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

GSTA Blog

Welcome to the GSTA blog! 

In an effort to keep the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) blog current, we regularly welcome submissions from graduate students as well as full-time faculty. Recently we have made the decision to expand and diversify the blog content to include submissions ranging from new research in the area of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), public interest topics related to teaching and psychology, occasional book reviews, as well as continuing our traditional aim by including posts about teaching tips. The blog posts are typically short, ranging from about 500-1000 words, not including references. As it is an online medium, in-text hyperlinks, graphics, and even links to videos are strongly encouraged!

If you are interested in submitting a post, please email us at gsta.cuny@gmail.com. We are especially seeking submissions in one of the four topic areas:

  • Highlights of your current SoTL research
  • Issues related to teaching and psychology in the public interest
  • Reviews of recent books related to teaching and psychology
  • Teaching tips and best practices for today's classroom

We would especially like activities that align with APA 2.0 Guidelines!

This blog is intended to be a forum for graduate students and educators to share ideas and express their opinions about tried-and-true modern teaching practices and other currently relevant topics regarding graduate students’ teaching.

If you would like for any questions to be addressed, you can send them to gsta.cuny@gmail.com and we will post them as a comment on your behalf.

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Teresa OberCharles Raffaele, and Hallie Jordan


Follow us on twitter @gradsteachpsych or join our Facebook Group.


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  • 06 Aug 2018 6:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Jennifer Parada, M.A., Northern Arizona University

    Laboratory courses represent a unique aspect of undergraduate education because they allow for direct application of course content and the scientific process (Beck, Butler, & Burke da Silva, 2014; McKeachie & Svinicki, 2013). Both of these aspects (i.e. direct theory application and scientific inquiry) are highlighted in the current American Psychological Association guidelines for the undergraduate psychology curriculum (American Psychological Association, 2013). Thus, lab courses that are well-taught increase student comprehension and application of essential psychological theories, increase critical thinking (Luckie, Aubry, Marengo, Rivkin, Foos, & Maleszewski, 2012), and increase a general interest in science (Freeman et al., 2014; Misseyanni, Marouli, Papadopoulou, Lytras, & Gastardo, 2016). For instructors, who are often graduate students, teaching a lab is a unique experience that allows for greater freedom to experiment with and apply various instructional styles (e.g., expository, inquiry-based; Domin, 1999). This freedom of experimentation is not always available in traditional lecture courses, and especially for graduate students who are given general teaching assistant assignments intended to support faculty through grading, proctoring exams, hosting office hours, etc.

    Being that lab courses yield multiple benefits to students and freedom for graduate student instructors, I have gathered some structural tips and best practices on teaching a lab:


    1) Weekly Quizzes

    Although there might be high-stake assessment requirements for certain labs (e.g., a poster presentation for a research methods lab, a neuroanatomy exam for a biopsychology lab), frequent low-stake assessments are an excellent way to keep students engaged with lab content and track their mastery. The use of short, weekly quizzes that cover content from the previous lab are a semi-effortless technique to do just that. Ideally, the content covered on the quizzes is independent of lecture (although there will likely be overlap because of the supplementary nature of laboratory courses). For example, in my upper-division behavioral neuroscience lab, quizzes for the neuroanatomy unit are often composed of pictures of brain structures, which students must identify along with questions associated with the structures’ functions.


    2) Mini Lectures

    After weekly quizzes are completed, I suggest providing a mini lecture intended to review relevant content that students will be implementing during the assigned lab. In other words, use mini lectures to prime students on the relevant topics they will need to thoroughly comprehend in order to successfully complete the lab. Students should be well aware of the goal of mini lectures to avoid confusion or frustration during the lab activities (Kenwright, Dai, Osbourne, Gladman, Gallagher, & Grainger, 2017), see a direct connection between lab activities and learning outcomes, and develop increased comfort asking clarifying questions before beginning the lab activities. As the name suggests, mini lectures should last 10-15 minutes, which also helps prevent lab periods from becoming an additional hour of lecture.


    3) Lecture Note Handouts

    Another best practice to ensure student engagement during lab periods is the use of lecture note handouts. Lecture note handouts should be a skeletal outline of the topics covered during the mini lecture (think of this as a fill-in-the blank method of notetaking). These handouts provide a framework of the lecture topics for students and guide their notetaking (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2013). I typically staple the lab directions to the note handout to ensure that the background information and the lab activity are found together for review, as well as to encourage students to utilize the lecture notes while completing the lab.

     

    4) Fostering Teamwork and Additional Exploration of Course Content

    The last two structural tips involve fostering teamwork in the lab and providing encouragement for additional exploration of course content. Students teaching other students through groupwork yields various positive outcomes for students such as active learning strategies (e.g., active listening, summarizing and organizing content, asking questions), increased collaborative skills, and decreased absenteeism (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2013). Labs are a perfect environment to implement groupwork. All groups should consist of 3-4 students; yet assigning partners is also successful, and can still result in the positive attributes of larger group formations. Lab groups can be changed 3-4 times during the semester; this gives the instructor flexibility in case there is a need to reassign group members due to unforeseen conflicts, or simply to avoid redundancy.

    Lastly, I encourage all students to stay in lab, even after they complete the assigned lab activities (time permitted). This nudge of encouragement is intended to allow students to explore additional content or review previous content with full access to lab equipment, the instructor, teaching assistants, and their group members. Similar to the office hour trend, most students do not take this offer and leave once they have completed the assigned lab activities; however, as exams or other high-stake assessments come closer, students begin staying and reviewing previous content. The majority of students appreciate this (see next section on student feedback), which I believe is fostered by the exploratory nature of labs.

     

    Student Feedback on Lab Structure

    The following data reflect feedback from a section of an upper-division behavioral neuroscience lab. Students were asked to rate how helpful each of the following lab components were during the neuroanatomy unit. The unit was composed of four lab periods with dissections ranging from brain basics (e.g. directional terms) to complex dissections of limbic system and basal ganglia structures.

    How helpful were each of the following components in your understanding of neuroanatomy?

    Table showing data from in-class responses.

    What did you like the most about the neuroanatomy labs?

    •  “The directions for each lab made everything very clear and easy to follow”
    • “The notes were most helpful for my learning, dissections helped solidify the topics”
    • “Freedom to explore and find brain structures on your own after completing the assigned lab”
    • “I liked that we had some free time to continue dissecting the brains after we found the structures that were required for that day.”


    References

    American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major. [Data File]. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/about/psymajor-guidelines.pdf

    Beck, C., Butler, A., & Burke da Silva, K. (2014). Promoting inquiry-based teaching in laboratory courses: are we meeting the grade?. CBE—Life Sciences Education13(3), 444-452.

    Domin, D. S. (1999). A review of laboratory instruction styles. Journal of Chemical Education76(4), 543-547.

    Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111(23), 8410-8415.

    Kenwright, D., Dai, W., Osbourne, E., Gladman, T., Gallagher, P., & Grainger, R. (2017). Just tell me what I need to know to pass the exam!” can active flipped learning overcome passivity. TAPS2(1), 1-6.

    Luckie, D. B., Aubry, J. R., Marengo, B. J., Rivkin, A. M., Foos, L. A., & Maleszewski, J. J. (2012). Less teaching, more learning: 10-yr study supports increasing student learning through less coverage and more inquiry. Advances in Physiology Education36(4), 325-335.

    McKeachie, W., & Svinicki, M. (2013). McKeachie's teaching tips. Cengage Learning.

    Misseyanni, A., Marouli, C., Papadopoulou, P., Lytras, M., & Gastardo, M. T. (2016). Stories of active learning in STEM: Lessons for STEM education. In Proceedings of the International Conference The Future of Education, (p. 232À236).


    Jennifer Parada, M.A., is a recent graduate of the Psychological Sciences Master’s program at Northern Arizona University. Her research encompasses various aspects of the biology of behavior from physiological responses to stress to more applied research on decision-making following stressful experiences. In the classroom, Jennifer aims to apply and experiment with best practices to increase students’ comprehension and interest in neuroscience.

  • 04 Aug 2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Raechel Soicher, Graduate Student, School of Psychological Science, Oregon State University

    To give you an idea about the power of Twitter, I sent out the following Tweet on June 22nd @ 3:07pm:

    For anyone that's a #gradstudent - what are the pros and cons of using social media professionally for you? Working on a blog post, hoping to quote some folks :) #AcademicTwitter #phdlife @legogradstudent #phdchat

    Within three days, over 21,000 people had seen the Tweet, it got 45 “likes,” 34 “replies,” 18 retweets, and led 81 people to view my Twitter profile. The responses had a surprising amount of overlap. The benefits of using social media professionally?

    1.              Being part of a larger community

                    i.                  @MassSpecMaven says “Some of the best support, on the hardest days of that #phdlife, was from complete strangers with a shared experience.  #WomeninSTEM #BlackandSTEM #marginsci #LGBTinSTEM”

                  ii.                  @rebecca_quelch (among almost every other person that responded) discussed the value of “a whole community of support and similar experiences that is so valuable.”

    2.              Building a professional network

                    i.                  @Elusieum points out “People at conferences recognize me from Twitter, and it is a great conversation starter for networking”.

                  ii.                  @mthomp_soc said “In the few months I've been on Twitter I've found recent publications, people in my field I hadn't heard of, and gotten a better sense of the current debates and the movement in the field. I know better who I need to be citing to be taken seriously as a contributor to the field.”

    3.              Exploring new opportunities

                    i.                  @AlzScience got started in paid science communication freelance work through Twitter

                  ii.                  @amy_nusbaum was asked to contribute a publication through a contact she made on Twitter

                 iii.                  @TheresaWege - found her job through Twitter and has been approached by recruiters there as well. She also speaks to the power of Twitter for introverts.

    4.         Finding Teaching Resources

    Resource for teaching about Open Science and the Credibility Revolution in PsychologyResource for teaching about Open Science and the Credibility Revolution in Psychology


     Resource for improving the effectiveness of multiple-choice questions.Resource for improving the effectiveness of multiple-choice questions.


    Downloadable posters illustrating principles from cognitive psychology for improving learning. (Definitely follow @AceThatTest)Downloadable posters illustrating principles from cognitive psychology for improving learning. (Definitely follow @AceThatTest)

    The cons of using Twitter professionally? Less than a handful of folks actually mentioned disadvantages to using Twitter. Most often cited: Twitter distracts you from [all things PhD-related].  Another person mentioned being “angry at politics all the time.” I was surprised that only one person spoke to this - in my own experience, Twitter is a great, but often depressing, news source.

     

    Tips for Professional Twitter

    1.              Use your full name - In academia, your name is your brand (Vander Wheele, 2018)

    2.              Follow, follow, follow - If you see Tweets that interest you, give that person a follow. The more people you follow, the wider the range of things you will see in your feed. Follow hashtags for conferences or for topics you are interested in.

    3.              Posting pictures? - Be sure they’re not copyrighted and be sure to include an Alt-tag for accessibility

    4.              Think before you post - Like it or not, potential employers are getting thousands of job applications and sometimes use Twitter (valid or not) to learn more about candidates.

    5.              Take a break - Ok, so you maybe haven’t even started using Twitter yet, but it’s never too early to point out that using social media can get out of hand pretty quickly. The minute it fails to add to your quality of life, take. a. break.

     

    Additional Resources

    1.              Do yourself a favor and follow @Legogradstudent who hilariously frames the ups and downs of being a graduate student.

    2.              Read this short post from Dr. Christopher Madan on the benefits of social media in academia

    3.              Weinstein and Sumeracki (2017) article on Twitter and blogs for psychological scientists

    4.              Short blog post: Teachers on Twitter



    Raechel Soicher, M.A., is a doctoral student in the School of Psychological Science at Oregon State University. Raechel is interested in translating psychological science to promising pedagogical practices. Follower her on Twitter: @rnsoicher

  • 01 Aug 2018 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Barney Beins, Ph.D., Ithaca College

    People sometimes refer to the “hard sciences” and the “soft sciences.” Perhaps a better distinction, if there is one, is between the hard sciences and the difficult sciences. And by any reckoning, psychology is a difficult science.

    Each discipline features its own characteristics, and none is simple. But the nature of the complexity of psychology differs markedly from that of the physical sciences. The complexity associated with thought and behavior is why psychology is one of the difficult sciences. Consequently, when we teach, it is hard to convey to students that what they are learning is neither simple nor obvious.

    I believe that one of the primary tasks we need to engage in is to change the how of thinking in our students. That is, they must change how they think about psychology and psychological knowledge if they are to understand the discipline. On what basis do they form beliefs and, maybe more importantly, on what basis do they change their minds about their beliefs?

    When we see the results of research, it is often difficult to believe that results could have turned out differently because research reports convey a story that follows from earlier investigation and makes sense in the context of its story. All too often, people question why an investigator would engage in such “obvious” research.  The problem is that it is only obvious in retrospect. In my classes, I ask students to predict the outcome of research, such as that illustrated below:

    "Many people have aesthetic (i.e. plastic) surgery in order to boost their social and psychological well-being. Is it actually the case that the effect is to provide such a boost?" [Margraf, J., Meyer, A. H., & Lavallee, K. L. (2013). Well-being from the knife? Psychological effects of aesthetic surgery. Clinical Psychological Science, 1, 239-252. doi:10.1177/2167702612471660.]

    Which of the statements below reflects the main finding of the study?

    1. The surgery has a negative effect on well-being.

    2. The surgery has no effect on well-being.

    3. The surgery has a positive effect on well-being.

    Student guesses in my classes are at essentially chance levels. About 30% of my classes correctly identify the outcome of the study, which is that surgery has positive benefits. This pattern of poor predictions holds true for many of the examples I use in my class.

    What does this mean regarding our teaching? Students have to learn that explaining why we obtained our results is generally easier than predicting them in advance. Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “Making predictions is hard. Especially about the future.” This point itself is neither easy nor obvious. But it is a critical point.

    Students also need to learn that any single study is only a part of a larger puzzle. That is, it is only one study that needs to be considered in relation to other studies. (This is why our medical doctor should probably not rely on recent reports of research too much in treating us. The striking new finding that just appeared is only one study, and it may be at odds with the general body of research in the area.) When the mass media report on psychological research, we need to be careful because our knowledge progresses in small increments. Sometimes surprising research results stand the test of time. For instance, stereotype threat seems quite real; it was a real eye-opener when it appeared. But we have to ask whether it is a new and important finding or a finding that doesn’t replicate. Until and unless the study replicates, we are in a state of uncertainty.

    If we look at many of the striking findings in psychology that have made the news, we can see why this issue is important. Look at research on the facial feedback hypothesis or on the so-called power pose, or consider the research that found that people primed with thoughts of old age walked more slowly than those not so primed. There are serious questions about the replicability of the research. Which research should we believe? We don’t know until the body of literature begins to converge on a conclusion.

    The issue of what to believe entails taking the long view. John Ioannidis published a paper involving biomedical research called Why most published research findings are false. Perhaps it is an overstatement, but the important lesson is that we should be slow to accept the surprising findings that make their way into the media. Such studies provide fodder for new research, but issues of replicability are paramount in any science.

    It has been publicized that quite a few psychological studies do not replicate. Part of the issue goes back to the initial point of this essay, which is that psychology is difficult. Some replication failure reflects the fact that the phenomena documented in the research simply do not exist. But some failures result from the fact that the dynamics of context differ across experiments and across participants, not because the phenomenon is a chimera.

    As it turns out, psychological research seems to be in about the same state regarding replicability as many other disciplines. Biologists are now tracing psychology’s steps in setting up replicability programs, and biomedical research is fraught with many of the same issues. In fact, this issue pervades many scientific enterprises. For example, a significant number of planets that astronomers think they have discovered may not exist.

    The truth is that when we are on the edge of knowledge, we are going to make mistakes. As we know regarding scientific knowledge, it is always provisional. We can gain confidence in our beliefs with continued empirical support for our findings, but it is a reality that we may need to change our minds when our information advances.

    So, what does this mean with respect to our teaching? When we face our students, they will have beliefs about thought and behavior that are often very simplistic. We need to show them the importance of relying on research in forming our belief systems. The simple picture that students often have about behavior hide complexities that emerge as “obvious” after we conduct studies, but those complexities are far from obvious at the beginning.

    Further, we have to be willing to change our minds. That is what science is all about. Our beliefs change in small, incremental steps, so we should probably be skeptical (but not cynical) about reports of striking research findings.

    This mindset is not easy because we are always in a state of uncertainty. But in the long run, accepting the complexity of psychology and psychological research will ultimately lead to beliefs that we can accept with greater confidence.


    Readings

    Power Pose

    Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21, 1363–1368. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.ithaca.edu:2048/10.1177/0956797610383437.

    Cuddy, A. J. C., Schultz, S. J., & Fosse, N. E. (2018). P-curving a more comprehensive body of research on postural feedback reveals clear evidential value for power-posing effects: Reply to Simmons and Simonsohn (2017). Psychological Science, 29, 656-666. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.ithaca.edu:2048/10.1177/0956797617746749.

    Garrison, K. E., Tang, D., and Schmeichel, B. J. (2016). Embodying power: A preregistered replication and extension of the power pose effect. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7, 623–630. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550616652209.

    Smith, K. M., and Apicella, C. L. (2017). Winners, losers, and posers: The effect of power poses on testosterone and risk-taking following competition. Hormones and Behavior, 92, 172–181. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.11.003.

    Priming about Aging

    Bargh, J. A., Chen, M., & Burrows, L. (1996). Automaticity of social behavior: Direct effects of trait construct and stereotype activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 230-244. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.ithaca.edu:2048/10.1037/0022-3514.71.2.230.

    Doyen, S., Klein, O., Pichon, C-L, & Cleeremans, A. (2012). Behavioral priming: It's all in the mind, but whose mind?  PLoS ONE, 7(1): e29081. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029081.


    Bernard (Barney) Beins, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at Ithaca College. Dr. Beins' scholarship includes research on humor and on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and his teaching focuses on students' development of critical thinking skills. He is the 2010 recipient of the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Psychological Foundation and received the Ithaca College Faculty Excellence Award. Dr. Beins has also shared his knowledge of teaching as an author or co-editor of over 30 books and teaching manuals.

  • 11 Jul 2018 5:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Scott O. Lilienfeld, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor, Department of Psychology, Emory University

    Breakthroughs.  Miracle cures.  Paradigm shifts.  Dramatic advances.

    As someone who received his psychology Ph.D. in 1990 (University of Minnesota, clinical psychology), I’ve heard all of these phrases, and many more, over the years. In the intervening 28 years, I’ve lost count of the number of psychological and medical interventions that I’ve seen described as “cures “ or quick fixes for serious or even intractable conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (autism), schizophrenia, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

    Barely a week goes by that I don’t receive an email in my inbox or a flyer in my mailbox that advertises a workshop on a new “breakthrough” clinical method, such as an energy therapy for anxiety disorders or a brain-based therapy for clinical depression. The field of psychotherapy, family therapy in particular, is especially susceptible to this trend (Meichenbaum & Lilienfeld, 2018). To take merely one example among hundreds and perhaps thousands, one website promotes “The Bulimia Breakthrough Method-2018,” a technique that relies on hypnosis to “work below consciousness to interrupt the addictive behaviours”, as a powerful intervention for eating disorders.  Perhaps the Bulimia Breakthrough Method really does help patients with bulimia nervosa; I don’t know, and despite a literature search, I couldn’t locate a single published study on its efficacy. But I’m exceedingly dubious that it is a breakthrough. Why? There have been few or no increases in the average effect size of psychological interventions over the past three decades (Budd & Hughes, 2009), and even the most effective psychological interventions, such as prolonged exposure for obsessive-compulsive disorder and cognitive-behavioral therapy for major depression, still leave significant numbers of patients with significant residual symptoms (Arkowitz & Lilienfeld, 2006). All of these findings should be grounds for humility in our claims. The same goes for such extensively hyped methods as psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, described in a recent academic article as a “paradigm shift” (Schenberg, 2018). Perhaps it will indeed prove to be a paradigm shift, but until more compelling evidence is in, I am holding off on encouraging my clinical colleagues to purchase hallucinogens for their therapy clients.

    In my experience as an instructor of graduate students in clinical psychology and allied fields for three decades, one of the most widespread thinking errors that I have encountered, among even the best and brightest of students, is what I term “breakthrough-ism” (Lilienfeld, 2017): the tendency to regard novel interventions as breakthroughs rather than merely as potentially promising techniques that may be worthy of investigation (Lilienfeld, 2017). Breakthrough-ism is potentially dangerous, as it can lead us to latch on to ineffective or even harmful fads. As the literature on placebo effects teaches us, genuine hope can be helpful (Kirsch, 2005), but false hope can be detrimental, not to mention cruel to patients and their loved ones, whose hopes are dashed. In my view, teaching graduate students to avoid the seductive temptations of therapeutic hype is among our foremost responsibilities as teachers.

    Even graduate students in non-clinical fields, such as experimental psychology, developmental psychology, and neuroscience, must be vigilant of claims regarding breakthroughs. Hence, although I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects of genome-wide association studies, epigenetics, the microbiome, computational psychiatry, big data, machine learning, and any number of relatively recent trends in psychological fields, I view them with at least a dose of healthy skepticism, as I’ve witnessed far too many heavily hyped advances not live up to their billing. As one example, I vividly recall when I was a graduate student in the 1980s, many psychologists and psychiatrists were confidently forecasting that positron emission tomography (then a new kid on the neuroscience block) and other newly emerging brain imaging techniques would soon render the field of neuropsychology obsolete. They would also, we were assured, soon replace the in-person clinical interview as a method of arriving at formal psychiatric diagnoses. Well, neither promise materialized, and neither seems to be close to coming to fruition. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) appeared in print five years ago, it did not contain a single brain imaging finding for any of its 300+ mental disorders.

    How can we combat breakthrough-ism? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that learning more about the histories of psychology and psychiatry is a partial corrective (Lilienfeld, 2017). In particular, the appreciation that scores of well-intentioned interventions once widely assumed to be therapeutic breakthroughs did not pass the test of time may help to temper our premature enthusiasm regarding the prospects of contemporary treatments. Regrettably, few of today’s graduate students know much about the history of the discipline, largely because the teaching of the history of psychology has been increasingly de-emphasized in many graduate programs. Several years ago, my own psychology department at Emory University voted to eliminate the history of psychology requirement for its graduate students; I was among the few dissenters.

    In a useful article, Braslow (1999) reviewed the often-sordid history of somatic treatments for mental disorders, including those that turned out to be disastrously ineffective and dangerous, such as prefrontal lobotomy malaria fever therapy, and insulin coma therapy. To that list, one could add a host of others, such as bleeding, blistering, purging, tranquilizing chairs, the Utica crib, and the surgical removal of bodily organs (for a horrific recounting of the latter, see Scull (2007). We rarely teach today’s students about these mistakes of the past, and when we do, we often impart the wrong lessons about them. Specifically, we typically emphasize how cruel and inhumane these interventions were, and how far we have come since the bad old days. Yes, these were indeed cruel and inhumane interventions. Yet, as Braslow wisely observes, the far more important lesson is that most practitioners of the time were earnestly trying to help, and sincerely believed these methods to be beneficial. Indeed, two of these interventions – prefrontal lobotomy and malaria fever therapy – earned their principal practitioners Nobel Prizes in Medicine or Physiology (Egas Moniz for the former and Julius Wagner-Jauregg for the latter).

    Such sobering reminders can help to imbue in us a sense of modesty regarding new techniques proclaimed by their advocates to be breakthroughs. I take the liberty of quoting Braslow at length:

    What does this teach us about our present-day efforts at evidence-based medicine? First, this history should encourage a sense of humility despite our scientific and therapeutic advances. Every generation believes in what they deem as "evidence" and, as this history illustrates, what counts as evidence is not fixed, but evolves over time. Second, this history should encourage us to ask critical questions about our contemporary methods of producing evidence and treating patients, since, if history is any guide, these methods will no doubt be subject to revision (p. 238).

    By all means, let us remain open to new and exciting developments in our field, and be willing to subject them to systematic inquiry should they appear promising. At the same time, however, let us recall how often well-meaning practitioners of bygone eras who were just as bright as us were woefully mistaken. In this respect, learning more about the history of our discipline should be an essential element of graduate education in psychology. Humility should be our watchword, and nothing can keep us more humble than learning about the errors of the past.


    References

    American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). Washington, D.C.: Author.

    Arkowitz, H., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2006). Psychotherapy on trial. Scientific American Mind17(2), 42-49.

    Braslow, J. T. (1999). History and evidence-based medicine: Lessons from the history of somatic treatments from the 1900s to the 1950s. Mental Health Services Research1, 231-240.

    Kirsch, I. (2005). Placebo psychotherapy: synonym or oxymoron? Journal of Clinical Psychology61, 791-803.

    Lilienfeld, S.O. (2017). Knowledge of the history of clinical psychology: A partial antidote against “breakthrough-ism.” Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology Newsletter, 20 (3), 2-3. Retrieved from http://www.sscpweb.org/resources/PDFs/Newsletter/2017/Clinical%20Science%2020(3)%20Fall%202017.pdf.

    Meichenbaum, D., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2018). How to spot hype in the field of psychotherapy: A 19-item checklist. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice49, 22-30.

    Schenberg, E. E. S. (2018). Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: a paradigm shift in psychiatric research and development. Frontiers in Pharmacology9, 733.

    Scull, A. (2007). Madhouse: A tragic tale of megalomania and modern medicine. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.


    Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D., received his B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University in 1982 and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1990. He completed his clinical internship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1986-1987. He was assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at SUNY Albany from 1990 to 1994, and has been a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Emory since 1994. He is editor-in-chief of Clinical Psychological Science. He is also a visiting Professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

  • 06 Jun 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Rachel Shor, Ph.D. Candidate, George Mason University

    As instructors, we consistently endeavor to engage students in the classroom, in course material, and in the learning process in order to promote growth and deepen understanding of course material. One pathway to increase student engagement and comprehension is through experiential learning ─ and in particular though service-learning. Service-learning is conducive to building critical thinking skills, empowering students to take an active role in their learning and increasing understanding of material. In fact, there is a substantial body of literature highlighting how service-learning is a powerful educational tool that can have a transformative impact on students, for example, increasing self-esteem (e.g., Celio, Durklak, & Dymnicki, 2011), self-efficacy (e.g., Aston, 2000), as well as engagement in leadership activities (e.g., Astin et al., 2006), social skills, cultural competence, and social problem solving (e.g., Simons & Cleary, 2006).

    Research on Service-learning

    Service-learning courses educate students by engaging them in the classroom as well as the community, while educators facilitate students’ reflection on their experiences in both environments (Giles & Eyler, 1994; Cress, Collier & Reitenauer, 2005; Kiely, 2005). Broken into its simplest components, service-learning consists of a classroom component, a placement within a community organization typically outside of the college, and the students who engage in the course. Educators have significant control over the nature of the classroom and community placements, making those components especially important to study.

    There are a number of different theoretical frameworks that describe the mechanics of change in a service-learning course. A shared theme among these theories is that through community service, students have critical experiences, or “disorienting dilemmas” (Mezirow, 2000), that shake-up how they think about themselves, others, or the world around them. Classroom work helps prepare students for disorienting dilemmas and helps them make sense of their experiences. However, the disorienting dilemma is most likely going to occur at the community placement.

    Key Findings

    The study I describe here (see Shor, Cattaneo, & Calton, 2017) was conducted with undergraduate students in a service-learning course on community engagement and social change. Using poverty as a semester-long case study, the course was designed to teach undergraduates that social problems have social causes, and to apply multi-level analysis to understand the impact of these social problems on individuals and communities. In addition to course readings, experiential classroom exercises, and class assignments, students also completed 20 hours of service with community partners (e.g., a local homeless shelter).

    This study extended research on transformational service-learning by examining the impact that a community placement context can have on college students’ transformational processes. Using the consensual qualitative research (CQR; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997) method of qualitative analysis, we examined 43 essays written by undergraduates taking the course, in which they described an experience they found to be “eye-opening” while learning about the development and maintenance of poverty in the United States.

    Our findings suggest that working inside and outside of a community placement (e.g., a homeless shelter, in a community garden) shapes the types of disorienting dilemmas students’ experience. Students who engaged in service-learning at a homeless shelter, for example, identified experiences in which they learned more about clients’ current or past life difficulties. One student wrote:

    A middle school girl was telling me how her 19 years old sister died giving birth to her baby, and how her three brothers died in war. Her parents and her three younger siblings came to United States 7 years ago. Her parents left three kids back in Somalia because they couldn’t afford to take the other kids with them.

    In contrast, the students whose service-learning placed them outside of a facility identified disorienting dilemmas in which they made a personal connection to a client, but only 20% reported that they learned about the client's difficult life. For example, one student who worked an event that took place in the community wrote that,

    To me this was an eye-opening moment as I got to make a connection with someone I never thought I would have. I did not realize how I had stereotyped and stigmatized the homeless by never thinking I could indeed have a stimulating conversation with them or relate to them. I failed to see them as regular people who have gone through tremendous difficulties in their lives.

    One explanation for this contrast is that students and clients have different role expectations in the different settings. In a shelter, students are typically assigned administrative work and have rigidly defined job responsibilities; for example, they provide resources, open locked doors, answer phones, or tutor. Within the shelter context, students have a clear position of power relative to clients, many times with the physical barrier of a desk or table separating them. These physical and psychological barriers keep them somewhat removed from clients and put them in a position to observe others. Outside of the placement facility, though, role expectations may be less clear, and students and clients may have more opportunity to interact as individuals rather than as helper and client. These findings suggest that different contextual components may therefore expose students to different types of experiences, which potentially facilitate different pathways towards transformation.

    Instructors have a profound impact on students’ classroom experience and choosing community partners, and these findings have the potential to allow educators to customize service-learning experiences for students. Educators may choose to foster specific community partnerships that emphasize home-based services rather than working at a shelter, knowing that interactions in and outside of an organization's physical location may lead to qualitatively different experiences. Alternatively, instructors may vary their in-class activities and course material based on the context of students’ placements to foster different reflection and critical thinking skills. Ultimately, these findings support the existing literature that service-learning with adequate reflection has the potential to transform students’ thinking and promote growth.


    To read the full article on pathways of transformational service-learning, please refer to the following:

    Shor, R., Cattaneo, L., & Calton, J. (2017). Pathways of transformational service learning: Exploring the relationships between context, disorienting dilemmas, and student response. Journal of Transformative Education15, 156-173. doi: 10.1177/1541344616689044.


    References

    Astin, A. W., Vogelgesang, L. J., Ikeda, E. K., & Yee, J. A. (2000). How service learning affects students. Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles, Higher Education Research Institute. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/slcehighered/144.

    Astin, A. W., Vogelgesang, L. J., Misa, K., Anderson, J., Denson, N., Jayakumar, U., Saenz, V., & Yamamura, E. (2006). Understanding the effects of service-learning: A study of students and faculty. Report to the Atlantic Philanthropies, 1–155. Retrieved from http://www.skidmore.edu/community_service/documents/Astin.pdfCelio, Durklak, & Dymnicki, 2011

    Cress, C., Collier, P.J., Reitenauer, V.L. and Associates (2005). Learning through serving: A student guidebook for service-learning across the disciplines. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

    Giles Jr., D. E., & Eyler, J. (1994). The theoretical roots of service-learning in John Dewey: Toward a theory of service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning1(1), 7-85.

    Hill, C. E., Thompson, B. J., & Williams, E. N. (1997). A guide to conducting consensual qualitative research. The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 517–572.

    Kiely, R. (2005). A transformative learning model for service-learning: A longitudinal case study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 12, 5–22.

    Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Simons, L., & Cleary, B. (2006). The influence of service learning on students’ personal and social development. College Teaching, 54, 307–319.

     

    Rachel Shor is a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at George Mason University. With experience as a trauma counselor and a doctoral student researcher, she has examined the impact of interpersonal violence and multicultural counseling. Rachel’s current research investigates the interpersonal dynamics of power, implicit social cognition, and disclosure during the process of help-seeking.

  • 01 Jun 2018 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Jordan Troisi, Ph.D., Sewanee: The University of the South

    Navigating the job market for faculty positions is never easy. This is true of research-oriented positions, and it’s also true of teaching-oriented positions. This blog post highlights some tips on how to specifically navigate the job market for teaching-oriented faculty positions.

    Why this focus? Well, that is where my experience lies. In the past 8 years, I have twice entered the full-scale, nationwide job market in search of teaching-oriented positions. I served as a visiting assistant professor at Widener University for three years, then I took on a position at Sewanee: The University of the South, where I have recently been awarded tenure. I have served on many search committees for tenure-track and visiting appointments. I also serve as the Co-Director of my university’s Center for Teaching, so I interact with lots of new faculty, many of whom have been beleaguered by job market trials and tribulations.

    Before delving into specific tips, I should point out that this piece draws substantially, but not exclusively, from a chapter in Preparing the New Psychology Professoriate (Troisi, Christopher, & Batsell, 2014). If you haven’t seen this e-Book and you are applying for faculty positions at teaching-oriented schools—or will soon be applying—download it. It’s free. Stop reading this, download it, then return when you’ve done that.


    (Welcome back from your downloading excursion!)


    Tip #1: Know the nature of the job to which you are applying.

    Faculty positions come in great variety. Some are tenure-track jobs, some are short-term visiting (e.g., 1 semester, 1 year), some are long-term visiting (e.g., 1-3 years), and some do not really fit any of these categories.

    To the extent you can, try to determine what type of position is being offered. The job ad might have some hints, and often some reading between the lines will be necessary (hint: if there is text referencing a “sabbatical replacement,” then this most likely means this job is a short-term gig). Your professional networks might also have some insight, so ask around with those you might know, especially near the school.

    Knowing the nature of the position allows you to tailor your application materials appropriately. At my teaching-oriented institution, if we are hiring a sabbatical replacement, it does relatively little good for job application materials to trumpet research prowess—we are simply not hiring for that.


    Tip #2: The cover letter is the most important piece of the application; the vita is a close second.

    Here’s the dirty little secret from the hiring side of the job interview process: most candidates’ application materials look pretty much the same. When we have a pile of 20, 70, or 150 job applicants, one article reprint from one applicant usually does not stand out in the pile. What does stand out though—at least to me—are thoughtful, well-crafted cover letters and vitas.

    Let me address the vita first. At teaching-oriented schools, if your vita does not highlight and elucidate your teaching-oriented accomplishments, well, it’s game over. List courses you’ve taught and courses for which you’ve served as a teaching assistant (and please make sure to distinguish between the two). Also list teaching workshops you’ve attended, publications or presentations of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), mentorship of students, and anything else that will make you stand out at job where your primary duties will be working with students (and most often at teaching-focused institutions, undergraduates).

    Now, the cover letter. This I view as the most important part of the job application. This is where you highlight what’s important to you. Ideally, these things should also be valued by the school to which you’re applying. This is where you pick out pieces of your vita that are particularly relevant. This is also where you tell the story of why you want this job, at this university, in this department, and ideally, in this part of the country. Teaching-oriented universities want strong teachers, they are likely not looking for research stars. So, tell us why you want to teach and make a life here.


    Tip #3: Communicate how you will be a team player.

    This one almost goes without saying. But then again, I’ve been on the hiring side of the selection process for new faculty members, and some people did not appear to get this advice. Teaching-oriented universities are smaller, and often have smaller departments. Duties get shared within units at the school (e.g., departments, divisions, colleges), and especially when those units are small, it is important that those involved in the completion of those duties work well together.

    What does this mean for you, the job candidate? Both on paper and during phone and campus interviews, make clear that you can make a valuable contribution to the enterprises currently underway. Does the department need you to teach new courses that are not yet in the course catalog? If so, express your excitement for developing those new courses (it will be work, sure, but it will also be exciting!). Teaching-oriented institutions want candidates to be a part of the intellectual and community life of their students. Make clear that you are interested in making a contribution and impact.

    Though, a word of caution on being a team player is warranted. Do not go overboard with promises, especially promises that would be difficult to keep. Making a promise then failing to follow through can lead to resentment. Make the promises you know you can fulfill, then for other requests, point out that you would harness the skills you have, connect with the people on campus who have information, and do your best to make progress. This, after all, is the best that anyone can do when they don’t have the answers they need.


    Reference

    Troisi, J. D., Christopher, A. N., & Batsell, W. R. (2014). Ten suggestions for securing a faculty position at a selective liberal arts school. In J. N. Busler, B. C. Beins, & B. Buskist (Eds.) Preparing the New Psychology Professoriate: Helping Graduate Students Become Competent Teachers, 2nd ed. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/page-1862898


    Jordan Troisi, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Sewanee: The University of the South, where he also serves as the Co-Director of the Sewanee Center for Teaching. Dr. Troisi has demonstrated a commitment to the teaching of psychology, having served in various capacities within the STP, including his current post as the Director of the Annual Conference on Teaching. In addition to his research examining best practices in college teaching, Dr. Troisi also studies the mechanisms through which humans achieve belongingness.

  • 27 May 2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Jared W. Keeley, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

    Graduate school places a lot of demands upon your time. There are many balls to juggle, including classes to take, research projects to finish, work for your assistantship, engagement in applied practica (for some), and likely some sort of teaching experience. With all of those demands, it can be hard to find time for essentials like eating and bathing, much less taking time for yourself to “have a life.” With so many balls in the air, it is natural that it can be difficult to prioritize each of them.

    Unfortunately, many graduate students have received the message (either explicitly or implicitly) that teaching is a low priority on that list. The typical argument is that time spent on teaching takes away time from something else that is presumably more important, like research.

    Doctoral training programs typically exist in research-intensive universities, where the institutional climate often overtly values research over other professional activities. Faculty who are training graduate students have likely had to internalize this value in order to survive in that climate: the proverbial publish or perish notion. In that model of academic success, a person’s time is assumed to be a zero-sum game: time spent on something like teaching is time taken away from research.

    However, I argue that this idea is a myth, albeit one that is grounded in some reality. It is true that there are only 24 hours in a day. A person can only do so much. However, the myth is predicated on the idea that time spent on teaching and research are independent and mutually exclusive. In other words, time spent on teaching is irrelevant to one’s research, and time spent on research is irrelevant to one’s teaching. To break the hold of this myth, one simply needs to find ways to overlap the two.

    Thankfully, creating overlap between one’s research and teaching interests is not so hard to do. The simplest way is to teach courses that are related to one’s area of research. Reviewing a topic as part of preparing a course is a great way to generate new ideas for next steps in your own research program. Covering topics related to your research in class gives you a broader and firmer grasp of the field. Reading assignments for class could be papers that you needed to read anyways for your next literature review. Including your research can also help improve the quality of the course. Sharing your own work with the class provides a real example for your students about how the field works. Sharing examples from your own research brings the topic to life in a way that talking about other people’s studies rarely does. You can share your own passion with your students, which is one of the best ways to get them engaged in a topic. Indeed, the whole model of higher education came from the idea that people who are on the cutting edge of knowledge generation (i.e., researchers) should be the ones best suited to teach others about that topic. While that idea is incomplete in that knowing how to teach effectively is not inherent in having knowledge about a topic, the kernel of truth is that researchers are specially poised to know more about a topic than most anyone else. It is a strange and counterproductive taboo that we do not spend more time talking about our own research in our classes.

    While teaching a class in one’s research area makes creating overlap easy, you do not always have control over what classes you teach, nor do you only teach classes that are in your specific research area. How then can you create overlap between teaching and research in other kinds of classes? The solution is to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). As psychologists, we are all scientists, and scientists gather data to improve what they are doing. When part of your professional life includes teaching, it makes perfect sense to gather data to evaluate your teaching and suggest ways to make it better. By doing so in a principled, systematic way and then disseminating the results, you have engaged in SoTL and gotten yourself a research product along the way! In that case, course prep becomes research prep and vice versa.

    There are many other factors that engender the message that teaching is not where you should spend your time as a graduate student. There is a real disparity in how teaching and research are rewarded within academia, although that disparity is more prominent at certain kinds of institutions than others. Shifting the value system of higher education is no small feat. However, not engaging in the myth in your own professional life is a good first step towards creating change.


    Jared W. Keeley, Ph.D., is a Teaching Associate Professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Keeley's primary research interest involve the classification of psychopathology, especially as used by mental health professionals. Having formerly served as a GSTA Chair, Dr. Keeley continues to be invested  in the scholarship of teaching and learning as well.

  • 22 May 2018 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Hallie Jordan, Ph.D. Student, The University of Southern Mississippi

    As a doctoral student with the primary goal of building a teaching-focused career, I have eagerly sought out teaching-related experiences. My first summer as a graduate student, I was invited to teach for the first time an online course. The continual increase in online-based higher education highlighted an important career preparation opportunity (Kim & Bonk, 2006; Seaman, Allen, & Seaman, 2018) and gaining online teaching experience seemed like a marketable skill for someone interested in academia.

    I have now taught both online and in-person and have gained some insights to the pros and cons of each instructional medium. Reflecting on these experiences provides a rich opportunity to evaluate the affordances and challenges of teaching online. A general utility of online education is increased accessibility. It is immensely important that we make higher education accessible for those who are interested in it. Online courses allow higher education to be more easily accessed by all, including nontraditional students who may not otherwise be able or willing to pursue higher education (Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006). Online courses also allow students to work at their own pace, which provides opportunities to spend extended time on more challenging material, e.g., by re-watching or re-listening to lectures.

    Albeit very different from in-person instructing (as I later learned), teaching online was a nice segue because it was less intimidating than immediately lecturing in front of a live audience. For the online course, I narrated lecture content over PowerPoint slides, and could consult my materials more frequently than I would have if physically in front of students. The asynchronous nature of online courses provided ample practice for me to develop, organize, and execute lectures prior to ever doing so in front of a classroom. Given my first in-person teaching course was a large general psychology course, I felt the online experience provided appropriate and helpful scaffolding to practice lectures in a less overwhelming and intimidating setting.

    One concern I had going into the course related to the quality of student/instructor interactions. Fostering a space in which students felt they had an opportunity to connect with the instructor was important to me given the data on how relevant student/instructor relationships are to student success (e.g., Komarraju, Musulkin, & Bhattacharya, 2010). While it may be initially more challenging, I learned there are indeed ways to connect with students online. So how does an instructor go about establishing rapport with students in an online course? First and foremost, maintaining regular communication with the class (e.g., emailing reminders) keeps the course on the students’ radar. Also, assignments can be manipulated to serve purposes of both supporting student learning and increasing engagement with the instructor. I utilized an assignment called Lecture Reviews (i.e. students submitted three comments and three questions in response to each narrated lecture; I subsequently replied to comments and answered questions). Lecture Reviews seemed to provide a catalyst for perhaps even more thorough one-on-one student/instructor interaction than what is possible in a large in-person course.

    Although online courses do have many affordances, certain challenges exist that are not present in an in-person classroom. For one, there may be decreased opportunities for direct engagement. However, I tried to combat issues that arose from the lack of synchronous communication (i.e. not attending class in person) by holding regular online office hours. Essentially, I established a set date and time each week that students were guaranteed to find me logged-in to the online classroom management chatroom. While this was minimally utilized by students, I believe it is important to include as an option for synchronous communication. Moving forward, I might consider providing more of an incentive to engage in this synchronous dialogue (e.g., offer extra credit or require students to engage in office hours at least once per semester).

    Another challenge arose with regards to maintaining discussion board involvement. In this particular course, there were multiple discussion boards per week that students were required to respond to (including an additional response to one of their classmates’ responses). The point of this activity was to stimulate a class discussion and had the beginnings of cultivating richer class communication. As an instructor though, I struggled to respond meaningfully to each student’s points on the discussion boards in a way that facilitated continued discussions because of the sheer volume. Another issue was uncertainty on the part of students in terms of what these discussion boards should look like. Being more intentional about the number of discussion boards, along with setting clearer expectations for instructor involvement in the discussion boards (Mandernach, Gonzales, & Garrett, 2006), could be a way to enhance online classroom discussions.

    Finally, online courses do present a challenge to peer learning. One benefit of in-person courses is the opportunity to actively learn from others’ questions and shared insights. The self-driven and independent nature of online courses minimizes these peer learning opportunities. In retrospect, one such way to potentially combat this could have been a group project. Alternatively, including a peer review assignment in which students are asked to review one classmate’s writing assignment could have fostered peer learning opportunities as well as help build a virtual classroom community.

    Ultimately, gaining experience as a graduate student in teaching online honed my teaching skill set for a rapidly changing higher educational landscape. Online courses present not only some similar challenges to teaching in-person but also additional challenges. Overall though, the means to promote the benefits of online learning are manageable and provide a unique, and perhaps more accessible, learning experience for students interested in pursuing higher education.


    References

    Kim, K. J., & Bonk, C. J. (2006). The future of online teaching and learning in higher education. Educause Quarterly29, 22-30.

    Mandernach, B. J., Gonzales, R. M., & Garrett, A. L. (2006). An examination of online instructor presence via threaded discussion participation. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching2, 248-260.

    Seaman, J. E., Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking distance education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group.

    Tallent-Runnels, M. K., Thomas, J. A., Lan, W. Y., Cooper, S., Ahern, T. C., Shaw, S. M., & Liu, X. (2006). Teaching courses online: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 76, 93-135. doi: 10.3102/003456543076001093

     

    Hallie Jordan is a second-year counseling psychology doctoral student at The University of Southern Mississippi. As a member of the Behavior and Alcohol Research Lab, she researches contextual and social factors related to college student drinking. Additionally, Hallie is interested in undergraduate psychology education with experiences teaching general psychology and counseling theory courses.

  • 15 May 2018 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Anna Schwartz, Rita Obeid, and Kasey Powers 

    Experimental Psychology aims to teach students the essential skills associated with evaluating, conducting, and communicating research findings. The course aims to satisfy two main learning objectives: to help students conduct valid research and help them communicate research findings effectively using APA style. In our experience, the course is typically viewed by students with dread because of the heavy emphasis on methods, statistics, and writing. Students complete labs on a variety of topics (e.g., naturalistic observation of human behavior on the subway, surveys of social media use and self-esteem, Stroop interference, implicit associations) and they generate a lot of data! Given the large number of labs (usually a minimum of six per semester), we asked ourselves, What we could do to help students communicate their findings without requiring full lab reports?  While communication is an important skill to develop in undergraduate students, having them write full lab reports for each of the studies is very time-consuming and frankly overwhelming for us to grade, given our heavy teaching loads and other obligations. With all this in mind, we asked, How can we modify the course so that students gain practice communicating their findings in a professional format, but without the pressure of writing lengthy papers?

    The solution that we came up with is to have students work on posters that effectively serve as outlines for APA-formatted lab reports. Posters teach students how to organize their ideas, write a concise statement of research questions and study aims, identify and cite relevant source materials, summarize important points from previous literature, create graphic displays of research methods and results, and communicate the main findings (orally as well as in writing). Budding researchers often begin their careers presenting posters at conferences, yet coursework does not prepare them for them for this task.

    Two students are looking at a poster template on a computer screen.

    The first question people (and students) ask us is “Do the students have to print all these posters?” No, we do not kill any trees! Instead, we have students pull up their posters on lab or laptop computers to get individualized peer and instructor feedback, and they make their final poster presentations using the overhead projector at the front of the classroom. To get students started, we show them examples of posters and provide a template that they can use. We talk about the different parts (i.e., abstract, background, methods, results, discussion, references) that need to be included as well as design elements like color, fonts, background, pictures, and graphics (i.e., tables and figures). One of us uses post-it notes to help students figure out how to arrange information to fit within dimensions of the poster, and then we have students go around the room to give each other feedback on what should go where.

    We have students generate multiple posters over the semester to scaffold the process of evaluating scientific research, developing various APA style skills (e.g., making a table, generating references), and creating and presenting scientific posters in front of an audience. By providing the students with multiple opportunities to generate reports of their findings, we can focus on one or two skills at a time to reduce cognitive load. An additional benefit of the multiple poster strategy is that students refine skills that are not traditionally targeted by experimental classes, such as advanced use of PowerPoint, which is an important professional skill. Students are grateful to use our template for their first poster, but, by the second time around, the students find poster templates that better fit their own styles. Giving students the opportunity to improve on the design of their posters generates a lot of excitement and pride, and we have seen enormous improvement in the quality of the posters over time as students get the knack of APA formatting. As one of our students said in an end-of-semester evaluation, “I liked the posters most in this course. After a while I got very used to doing them and once I had all my data and charts I had no problem completing the rest of the poster.

    The poster-making assignment also works well in a class where students conduct their own semester-long research projects and turn in an APA style paper as the final product. Since they have had repeated experiences with each of the core components of an APA style paper in poster form, they have a stronger concept of what should go into a full lab report. Having students work incrementally in developing pieces of their lab reports in the form of a poster (and setting weekly deadlines) helps them to organize and progress in writing the full written report. At the same time, it provides multiple opportunities for us to give feedback, which helps students better prepare for their end-of-semester oral presentations. During peer-feedback sessions, students walk around and learn about their classmates’ posters and projects, just as if they were at a conference. They get a sense of what a conference might be like and they get to practice communicating their results to others. The session is just like presenting at a mini-conference!

    Two students are looking at a poster template on a computer screen. One is pointing at the screen.

    One of the goals of the undergraduate major in Psychology is to teach students how to read and write APA formatted articles. As teachers of Experimental Psychology, we believe that making posters is a developmentally appropriate assignment for students in lab-based courses. Posters are useful in helping students to visualize information, pull together big ideas, and explain their research projects to others. It is really wonderful seeing students working hard to learn skills that they know will be useful in the workplace.

  • 13 May 2018 10:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By R. Eric Landrum, Ph.D.,  Boise State University &  Garth Neufeld,  Cascadia College

    Let’s just say from the start that we (Eric Landrum and Garth Neufeld) are delighted that we were asked to write a blog post for GSTA.  We are both heavily invested and deeply believe in the mission of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP), and of course that pipeline starts with GSTA.  Thank you so much for the invite!

     Whether a graduate student’s ultimate goal is to achieve employment in an academic setting or a professional setting, there will be an application for a position, competition for a good job, and the need and desire to stand out from the crowd.  As we change jobs throughout our careers, this process repeats itself, whether in or out of academia.  Each of us wants to make an impact, and in higher education, that goal has become so formalized that operational definitions exist (e.g., h-index).  As graduate students, we suspect you are pushed hard to think about peer-reviewed publications in top-tier outlets with high impact factors, grant applications, conference presentations, and perhaps the occasional book chapter.  These are certainly the traditional means by which graduate students and new assistant professors have been demonstrating impact for the past century in psychology.

    Allow us to be so bold to suggest that there may be alternative, non-traditional means to demonstrate our impact on our discipline.  Back in October 2017 we launched a podcast called "PsychSessions: Conversations about Teaching N'Stuff." We ask our friends and colleagues to sit down with us for about an hour and we record an unscripted conversation about the teaching of psychology and, you know, stuff.  By the way, we give our guests complete editorial control; if they want something deleted, we delete it.  To date, there is no advertising and the podcast is not monetized, although two episodes were sponsored (our travel expenses to interview Bill McKeachie and Charles Brewer were paid for by STP).

    As of this writing, we have released 21 full episodes and 3 mini-episodes of PsychSessions.  Has the podcast been wildly successful?  Hard to say.  We do know from the media company that manages our podcast (Libsyn) that since our October 2017 podcast launch, all of our episodes cumulatively have had 5,710 unique downloads.  Does everyone who downloads the podcast listen to it, or listen to it in its entirety?  Doubtful.  But now think about impact.  When thinking about book chapters or journal articles that either of us has written, did any of those artifacts of our scholarly prowess have any impact?  Might listening to a podcast be more impactful that publishing a rarely-read journal article?

    Yana Weinstein and Megan Sumeracki (2017) surveyed psychological scientists about their perceptions of the utility of using blogs and Twitter to communicate psychology to the general public, and the key challenges to these communication streams becoming an impactful practice appear to be (a) the attitude that communicating scientific findings to the public is less prestigious than communicating scientific findings to the science community, and (b) the inability or lack of time to be able to tweet or use blogs effectively.

    For now, graduate students will likely have to follow, for the most part, the centuries-old recipe regarding impact and establishing one’s credentials – we hope this balances between part scholar with research skills (publications, conference presentations, grant-writing ability) and teaching skills (teacher-training, supervision, actual teaching experience).  We think it is easy to imagine an assistant professor job opening at a prestigious institution with over a hundred applicants for the singular position.  Now imagine the bevy of well-qualified individuals who excel in both dimensions of research and teaching – what shall be the tie-breaker?  Perhaps the tie-breaker might be that applicant’s ability to have an impact beyond their own classroom and research lab – whether that be 10,000 followers on Twitter, a podcast, service to a national organization, founding a non-profit organization, community organizing, or other creative endeavors that demonstrate professional skills. Real impact.

     

    Reference

    Weinstein, Y., & Sumeracki, M. A.  (2017).  Are Twitter and blogs important tools for the modern psychological scientist?  Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 1171-1175.  doi:10.1177/1745691617712266
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