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.

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  • 04 Mar 2014 9:47 PM | Anonymous

    By Emily A. A. Dow

    Despite the heightened attention to high-stakes testing and assessment, it is unclear how or why higher education instructors select particular assessment strategies in their classrooms.  In my casual conversations with fellow psychology graduate students about their teaching experiences, I have come to understand that my colleagues sometimes choose assessment strategies based on features of the course: multiple choice exams are a natural default for large course sections; pop quizzes take away from lecture time and the demand to get through specific material; there is simply not enough time to grade short answer assignments.  Their choice in using specific assessment tools is driven by course design and not necessarily by student learning goals.

    Boyson (2012) notes that it is unsuitable when student assessments are unrelated to learning objectives: “[for example], it would be incongruent to have objectives related to written communication and not grade students on their writing skills (p. 11).”  This may seem to be an obvious link, but perhaps not.  Often, higher education instructors have little or minimal training in designing courses and making effective decisions about assessment tools.  Emerging higher education teachers may not readily link assessment strategies with learning goals or objectives.  Perhaps their choice of assessment strategies is more related to their beliefs about student assessment than to learning goals or objectives.

    At the Graduate CenterDr. Maureen O’Connor and I are currently collecting qualitative and quantitative evidence about assessment strategies across diverse CUNY classrooms. In a two-phase research project, instructors at CUNY were asked about their assessment strategies. Results from an in-depth focus group revealed that while a variety of assessment tools are used by psychology instructors at CUNY (both novice and experienced), participants had difficulty making the connection between their selected assessment strategies and the learning goals established for a hypothetical course. To better understand this gap between the use of assessment tools and learning outcomes, we are surveying graduate student instructors to: (1) identify types of assessment tools used in higher education; (2) examine the connection between learning outcomes and assessment tools; and, (3) collect information about different philosophies or approaches to assessment.

    We are excited to present our preliminary results at the Eastern Psychological Association conference in Boston on March 15 (Symposium Title: Turning Teaching into Research: Examples from the GSTA).  Results from this research will help inform graduate student training in teaching, and emphasize the need for explicit instruction and discussion about the link between assessment strategies and learning objectives.  If nothing else, instructors in higher education should be aware of this link when designing effective course syllabi. 

    If you would like more information about this project, please contact Emily A. A. Dow, MA at

    References: Boysen, G.A. (2012). A Guide to Writing Learning Objectives for Teachers of Psychology. Society for Teaching in Psychology. RetrievedFebruary 24, 2014, from

  • 25 Feb 2014 11:33 AM | Anonymous

    By Danielle DeNigris

    I believe that learning is a dialectical process in which both students and instructor   must actively participate.  However when you are staring at the faces of 100-plus students, the task of getting each to voice their opinion may seem difficult, if not impossible.  There appear to be many obstacles towards student participation including fear of public speaking, fear of being criticized by peers or the instructor, and language barriers.  These fears may be heightened in larger classes.  Another factor that may negatively affect the quality of classroom discussions is the classroom environment itself.  For instructors teaching in a large classroom or auditorium, projecting one’s voice so that all students can hear comes naturally.  Students, on the other hand, typically do not have this experience and as such speak at a volume just loud enough that only the instructor can hear.  This leaves many other students out of the discussion simply due to their inability to hear one another. 

    As today’s approach to education has shifted to a student-centered paradigm (Celik, 2013), many instructors have begun to seek out new instructional methods through the use of technology.  These technological tools have been continually adapted for the classroom environment and allow for students to interact with material at a potentially more accessible and meaningful level.  Among the various technological resources, online discussion board forums have seen an increase in use to supplement classroom learning.  Discussion boards have become an important tool in facilitating instructors in the creation of an environment in which all students will feel more comfortable sharing questions, reactions, and theories.  The following activity illustrates the way in which discussion board forums can be effectively used to encourage participation from all students in large lecture halls.

    Blackboard, By Winslow HomerThrough the use of the Blackboard I allow students access to the discussion board forum in which they must respond to various prompts.  Typically, I will post an empirical article, critical question, or video that I find is relatable to students of all levels (for example, I have recently used RSA Animate videos and TED Talks).  Students are then required to post a minimum of three times per forum activity.  Of these three posts, at least two must be in response to another student.  With so many students this allows for diversity in the topics being discussed enabling students to choose a topic of personal interest rather than being forced to respond solely to a prompt determined by the instructor.  Students are then graded based on their responses in terms of quality and quantity (at least three posts have been made).  I have successfully used this activity in two large (200 students) and two medium (50 students) lecture halls and have found that the students who rarely participate during class-time tend to enjoy the activity and post more than the minimum of three times.

    Research has highlighted the value of discussion boards (e.g., Celik, 2013; Harman & Koohang, 2005).  By allowing students to communicate with one another via an online forum, an environment is created in which students may feel more comfortable voicing their opinions with each other.  Students are able to process their thoughts and edit their comments before sharing, minimizing the fear of criticism.  Discussion board activities also encourage students to communicate with one another leading to student-student participation rather than the typical student-instructor paradigm characteristic of in-class discussions.  Additionally, this type of activity promotes the development of critical thinking skills as students are exposed to differing perspectives and challenges to their viewpoint.  Students are also able to build off of one another’s ideas leading to collaborative thinking that may not have developed in the classroom.


    Celik, S. (2013). Unspoken social dynamics in an online discussion group: The disconnect between attitudes overt behavior of English language teaching graduate students. Educational Technology Research and Development, 61, 665-683.

    Harman, K., & Koohang, A. (2005). Discussion board: A learning object. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 1, 67-77.

  • 19 Feb 2014 6:26 PM | Anonymous
    We will periodically post a graduate student teaching tip or idea related to teaching. The tips, written by graduate students, are sourced directly from classroom practices and syntheses of recent teaching related research.

    If you would like to submit a tip for consideration send it to us at, subject line Blog and your potential title! Submissions should be between 500-1000 words and images are encouraged (just be sure you have the rights to that image!).

    One way to be sure is to follow these directions
    (Creative commons google images link:
    Select google images or Flickr).

    Any questions post them as comments below or send them to or twitter@gradsteachpsych.

    Thanks for checking us out.

    The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

    Philip Kreniske, Kasey Powers, Francis Yannaco and Theresa Fiani

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