I should incorporate some new strategy or activity or project into my class…and then I realize that it doesn’t fit with my personality or teaching style. When I read about people’s ideas for improving a class, I have to think carefully about whether their ideas would work for me. I love reading about new and effective strategies that others have used successfully in their classrooms and then finding ways that I can comfortably incorporate the spirit of their ideas in my own classroom.

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

    I love teaching undergraduate Statistics. It’s my absolute favorite course to teach. I was assigned this course when I started teaching ten years ago and have chosen to teach it every semester since. There’s something extra rewarding about taking a topic that students dread/fear/avoid and changing their view. I’m so encouraged when my once fearful and anxious students leave the course feeling confident and proud of all that they have accomplished in the semester.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    On the first day of Statistics, I do my best to create a comfortable learning environment for my students. One of the ways that I accomplish this is by handing out index cards and having students anonymously share their thoughts and/or feelings about Statistics. This could be a word, a phrase, or several sentences. I then collect the cards and read them out loud to the class. I’ll usually have a couple that say positive things about Statistics, but the overwhelming majority are people who express their dislike or their fear for the topic. This creates a good deal of laughter from students and helps to create a bond between them, as they now know that they are not alone. It then gives me a chance to reassure them about the supportive structure of the course and to start getting them excited about the things that they’ll be able to do by the end of the semester. 

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I like my students to be activity engaged in what they’re learning. Even with the standard lecture format that I typically use to start class, I insert lots of opportunities for them to answer and ask questions. If I’m teaching a new statistical analysis, I’ll typically go through the conceptual part and then the calculation and then follow that with practice problems for them to work through on their own. I like to have them work through problems in the classroom so that I can see where they’re having trouble and help them right then, rather than having them struggle at home and then have to wait for help until the next class period. I also like to have them learn new concepts by doing class activities that get them moving around and working with each other. Learning about survey design in Research Methods by creating their own surveys, for example. Or learning about standard deviations in Statistics by separating the class into small groups and then doing group comparisons using height as a variable – a great visual to help them understand the concept of variability!

    What’s your workspace like? 

    Very organized, both at home and in my office. I can focus and concentrate on doing my work much better when my surroundings are neat and orderly. I’ve tried to lower my standards about everything being ‘just so’ (two kids will force that on you!), but I also accept that this is part of who I am.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Structured, supportive, enthusiastic

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

    I once made copies of my exam and handed them out to the class…only to find out that I had made copies of the answer key! Luckily, I had a group of honest students in the front row who immediately told me about my mistake. I very quickly took back the copies that I had passed out. Fortunately, I was teaching in the same building where our offices were located, so I could run down the hall and quickly make copies of the right version. Yikes. I don’t even make an electronic answer key of my exams these days!

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

    That I still feel anxious going in to my first day with a new class. I want to create a positive first impression so that the rest of the semester goes smoothly, but I’m still surprised at how nervous I am to start. I relax within the first few minutes after starting class, but I still get those butterflies in my stomach as I walk to class at the start of each semester!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I recently finished re-reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I became Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies this semester and knew that some of the advice in this book would be useful for situations that could arise in my new administrative role. I like to avoid conflict as much as I possibly can, which is impossible to do when part of the role requires addressing student complaints and concerns! Re-acquainting myself with the strategies in this book has been helpful in creating smooth interactions throughout the semester. (Wait, does that count as reading for pleasure?!)

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Although I couldn’t live without my computer for most work-related things, I’m really old school when it comes to how I handle time management. My calendar and to do lists are all on paper. I write a LOT of lists. The act of writing things down reassures me that I’m not going to forget to do something – putting research into practice!

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

    This is my third year at Mason, and I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly supportive colleagues. We talk about what’s happening in our classrooms, what’s happening at home, and what’s happening at the University. There’s always someone that I can go to when I have a concern or question or want to share some news. We’re all respectful of each other’s time but also willing to stop and listen when a colleague stops by.    

  • 18 Jan 2017 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Mountain House High School, Mountain House, CA

    Type of school: 4-year high school--opened in 2014

    School locale: Depending upon your perspective, it is either far East Bay near Oakland and San Francisco, or far West Central Valley. Near both the Pacific Ocean and Yosemite, so a wonderful location.

    Classes you teach: Advanced Placement Psychology, Psychology, and World History with Sociology on the horizon for next year. I have also taught World Religions, US Government, World Geography, Cultural Anthropology, Philosophy of Human Nature, History of Chicago, Hindu Literature, and Popular Culture.

    Average class size: 26-36, average about 31

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

          Treat students with respect before you demand it from them. This little maxim has been a key to my success over the years. I begin by treating my students respectfully. Once I do this, I establish credibility, and over time, a reputation. This habit of respect means a lot when students know that my classroom is a safe place where they can take intellectual and emotional chances. For some, I am the only or one of a few safe adults in their lives. I want my kids to experience both the challenging aspects of academics, but also the kind side.

          No matter how sophisticated high school students look and speak, they are still children. Young adults, but still children. Despite any outward confidence or sophistication they may exhibit, there is still a little kid inside trying to figure out the world. On a recent note, I have about 25 stuffed animals in my classroom. They are very popular and the early kids search the room to find their favorites before class begins.

          Never berate a late student. You never know where they have just come from--they could be lazy, but they also could just have come from an abusive situation at home. Do not add insult to injury.

          Don’t take it personally. When students are acting out, I try to understand rather than judge. It is incredibly rare that a student acts out against me personally.

          Listen. When I complete a new activity or a unit where I’ve tried things out, I look to my students to offer me feedback about how I did and how the lesson could be improved. I have learned so much from my kids. They give me insights I could have never thought of on my own.

          Lose your ego--it’s not about you, it’s about the kids.

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

    I’ve read too many psychology books to count. The biggest influence on my work as a psychology teacher has been my colleagues from other schools. While I will no doubt miss mentioning some people, I’ve learned countless lessons and insights from Kent Korek, Steve Jones, Barb Loverich, Drew Appleby, Rob McEntarffer,  Karl Honma, Amy Ramponi, Kristin Whitlock, Randy Ernst, Ken Keith, Charlie Blair-Broeker, Jim Matiya, Doug Bernstein, Charles Brewer, David Myers, Martin Bolt, and so many more.

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

    I rarely lecture, but when I do, I do so interactively. I’ve been teaching Advanced Placement Psychology in one form or another since 1992. I love that course. I appreciate those who can go into more detail with an advanced course, but I love introducing the field of psychology to high school students and their parents.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. 

    Yes. All of them. Most have had a great deal of success over the years. But perhaps I like the ones that have failed. The frustration I experience is not pleasant when something fails, but it forces me to go back and see what I did wrong. And I do something wrong every day. Even after 30 years of teaching, I am still learning every day in terms of both content and pedagogy. On the first or second day of class, I nearly always use the Drew Appleby demonstration about deja vu from one of the Teaching Psychology Activity Books. However, I tend to use the demo for schemas, associational learning, and priming. When describing the meaning as we debrief how on earth I was able to get more than half the class to recall the same thing, I use a multi-colored netting I draw on the board to represent schema that grows more and more complex as they experience life. I then use schemas throughout the course to talk about how people’s understandings of behavior have changed as a result of learning new things.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    Over the years is what works best for me does not necessarily work best for my students. Rather than focus on what I do best, which is interaction with students, I find that I have to adjust every semester and from class to class. I enjoy learning by reading and then viewing videos that supplement the reading, so I do incorporate a lot of that in my class. However, my ability to absorb information quickly is a skill that not all of my students have so I have to incorporate retrieval practice in my class. Using Kahoot is one example of that. The kids enjoy the games occasionally, but I resist it. Conversations about ideas is my personal favorite. Socratic questioning in those conversations are what I relish.

    What’s your workspace like?

    More organized than anywhere previously. I now work in a school that is nearly all digital. Most assignments are turned in online, so I do not carry around large folders of paper. The piles of papers are are now replaced with toys and stuffed animals. Going mainly paperless means retraining my brain and habits into a different ways of dealing with information. Like the entire staff here, we practically live with our laptops attached to us. At home, I have a nice set of tables with my Mac Mini and Macbook Pro and speakers so I can jam to my tunes. That said, because I have three different classes consecutively, I usually have at least 15 tabs open on my browser which can get pretty messy.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.

    Involved, passionate, interactive

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Constructivist; always curious, learning, reflecting; no straight lines

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

    The first year I was teaching we were talking about myths about suicide. The myth was “people attempt suicide in order to get attention.” After a bit of discussion one student claimed that there was no way this was true--she knew because when she attempted suicide, it was a cry for help. A second student claimed that he attempted suicide in order to get attention. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. Somehow, I pulled myself together enough to honor both statements and talk about how “attention” would best be defined by getting help. Not totally sure how I made it through that class.

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

    I’m not sure they would be surprised to learn anything as I am pretty much an open book. That said, I imagine that they would be surprised at how much I have experienced that could have negatively impacted my life and attitudes. Between family and students, I have experienced suicides, accidental deaths, funerals, wars, loss of limbs, loss of mental capacity, murders, rapes, hate crimes, cancers, weddings, more funerals than I can count, and more. Despite of that, or because of that, I continue to see the positive side of humanity and choose my attitudes rather than let my experiences choose my attitude for me.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am in the midst of finishing writing an AP Psychology text/review book, so I have not been reading for pleasure. That said, I primarily read non-fiction related to history and the social sciences for pleasure. Occasionally, I read Thomas Perry novels and read A Song of Fire and Ice series a couple years ago. Between Facebook and Twitter, I read at least 15 articles a day on various social issues and research. For me, that is pleasure reading. Strange, I know.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Aside from a computer hooked to the internet? I’m big into Google Docs and Drive. Canvas is my current LMS and I love it. It provides a new way for organizing information and assignments--making me think differently. I rely heavily on Canvas for my AP Psych classes with the emphasis on testing. All my students have chromebooks, so I am converting much of my content into online formatting through Canvas. I just got a demonstration of Peardeck and was very impressed. I love YouTube for finding original footage of psych research. I love Twitter for communicating articles and quotes for my students. I love the Facebook groups I am in for collegial support and ideas. In short, I love tech that allows me to communicate complex ideas in efficient and effective ways. If the tool helps people learn, I tend to love it.

  • 20 Dec 2016 3:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: New Mexico State University

    Type of school: Doctoral-granting, Hispanic Serving Institution

    School locale: Las Cruces, NM, a medium size city in southern New Mexico in the shadow of the Organ Mountains

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology (undergrad), Human Sexuality (undergrad), Teaching of Psychology (grad)

    Average class size: In a typical semester, I teach two sections of Introduction to Psychology, each enrolling 140 students. I occasionally teach Human Sexuality with 80 students, and a graduate course in Teaching of Psychology with six students.

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

    Practice backwards course design: 

    • Decide what you want students to be able to do (not know, understand, or appreciate) by the end of the course
    • List the knowledge and skills students will need to be able to do those things
    • Determine what students need do (in class and outside of class) in order to develop that knowledge and those skills
    • Figure out what you can do (in class and outside of class) to help students develop that knowledge and those skills.

    With backwards course design, course alignment and other best practices in teaching and assessment are very straightforward (for more detail see Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, 2nd Ed by L. Dee Fink, 2013).

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

    My teaching is a product of Ken Bain, Larry Michaelsen, and L. Dee Fink, run together at high speeds. I structure my Intro Psych class around one Big Question and summarize course requirements in a Promising Syllabus because of what I learned in What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain. I plan every course from the starting point of “what do I want students to be able to DO at the end of the term” based on L. Dee Fink’s principles of backwards course design (see above). Finally, Larry Michaelsen and colleagues taught me how to use team-based learning (see Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching by Larry Michaelsen, Arletta Knight, and L. Dee Fink).

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

    I’ve been specializing in Introduction to Psychology for the last decade. Although I teach other courses occasionally, my usual course load is two large-enrollment, face-to-face sections of Intro each semester. This near-exclusive focus on Intro Psych began as a survival strategy, when my children were very young and I was new to living and working in different cities. I needed a course I could teach in my sleep because there were days I almost did.

    During this time, my thinking about Intro Psych was revolutionized by my friend and colleague, Dr. Tara Gray. Like many psychology faculty members, I had viewed Intro Psych as a relatively unimportant service course. When I voiced this sentiment, Tara gasped and observed, “Introduction to Psychology is the most important because it is the only psychology course most people ever take!” Now I view the course as building a Swiss Army knife; I want students to assemble the knowledge and skills offered by psychology that will be the most useful to them throughout their lives.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    Although I haven’t taught undergraduate Human Sexuality in a while, it is the source of my favorite in-class activity. The chapter on male and female reproductive anatomy has the potential to be a first-class bore – until you add PlayDoh! The moment students detect that distinctive smell, the classroom becomes joyous. When they learn their task is to build models of male and female anatomy using the PlayDoh, the giddy laughter begins.

    I love this activity because it is a vivid example of deep learning through fun. In order to build the models and identify all the relevant structures, they must consider how the structures are related in 3-dimensional space. They must also consider the relative size and shape of each structure. This kind of learning goes beyond the memorization of terms and definitions that students typically do with this material. Plus, it is one class day they will remember for a long while.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I am a dyed-in-the-wool practitioner of team-based learning. Team-based learning (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002; Sibley & Ostafichuk, 2014; Sweet & Michaelsen, 2012) is a teaching paradigm in which students are assigned to permanent teams that provide students the intellectual and interpersonal resources necessary to perform authentic disciplinary tasks that would otherwise be too difficult. Students are held accountable for completing pre-class preparation, allowing class time to be spent on activities that require teammates to resolve differences in their understanding of class material. Subsequent full-class discussion facilitated by the instructor highlights analogous differences across teams, broadening everyone’s thinking about the material (including the instructor’s). Thirty years of research indicates team-based learning improves learning and engagement particularly for struggling students.

    I use team-based learning in every undergraduate course I teach, including Introduction to Psychology. I use it because it facilitates many important learning objectives, such as engaging students, developing their communication skills, and creating the opportunity for students to think deeply about class material. It is also consistent with my training as a social psychologist. An implicit assumption underlying team-based learning is that properly constructed teams and team activities make positive team interactions and deep learning highly likely; in short, the situation drives behavior.

    Personally, I like team-based learning because it transforms class time. Years ago, when I lectured, I poured my energy into writing and delivering engaging and content-rich lectures that were frequently received by empty seats or barely conscious lumps of humanity. With team-based learning, I work hard outside of class creating sound in-class activities. I am rewarded during class by a roomful of enthusiastic, creative young scholars who need to be reminded when class is over.

    [Editor's Note: Laura also has a published textbook for Intro to Psych designed for team-based learning.]

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My workspace is variable. My home “office” is a southwestern-style recliner with wide wooden arm rests and a lap desk for my computer. When on campus, it might be one of the many chairs in my faculty office or a table at the nearby food court. The two constants are my laptop and a beverage.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Enthusiastic, humorous, organized

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Design the activity, get out of the way.

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

    When I was new to teaching, I had what felt like an array of disasters (e.g., falling in front of class, assigning a multiple-choice item with no correct answer, being unable to successfully use the technology in the classroom, coming to class prepared for the wrong activity, confusing myself in the middle of an explanation, being unable to spell or do arithmetic correctly on the chalkboard). What’s changed over time isn’t the frequency of these events but my reaction to them. I used to view them as unpredictable disasters that would inevitably destroy my credibility with students. Now I view them as guaranteed snafus; the only unpredictable part is the nature of the mistake and how far into the semester I get before one occurs. Recently, I messed up the correct answers on a quiz over the syllabus I gave on the second day of the term! Whatever mistake or embarrassment or “disaster” that might befall you in your teaching career, don’t beat yourself up over it. Not one of the nearly 10,000 students I’ve taught in 20 years has ever commented on my blunders.

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

    Despite my extraverted classroom persona, I am quite introverted. I’m the one at the party who is happiest sitting in the corner interacting with the household pet.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I’ve been exploring books on work-life imbalance, starting with The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber. Thus far, the journey has included:

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    This question makes me grin as I have a low-tech soul. That said, my professional life would be untenable without a laptop, WiFi, and podcasts. I live 45 miles from my office. These tools make my work sufficiently portable when I’m not in the office and the commute tolerable when I am.

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

    Pre-election 2016, the chatter was mainly sharing tidbits gleaned from podcasts, Facebook, or NPR. Having self-imposed a media blackout after the election (denial isn’t just a river in Egypt), casual chat is now limited to sharing stories from weekend activities or other kid-related anecdotes.

    PSYCHSESSIONS UPDATE: Listen to Laura discuss team-based learning and the long term benefits for your students.


  • 30 Nov 2016 1:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Swinburne University of Technology

    Type of school: University (post-secondary, tertiary education institution)

    School locale: Hawthorn, which is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia (about 10km from the CBD)

    Classes you teach: Introductory Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Psychology of Personality

    Average class size: 200-400 students

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

    An ex-colleague told me to always use evidence-based teaching methods. As a starting lecturer this was a new idea for me. It sounds strange for me to say now that I didn’t know there was research being done on teaching in higher education, but at the time… We teach our students to base their assignments and arguments on evidence so we should practice what we preach, as a starting academic it was a new idea to me that there was an evidence base to teaching, when I was doing casual tutoring during my PhD teaching was based on gut feel/instinct, there is a place for this but....

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

     “Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology” by Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, and Willingham and published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. While many of the ideas are not new (and that is kind of the point of the article) it was good to see a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of learning strategies in different contexts. I try to structure the learning activities in my units around the strategies shown in this review article to be most effective for students in higher education.

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

    I would have to say Abnormal Psychology is my favourite course to teach. It is the course that every student looks forward to throughout their undergraduate degree. The students are often very engaged with the content – it is a good opportunity to bust some of the common myths surrounding public perceptions of mental health and how ‘abnormality’ is defined.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    In-class activities on sensation and perception always get a good response from students. Explaining how illusions like the ‘stopped clock’ and motion and colour after-effects work in the brain and visual system demonstrates how the ideas we are learning can be applied to real-life situations. Many students have experienced these illusions but don’t yet know how to explain them, so I kind of feel like a magician giving away his secrets!

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    In terms of achieving learning outcomes for students, a brain jigsaw activity I have adapted from a worksheet developed by Valeri Werpetinski at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne works really well. Students work together in small ‘expert’ groups to apply biological aspects of psychology (brain structure and function, neurotransmitters) to a real-life scenario. They then return to their ‘home’ groups to teach their colleagues what they have learned from their ‘expert’ groups. The activity serves many purposes, including group interaction and learning how to teach, as well as engaging them in a topic (biological aspects of psychology) that many of them wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in.

    What’s your workspace like? I would describe it as organised chaos.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Relaxed, receptive, inclusive.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I'm sure there were many early on in my career but I seem to have repressed them! Forgetting during a live lecture why I have put a particular PowerPoint slide in or losing my train of thought are probably the most common embarrassments. I have learnt that the best response is to own up to a memory lapse and try to inject some humour into the situation.

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

    Even after all these years of teaching I still get nervous before each and every lecture. I like to think that I come across as relaxed in the classroom (see above), so students would be surprised to know that I still have an edge of nervousness, particularly early on in the semester.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    Zero K by Don DeLillo. I also like to read the newspaper every day so I can keep up with what’s happening in the world outside the academic bubble.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    My iPad – I take it with me everywhere (except when I go on holidays)

  • 17 Nov 2016 3:34 PM | Anonymous

    School name: Ball State University

    Type of school: Public research university

    School locale: Ball State is in Muncie, Indiana, which is a relatively small town. I currently live in Indianapolis and commute to campus.

    Classes you teach: I am the Director of the Social Psychology Master’s Program at Ball State and, right now, I primarily teach graduate courses related to social psychology. These include Advanced Social Psychology, Social Cognition, Attitudes & Persuasion, Intergroup Relations, and Counseling Applications of Social Psychology.

    Average class size: Currently, the average class I teach has about 8-10 graduate students. However, when I used to teach at the undergraduate level, I routinely had classes of several hundred.

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

    The biggest influence on my teaching hasn’t come from readings—it has come from experience. And I’ve been very fortunate to have had a very diverse teaching background. It started while I was a graduate student at Purdue University, where I funded myself partially by teaching small evening courses for continuing education students, many of whom came from non-traditional backgrounds. Upon graduating, I taught at an R1 institution (Colorado State) and in the Ivy League (Harvard), I taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels, my classes ranged in size from 5 to 250 students, I taught both online and face-to-face courses, and I worked with students who varied dramatically in their academic abilities and majors. To make a long story short, I’ve taught in quite a range of learning environments and have worked with students of vastly different backgrounds. The culmination of those experiences has helped me to develop a very flexible teaching style that focuses on adapting to the needs of the students in a given class. The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all teaching strategy—the best teachers will adapt their approach to meet the needs of their students in each and every class.

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

    My favorite course to teach is Human Sexuality. I’ve taught it regularly over the last 10 years and I like it so much that I even wrote my own textbook on this topic entitled The Psychology of Human Sexuality (I’m currently at work on the second edition, which should be out next year!). I’m passionate about sex education because it’s a topic that far too many of us know far too little about. One of the things I like most about this course is that it provides students with a lot of practical information that they can use in their everyday lives; however, I also really like the fact that this course exposes students to a lot of new ideas and perspectives that many of them have never really thought critically about before. I’m humbled by the fact that so many students have told me that this class is their favorite course they’ve ever taken—and not just because it’s fun, but because they feel that it has truly had an impact on their lives.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    One of my favorite assignments is from my Human Sexuality course and it involves giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a sexually diverse environment. The goal is to expose them to some form of sexual diversity they do not have much familiarity with and write a paper detailing how it changed their worldview or perspective. This can take a lot of different forms. For example, a student who is unfamiliar with asexuality might spend an hour or two on the Asexual Visibility and Education Network website combing through the discussion forums. Alternatively, a student who has little familiarity with trans or sexual minority issues might attend an event that our local LGBTQ student organization is putting on. This is consistently my students’ favorite assignment of the entire class because immersive learning experiences like this help them learn things in a way that a book chapter or lecture can’t quite convey.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    I have a lot of workspaces. I alternate between working from home (either at the kitchen table or in my office), working in a coffee shop (you don’t want to know how many Starbucks rewards I’ve earned to date!), and working in my office on campus. I need the change of scenery—otherwise, I tend to get a little stir-crazy.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Enthusiastic, inclusive, conversational.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Adapt to students’ learning style. Encourage critical thought.

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

    My worst teaching experience was my very first one. I was assigned to teach a Health Psychology course during the second year of my doctoral program and, not only had I never taught a college course before, but I had never even taken a Health Psychology class myself! Needless to say, I didn’t quite know what I was doing. Attendance dropped off a lot during the first couple of weeks and I became very concerned (and embarrassed). So, I took it upon myself to administer a survey of the students to see what I was doing wrong and how I could better meet their learning needs. I used that information to adjust my approach to teaching and found that attendance perked back up. In the end, I was able to salvage the course, but only because I took the time to gather careful feedback and really listen to what the students were telling me.

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

    One thing that always seems to surprise my students (and my colleagues) is that I don’t have my work email on my phone. I try really hard to have some degree of work-life balance and I find it’s impossible when you’re essentially carrying your work around with you at all times and allow it to interrupt you when you are out having fun or are on vacation. It’s important to be able to shut work off entirely sometimes to just relax and enjoy life. Some of the ways I like to enjoy life include travel (I visited four countries this past summer: the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Canada), learning how to cook multicultural dishes (my specialty is chicken tikka masala. I won’t lie—mine is pretty delicious), and Netflixing with my spouse (we’ve been together 17 years!) and our pup (an Australian Cattle Dog mix we rescued in 2005).

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I don’t have a lot of time to read for pleasure, so when I do, I select my books very carefully. The most recent book I finished was Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger, which was absolutely fantastic. It’s all about cases where science and politics collide and the potentially disastrous consequences that can occur. I ended up writing a review of the book on my blog and have been encouraging my colleagues and students to check it out ever since.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I need two: My MacBook Air and an internet connection. Not only do I do almost exclusively online research these days, but in my spare time, I run a blog, Sex and Psychology, which aims to educate the general public about the latest research on the science of sex, love, and relationships.

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

    Donuts. Us Hoosiers love our fried food.

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