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. As a blog team, we advocate for and promote inclusion, equity, and anti-racism in pedagogy (see updated GSTA Position Statement from the Steering Committee). At this critical juncture in history, we have declared our solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and are motivated to use this platform to feature voices for change in the following areas as outlined by the GSTA:

  • Suggestions relating to decolonizing syllabi by including the work of scholars and psychologists from diverse identities and backgrounds.

  • Tips on adopting anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching and assessment practices.

  • Recommendations on creating inclusive learning environments that celebrate diversity and do not tolerate discrimination.

  • Strategies on discussing how discrimination and inequity have shaped the field of psychology and the world around us  with students and colleagues.

  • Tips on engaging with students and colleagues across disciplines in activism to create change in classrooms, institutions, and communities.

  • Input on being compassionate and supportive to students, colleagues, and ourselves during these times.

We are also still committed to diversifying 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. Example topic areas include:

  • 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

  • Advice for successfully navigating research and teaching demands of graduate school

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

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!

As we focus the spotlight on inclusion and non-discrimination, we will continue to provide  graduate students and faculty an outlet to share their experiences, ideas, and opinions regarding graduate students’ teaching practices.

If you would like for any questions to be addressed, you can send them to and we will post them as a comment on your behalf. If you are interested in submitting a post, please email us at 

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Hallie Jordan, Sarah Frantz, Maya Rose, Raoul RobertsTashiya Hunter, Laura Mason and Megan Nadzan

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

  • 10 Jul 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Harold Takooshian, Ph.D., Fordham University and CUNY'79

    "How important are mentors?" For better or worse, the answer could not be more clear. What is more inspiring than a good mentor, or more miserable than a bad mentor? This experience likely shapes our entire career. Here, I share with GSTA students five points to consider about mentors.

    1. Indispensible. A mentor is "a trusted counselor," a term that dates from Greek mythology, where far-away Odysseus entrusted his family to the care of Mentor. By any name, mentors have always been an indispensible part of formal education, from Plato's Academy to the Han dynasty in ancient China.

    2. Inspiration. In April of 2017 at CUNY (photo 1 below), super-mentor Florence Denmark chaired a panel where 9 celebrated psychologists from many institutions spoke briefly on their own mentor, with a few notable results: (a) We all found ourselves inspired to hear these noted mentors describe with such affection the deep impact of their own mentor. (b) These mentors noted how they benefitted from more than one mentor, for different stages or parts of their career as a student, then ECP. (c) They agreed their mentor's support was pivotal for them. They would not have achieved so much without their mentors, and try to pass this on to their own students.

    3. Variation. The 35 graduate psychology programs in Greater New York City (Bonet & Takooshian, 2015) have a well-earned reputation for being highly varied in their mentoring. At the negative extreme, faculty in some schools are rewarded for research more than teaching, so students need luck to find a caring mentor, and must struggle to earn their doctorate. At the positive extreme, faculty in other schools understand teaching and mentoring to be key roles, to build up their students. If we view these 35 schools are gardens, some emphasize weeding out students while others emphasize nurturing students--and most fall in between.

    4. Legacy. I recall when a new PhD was just starting her teaching career, and looked visibly confused when a notoriously bad mentor cynically advised her, "They do it to you, then you do it to them." Fortunately, what is true in the negative, can be true in the positive as well--as we see teachers try to "get even" with their beloved mentor by becoming a beloved mentor themselves. In fact, CUNY alumna Elyse Goldstein (1979) published this finding from her 2x2 analysis, documenting this fact, that same-sex mentorships actually correlate with higher alumnus productivity after the doctorate.

    5. CUNY-GC. It is no accident that CUNY-GC is the current home of the GSTA. Even when I was a student in the 1970s in GC, the entire campus and its 10-program psychology department were legendary for gifted faculty who combined teaching and research excellence (photo 2 below). Even the most busy professors like Florence Denmark and Morton Bard made it a point to join students at the weekly Wednesday colloquium. Though my mentor Stanley Milgram had an international reputation for research, he was a devoted teacher for his entire 24-year career, from 1960 through the day he died on December 20, 1984, four hours after he chaired Christina Taylor's dissertation defense (Takooshian, 2000). In fact, in my experience, it is the best researchers who make the best mentors (Takooshian, 1991).


    Bonet, C., & Takooshian, H. (2015). Checklist of graduate psychology programs in Greater New York. Presentation to the 27th Greater New York Conference on Psychology.

    Goldstein, E. (1979). Effect of same-sex and cross-sex role models on the subsequent academic productivity of scholars. American Psychologist, 34(5), 407-410.

    Takooshian, H. (1991). Research, teaching, and the question of interaction. NYS Psychologist, 41(1), 44-56.

    Takooshian, H. (2000). How Stanley Milgram taught about obedience and social influence. In T. Blass (Ed.), Obedience to authority: Current perspectives on the Milgram paradigm (pp. 9-24). Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.

    * Note: Harold Takooshian, PhD, is on the Fordham faculty since 1975, where he is Professor of Psychology, Urban Studies, and Organizational Leadership. He earned his PhD at CUNY-GC in 1979, and was elected a Fellow of the APA Society for Teaching of Psychology in 1990. Address any inquiries to

    Photo 1. At CUNY in 2017, 9 mentors described their great mentors (listed from left to right): Dinesh Sharma (SUNY), Florence Denmark (CUNY/Pace), Elaine Congress (Fordham), Leonard Davidman (NYSPA), Henry Solomon (Marymount Manhattan), Jason Young (Hunter), Uwe Gielen (St. Francis), Harold Takooshian (Fordham), Machiko Fukuhara (Tokyo)

    (photo courtesy of Harold Takooshian)

    Photo 2. CUNY-GC Social-personality faculty around 1974.

    (photo courtesy of Michelle Fine)

    Photo 3. One legendary psychology mentor was Professor Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman, whose daughter Gladys was inspired to launch an annual $25,000 Mentor Award in her mother's name. One of Dr. Beckman's students at Penn was Florence Denmark (later of CUNY-GC), who received the 2013 Beckman Award. The photo below shows five generations of mentors: Drs. Beckman, Denmark, Takooshian, Linda Hamilton (of the NYC Ballet), and Valerie Radetzky.

    (photo courtesy of Harold Takooshian)

  • 05 Jun 2017 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Charles Raffaele

    A class full of learners with different home ('heritage' and/or marginalized) languages that these students could conceivably bring to the table, but with often no conceivable avenue for bringing these in for real. Is this a situation in your class, as it often is in mine? Well, perhaps there are some solutions to this problem. In this piece, I will outline and use as a jumping-off point some research on multilingual classrooms, which addresses both what underlies this language issue in education and ways that the language of the classroom can be opened up for the benefit of all.

     I will start off with the paper that blew me away most on this topic. Busch (2014), taking from a study conducted on a multigrade (1st-4th grade) class in Germany, has a lot it can teach to us college instructors (despite the substantial age difference). It describes a classroom where the teacher and learners can each assume dominant positions (based on degree of ability with each given language), students could speak on topics of interest taboo for the classroom through assignments which allow expression through metaphor, and resultant ‘little books’ could be created that are multivoiced (created through collaboration by many, though with the principal author being the individual child) and multidiscursive (free in genre of medium utilized and topic focused on).

     Setati (2005), on the other hand, provides a description of what I myself would assess to be the least fully tapped vision of the multilingual classroom. It describes the instruction of a teacher in South Africa who uses multiple languages in her mathematics classroom but must rely on English for the actual math instruction itself, given English as the "language of learning and teaching (LoLT)". Though it is fantastic that the teacher could incorporate the languages of her students on some level, thus acknowledging the identity of her students as legitimate (particularly in a country like South Africa, where, as Setati [2005] highlights, language is entwined with politics and the country’s ugly history of racism, predominantly against its black majority population), bringing home languages in for non-instructional (e.g. procedural) matters is not as high an acknowledgement as truly full implementation of multilingualism in instruction. The future of our educational system will be forever limited if students' cultural competencies (of which language is often a major element) are not given their proper due as resources to be brought to the table for the best collaborative alchemy to take place.

     The documentary “Yo Dude, Cosa Wena Kyk A? – The Multilingual Classroom” (Achmat, 1992) (the phrase in the title being a multiple-language phrase presented in the film by a student, translating in English to “Yo dude, what you looking at?”) shows to our eyes and ears how multilingual activities may take place in a classroom. Echoing the malleability of teacher/learner roles described in Busch (2014), learners are seen here becoming teachers, and teachers becoming learners. The zeal that students are witnessed to be able to show for learning portions of many different languages in this video is remarkable.

     Political issues behind the resistance to including students' heritage languages in the classroom are discussed in Cummins (2005). Xenophobia about immigration and linguistic diversity are mentioned here as roadblocks to sound policy. Challenging the assumption that languages are best kept separate from each other (including in both traditional and bilingual schools) is emphasized as an important step in recognizing the heritage language as a learning resource. The paper suggests such methods as emphasizing cognate relationships between languages (keep in mind, for example, that English contains words from such wide-ranging languages as Arabic, various European languages, Hindi, Chinese, and various African languages), the class creating dual language books as in Busch (2014), and usage of sister class projects (i.e. taking advantage of the inter-cultural/lingual opportunities available in coordinating two classes to work together on the same project).

     Instructors should strive for a healthy and future-oriented intermingling of languages in the college classroom, and make efforts to include specifically-allotted time and energy for accomplishing this purpose. The goal is then not simply recognition of students’ heritage languages as valuable in the conversational or procedural interim between learning, but instead integrated into the learning process itself. This set of directives (which is, by the way, not only to all of you but myself as well) is not simply a suggestion for the sake of humanly treating our students as the individuals they are, but a way to attempt to maximize the work we can do in our classes and more broadly advance academia and ultimately transform our society. This push might even guide your research into previously unconsidered realms as well; for example, when do you plan to do your study on vacilando?

    Page on Spanish word “vacilando” from book “Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World”; the book was mentioned by a student during my class and, the week after, brought in by said student to be passed around for everyone to take a look at.


     Achmat, Z. (Producer & Writer). (1992). Yo Dude, Cosa Wena Kyk A? – The Multilingual Classroom [Documentary film]. South Africa: The National Language Project. Retrieved from .

     Busch, B. (2014). Building on heteroglossia and heterogeneity: The experience of a multilingual classroom. In Heteroglossia as practice and pedagogy (pp. 21-40). Springer Netherlands.

     Cummins, J. (2005). A proposal for action: Strategies for recognizing heritage language competence as a learning resource within the mainstream classroom. Modern Language Journal, 585-592.

     Sanders, E. F. (2014). Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. United States: Ten Speed Press.

     Setati, M. (2005). Teaching mathematics in a primary multilingual classroom. Journal for research in Mathematics Education, 447-466.

  • 20 May 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Rita Obeid and Jeremy Sawyer, The Graduate Center and City University of New York, CUNY

    For new psychology instructors, designing a writing assignment is often the last thing on our minds. We may be scrambling to prepare a syllabus for new course, mastering unfamiliar content (since psychology has multiple subfields), or organizing a series of slide-based lectures. In the mad dash of course prep, the potential learning benefits of student writing can be easily overlooked.

    When our thoughts finally do turn to writing, we may wonder: Do my students really need to write? Won’t they get plenty of practice in writing-intensive courses? As a graduate student instructor, do I even have time to read and grade writing for a class of 50 or 100? In this blog, we aim to demonstrate that engaging students through writing not only helps them to learn more deeply, but is entirely manageable and beneficial to you as an instructor.

    To learn, students need to actively engage in course material, whether through discussion, group projects, hands-on experience, or writing. An approach called writing-to-learn is a way of encouraging students to enhance their understanding by thinking through important course concepts using writing (Zinsser, 1988). The primary goal is not to improve students’ writing skills in general (though that may occur), but to promote critical thinking, expressive skills, and student reflection on course material (Bensley & Haynes, 1995). Having students reflect on their learning through the use of brief writing assignments (whether in class or at home) can promote this full range of skills. We will illustrate this process with some brief, low-stakes writing assignments that we used to help students grapple with new concepts in our Developmental Psychology classes.

    We have found that students often do not have a clear perspective on a topic until they are required to reflect on the topic, connect it to their own experiences, and to try putting their thoughts on paper. In our Developmental Psychology courses, we wanted to avoid bombarding our students with endless PowerPoint slides that dulled their senses as they explained developmental concepts. Thus, along with five other graduate students we chose eight key concepts in Developmental Psychology (e.g., attachment, joint attention, Piaget’s stages, etc.) and created 8 lessons featuring active learning activities for use in our classes. To get students’ cognitive wheels spinning, we began each lesson with a “Question of the Day” that asked students to connect their everyday experience to the concept at hand. When teaching joint attention, for instance, our question was “Do you make eye contact with others in social situations? Do you think eye contact is important? Why or why not?” This was followed by a brief instructor-led illustration of the concept, and then a YouTube video which depicted one child engaging in joint attention, and another child who struggled with establishing joint attention. To get students observing and thinking deeply about what they saw in the video, we provided a series of brief writing prompts - known as “minute papers” - to be written on the spot (See Figure 1).

    The goal of this brief writing activity was not to produce a masterpiece of writing, but rather to have students “think through writing” about what behaviors they observed, what they could infer about each child’s ability to establish joint attention, and how joint attention might help the children’s social, cognitive, and linguistic development. These brief writing assignments do not need to be graded (or even collected) by the instructor, they merely use the process of writing for the students’ own benefit. Using anecdotal feedback from students, as well as assessment data we collected in our classes, using these brief writing prompts led to higher student learning, as measured by short quizzes requiring students to demonstrate understanding and application of these developmental concepts. Below is a sample of some slides and writing prompts from a lesson module that we used in one of our courses.


    In addition to brief in-class writing, we also assigned weekly written responses to a question pertaining to that week’s lesson. Below is a sample weekly writing prompt:

    Assignment 1: What is Your Theory of Human Development?

    Whether we are conscious of it or not, we live our daily lives using some type of “theory” of development. Try to describe your current theory (or theories) of development, answering the following questions in approximately two paragraphs.

     What causes humans to become the people that they become?

          What do you think are the most important factors that influence development?

          What causes us to change?

          What causes us to remain the same?

    So how much time do we spend grading these assignments? The truth is, we have two methods: no stakes and low-stakes. In the no-stakes approach, we typically have the short writing assignments (e.g. question of the day) count as students’ attendance, after quickly skimming to make sure they made an effort. For low-stakes writing we skim the assignment for the basic ideas communicated and give the student a grade of 0, 1, or 2 depending on effort and a few simple criteria. In sum, we recommend that you start with a few brief writing prompts dispersed through each class session that will get students thinking more deeply about what you are learning that day. We promise that the minimal time spent reading and marking them will more than pay off in student learning, as well as your insight into students’ experiences and understanding of course material!

    Figure 1. Sample slides from one of the modules on joint attention


    Bensley, D. A., & Haynes, C. (1995). The acquisition of general purpose strategic knowledge for argumentation. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 41-45.

    Zinsser, W. (1988). Writing to Learn: How to Write-and Think-Clearly about Any Subject at All. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

  • 14 Apr 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Ashley Davis

    On October 13, 2016, the American Psychological Association (APA) detailed findings from a survey that indicated that the 2016 presidential election was a significant source of stress for more than half of American adults, both Democrats and Republicans (APA, 2016). Thirty-eight percent of adults attributed this stress to “political and cultural discussions on social media.” Long story short, we were all feeling the heat!

    Last semester was different for me as well. I was finally feeling like I had hit my stride as an educator. Something no one tells you is that if you do it right and care for your students, the teaching becomes both your greatest joy and the thing you lose sleep over at night. Being a graduate student and an adjunct professor is like finding the balance between giving, and keeping enough for yourself.

    I was assigned to teach Human Development, an introductory course in the Psychology Department that encompasses physical, emotional, and cognitive development from conception until death. The course is a lot of everything, but there are several dominant themes that run through a critical study of human development. Unfortunately, inequality is one of them. The text I was using for the course didn’t waste any time making that point. In chapter 2, students are introduced to how public policy decisions influence or intersect with human development, how developmental outcomes look very different across neighborhoods, and how a history of housing segregation in this country still matters today.

    My students hailed from more than 10 different countries and spoke more than 10 languages as a group. They were Muslim, immigrants, young women and young men of color, and a major party candidate for president of the United States had already spoken of banning Muslims from the country, mocked a disabled reporter, and bragged about sexually assaulting women. They were young Americans who were suddenly questioning everything and they wanted to talk about it, to ask questions, to challenge each other’s ideas, but they were nervous. In the rest of their interactions, these conversations had not been going well. I endeavored to make our space safe enough for them to feel open enough to try. The research suggests that stereotypes and hatred are challenged in instances where people must take on another’s perspective (Broockman & Kalla, 2016). The election was stressful, but it also highlighted the fact that as a country we are not very good at talking.

    I have a few lines I always say to my students in one form or another: “This classroom is a safe space where you are free to disagree with everyone, especially me, but you must disagree in a respectful manner. Nothing is true just because I say it. Disagreeing with me might feel weird at first, but it’s necessary.” I then make sure I create a classroom environment where it is clear that I don’t possess all of the knowledge. Once when we were discussing how education varies globally, I simply opened the floor to all of the students who completed their K-12 schooling careers in another country. I joked with them asking why they were asking me when there were experts present.

    Another thing I did was set up an FYI folder on Blackboard where I gave them as many things to read as I could. In my experience, being exposed to the ways others craft academic arguments makes you better at crafting your own. When I brought optional articles to class I never had any extra copies to bring home. One of the articles I assigned for homework towards the end of the semester was a reading I had been assigned in one of my doctoral level classes: a chapter on linguistic domination (Heller & Martin Jones, 2001). A student wrote a reaction to that article that I’ll never stop thinking or talking about. Many nights they kept me on my toes and became formidable debate opponents.

    A third thing that happened is that we found a way to keep politics out of the classroom. The way we accomplished this was simple, we critiqued policy, and policy decisions, societal characteristics and differential access without mentioning anyone by name. We realized that in reality neither candidate had done a good job discussing things like healthcare, public education, or environmental protections, things that our class discussions made us realize were important.

    The final and most important thing I did was to try to see them as whole people and not just students. When something particularly difficult occurred like the dumpster bombing in Chelsea (Wilson, Schmidt, & Nir, 2016), we would talk about it. Instead of making my students request off for Eid-al-Adha (one of the holiest days in the Muslim faith, during a time of increased hate crimes against Muslims) I simply let them know that if they observed a religious holiday that the university did not recognize missing class wouldn’t be a problem. The day after election day, knowing many students would want to go protest and recognizing the importance of them doing so, I told them that I understood if there were other places they felt they needed to be. In my experience as an Early Childhood educator, we call this the whole child approach. This approach to early childhood seeks to offer cognitive, creative, constructive, and community engagement learning experiences to all learners everyday. Last semester I brought this approach to my college students because in the era of fake news my lecturing seemed incredibly insufficient; all of us are a part of this country’s future.

    I couldn’t tell you one way or another if students liked this approach. I didn’t survey them at the end of the semester. There are, however, a few things I know for sure. The first is that their final presentations were phenomenal. The second is that the class did change perspectives. One of my toughest critics said that the class made him hopeful about our country’s future. Recently, I’ve run into a few of them on campus – the reunions are always joyful. Somehow, in all of that stress, we carved out a space of rigorous scholarship. A space where I learned more than I taught. A space where we managed to learn together and from each other.

    American Psychological Association (2016, Oct. 13). APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans. APA Press Release. [Online]. Retrieved from

    Broockman, D. & Kalla, J. (2016). Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing. Science, 352(6282), 220-224.

    Heller, M & Martin-Jones, M. (2001). Introduction: Symbolic domination, education, and linguistic difference. In Heller, M. & Martin-Jones, M. (eds). 2001. Voices of Authority: Education and Linguistic Difference. Westport, Conn: Ablex.

    Schmidt, S. (2016, Aug. 28). Muslim Holy Day on Sept. 11? Coincidence Stirs Fears. New York Times. [Online]. Retrieved from

    Wilson, M., Schmidt, S. & Nir, S. M. (2016, Sept. 18). After Blast, New Yorkers Examine Themselves for Psychological Shrapnel. New York Times. [Online]. Retrieved from

  • 30 Mar 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Teresa Ober

    Since 2007, the members of various Psychology NGOs at the United Nations have been active in organizing an event that has gained increasing precedence in recent years. “Psychologists have been actively engaged at the UN for a long time,” commented Dr. Ayorkor Gaba, the current Co-chair of Psychology Day, an American Psychological Association (APA) Representative to the UN, as well as a central figure in the organization of the event. Dr. Gaba continued by commenting that “For the past 10 years, Psychology representatives at the UN have been hosting the Psychology Day at the UN to highlight Psychology’s contributions to the UN Agenda.” Now in its 10th inception, Psychology Day at the United Nations continues to attract a wide range of individuals from across broad disciplines both within and peripheral to the field of Psychology. Each year, the organizers focus on timely issues that impact the psychology of humanity on a global basis. Last year, the theme of the event focused on the psychological well-being of refugees and migrants. This year, the theme focuses on the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3): Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for for all. The conference aims to provide insights into how an understanding of psychological processes may contribute with respect to the social, economic, and environmental pillars of the UN.

    As it has in the past several years, Psychology Day at the UN this year will provide an opportunity for experts and students across the field of psychology to share in a learning experience within the confines of the famous grounds of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Many who teach psychology with an emphasis on international, cross-cultural or multi-cultural issues may already encourage their students to attend.

    “For the most part, students get much of their information from lectures and textbooks,” stated Dr. Comfort Asanbe, Associate Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island CUNY and APA Representative to the UN. This format of transmitting information can be problematic particularly when trying to support students in understanding the complex ways that human beings are affected when their human rights are not recognized. Dr. Asanbe continued, expressing that “Attending Psychology Day at the United Nations event provides a unique opportunity for students to experience the dissemination of psychological information derived from principles and scientific studies, to the world body.” Dr. Asanbe further conveyed that “This has applied value for the development of policies that have the potential to better psychological health at the global level. In essence, if the stakeholders adopt and implement relevant information presented at this forum, this will be a strong justification for all the efforts put into hosting the Psychology Day at the UN.” Speaking to the power of taking action, Dr. Asanbe emphasized that “Students can read about each of the topics that will be presented at this UN event, but I believe that being there in that setting, will be quite an experience that they will not get sitting in their classrooms.”

    More information about the event can be found here: . Those who plan to attend are encouraged to register as soon as possible and no later than April 7 as registration is required to attend.

    A special thank you to both Dr. Ayorkor Gaba, Dr. Comfort Asanbe, and Dr. Janet Sigal for their support in writing this piece!

  • 13 Mar 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Amy Silvestri Hunter, Ph.D., Seton Hall University

    I remember the first course I taught like it was yesterday: Biological Psychology at the University of Vermont. I was in my last year of graduate school and like many of my peers, I offered to teach an evening section of a course in my area of specialization to gain teaching experience and earn some extra money. I distinctly remember the paralysis that overtook me as I realized how many decisions needed to be made about the design of the course: What text should I use? Would I try to cover all the topics in the text, or just some? If the latter, which topics should I prioritize? How much material should I cover in class, and how much of the textbook material should students be responsible for on their own? How should student grades be determined?

    I quickly realized the path of least resistance was to design my course with basically the same format as the large, daytime section taught by my PhD advisor. I had served as the TA for that course and knew that model worked for him and the students, who consistently gave him and the course high evaluations. With a syllabus in hand that was basically a clone of his (with permission, of course!) I moved onto issues that were important as a new instructor but now seem obvious (e.g. what do I do if a student asks a question but I don’t know the answer? – look it up and get back to them) or irrelevant (e.g. how do I maintain a sense of authority despite my relatively young age? – a problem that has resolved itself with time).

    While many aspects of teaching remain the same since my first experience, other aspects have become more complicated. Faculty are expected to develop learning objectives and course goals, use innovative teaching techniques, have multiple assessment strategies, and to some extent accommodate the varying backgrounds of our students. While the standard “sage on the stage” still has its supporters and can be used to great effect, our perspective on teaching and our role as professors has changed greatly over the years. There is now a wealth of pedagogical research that we can use to guide our decisions about course design. Although this new research is undoubtedly beneficial for our students as it requires us to be much more deliberate in the course-related decisions we make, it can also be overwhelming for new faculty members.

    One approach that can make the task of course creation somewhat less daunting is to obtain sample syllabi. While you can (and should!) ask members of your professional network for their syllabi and course suggestions, there are other resources. One of these is Project Syllabus, a peer-reviewed compendium of syllabi coordinated by APA’s Society for the Teaching of Psychology (Division 2). Project Syllabus includes over 200 syllabi across a wide range of Psychology courses, from Introductory Psychology to upper-level seminars and even graduate courses. Each syllabus is reviewed using a newly revised rubric (available on the website) that was developed based on findings from the scholarship of teaching and learning.

    The new rubric is organized into five categories:

    • Teaching Methods: An exemplary course includes teaching methods that follow best practices. This can include things like critical thinking and problem solving, new teaching methods, multimedia use, etc. as appropriate for the particular course. An exemplary course also effectively engages students in the learning process in a variety of ways (i.e., the course is not solely lecture and exam based).
    • Learner Support & Resources: An exemplary syllabus clearly states faculty roles and responsibilities, student roles and expectations, methods for student-faculty and student-student interaction, and uses principles of universal design for learning.
    • Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning: An exemplary course includes assignments that are consistent with best practice pedagogy, clear guidelines for student evaluation, opportunities for formative student performance feedback, and multiple forms of assessment.
    • Course Design, Goals, & Learning Objectives: An exemplary syllabus clearly states the rationale for the course and its design and has clearly defined course goals that are linked to measurable learning objectives. Class time allocation is aligned with learning objectives, which are aligned with assessment.
    • Syllabus Organization & Design: an exemplary syllabus is well organized, aesthetically designed, has a warm tone, and is free of grammatical problems, typographical errors, etc. Required materials are clearly stated, relevant, and current.

    One way in which Project Syllabus may be useful to new faculty is to provide a sense of how others in the field design their courses. What learning objectives and course goals do they specify? What types of assignments do they require? What textbook do they use? While there is no single “correct” way to design a course, looking at how others do so can provide new faculty with an idea of best practices for a particular course.

    Another use of Project Syllabus is to provide a source of novel ideas for course design and assignments. For example, what are some alternatives to exams for assessment of student learning? How might students demonstrate their knowledge of a particular topic other than the traditional literature review? How can writing assignments be used to provide students with job-related skills? How can assignments be structured to improve student learning?

    Finally, Project Syllabus has recently revised its rubric to be consistent with the results of research in the scholarship of teaching and learning. These references are also posted on the Project Syllabus web page, and I encourage you to look them over as there may be individual articles that are particularly relevant to your course.

    While the syllabus for your first course (or even first few courses) may not cover all items on the rubric, the document distills some of the relevant literature and provides specific outcomes that you can incorporate as you refine your courses over time. Once you have a syllabus that meets the criteria on the rubric, please consider submitting it for review and possible publication on the Project Syllabus website!

    For more information about Project Syllabus, check it out:!

  • 05 Mar 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Teresa Ober

    A recent cover article published in the "Monitor on Psychology" (March 2017) provided some more information about how access to mobile technologies can affect our lives from a psychological perspective. For more information, please consider reading the article. The reference and link is posted below:

    Weir, K. (March, 2017). (Dis)Connected: Psychologists' research shows how smartphones are affecting our health and well-being, and points the way toward taking back control. Monitor on Psychology, 48(3).  Retrieved online from

  • 20 Feb 2017 5:30 PM | Anonymous

    By Teresa Ober

    Multi-tasking is the attempt to complete two or more tasks or activities at the same time. Multitasking can appear to result in either one or two outcomes: either the appearance of great productivity, or the consequences that would typically result from being absentminded. In general, when a behavior is learned to the point where it has become habitualized or automated, multi-tasking may be possible. However, when the behavior is not well learned, frequent mental set shifting such as that required when multi-tasking can make completing the task very difficult, especially tasks that are complex. If a task is complex, it is more likely to require a great deal of attention and mental resource, and therefore performing in a multitasking environment is going to be difficult. Even so, despite research findings suggesting that multi-tasking is difficult or inefficient, and potentially even dangerous in some contexts, we create for ourselves “multi-tasking environments” every time we open a cell phone, laptop, or another digital device while trying to complete another task. For example, when attending a class session or lecture.

    According to a recent article published Psychological Science, non-academic use of computers during lecture is common among students who bring their laptops to class. The researchers inventively used a proxy server to log all students’ HTTP requests in an college-level introductory psychology course. Perhaps expectedly, the researchers also found non-academic use of computers during class was inversely related to academic performance (Ravizza, Uitvlugt, & Fenn, 2016). Research on media multitasking indicates that it creates cognitive challenges for adults, young adults as they cannot gauge the extent to which they switch between multiple forms of media that is present. A laboratory experiment recorded both younger and older individuals as they used a computer and television at the same time. Results showed that individuals were more likely to attend to the computer during media multitasking. The participants in this study also switched between media at very high rate, averaging more than 4 switches per min and 120 switches over the nearly 30-minute study. Interestingly, participants had little insight into their switching activity and recalled their switching behavior at an average of only 12 percent its actual rate. Younger adults in the study also switched more often than older individuals (Brasel & Gips, 2011).

    Yet, research suggests that digital distractions are prevalent in the classroom (Froese, Carpenter, Inman, et al., 2012; Campbell, 2006; Wei, Wang, & Klausner, 2012), with even the mere presence of a cell phone (that is not even turned on) having been shown to reduce performance on tasks that require attention (Thornton, Faires, Robbins, & Rollins, 201). Is this a potential problem for our students? How can we strive to ensure that students are learning from and with their devices and not simply being distracted by them? Even though we might immediately recognize the danger in a driver picking up a mobile device while on the road, we are not so keen to see a problem with a student responding to a device during class.

    Regardless of whether one recognizes the danger of a supposed “multi-tasking digital learning environment,” it is difficult or near impossible to deny the prevalence of personal mobile technologies within the classroom. In a 2013 survey conducted with 777 college students in the US, respondents answered a short 15-item online survey that asked questions about their classroom use of digital devices for non-instructional purposes (McCoy, 2013). Some of the responses from the students indicated that their instructors had been active in establishing policies to reduce the potential for distraction. Of those who responded, 70% expressed that their instructors had a policy in place regarding the use of digital devices in the classroom. And of those who responded, just over half expressed that there should be a classroom policy against digital distractions. When asked if digital devices should be banned in the classrooms, about 91%, however said “no.” McCoy (2016) later conducted a follow-up 2015 survey of American college students which included another 675 respondents in 26 states. The results of this follow-up study indicated that respondents spent an average of 20.9% of class time using a digital device for non-class purposes. In addition, for this second survey, the average respondent reportedly used a digital device slightly more often than those who reported it in 2013. These findings from a few years ago suggest that students acknowledge that their instructors may view their use of digital devices as a barrier to learning, and that they largely acknowledge their use in the classroom, and further, that as it trend, the usage may be continuing to increase in coming years. We may want to consider whether this also true of our own classrooms. In addition, the use of technology for non-instructional purposes may be viewed as a form of incivility. Not only is the use of computers a potential distraction to students, in turn affecting their learning, but it can also appear rude to instructors, thus affecting their teaching and attitudes towards students.


    Brasel, S. A., & Gips, J. (2011). Media multitasking behavior: Concurrent television and computer usage. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking14(9), 527-534.

    Campbell, S. (2006). Perceptions of mobile phone in college classrooms: Ringing, cheating, and classroom policies. Communication Education, 55(3), 280-294.

    Froese, A. D., Carpenter, C. N., Inman, D. A., Schooley, J. R., Barnes, R. B., Brecht, P. W., & Chacon, J. D. (2012). Effects of classroom cell phone use on expected and actual learning. College Student Journal, 46(2), 323-332.

    McCoy, B. (2013). Digital distractions in the classroom: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Faculty Publications, College of Journalism & Mass Communications, Paper 71. Retrieved from .

    McCoy, B. (2016). Digital distractions in the classroom phase II: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 7(1), 5-32.

    Ravizza, S. M., Uitvlugt, M. G., & Fenn, K. M. (2017). Logged In and Zoned Out: How Laptop Internet Use Relates to Classroom Learning. Psychological Science, 28(2), 1-10.

    Thornton, B., Faires, A., Robbins, M., & Rollins, E. (2014). The mere presence of a cell phone may be distracting. Social Psychology, 45(6), 479-488.

    Wei, F. F. & Wang, Y. K., & Klausner, M. (2012). Rethinking college students' self-regulation and sustained attention: Does text messaging during class influence cognitive learning?, Communication Education, 61(3), 185-204.

  • 18 Oct 2016 10:22 AM | Anonymous

    By Gary Lewandowski Jr., Ph.D., Monmouth University

    If you’re anything like me when I was a graduate student, the thought of teaching a research methods course is a bit intimidating.  Regardless, if you only teach one course as a graduate student, make it research methods. 

    Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “what doesn't kill you makes you stronger” or “graduate school is supposed to be hard” types of argument. Rather, I think there are several highly pragmatic reasons why teaching research methods courses:

    1) Supply and Demand

    Nearly every psychology department offers a research methods course, with 99% of psychology departments reporting its inclusion in their curriculum (Stoloff et al., 2010).  Someone needs to cover those courses, so if you’re interested in teaching research methods, supply and demand works in your favor.  If you can demonstrate that you’re an especially good methods teacher, your chances of getting a job are likely even greater. 

    2) Students Don’t Like It

    I realize that heading sounds like a reason NOT to teach research methods, but hear me out.  Research suggests that students enter methods courses with unfavorable attitudes (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009). Why is this good?  Well, it means students harbor really low expectations about the methods course.  If you do a better than average job teaching methods and are able to engage them, the students will likely rejoice.  Contrast this with courses where student expectations are likely higher (e.g., Intro, Abnormal, or Social Psychology).  There, you may have to be considerably better than average to earn positive evaluations and you can be sure that positive teaching evaluations are an asset when hitting the job market.

    3) The Times They Are a Changin’

    To change students’ attitudes about research methods, you need to change up the way the course is typically taught. First, a little bad news. Despite positive gains in understanding methods course content, students’ attitudes toward their methods course were worse at the end of the course compared to their (already not so sunny) attitudes from the start of the semester (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009).

    Importantly, those data were in the context of a traditional methods course that was dominated by memorizing terms and reviewing content, delivered in a primarily lecture format.  My colleagues and I all successfully learned methods this way, so simply gave way to tradition and were repeating the pattern. But given this data, we also knew we needed to do something different so we decided to completely overhaul the course, essentially moving away from the traditional lecture style toward a more modern approach.  We lecture less, students do more hands-on designing studies, thinking through design issues, and problem-solving.  Not surprisingly students like methods a whole lot more and see methods as more useful, while still learning the same amount of material (Ciarocco, Lewandowski, Jr., & Van Volkom, 2013).  A hidden bonus: the course is MUCH more enjoyable to teach.  

    4) It Is Easier Than You Think

    When you’re earlier in your teaching career you’re naturally more flexible and not overly influenced by the inertia of how you’ve taught a course the past 10 years. If you are ever going to teach research methods in a new and dynamic way, it will never be easier to do that than right now. Because you’re newer, you don’t have bad habits to break or old methods notes to rewrite.  Plus, there are lots of resources to help. I spent last summer creating the Instructor Resources Manual for our new methods textbook, Discovering the Scientist Within, and was amazed at all of the great resources that I found. Whether it is an interesting article that you have students reach to exemplify a design, a class demonstration of internal validity, lab activities, videos, or popular press articles that exemplify concepts, there is a wealth of resources out there (There are many freely available resources for methods and statistics curated on 

    5) Brush Up on Your Skills 

    It is often said that you don’t truly know if you understand something until you try to explain it to someone else. That was certainly my experience. As a graduate student I was doing a ton of research and reading more studies than you can imagine. I thought I was an expert. But it wasn’t until I taught methods myself as a graduate student that I really understood methods.  Breaking it down for others forces you to know it on a deeper level and to learn designs and techniques that your subfield may not use as frequently.

    6) Foster Students’ Skills

    My textbook coauthors Natalie Ciarocco, Dave Strohmetz, and I often refer to our methods course at Monmouth as an “Employers’ Dream Course.” The National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014) lists the top 5 skills employers want college graduates to have as: critical thinking/problem solving, teamwork, professionalism/work ethic, oral/written communication, and information technology application. Our approach to teaching methods, which includes lots of collaborative group work designing mini-studies, analyzing them, writing up a report, and presenting to the class, all in short periods of time, hits on every skill employers want. We realize that most of our students are not destined to be full time researchers so helping them cultivate employable skills in the context of their methods course not only makes the course more valuable, but helps them see additional value.

    But the best reason you should teach research methods as a graduate student is that, done well, the course is a lot of fun. There also is nothing more gratifying than expanding students’ view of psychology and getting the chance to introduce students to the joy of science.



    Ciarocco, N. J., Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., & Van Volkom, M. (2013). The impact of a multifaceted approach to teaching research methods on students' attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 40, 20-25. doi:10.1177/0098628312465859

    National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014). The skills/qualities employers want in new college graduate hires. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org

    Sizemore, O.J., & Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2009). Learning might not equal liking: Research methods course changes knowledge but not attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 90-95. doi:10.1080/00986280902739727

    Stoloff, M., McCarthy, M., Keller, L., Varfolomeeva, V., Lynch, J., Makara, K., & ... Smiley, W. (2010). The undergraduate psychology major: An examination of structure and sequence. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 4-15. doi:10.1080/00986280903426274


  • 05 Oct 2016 7:21 PM | Anonymous

    A big thank you to Svetlana Jovic for developing and sharing this assignment.

    Are you teaching an introductory course and looking for a fun, dynamic assignment that inspires your students to take a creative journey into the history of psychology? Svetlana Jovic has shared a great approach to getting your students to think about the historical context of psychology along with how it relates to our world today.

    This modular assignment asks students to create a “Year In Review” around the time of a key date in the history of psychology that helps explain the historical context of that key event. The “Year In Review” assignment can be used beyond intro courses and even beyond psychology coursework by modifying some of the specifics in order to fit whatever subject you’re teaching.

    Some tips for helping students get creative with the assignment:

    • On the day the assignment is due, have students bring in their newspapers and create a showcase in the classroom.
    • Put up big signs with dates and put them in chronological order around the room.
    • Each group presents their assigned era.
    • Prompt the first few groups to think about the connection between a particular event in psychology and what was happening in the world at that time.
    • After asking a similar question a few times, the rest of the groups start addressing it on their own.
    • Finally, you can invite the rest of the class to ask questions and add to what the presenting group has already said. It gives everybody opportunity to show off their history and pop culture knowledge for that matter :)

    Below you can see some examples from her previous classes and her instructions. Enjoy the news! 

    “Year In Review”: The Newspaper Assignment, Svetlana Jovic

    This assignment is designed to give you some insight into the historical context surrounding famous events in psychology’s history. Working in groups of three, you should create a 3-4 page long “Year-in Review” newspaper that chronicles the important events in a year of importance to psychology. The newspaper must contain a minimum of three stories that have something to do with psychology; the remaining stories deal with other historical events during that year (political, economic, cultural, etc.). Each newspaper will be dated December 31 of the year chosen and will be structured as a special edition featuring the “Year in Review.” You can choose a year from the Key Dates list you can find below.

    The goal of this assignment is for you, working in a three-person group, to produce a “newspaper” that chronicles the events during one of psychology’s “Key Dates.” The newspaper will include such topics as news features relating to events in psychology, book review, ads, obituaries, and anything else that emerges from the group’s collective creativity. A reader of your newspaper should learn something about what happened of importance to psychology in a particular year, and should also learn something about the historical context in which these events occurred.

    There are no limitations in terms of the format of this assignment – you can create a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, or something else. Just like any newspaper, it should have the substantial narrative in it, but feel free to also include photos, graphs, cartoons or anything else that will make the newspaper more effective.

    Off you go now and have some fun with it! I very much look forward to reading your newspapers.


    1900   Interpretation of Dreams

    Sigmund Freud introduces his theory of psychoanalysis in The Interpretation of Dreams, the first of 24 books he would write exploring such topics as the unconscious, techniques of free association, and sexuality as a driving force in human psychology.

    1913   Behaviorism

    John B. Watson publishes "Psychology as Behavior," launching behaviorism. In contrast to psychoanalysis, behaviorism focuses on observable and measurable behavior.

    1935   Alcoholics Anonymous

    Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is founded by Bob Smith of Akron, Ohio. AA's group meetings format and 12-step program become the model for many other mutual-support therapeutic groups.

    Gestalt psychology

    Kurt Koffka, a founder of the movement, publishes Principles of Gestalt Psychology in 1935. Gestalt (German for "whole" or "essence") psychology asserts that psychological phenomena must be viewed not as individual elements but as a coherent whole.

    1946   The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children

    Anna Freud publishes The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children, introducing basic concepts in the theory and practice of child psychoanalysis.

    National Mental Health Act Passed

    U.S. President Harry Truman signs the National Mental Health Act, providing generous funding for psychiatric education and research for the first time in U.S. history. This act leads to the creation in 1949 of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

    1954   The Nature of Prejudice

    Social Psychologist Gordon Allport publishes The Nature of Prejudice, which draws on various approaches in psychology to examine prejudice through different lenses. It is widely read by the general public and influential in establishing psychology's usefulness in understanding social issues.

    1973   Homosexuality removed from DSM

    After intense debate, the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The widely used reference manual is revised to state that sexual orientation "does not necessarily constitute a psychiatric disorder."

    1976   Evolutionary psychology

    Richard Dawkins publishes The Selfish Gene, a work which shifts focus from the individual animal as the unit of evolution to individual genes themselves. The text popularizes the field of evolutionary psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are applied in research on human brain structure.

    1979   Standardized IQ tests found discriminatory

    The U.S. District Court finds the use of standardized IQ tests in California public schools illegal. The decision in the case, Larry P. v. Wilson Riles, upholds the plaintiff's position that the tests discriminate against African American students.

    1990   Cultural psychology

    In Acts of Meaning, Four Lectures on Mind and Culture, Jerome Bruner helps formulate cultural psychology, an approach drawing on philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. Refined and expanded by Hazel Markus and other researchers, cultural psychology focuses on the influences and relationship among mind, cultural community and behavior.

     2000  Sequencing of the Human Genome

    Sixteen public research institutions around the world complete a "working draft" mapping of the human genetic code, providing a research basis for a new understanding of human development and disease. A similar, privately funded, project is currently underway.

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