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.

  • 31 Aug 2016 1:59 PM | Anonymous

    By Jeremy Sawyer

    Students at the City University of New York (CUNY) have extremely busy lives. Numerous students work long hours while attending school full or part time. So instead of “working for the weekend” (a la Chris Farley), many students work all week so that they can attend classes in the only time they have left: on the weekend! Yes, CUNY runs classes on both Saturdays and Sundays, and these sections are quite popular. My last class (max of 50 students) at 9am on Sunday was completely packed and had students on a wait list. Students greatly appreciate these weekend classes, and I’m going to make the case that instructors should as well.

    I began teaching on weekends while attending graduate school mostly out of convenience (like my students my weeks were busy), but I have since come to greatly enjoy this end-of-the-week educational niche. As I’ve discovered, weekend students are fervently dedicated to their education. Students in my classes intend to pursue fields like psychology, nursing, medicine, “the therapies” (physical, occupational, and speech therapy), and are often zealously collecting prerequisites. They drag themselves out of bed in the wee hours of New York winters to discuss Human Development, and they manage to look lively while doing so. Some of my students work overnight shifts the night before class, and yet are unfailingly present (physically and intellectually) the next morning, with only the aid of coffee. Other students hustle directly from religious services to midday weekend classes.

    One thing I love about the weekend crew is that they are more diverse in age than typical weekday students. They tend to be somewhat older, and have more work and life experience under their belts. They are often returning to school or are intellectually exploring. I’ve had several middle-aged students, and even a retired professor in my classes. Having students spread further across the lifespan enhances classroom discussion of lifespan development. Many students are parents, and are able to discuss child development in terms of their own childhood as well as raising a child. Older students discuss the development of their grandchildren, and compare their children’s parenting styles to their own. I’ve gained valuable insights from the rich experiences and viewpoints of my students, who are also diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socioeconomically.

    Weekend classes have the added bonus that they’re held only once per week, in a tranquil building without the crowded weekday rush. Of course, that also means that the classes are longer. While a 3-hour long class seemed daunting to me initially, I’ve found that engaging students in a variety of active learning methods (and avoiding deadly 3-hour lectures) is the way to go. If you structure the time with a mix of activities, demonstrations, group work, and discussions (plus a short break in the middle of class), the time will actually fly. Having students introduce chapters or articles that they read for homework, pose questions and lead small discussion groups, and frequently pair into dyads and triads to discuss class material or video clips will help you keep bodies and minds moving across the longer class period.

    There is also more time between weekend classes to content with, and it is key to keep students engaged during this time. If you are assigning longer written papers (in addition to frequent low-stakes writing assignments), you can align paper due dates with weeks after there is no class due to holidays, so that students engage in more in-depth writing over the two-week break. Finally, I’ve found that having students work in groups to create and deliver oral presentations keeps students engaged with each other outside of class, and allows students to follow their intellectual/research interests across the semester. Because of their deeper experience in education and the world, weekend students often have particular professional and intellectual questions that they are passionate about delving into more deeply if given the opportunity.

    For all of these reasons, I encourage you to take the plunge. Become a weekend warrior, and your students will thank you for it. You can still have a social life. And if you play your cards right, you can get out of class just in time to catch the football (or fútbol) games.  

  • 06 Apr 2016 3:39 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Schwartz

    It has gotten to the point where I cannot remember things without referring to a list. Even when complaining about my workload, I cannot name all the projects I need to keep track of. I have tried a whole host of list-making software and techniques, but as the tasks build up faster than I can eliminate them, I quickly give up looking at them. I even stopped taking attendance in class last semester because of the 20 minutes it would take to enter it after class (in a 90 hour work week, 40 extra minutes matter). But my number of urgent tasks has ballooned up, not down, and the average urgency has changed from “that is a nice idea, someday” to “deadline: tomorrow.”

    Finally I started using a life-hack type of solution. I would use my google calendar, already indispensable, to plot out how much I can accomplish in a day. I had seen a colleague do this in excel. The extra advantage with google calendar is I could use the service to set up alerts for important due dates. This has been a great improvement in my life, but without careful naming protocols, I found it hard to search through the deadlines or organize and visualize my tasks by project. This was working for me, but then a few apps came across my door which have actually made significant improvements on the google-cal life-hack solution.

    I wish they would pay me for this advertising, but I still feel like I should share what I have learned.

    Here are the winners:

    GradeBook Pro

    Last semester when I was observed teaching, my observer told me she uses an app to record attendance. After investigating a lot of free options, I decided it was worth investing 20 bucks for lifetime access to an extra 40 minutes of sleep a week. This app not only allows me to record attendance but to note whether it was excused or unexcused, mark late, keep track of who has done assignments etc.  I can check summaries of a student's performance from my phone when they email me, and make an informed, rather than gut, decision about their requests and complaints (and do so from my phone, making my transit time more productive). But the coolest thing about this is I can take a picture of each student with the app and study their names with picture next to them. Not only did I cut down on paperwork, but improved teacher-student rapport (using the app inadvertently helped me to learn all of their names and look more responsible in general).

    DOWNSIDE: May only be available on iphones.


    At the APA convention last summer, McMinn (2015) gave me this tip: keep track of every minute you spend, especially on unpaid, unscheduled work that supports others in your department.  All of those minutes you spend on reading a peer's paper, helping someone run stats, or proofing a survey. You weren't playing candy crush, and you should track that, so when your advisor comes to you and says "here's some more work" you can break it down with a graph on the spot. Not that anyone has asked yet, but the point of the advice is that when you are in a tenure track position, your chair may come to you and say: why haven't you gotten more grants or published more papers? You need to be able to show them all the good work you do that hasn’t quite turned into a line on your CV. The special benefit here for teaching is that I can actually log all the time I spend on my classes. I sit down to respond to student emails and I hit "start clock" and then "stop clock" when I finish. Tracking the time helps me spend enough time but not too much time on my students and my own work, and to make that decision based on numbers rather than emotions.

    DOWNSIDE: May only be available for iphones.


    Remember the life-hack of using my calendar to block out how much time I need for all my tasks and therefore to help me decide when to accept new projects or not? Google Calendar is great, but the app is not strong enough on a phone, AND I cannot integrate all my school emails into it. I have 9 email accounts I need to keep track of and Sunrise can link to them all. It is cross-platform, so you can use it on your computer, your iphone, your android, whatever. It allows you to access your calendar while writing a text message, click times you are available, and allow someone else to “accept” one of those times, which ends up directly in your calendar as a scheduled event. The real strength of this app is this: when looking at my calendar ON MY PHONE, it can pull from outlook, from google calendar, and can rapidly toggle between week view and a combination of month/daily detail view. You can access all of the normal features directly from the app on your phone, like reminders, notifications, sharing events etc.  This app has the least direct impact on my teaching, apart from the ease with which I can schedule office hours appointments with students, but it is helpful for maintaining general work-life balance.

    DOWNSIDE: None yet.


    This one is the absolutely best of the bunch. A technophile friend has been pushing me to use it for months and I finally caved. I took two hours to learn how to use it, and I have become a fanatical convert. There are MANY todo list apps, and I have tried LOTS of them. This one goes beyond a task list, beyond even an intuitive organizational app. It is on every platform. It has plugins so you can click a button in gmail to send a task to your list. It syncs with your calendars. You can set repeating due dates with notifications, you can drag and drop to rearrange projects or tasks. You can email notifications to others, and assign tasks to teammates.  You can sort your tasks and projects by due date, but also by "filters" and "labels" so it can accommodate different organizational styles. Best of all, you can set your "Karma" to give you reinforcing feedback as you proceed on your tasks and can measure your productivity on any given day. Once I adjusted my settings nice and low I got all the positive feedback I could desire. You can also just turn it off. While this helps my research a lot, it also helps me to keep track of the things I promise to do on the fly in class. I can also set reminders, deadlines, and even link a document to a task or assign it to a TA by inviting them to the project (named after my class).

    DOWNSIDES: No automatic built in visualization of your calendar, although you can import/export from your calendar.

    ​I understand that some of you will say I am app-happy, but I am actually quite picky.  While I was an early-adopter of dropbox, and a big advocate of it, I am only enthusiastic about great products. I also admit I invested a few dollars in the pro versions of some of these (the only times I have ever done so). I have never regretted a penny. These are life savers that are an absolute bargain for the amount of benefit I have gotten out of them.

    Looking forward to hearing everyone else's tips!

  • 30 Nov 2015 1:25 PM | Anonymous

    By Renata Strashnaya

    If I told you that you could spend your class time building energy, passion, critical thinking and knowledge base, would it pique your interest? I hope so. I recently presented about an advertising activity I conduct in my Psychology of Gender class at Pedagogy Day 2015 (Graduate Center, CUNY). I am glad to say that the activity received a very positive response so I wanted to share it with those of you who were not able to attend.

    Halfway through the semester, students in my Psychology of Gender class read about and discuss images and language about men and women in popular media. To encourage critical thinking and to build awareness of important concepts by relating them directly to “the real world” outside of class, I assign an activity that asks students to pick two advertisements (one stereotypical of gender norms/roles and one non-stereotypical). Students are required to peruse print media (e.g., magazines, newspapers), choose two ads, and bring them to class along with the following information: (1) title of publication, (2) product/service that is advertised, (3) the setting (e.g., home, work, park), (4) whether the focus is on full body or face, (5) age of woman/man, and (6) suggested personality traits of woman/man. On the day of the activity, students tape their ads to the blackboard by carefully placing each ad in the category that they feel this ad belongs—stereotypical man/stereotypical woman/non-stereotypical man/ non-stereotypical woman. Students then have some time to stretch their muscles and walk around the room to view all the ads before returning to their desks for discussion.

    One of the first things students usually observe is that non-stereotypical ads are much harder to find. Second, students do not always agree about the placement of their peers’ ads, which sparks an interesting debate about how what looks non-stereotypical at first is in fact based on subtle (or blatant) stereotypes about men, women, or both. At this point, everyone is engaged and invested in the conversation, and your role as the teacher is similar to that of a facilitator. Your intention is to probe further and to connect what the students say to concepts they have been learning all semester. As such, textbook terms and course topics gain meaning in students’ everyday activities and lives. Be prepared for many “Aha!” moments, including some of your own. For instance, one student reported not being able to view train advertisements the same way again because he said, “my eyes have been opened.”

    This exercise also allows for an examination about how gender intersects with race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, ability, and age.  Since most of the ads that students bring are relatively current, the class can engage in a discussion about progress (or a lack of it) from a political and historical standpoint. By relating what students say to current events and societal concerns, there are often personal confessions about how certain belief systems persist in students’ own lives and the possible role that media plays in forming long-standing perceptions of self and how one fits in the world. If you are teaching at a place like the City University of New York (a large public institution), you are also bound to have students from different parts of the world—students whose experiences are diverse, shaped by different norms and discourses, and influenced by cultural values outside of the mainstream. As such, there can be a discussion about how the media reflects and shapes societal norms and values, which can be supported by presenting students with “identical” ads across different countries with subtle, but critical distinctions. Although, I mainly use this class activity in a course about gender, it can be used for almost any topic. For example, in a class about child development, perceptions and stereotypes about childhood can be explored in a similar fashion.

    I have not had a student yet who did not enjoy this exercise, and I have not had an experience yet where a student did not surprise me with an observation that I have never considered before. At the beginning of each semester, I make a promise to my students that whether they agree or disagree with the material we will cover during the semester is not the point; however, by the end of the semester, they will gain an awareness about the world that will change what (and how) they notice, think, and hear. I believe that this activity helps me, as an instructor, to accomplish this goal.

  • 19 Oct 2015 2:56 PM | Anonymous

    By Teresa Ober and Francis Yannaco

    The STP's 14th Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) was a great success this October 15-17! The purpose of the conference is to disseminate current research in the area of SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning). As an interdisciplinary branch of psychology and education, SoTL connects researchers and scholars who aim to establish an understanding of the ways in which teaching can optimally achieve student learning. From Wilson-Doenges and Gurung (2013), we can conceptualize the three general types of SoTL research and their relevant methodological needs. These methods span reports on classes or courses, comparisons of courses and students, and syntheses of existing SoTL research. Luckily, Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges herself was there to explain the unique considerations necessary for better methodological rigor in our SoTL project, which we applied to receive mentoring for at the STP SoTL Workshop.

    Surviving mostly on apples and water, we worked closely with our dear mentors Michelle Drouin and Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges to develop a strong theoretical model and sharpen our classroom technology use scale. The ‘writing retreat’ style of the workshop provided an exceptional opportunity to shut ourselves away and turn our ideas into a real product in the span of hours, not months. And while Michelle’s expertise in technology use was profoundly applicable to every question we had during theory and scale development, Georjeanna’s insights helped us workshop our scale and turn our notes into well-honed models to move forward with.

    Above and beyond the personalized, minute-to-minute feedback and real teaching insights from our mentors, the STP’s ACT Conference itself oriented us at the center of the cutting-edge research coming out right now. We took inspiration from many of the poster presenters’ work that spoke to our ideas. As both conference attendee and workshop participants this year, we had an amazing time working with experts in the field on a project while situated in the middle of an academic conference. Speaking with and learning from other attendees allowed us to think about aspects and new angles of the research project that we might not otherwise have considered. The conference itself provides a great forum within which one present can present research among other graduate students and one-on-one with the teaching visionaries you’re citing in your own SoTL.

    Much thanks to the GSTA and our GSTA mentor Patricia Brooks for pushing us to go down to Atlanta for this amazing experience, it was beautiful!

    For anyone interested in finding out about upcoming STP conferences, be sure to check out the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website under Conferences (link:

    WilsonDoenges, G., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2013). Benchmarks for scholarly investigations of teaching and learning. Australian Journal of Psychology, 65(1), 63-70.

  • 29 Sep 2015 10:02 AM | Anonymous

    By Kasey Powers and Anna Schwartz

    A throwback to the classic back to school essay - What I did this summer. This summer we had the opportunity to take part in the AP Psychology Grading as AP Readers. This was a week spent grading the more than 280K AP Psychology Exams taken by high school students across the country. It was like going to camp for adults and one of the best professional development experiences I have ever been a part of.

    I’ll stop here for a moment to let you wrap your head around the fact that I just said spending 56 hours grading exams was like going to camp. And fun!

    It was a week spent in a new city with a few hundred like-minded colleagues who teach advanced placement psychology in high schools and introduction to psychology and colleges. I met people and made new friends. Each day at 5pm it was pencils down and the evening was ours. No work (at least from this job) to follow back to the hotel.

    This is not to say it isn’t hard work. Each morning at 8am you are in your seat ready to read. But it’s an assigned seat and your table is like your cabin - the people you get to know best. And you are assigned to read only one question the whole week, your question is your camp, with the rival camp on the other question in the next room. But at lunch we all come together. This was still not about the work.

    The work. Reading AP Exams has made me a better teacher (I hope, what I learned will be implemented in just a few days). Reading exams, specifically the same exam question several hundred times, and scoring these questions with a well made rubric, you see many examples of student writing ranging from very good to very very bad. There is much to be learned from student writing. Here are a few things I learned reading exams:

    “Good” or “bad” writing is not necessarily correlated with comprehension and grasp of the psychological concept. There were some paragraphs that flowed so nicely and were easy to read. However, when looking for specific points, it turns out that the student said nothing of substance, most often in the form of circular definitions. There were some pieces of writing that were almost painful to read with poorly constructed sentences, but when looking carefully at the substance of the writing, the student did know the concepts. Writing is an equally important but separate skill.

  • 14 Sep 2015 3:42 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Schwartz

    I have been teaching for a few years now, and one of the things that I am still mastering is asking the whole class a question.  Usually it goes something like this: I say “How many of you agree with this statement, raise your hand.” Then some students raise their hands a little bit.  The situation is worse if I want to ask a question and actually distinguish between “yay” and “nay”. Then somebody suggested using colored index cards in a technique that I call “red light/green light cards”.

    It works like this: you ask each student to pick up a red index card and a green index card on their way into class every day. Now, whenever you ask them a question with a yes/no answer, you ask them to hold up the green card if they agree and the red card if they disagree.

    It sounds simplistic, but it is worth trying out. Here’s how it plays out: I ask a question, students hold up their cards, and I have an instant visual read on percentages of agree and disagree.  My ability to scan a room and count a few red cards or a few green cards is infinitely superior to my ability to rapidly scan and count hands that have not been raised. An additional benefit is that a question that used to involve two rounds of hand raising (how many of you agree, raise your hands, now raise your hand only if you disagree) can be done in one question. These were all expected benefits of the technique.  The unexpected benefit are the creative uses of the cards student’s come up with to communicate shades of agreement.  Some students hold up both cards, showing more red or less red, more green or less green to display degrees of agreement or ambivalence. Some students hold the two cards back to back, flipping the green card from back to front. My favorite moments are when students raise their card when I have not asked a question to simply contribute their agreement, assent or opinion to what I am saying, silently entering into my lecture and making it a personal conversation with me without ever having to disrupt my lecture (not that I mind disruptions, but it is nice for students to be able to communicate without the burden of having to disrupt).

    In short, this is a simple (and inexpensive) technique that you can use in your classroom to improve student participation – to move student participation from the few students who are comfortable talking to total student participation!

  • 01 Jun 2015 12:15 PM | Anonymous

    By Kasey Powers 

    For the last two years I’ve had the ability to meet my yearly teaching course allowance for my situation in the fall semester. The first time was so I could take a maternity leave for the spring, and this year so that I could use the spring to focus on my dissertation proposal. However, just because I’m not teaching in a given semester doesn’t mean I’m not working to improve my craft.

    During my “off-season” I think a lot about teaching. When I’m at my campus I see colleagues who are teaching and we talk about how their classes are going. Sometimes I ask and other times they may have a question for me or want to get feedback on a new idea. There are conversations about activities that maybe didn’t work, and how to improve. There are conversations about how to deal with a specific student situation that I’ve encountered before but my colleague has not. There are many conversations about teaching where I am thinking, learning, and saving ideas for when I’m teaching again in the fall.

    It’s also been a time when I’ve been able to step back and reflect on what has been working well and not-so-well in my classes, since I teach the same course most semesters. I have a list of things that I want to improve upon and I’ve had the time to update some of my lectures. This time of reflection is a big difference from the mad rush to change something the night before a class.

    Because I’m not spending hours a week prepping and grading I’ve had more time to read news articles. I’ve found so many articles that are perfect to share in my class and I’ve been saving these to a shared folder on my Dropbox so that colleagues who I teach with can use them now. This activity is now a habit that I hope to continue when I am teaching again.

    If you are considering teaching a new course or you want to make major changes in your class, an off semester is a great time to review textbooks and look for new activities. You might want to look at The Syllabus Project to find variations that other instructors use.

    The bottom line is that teaching and pedagogy are an ongoing conversation that occurs whether or not you are teaching in a given semester.

  • 13 Mar 2015 12:17 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Schwartz 

    As a new initiative for the Fall 2014 semester, the Graduate Student Teaching Association implemented a graduate student peer-mentoring program through the Graduate Center, CUNY that serves to match experienced graduate student teachers with new graduate student teachers (If you are interested in joining the program email Anna Schwartz here). Mentors provide support to mentees on a range of pedagogical areas such as designing syllabi, creating effective assessments that align with learning objectives, navigating a college campus as an educator, and problem-solving with unexpected student situations. The following narratives were given by a mentoring team consisting of two mentees and one mentor. Each perspective highlights the unique opportunities that graduate student peer mentoring can provide for both the mentees and mentors.

    The peer mentoring program has been really invaluable to me during my first semester teaching at the collegiate level. When you begin teaching, unexpected questions can arise at any time, and it’s comforting to know that you can ask an experienced teacher for advice. Beyond advice on syllabus design and great ideas for classroom activities, mentors can provide advice on how to some of the daily ins and outs of teaching, such as attendance policy, testing/grading and challenging situations with students. I also learned a great deal from conversation and exchange with the mentee in my group, a new teacher like myself who was dealing with the same challenges of setting up classroom and new lectures. I definitely slept better at night knowing I was connected to our mentor group, and I would highly recommend that other CUNY instructors link up through this program!


    I really enjoy being part of the peer mentoring initiative. Despite having the option to take pedagogy courses on how to become more effective instructors before we begin teaching, there are often concerns that are specific (e.g., large classes) to the college where you are adjunct-ing or questions you don’t think of until you’ve begun teaching. The peer mentoring program pairs you with a mentor and mentee that have experienced/are experiencing similar challenges. Given the fact that the group is so small (consisting of two mentees and one mentor), you’ll be able to pose various questions to both the mentor and other mentee in the group. Additionally, as new teachers, your peer mentoring group can serve as the beginnings of teaching community or network at your college. Another of my favorite characteristics about this program is the flexibility. As graduate student instructors, the “teaching hat” is just one of many that we have to wear. In the same day, we may be students, researchers, clinicians-in-training, and teachers. To have the flexibility of meeting in-person, having a phone conversation, or just emailing one another, has been invaluable! Just like my fellow mentee above, I highly recommend the peer-mentoring program to any graduate student instructor or new teacher.


    While there are many advantages to serving as a mentor, my largest benefit from the mentorship program has been via my conversations with my mentees where we problem-solved solutions to classroom-based issues that each of us had encountered. Since we’re all active teachers, it was wonderful to hear the voices of instructors, at varying levels, collaboratively discuss solutions to problems such as giving make-up exams, rationale behind your syllabi structure, and enhancing participation in large classrooms. Similarly, since each of us taught courses with varied titles and class sizes, I was made more aware of the issues that may arise in courses outside of my particular expertise. Overall, the mentorship experience was a huge success this past Fall and I’m thankful that it is already gaining momentum into the Spring 2015 semester.


  • 26 Feb 2015 12:19 PM | Anonymous

    By Ralitsa Todorova

    I had the pleasure (and quite frankly, luck) of teaching a small course last semester with 18 lovely students. I taught Experimental Psychology at Hunter which met for 3 hours, twice a week, so I had to find a number of ways to break up our sessions and keep time moving. One of the techniques I used most was dividing the students into groups and having them work on various activities together. The assignments you give will vary based on your course, but what I want to talk about here is the actual use of groups and ways of breaking students up in to them.

    For starters, I began the semester with a number of ice breakers so that we all got to know each other and our names. This is obviously much easier to do with a class of 20 or so, but can be accomplished with bigger classes as well. Starting the semester off in this way makes students more comfortable and open to various group activities later on, as they are already used to the fact that they will be working with virtually everyone in the class. It also encourages participation from the start, as it gets everyone talking.

    What you’ll find pretty quickly (and all of you know already) is that people tend to sit in one seat on the first day of class and then hold on to that seat dearly for the rest of the semester. So the old count-off-by-4’s trick means that you will end up with the same students in the same groups each time. This is where I encourage you to vary the way you break up your groups. Some suggestions:
    • Have students line up in order of their birthdays – and for a challenge, have them do this without speaking. They can use their fingers or any other gesture, but they should get to down to the month and date! Then, you can have them count off from there, which means they will end up in a different group than usual.
    • Have students line up alphabetically by first name or last name, also without talking. First names will be easy for them if you’ve done ice breakers, but this can be fun even with a group of 40 or so!
    • Have students break out into groups based on their favorite season – spring, summer, winter, and fall can each work together. In my class last semester, 9 of my students chose fall so we had to break up that group into two. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but you can easily adjust and adapt and changing things up makes for a more interesting class session.
    • Be creative! Especially if you have a longer class time, having students move around breaks up these longer sessions.

    The main point here is that varying the groups that students work in means that they will get exposed to different perspectives, ideas, and group dynamics every time they meet. This also fosters a positive classroom environment as a whole, as the group feels closer to one another the more they get to know each other. This will also make students feel more comfortable in participating and asking questions. I’m telling you – this works! My class was at 7 in the morning and 15 out of 18 of my students participated many times per class session. And at the end of the semester, many of them thanked me for creating a classroom environment where they felt comfortable with one another and able to get to know each other.

    So – break students up into diverse groups and let them learn from each other!

  • 26 Nov 2014 12:20 PM | Anonymous

    By Rita Obeid, Christina Shane-Simpson, & Anna Schwartz

    Early in October, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) holds an annual writing workshop which is chaired by Dr. Regan Gurung and designed to support faculty in designing, implementing, and writing up their pedagogy related research (termed SoTL research). This year, three members of the GSTA leadership team were able to attend the workshop and greatly benefited from the structure and goals of this writing workshop.

    Prior to the workshop, each applicant (mentee) was paired with an experienced SoTL mentor that matched the needs of the applicant.  The mentors and mentees met virtually via Skype, e-mail, or the phone over the summer before the conference was scheduled (beginning in June of 2014). The mentees introduced and updated their mentors about their projects. Upon their arrival at the STP Conference, the mentees had developed a draft of a paper or at least a plan for their research. The mentees were each at different stages in their projects where some had began the implementation phase, and others were in the process of writing up their results and conclusions about the work they conducted.  Under the leadership of Regan Gurung and with the support of a statistical consultant (Dr. Georjeanna Wilson), and their mentors, mentees were given additional wrap-around support as they continued to write throughout the three-day conference. This blog highlights the narratives and experiences of the GSTA members who attended the writing workshop.

    “It was nice to get out of the big city for a couple of days, disconnect from everything else you need to do and just be sitting in a nice hotel room filled with people who are passionate about pedagogy research. The writing workshop was a great opportunity to not only meet great people in the SoTL field, but also benefit from their expertise.”  

    “My mentor met with me every three weeks over the course of the summer, edited repeated drafts of my paper, helped me develop future research lines from my project and, although his obligation to me is complete, continues to help me develop the project. At the conference, multiple mentors helped me do statistical tests and explore my data. In general, this experience has taught me more practical skills than all my classes combined, and I hope they can extend this model. My mentor is an angel, as are Dr. Gurung and Dr. Wilson.

    “I couldn’t believe the amount of support that was provided to all of the mentees during the three-day writing workshop.  During the summer I regularly communicated with my SoTL mentor, soliciting her advice on anything from research design to framing my IRB application.  She was immensely helpful in helping me develop my study in a manageable way that didn’t overshadow my teaching responsibilities.  At the writing workshop I received support not only from my mentor, but also from other experienced SoTL researchers and from a statistical consultant.  At the end of the workshop I ended up with two papers in-progress that were ready for data analysis.”

    All graduate student teachers are already busy with program requirements and teaching responsibilities.  However, the writing workshop allowed each of us an opportunity to step back from our busy schedules and never-ending to-do lists, to spend two full days working on our pedagogy-based research. Not only did we each make significant progress on our SoTL research project, but we were also able to benefit from networking with other SoTL researchers and educators passionate about the teaching of psychology.

    **If you are interested in attending the STP Writing Workshop in 2015 the application process will take place in the spring. We will be sure to post links to Facebook and Twitter when it opens.**

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