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

"Engaging Our Students," with mentors at The Graduate Center

18 Nov 2014 4:38 PM | Anonymous

The Graduate Center, CUNY, just established a Mentorship in Teaching of Psychology Program that will group experienced graduate student teacher-mentors with novice graduate student teacher-mentees to provide support from course set up and classroom management (e.g. syllabus design, textbook choice, classroom activities, scheduling, exam writing, grading/assessment, attendance, problem students, extra credit, change of grade requests).

While this mentor system is new to The Graduate Center we're wondering whether any other programs have implemented something like it and if so how your experience has been! Comment below.

In our mentors blogging for this week they discuss their thoughts about student engagement:

Rita El-Haddad: I give my students weekly, scheduled quizzes. The material of the quiz consists of what we covered in the previous class and I specify which lecture slides students should study. After students hand in their quizzes, we go over the answers as a class. I provide the correct answers and also ask students what they wrote. There is more than one way to get full credit on some questions and students get to hear differing versions of correct answers. I feel that going over the answers and asking students to explain what they wrote is useful because students will reinforce their knowledge about the material and immediately clear up any potential misunderstandings. Students will also see what material will be important for upcoming exams.

Kim Schanz: I include at least three media clips into every lecture as I feel it helps the students further understand the topics I’m discussing in terms of providing a talking point to explain the topics in a concrete, as opposed to theoretical, manner.  For example, in my class on adult development, we discussed what a “mid-life crisis” was, and while there is a stereotypical notion that most people know, I wanted to make sure the students understood what a “mid-life crisis” actually entailed.  I showed the extended trailer for the movie “This is 40,” which illustrated the main aspects of a “mid-life crisis”: unhappiness with your current life, a desire to change it, and actions towards changing your life as you see fit, despite what others think.

Rita Obeid:  I teach a three hour class that usually covers one topic in Psychology (e.g., Social Psychology) so it tends to be a bombardment of information. While I do engage the students with discussions, activities, and videos, I decided to embed slides with true or false questions after every small section. The students seem to find this simple technique easy and it allows almost the whole class, even the silent students, to participate. It also seem to capture their interests again if they are starting to get tired and allows me to clear up common misconceptions that they may have missed during the lecture. I mostly like these questions because they’re easy to prep and students get very engaged and interested.

Justina Oliveira: In my courses, I focus on helping students connect course content to daily experiences. To engage students in this process, they complete journal-entry assignments that consist of informal writing (one page) for which I pay attention to their ideas instead of grammar or structure. These seem most effective when requiring students to define the term/theory and then asking them to describe how either they or someone they know had a real experience related to that topic. This technique pushes students to be agents of learning as opposed to passive learners. If they link psychological terms with real examples, the importance of what they’re learning is made clear to them beyond the purposes of my classroom and they become more interested in the content.

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