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


Welcome to the GSTA blog! 

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

If you are interested in submitting a post, please email us at We are especially seeking submissions in one of the five topic areas:

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Hallie Jordan, Sarah Frantz, Maya Rose, and Charles Raffaele

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

  • 06 Nov 2018 8:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Elizabeth S. Che and Patricia J. Brooks, The College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY

    In teaching Introductory Psychology, we aim to infuse a healthy dose of research methods into our lesson plans for each course topic. A key point that we emphasize throughout the semester is that all research starts with a question: What do we want to find out? Then, researchers select methods that are appropriate to address their question.

    For our unit on personality, we pose the broad question: How does personality impact social media use? After posing the question, we demonstrate how to use Google Scholar to find existing research on the topic. Most of our students have never heard of Google Scholar and have limited, if any, experience reading journal article abstracts. As Part 1 of the activity, we identify possible keywords to use as search terms, such as personality and social media. Figure 1 below shows the results of our Google Scholar search as well as links to access some of the articles via our campus library.


    Figure 1. Screenshot of Google Scholar results using keywords “personality” and “social media.”

    The next step is to open up the links to view abstracts of relevant articles. When reading abstracts, we teach students to look for five key pieces of information: the rationale for the study, the research question, the results, the conclusion, and the implications. For example, the abstract for the first article, Who interacts on the Web: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use (Correa, Hinsley, & De Zuniga, 2010), summarizes a study identifying links between Big Five personality traits (i.e., openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) and social media use. As a class exercise, we have students search for the five key pieces of information from one or more abstracts and paraphrase the findings in their own words. This semester, our students completed the paraphrasing exercise as a homework assignment, but it can also be implemented in class followed by discussion.

    Part 2 of the activity involves generating our own dataset, which allows us to compare results from our class with the findings reported in the published articles. Here, we start by administering a short-form assessment of the Big Five Inventory (Lang, John, Lüdtke, Schupp, & Wagner, 2011). This assessment is a structured personality test consisting of three Likert-scale items for each of the Big Five traits. Items include, e.g., I see myself as someone who is outgoing, sociable. Students are instructed on how to score the assessment, including how to factor in responses on reverse-scored items.

    Next, we ask students to take out their smartphones, check the number of Facebook friends that they have, and write the number on their Big Five worksheets (for students who are not on Facebook, we have “missing” data that can prompt discussions on how to operationalize variables such as social media use). At the end of the class period, we collect the results, emphasizing to the students that they should provide us with anonymous data. After tabulating the data in Excel, we create scatterplots in the next class to display results relating each personality factor to the number of Facebook friends (see Figure 2 for an example).


    Figure 2. Screenshot of the class data and scatterplot relating extraversion and number of Facebook friends.

    We demonstrate how to generate a best fit line to make clearer observations by clicking on “Chart Elements,” then “Trendline,” and lastly “Linear.” Double clicking on the trendline lets us add additional options, such as a linear equation and R-squared value. As we generate the scatterplots, we ask students to interpret them in relation to our research question—How does personality impact social media use?—while emphasizing that correlation does not imply causation. Using terminology such as positive, negative, and zero correlation, we evaluate the evidence linking specific personality factors with the number of Facebook friends. Finally, we ask students to compare the class results with findings from the previously reviewed articles. Further discussion may center on confounds, replicability, and issues of validity.

    Introducing data collection in Introductory Psychology courses provides students with opportunities to develop quantitative thinking and research skills. Such skills include using databases to locate relevant prior research on a topic, reading scientific abstracts and paraphrasing information, generating graphs and statistics using spreadsheet software, and interpreting data.


    Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., & De Zuniga, H. G. (2010). Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), 247–253.

    Lang, F. R., John, D., Lüdtke, O., Schupp, J., & Wagner, G. G. (2011). Short assessment of the Big Five: Robust across survey methods except telephone interviewing. Behavior Research Methods, 43(2), 548–567.

    Elizabeth S. Che is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY and the GSTA Deputy Chair. Her research interests include individual differences in language development, creativity, and pedagogy.

    Patricia J. Brooks is Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY and GSTA Faculty Advisor.  Brooks was recipient of the 2016 President’s Dolphin Award for Outstanding Teaching at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  Her research interests are in two broad areas: (1) individual differences in language learning, (2) development of effective pedagogy to support diverse learners.

  • 01 Oct 2018 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Diane Finley, Ph.D., Prince George's Community College

    You go in for a meeting with your advisor and she points out a new program available through the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) – a mentoring program for early career faculty (EC) and advanced graduate students. She recommends that you apply for the program. Your first thoughts: no way – there is no way I can add anything else to my life. I already have classes, teaching, dissertation, meetings with advisors, meetings with the Graduate Student Teaching Association (and not to mention my family and personal life). There is no way I can add one more thing!! Life in a rigorous graduate program can be daunting with all of its competing demands. Why should you make time for the STP Mentoring Program? What is it?  How can it benefit you?

    First let me talk about what mentoring is and what it is not. The terms “mentor” and “mentoring” are used extensively today to refer to all sorts of relationships in business, academia and even just everyday life. It has become the ultimate appellation to call yourself a mentor and too often, the popular media would have us believe everyone needs a mentor for everything. I think that when the term is overused and/or used incorrectly, it dilutes both the term and the relationship it connotes.

    While the term first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey, its current connotations first appeared in the United States in the late 1800s and it was largely confined to experienced teachers shepherding novice teachers. In 1910, mentoring took on the meaning of helping a younger person with the founding of the Big Brothers Organization. However, it was not until 1973 that we first see the term in the research literature (Irby & Boswell, 2016). Mentoring programs are now found in most universities and businesses. Mentoring programs for new faculty are essentially de rigueur although they vary greatly. So, it is highly likely that you will be part of some sort of mentoring program. How is STP’s Mentoring Program different from those at academic institutions and why should you consider applying?

    What really is a mentor, at least in the work of academia? One comprehensive definition is “mentors are advisors, people with career experience willing to share their knowledge; supporters, people who give emotional and moral encouragement; tutors, people who give specific feedback on one’s performance; masters in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed; sponsors, sources of information about and aids in obtaining opportunities; models of identity, of the kinds of person one should be to be an academic” (Zelditch, 1990). The aim of STP’s Professional Development Mentoring Program is to provide EC individuals with career-related assistance to improve their performance early in their academic careers and to help with the transition to faculty. STP members are generally eager to share their wisdom and experiences with newer faculty who get the benefit of an experienced professional with no role in their evaluation. Mentors are not asked to assume specific roles for their mentees. But all STP mentors have extensive academic experience and they are willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

    The program is built around the needs and interests of the EC individual or advanced graduate student, who will specify her or his goals and interests in the application. As Director of the Mentoring Program, I try to match mentors and mentees based upon these interests. Communication takes place through phone, internet (e.g., Skype, Zoom), and email. Mentees are not matched with anyone from their own institution. Having an experienced colleague not at your own institution can provide a sense of safe harbor and give you a place for questions that you may not want to ask senior faculty or even a mentor at a new institution. They can provide a wider viewpoint about academia which can help new faculty develop perspective. Mentors can provide guidance about navigating the academic career at different types of institutions.  

    In the research literature, we see that mentors serve as advisors, role models, coaches, and even support teams. In the evaluations from the first year of the STP Mentoring Program, I saw mentors who assumed all of those roles as well as many others, including listener. Contact occurred most often on a monthly basis, but most mentors said they let their mentees decide how much contact was needed. It was more frequent in the fall, the first semester of the yearlong program.

    In the literature on mentoring in higher education, several topics emerge as common to mentees: stress overload and managing multiple responsibilities, information on teaching (online, hybrid, large classes, new topics), establishing credibility and connecting with professional organizations. In the recent evaluations, our pairs followed these patterns with the addition of some discussion of research programs and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) as well as strategies for promotion/tenure. In monthly emails, I send out suggestions on topics for discussion as well as resources to help pairs find common ground.

    It can be daunting to add one more thing to do in an already packed schedule. However, I would encourage you to consider this program. Scheduling an hour or two a month can be a part of self-care and give you someone with whom you can talk without concerns about evaluation. The research literature shows that new faculty who are mentored have an easier transition into the role of faculty and they show an increase in job satisfaction. On the recent evaluations, mentees overwhelmingly reported that the program was helpful, and they wished they had more time to spend with their mentor.

    The STP Mentoring Program is really designed to help new psychology faculty find a colleague within the discipline but outside of the home institution. This additional mentor is there to answer questions (or bring them to the larger mentoring program participants) and serve as a support. The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive in their assessment of the program as a help in their early years of teaching. Advanced graduate students who are teaching are welcome to apply for the program. The program runs from August-May (the traditional academic year). Applications will be available on the STP website - in late May 2019. Participants do need to be members of STP so be sure to keep yours current!



    Irby, B. J.,  & Boswell, J. (2016) Historical print context of the term, “mentoring.”  Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 24(1), 1-7, DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2016.1170556

    Zelditch, M. (1990, March). Mentor roles. Paper Presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Western Association of Graduate Schools. Tempe, AZ.

    Additional Resources:

    Establishing productive mentoring relationships (n.d.) Retrieved August 1, 2004 from

    Kanuka, H. (n.d.). Does mentoring new faculty make a difference? Learning Commons. Retrieved July 31, 2004 from

    Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan. (2018). How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students. PDF available online:

    Diane Finley, PhD, is a psychology professor at Prince George’s Community College. Dr. Finley has been active in the STP, having formerly served as the Vice President for Membership from 2010 to 2016. Well-known for her enthusiasm for teaching, Dr. Finley is the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus Award.

  • 24 Sep 2018 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Hallie Jordan, Ph.D. Student, The University of Southern Mississippi, and Charles Raffaele, Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center CUNY

    So that we can all learn more about incorporating ethics into the classroom, the importance of having and sharing reasons for what we do in teaching, and sustaining passion in one’s work, GSTA co-editors Hallie Jordan and Charles Raffaele interviewed Dr. Mitch Handelsman.

    Dr. Handelsman earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Kansas, and remains a licensed psychologist in the state of Colorado. He is currently Professor of Psychology and President’s Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado Denver, and author of a Psychology Today blog titled “The Ethical Professor.” Dr. Handelsman has written numerous book chapters and articles, many of which focus on ethics and/or teaching of psychology. Last, but certainly not least, he is the author of several books, including texts on ethics as well as a book with Charlie Burrell, who broke the color barrier in classical music. He is even a jazz musician - a trumpeter - which we got to talk about later in the interview!

    The  piece below is a summarized version of some of the questions and answers over the course of GSTA’s interview with Dr. Handelsman. To listen to the interview in full, click HERE.

    Question (HJ): We read that you were inspired by your undergraduate psychology professors to pursue teaching. What was it about these past experiences that inspired you to pursue teaching as a career?

    Answer (MH): The psychology professors where I went to school at Haverford College were wonderful, thoughtful people. They were welcoming. Part of education is that students get engaged in a lot of different ways - with material, pedagogy, technology, instructors, among others - and I think I was one of those students who was engaged with the faculty process as much as the content.

    Question (CR): Instructors often find it difficult to encourage students to attend office hours. Have you found methods that work to get students involved with faculty on this level?

    Answer (MH): A lot of teaching is getting students involved in some way. In terms of coming to see me, one of the principles I operate under is college is not a stepping stone to anything. Rather, it’s your first professional position. So, I try to make the experience students have relevant to the kinds of experiences and skills they’re going to need in the professional world.

    For example, in my first-year seminar, I require students to come see me twice in office hours. They get 80% of the points from coming to see me, and 20% of the points for bringing an agenda. I’ve had 100% attendance so far this year! I tell them, “Look, if I were the CEO of a company, or your boss, I might say you get 20 minutes to come on in and present something to me.” I’m not that harsh! But, I do explain to them that, in the real world, when you go see your boss, you need to express what you want to talk about with a clear agenda. I also encourage them to go see every professor they have – even if they won’t earn points for it. I try and communicate that visiting professors’ office hours can go very far in helping the professor ultimately write a strong recommendation letter down the road.

    In my teaching, I try to have reasons for what I’m doing. Often, the reason is that they’re going to need these skills elsewhere. From the first semester, my goal is to help create a set of professional skills for the future that are applicable outside the field of psychology. That’s why I do a lot of papers rather than tests every three weeks, because nowhere is a boss going to ask someone to read something and then be tested weeks down the road. In the real world, bosses will ask people to read something, think about it, and bring a report about it the next day to guide a discussion.

    Question (CR): Could you describe how you became involved in the ethics of teaching and the ethics of psychology as a particular focus in your career?

    Answer (MH): It’s a good question, and I wonder that myself sometimes! I actually never had an ethics course in college or graduate school. My first exploration of formal ethics in psychology leads me back to discussions with fellow graduate students about boundary issues inherent in seeing clients.

    Going back to my childhood, when my family got a new game, I was the little kid who made everyone wait to play until we read all of the rules first. That same attitude has apparently lasted a long time, because it related to a dozen years of research on informed consent in psychotherapy. I got into this research because I was not ever going to start psychotherapy without everyone knowing what the rules of psychotherapy were.

    Question (HJ): Do you feel like the way psychology as a field has approached ethics has shifted over the past decade or so?

    Answer (MH): I think so. I think we’re getting more realistic and more on top of how to teach and approach ethics. My colleagues Sam Knapp and Michael Gottlieb talk about positive ethics, which is striving for ethical ideals rather than just following the rules. Being ethical is more than just following the rules. We didn’t go into our fields (e.g., psychotherapy, educational psychology, research, teaching) to avoid complaints. We went because we had high aspirations and high ideals. One of the trends in ethics is to ask, “What can we do to add on to the quality of our professional lives through striving for ethical ideals?”

    Question (CR): When you’re teaching these kinds of ethical concepts to students, how do you structure the classroom to get at the deeper aspects of ethics?

    Answer (MH): One way is to have them read some of the stuff I’ve written (which I’m not sure is compassionate - you’ll have to ask them that!). We need to create an environment in the classroom that’s safe for them to express themselves. Sometimes I’ll take a case and ask students what their options are for responding. They seem to try to come up with the most professional response, but I ask them to think about all the possibilities of human responses. I do this to help students come to grips with our own, natural, human reactions. We must first understand what all the options are, and then we can explore where these reactions are coming from, what purpose they serve, and what action(s) might be most ethical.

    Question (HJ): A lot of learning how to make ethical decisions is figuring out what to do in the grey areas. What do you find to be difficult in teaching about the grey area of ethics, and what do you find to be helpful in teaching about this grey area?

    Answer (MH): Part of it is helping students learn to work on continua rather than dichotomously (e.g., with “all or none” thinking). People seem to take extreme approaches on either end – either everything is relative, or everything is very rule-based. Different people have different ideas about how to operate in grey areas, based on past experiences such as their own family of origin. Part of the deal is opening this up to discussion to help facilitate an awareness that what we often see as dichotomies are continua. We have to teach students to use their judgment, because the ethics code doesn’t tell people what to do in every situation. Instead, it tells people what to think about.

    Question (CR): How do you go about assessing students’ learning of ethics?

    Answer (MH): Part of it is assessing their choice-making processes. How are my students going to make their choices now that they’ve had the course? My final exam is often a couple of questions, with about one hour to answer each. One question might be a case study. A case study I’ve used before is asking the student to imagine they work at a mental health center, and a news outlet wants to film the inner workings of the center to increase awareness. Your boss wants this to happen to increase publicity for the clinic, and your job is to write a report on how you can do this ethically. It’s a big, unsolvable problem, but students can break off what they want to demonstrate how they understand ethics. Another question might be asking the students to create a policy for their future practice that deals with an ethical dilemma – for example, what is your policy regarding accepting gifts? They can’t get away with saying they simply won’t accept gifts!

    The thread that comes through is this is real life, and we need to make connections so students can generalize what they learn in the classroom to work they do outside the classroom. So having problems and discussions based on complex, real-life situations is important. Memorizing the ethics code is NOT part of what I do. I’ve never been to a physician and refused to let them look at reference materials to diagnose me! Memorization is ridiculous because we have easy access to finding information. Instead of memorizing, what we need to do is develop skills, and so that is what we should assess.

    All my finals everywhere are open book, open phone, open brain, because it’s an artificial situation to say you have to have stuff memorized. I think there's stuff we should know, of course, but I think we can come to know that stuff through working with the material rather than memorizing.

    Question (HJ): What have you noticed about students’ reactions to these assessments and activities compared to what they’re used to in the past?

    Answer (MH): For example, I have students write POT papers. This stands for “Proof of Thinking” (not to be mistaken with the Colorado assumption!). In these papers, students apply their thinking to a short reading prior to class, and then we use the POT papers in class. The assessments become learning materials. Students’ reactions run the gamut – some are really happy because they can see the relevance, some are not very happy.

    I’ve learned over the years to be much more transparent about what I’m doing. Once I make it clear that what I’m doing in the classroom is with the goal of helping them prepare for any job in the future, most students do come along.

    Our students now demand reasons for what we do. The days of people listening just because we are professors with “profound wisdom” are gone – which is wonderful because now I have to prove I have something of value for them – and if I can prove that, then they will become involved. I want to have reasons for everything I do. Convenience is a reason, but I want to have ethical, pedagogical reasons for what I do. So, for example, I do a lot of group work rather than lecturing because it encompasses more beneficence, it’s more helpful, and more respectful.

    Question (CR): Your example of a democratic approach to creating content, creating teaching methods, is definitely very inspiring to beginning instructors, and all instructors! As you’ve developed this large corpus of teaching methods and research, how did you come to a point to start the ethical professor blog?

    Answer (MH): That was an outgrowth of the book I wrote with Sharon Anderson. Psychology Today approached us, and given Sharon’s interest in psychotherapy she started a blog called “The Ethical Therapist,” and I started a blog called “The Ethical Professor.” The blog is a great place to write, be creative, and share ideas without having to go through the usual publication process. It’s also been an opportunity to use a different form of writing. I’ve had some people use the blog in class, which makes it feel especially useful.

    To learn more about Dr. Handelsman’s approach to getting writing done and the use of quizzes, listen to the interview in full! You can also reference the “Resources” section at the end of the interview for an abridged explanation of these topics.

    Question (CR): As you mentioned, you’re a jazz musician. It’s interesting how you co-authored the book The Life of Charlie Burrell: Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music with Charlie Burrell, which sits alongside your ethics in psychology books. How did this work relate to your work in ethics in psychology?

    Answer (MH): The answer is, it didn’t! And that’s why I did it. I balance my life with my involvement in music. I got a little money from the university to help with the project, but I didn’t come at it from a psychologist’s perspective. Every word in the book, aside from a few I added for continuity, were Charlie’s. I went to Charlie’s house every Tuesday with my little tape recorder, recorded his stories, transcribed at home, and then edited them – so it’s really his book, his autobiography. I’ll take credit for helping him with it, but not for any psychological investment. I got to play (trumpet) with Charlie too!

    Question (CR): Do you think it’s helpful as a psychologist to have these large meaningful projects alongside your work in psychology?

    Answer (MH): You know, you have to have something. We talk a lot in psychology about self-care, and whether its big meaningful projects or small meaningless ones, I don’t think it makes much difference. People can do all kinds of things. For me, being involved in things like [playing trumpet, helping Charlie write his book] help me live my life.

    Question (HJ): What are the parallels in self-care between practicing psychotherapy and teaching?

    Answer (MH): Part of it is to become more mindful of what we’re doing – I knew we couldn’t get through an interview without talking about mindfulness somewhere! The nice thing about an academic career is it has built-in balance. There are research meetings, committee meetings, meetings with students, etc. However, there are times I need to leave the university, go across town, and play my horn a little bit too – for 3 hours, forget what I do for a living and create more balance in my life. We need to practice stress management techniques as intentionally as we can. I’m going to argue that the days after I play gigs, I might be better in the classroom!

    Working on preventing burnout is really important. Part of that is also an acculturation process. The university tells us what we need to do, and that’s one circle in the venn diagram. Then, we have what we really want to do – that’s the other circle in the venn diagram. I try to make those circles overlap as much as possible, to incorporate what I'm really interested in with my job requirements. This may mean I say no to a few committee things, and say yes to a few student-oriented things, because working with students is what I am really excited about. It is important to take advantage of choices to fit with what I want to do. Another part of preventing burnout is to leave a little space (psychological, schedule) to be surprised.

    Question (HJ): When thinking about the future and the rapidly shifting nature of higher education, what do you think is changing in academia? What do you envision being developing ethical concerns?

    Answer (MH): Teaching is going to change more in the next 20 years probably than it has in the last 100. When I learned how to teach, I didn’t learn about online teaching, but now it’s not clear how much time we are going to spend working (e.g., teaching, research, psychotherapy) online.

    One of the advantages of an accelerated rate of change is that we may have more opportunities than previous generations to create positions rather than fill positions--in other words, to create what being a professor means. I consider myself to have a relatively non-traditional academic career given the amount of theoretical or practical writing I’ve engaged in compared to less grantsmanship. In the future, it’s possible there might be more unlimited freedom in academia.

    Another change is the increase in diversity. There are more and more students entering college because, as a society, we see the advantages of an education, and we need to respond to make education relevant for people who don’t necessarily come from all the same backgrounds, or the backgrounds we come from. The ethical concerns here are using respect, not doing harm, and ensuring we practice justice.


    On writing: Dr. Handelsman reflected on his writing process, sharing that he typically does not have a set writing time. Rather, he always has something to take notes with (e.g., recording voice memos on his iPhone) so that when an idea for a blog post or other writing piece strikes him, he can make note in the moment. Then, he will use these notes as inspiration to produce a written product.

    On quizzes: To encourage students to engage with readings prior to class, Dr. Handelsman sometimes incorporates quizzes into his classrooms. When he does so, he asks students at the start of class what questions they had about the reading to initiate a discussion. Upon answering any student questions, the quiz (typically multiple choice) is administered. Dr. Handelsman noted he tries to promote a democratic quizzing process, in that students are asked how they want to be quizzed (e.g., multiple choice, short answer) and can contribute questions.

  • 24 Sep 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ryan C. Thompson, Ph.D. Student in Clinical Psychology, Palo Alto University

    This past summer, I attended the 2nd Annual Evidence-Based Teaching Conference at Palo Alto University (PAU) sponsored by the Office of Faculty Learning and Instructional Development. Directed by Dr. Kristel Nazzal and under the guidance of President Maureen O'Connor, educators, researchers, leaders, and interested students from across the country attended the conference with aims of collaborating and integrating innovative knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the field of pedagogy. The conference included a series of interactive workshops that focused on various ways to make course curricula more accessible for learners. Presenters focused on teaching as it relates to intersectionality, transparent counseling pedagogy, challenges of first generation college students, online teaching, and creating courses using universal design for learning (UDL).

    The conference began with a keynote address by Dr. Kim Case detailing her research into the importance and necessity of an intersectional approach towards higher education. Dr. Case discussed how the unique and complex experiences of privilege and oppression become salient in the classroom, using examples of her own missteps in conceptualizing race and gender separately rather than intersectionally. Her passion for diversity and openness about her growth as an educator was humbling, and by engaging with the crowd, she kept the audience focused on the importance of examining privilege, power, invisible identities, social location, self-reflection, and marginalization. I had not fully conceptualized the impact of social justice and advocacy in my role as an educator; however, Dr. Case's presentation offered a relevant perspective into how transformative inclusive pedagogy can be for educators as well as students. The central themes of social responsibility and equitability discussed throughout the keynote address encouraged audience members to think critically about the messages and dynamics that they co-create with their students that have the potential to be facilitative or barrier-inducing. Dr. Case continued her presentation by expanding on specific strategies and techniques for developing an inclusive pedagogy. As a novice educator and graduate student, seeing a leader and innovator in the field with such a strong commitment to changing higher education inspired me and many of my peers. All the presenters at the conference shared Dr. Case’s passion for transformative pedagogy, and each workshop organically built upon the others. 

    Dr. Kelly Coker and I offered a workshop on the importance of critically engaging graduate students in interactive and collaborative role-play exercises to consolidate and expand upon the material learned during graduate school using the transparent counseling pedagogy model. Finding a balance between engaging students with significant experience without overwhelming new student therapists is tough for many educators. As a co-instructor for a Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy course, I felt privileged to share the experience of using this applied framework, having recently been in the same shoes as the students I was helping to teach. Overall, transparent counseling pedagogy combines a psychotherapy role-play facilitated by co-instructors along with an in-vivo discussion of the role-play. The co-instructors use frequent pauses to allow students to discuss their reactions and guide the course of the role-play based on their knowledge of the chosen theory or technique. This approach reduces the anxiety commonly felt by counseling and psychology graduate students learning about these theories and techniques for the first time while allowing space for students of all skill levels to actively participate in the exercise. The experience of teaching as a PhD student afforded me a unique perspective when collaborating with Dr. Coker on how to best implement this approach in the classroom—one that I believe is invaluable for all PhD students looking to enter academia. Furthermore, by presenting this material in a professional setting, we reflected on the model's strengths and areas for growth with the audience, further refining the approach for future classes. The experience of developing, implementing, and then presenting on this material challenged my preconceptions of teaching and expanded my understanding of the diligence and adaptability required to be an educator. Finally, our presentation, surprisingly, aligned closely with the other presentations in that other presenters used examples and reflected on topics discussed in our presentation.

    In the morning, Dr. Kimberly Balsam facilitated a faculty panel discussion with President Maureen O'Connor and Drs. Stacie Warren, Chris Weaver, and Predair Robinson addressing the experience of being first-generation undergraduate and graduate students. The panelists stated that a lack of knowledge around the unspoken rules of getting into graduate school, the necessity of mentorship fit, the impact of hidden identities, as well as not sharing a common experience with their fellow classmates and instructors were some of the biggest obstacles that they faced when entering into higher education. President O'Connor stated that not until she saw an academic poster presentation on "The Experience of a Rural New Hampshire First-Generation College Student" did she come to understand her own identity as a first-generation college student. Each of the panelists’ journeys of self-exploration, resilience, and determination highlighted how exclusive the world of academia continues to be. The road to graduate school is long and twisted for many; however, the shared experience described by these faculty members showed just how important inclusive pedagogy is in today's changing educational landscape. Future educators like myself must appreciate the rich backgrounds of our students and make higher education more accessible to diverse students.

    In the afternoon, workshops demonstrated the challenges and benefits of online teaching as well as strategies for making education flexible and engaging for diverse learners through UDL. In the growing landscape of online teaching, educators must learn ways to engage students in meaningful ways without being in the same physical space. Drs. Darlene Chen, Cristen Wathen, Kelly Coker, and Donna Sheperis highlighted fundamentals of transitioning from a traditional classroom to a virtual one. Furthermore, Dr. Eduardo Bunge and Taylor Stephens shed light on the importance of intentionality and preparation when using video conferencing platforms like Zoom to create an online learning experience, especially for diverse students. Dr. Jill Grose-Fifer described ways to make education more accessible and relevant to students using the principles of UDL, which aim to support diverse learners through flexible, engaging, and accessible courses and assignments. By listening to these workshops, I gained a deeper understanding of ways to deconstruct barriers maintained by traditional pedagogical approaches to increase student motivation and critical thinking in the academic setting. Whether online or in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting, as educators, we can no longer expect all students to fit into the same mold and learn in the same way. We must expand our techniques and engage with students in new ways that honor their experience by embracing both technology and flexible curricula designed to support and empower student development.


    The 2nd Annual Evidence-Based Teaching Conference at PAU highlighted several examples of how innovation and collaboration in pedagogy are informing higher education for diverse student populations. I am honored to have learned from so many leaders in the field of pedagogy, expanding my novice view of what the role of an educator can and should be. The opportunity to participate as a presenter was powerful, and I look forward to my next opportunity to add to the collective resources of my colleagues. Inclusivity and accessibility are quickly becoming the expectation rather than the exception in higher education, and I am now armed with several tools to meet that challenge because of the information that I learned and connections that I made through this conference. I encourage all my fellow graduate students and early career educators to engage openly with the changing world of higher education in the United States by attending conferences on evidence-based pedagogy and commit to gaining professional development in teaching and learning.

    Ryan C. Thompson is a 2nd-year PhD student in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University interested in evidenced-based, inclusive pedagogy along with clinical research in neuropsychology.  He is a teaching assistant in the Department of Psychology and the Office of Faculty Learning and Instructional Development.  He is a member of Dr. Rayna Hirst's Behavioral Research and Assessment in Neuropsychology Lab and affiliated with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center through the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

  • 18 Sep 2018 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Philip Higham, Ph.D., University of Southampton

    Technology is having a huge impact on all aspects of our lives. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat might have sounded like rock-and-roll bands two decades ago! Today they are all part of the modern lingo and most young people have an account with one or more of these services.

    Education is not exempt from the impact of technology. Gone are days of lectures being delivered with chalkboards and students taking copious notes on blank pieces of paper. Chalkboards have been replaced with software such as PowerPoint, which is used to present lecture material in the form of digital “slides.”  Moreover, students commonly rely on laptops and tablets to take notes and have access to lecture material that they can download prior to lectures. Sometimes, that downloadable material consists of copies of the lecture slides themselves, which may relieve the pressure on students to take many notes at all during lectures.

    For educators, technology is developing so quickly it is often difficult to decide what is the best way to use it to enhance education. One problem in making good decisions about this issue is that students and educators alike often fall for metacognitive illusions (e.g., Yan, Bjork, & Bjork, 2016). These illusions are false beliefs or assumptions about the way that memory works. They often stem from a common but false heuristic that “if learning is fluent and easy, then I will remember what I learn for a long time.” Thus, students often feel they learn more from a fluently-presented lecture compared to a disfluently presented one, or from massing their learning (i.e. cramming) rather than spacing it (i.e. spreading study time over several short, spaced intervals). Fluently-delivered lectures or reviewing material when related material is already in working memory, as it would be during a cramming session, make learning seem easy and hence memorable. However, the data do not support these assumptions. As long as the same material is taught, the fluency of lecture delivery seems to make little difference to later test performance (and sometimes even favors disfluent delivery). Similarly, even though it is harder, hundreds of studies have shown that it is better to engage in multiple, short learning sessions distributed over time than to learn material in a single marathon session (see Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006 for a review).

    Instead, enduring memories are usually formed under learning conditions which Robert Bjork from UCLA describes as desirably difficult (see Bjork & Bjork, 2011). According to this principle, the presence of difficult but surmountable obstacles that create disfluency and slow the process of learning are usually good for learning, and not things to avoid at all costs.  Much like the common adage applied to physical exercise – “no pain, no gain” – if learning is to last for longer than 24 hours, it usually requires effort. 

    Does that mean that teaching should be a sadistic process of turning simple concepts into difficult ones so students will remember them? Of course not. That is where the term “desirable” comes in; speaking in a foreign language that students don’t understand or deliberately cutting sentences short to make an incomprehensible lecture would create undesirable difficulties rather than desirable ones. However, there are desirably difficult activities that can be easily implemented in lectures or tutorials, and there are some modern technological advances that can facilitate this.

    One activity that I have started implementing regularly in my large classes is interpolated testing (e.g., Szpunar, Khan, & Schacter, 2013). Instead of speaking for the full length of the lecture, break your lecture into several segments of, say, ten minutes each separated by three-minute pauses. Have your students do nothing but listen during the ten-minute segments. Then, during the pause, use a tool such as MeeToo1 to have students answer a series of questions about the previous lecture segment using their smartphone or tablet. Once the time is up, provide some feedback, and then continue on to the next lecture segment. If you do not have access to a tool like MeeToo, then ask your students to generate on paper some key points about the preceding segment during the pause.  

    Interpolated testing has been shown to not only enhance memory for the material being tested (i.e. the previous lecture segment), but it also facilitates learning of the upcoming lecture segments, most likely because of improved attention (e.g., Jing, Szpunar, & Schacter, 2016). It also reduces negative feelings toward high-stakes cumulative exams (Szpunar et al., 2013). In other words, there are multiple benefits to interpolated testing. And, far from being tortuous, most students enjoy the activity even though being tested during lecture pauses can be quite difficult. It wakes them up, gives them a challenge, and helps them to monitor their understanding.

    Generally, technology-enabled learning has great potential, but it is important that educators base their decisions about how to use that technology on the science of learning rather than intuition. If you use these tools to have your students engage in retrieval practice over spaced intervals, which is what the activity described above is all about, then you are bound to see good results because countless studies dating back to the 1800s show that they work (for a review of the benefits of retrieval practice, see Rowland, 2014, and for spaced practice, see Benjamin & Tullis, 2010). Furthermore, your students will enjoy the activity as well!

    1 MeeToo is software that allows students to anonymously answer questions and take polls in class using their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Instructors can then display results to the whole class. See


    Benjamin, A. S., & Tullis, J. (2010). What makes distributed practice effective? Cognitive Psychology61(3), 228-247.

    Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2011). Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning. Psychology and the Real World: Essays Illustrating Fundamental Contributions to Society, 56–64.

    Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin132(3), 354–380.

    Jing, H. G., Szpunar, K. K., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). Interpolated testing influences focused attention and improves integration of information during a video-recorded lecture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied22(3), 305–318.

    Rowland, C. A. (2014). The effect of testing versus restudy on retention: A meta-analytic review of the testing effect. Psychological Bulletin140(6), 1432–1463.

    Szpunar, K. K., Khan, N. Y., & Schacter, D. L. (2013). Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences110(16), 6313–6317.

    Yan, V. X., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2016). On the difficulty of mending metacognitive illusions: A priori theories, fluency effects, and misattributions of the interleaving benefit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General145(7), 918–933.

    Philip Higham, Ph.D. is a Reader in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on long-term human memory and metacognition as well as methods to ensure that student learning endures over time.

  • 05 Sep 2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Jaclyn Ronquillo-Adachi, Ph.D., Cerritos College, Jennifer Thompson, Ph.D., University of Maryland University College, & Christina Shane-Simpson, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Stout

    Need ideas on assignments? Ever wonder whether your students are actually grasping course content? If so, you should check out APA’s Project Assessment! Project Assessment ( is a digital library of assessment tools that were designed to help psychology teachers demonstrate evidence of teaching and learning effectiveness. The site is available at no cost and requires only a quick registration process. Experienced and innovative teachers are continuously adding new tools and materials to the site, making it a continuously-evolving source of information on assessment. Although the site is accessible to APA members of all ranks, this resource could be particularly valuable for graduate students and early career professionals. As a graduate student, finding the time to prepare for a new course and create new assignments from scratch can be difficult and time-consuming. Project Assessment is a fantastic starting place if you’re looking to save time on your course prep. The website includes a variety of evidence-based assessments that can be easily integrated into the most commonly-taught psychology courses in higher education.

    Image 1. The search feature allows users to browse by learning goals, among other assessment aspects, as well.

    All of the assessments found in Project Assessment align with the learning outcomes identified in the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major: Version 2.0. Visitors to the site can search by assessment topic (e.g., ethics, development, methods), assessment type (e.g., quiz, presentation, creative product), or by learning goal(s) for the assessment based on the APA guidelines (see Image 1). Within each assessment document, teachers will find an overview of the assessment, a description about how it aligns with the APA guidelines, and the corresponding teaching materials. Sample assessments include Designing a Restaurant Menu for Zombies (see Image 2), Psychology in the Public Media, and The Effect of Music on Performance.

    Image 2. "Restaurant Menu for Zombies" activity showing outcomes, indicators, and an overview of the assessment.

    Project Assessment was designed by teachers as a resource for teachers. It is a win-win for graduate students who are new to teaching, as materials on Project Assessment can help novice instructors develop their teaching skills in Psychology. This can provide your students with an enhanced learning experience in the classroom, increasing engagement via activities and other assessment materials. The Project Assessment review team is also accepting innovative and evidence-based assessments. If you have an assessment that you feel may be valuable to other teachers, you also might consider sending the Project Assessment review team through the “Become an Author” link on the site. Check out this valuable resource at!

    Jaclyn Ronquillo-Adachi, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and department chair at Cerritos College. Dr. Ronquillo-Adachi is an active member of the APA Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education (CABE).

    Jennifer Thompson, Ph.D., teaches courses in introductory psychology, research methods, human sexuality, memory and cognition, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, and senior seminar. Dr. Thompson is also an active member of CABE.

    Christina Shane-Simpson, Ph.D., is a former GSTA Chair and current professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin, Stout. Dr. Shane-Simpson is an active member of CABE.

  • 04 Sep 2018 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Bethany Fleck, Ph.D., Metropolitan State University of Denver

    You're a grad student not a miracle worker, right? And here I am, suggesting yet another thing to be added to your to-do list that's already a mile long and a few hours late. I know how this feels, but let me see if I can convince you of an overlooked but powerful influence that your soon-to-be faculty position has on the bigger picture… on our democracy.

    Am I being dramatic? Yes and no. We are facing times unlike any we have seen before. The very thread of our democracy is being challenged by sentiments such as “fake news” and the complacency of youth in their lack of participation in the political processes and community issues that make our country what it is today, for better or worse. For example, participation in the 2016 election was down among millennials, a group that will soon take over the baby boomers in number of eligible voters (Khalid, 2016). But, the tide could be changing. We see a new wave of participation in, for example, the youth protesters that organized in Florida after the massive school shooting that took place in Parkland. These people are our students now, or will be tomorrow when you take your first teaching jobs. What should we do to serve them and to increase the civic engagement of our current college goers? 

    In 2012, The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement released a national call to action. The first essential action recommended was to “reclaim and reinvest in the fundamental civic and democratic mission of schools and of all sectors within higher education (p. vi).” This action recognizes that higher education plays a critical role in fostering civic engagement (also known as civic learning). One entity working toward this goal is The American Democracy Project (ADP), an ever-growing network of state colleges and universities whose mission is to “produce college and university graduates who are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and experiences they need to be informed, engaged members of their communities (ADP, n.d.).”

    What does this have to do with psychology? Everything. These desired outcomes are in line with the American Psychological Association Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major. Students should become “ethical and socially responsibility in a diverse world” (2013, p. 26). Objectives for students under this goal include applying ethical standards, fostering interpersonal relationships, and adopting values that build from community up to global levels (Fleck, Hussey, & Rutledge-Ellison, 2017). Furthermore, civic learning embraces psychology domain-specific academic knowledge alongside more global values such as justice, critical thinking, public problem solving, and ethics (Saltmarsh, 2005). Simply put, we can use psychology-specific education and training to help create ethical citizens who value and participate in democracy.

    How should we do this? First, I beg you to consider integrating innovative civic engagement teaching techniques into your psychology courses. You can do this through service-learning, community-based research, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities. (For more information on experiential learning, see Schwartz, 2012).  These techniques are called high impact practices according to Kolb (1984), who describes how knowledge is created through the alteration of experience based on a person’s new involvement in different settings. Each of the pedagogies listed above warrant their own blog posts, and if you look back (thanks to the GSTA) some have already been written about–for example, see Shor’s (2018) blog post on Transformative Service Learning.

    A second way you can integrate civic engagement into your courses is slightly simpler. In the content, assignments, and discussions of your classes you can highlight community issues and use psychology research to help find solutions. Connections to community issues can be made within all areas of psychology. For example, in developmental psychology, my area of expertise, you might consider adding content around current educational policy at either the local, state, or national level. A fantastic example is given by Ahmed (2017) in another GSTA blog post called “Being Betsy DeVos: Bringing Politics into the Study of Developmental Psychology.” Another community issue you might consider is mental health and the opioid epidemic. A ballot initiative in Denver in the 2018 election cycle proposes to increase taxes to fund mental health and substance abuse programs (Daley, 2018). Psychology students can study the pros and cons of this initiative, educate others on campus, and cast their own informed vote on the subject. In previous work I have found that focusing on local level issues is a strong motivator for college students’ voting behavior. I encourage you to consider what other connections you can make between the community and your course content, and to work to bring those issues into the classroom.

    Last but not least, consider participating with ADP. To be an official ADP school your institution must be part of the AASCU (American Association of State Colleges and Universities, ADP, n.d.). A list of schools already participating can be found on the ADP webpage. If you are not already a member, or an AASCU school, you cannot officially join but you can still utilize all the great resources ADP offers. One example of a current initiative is called the Digital Polarization Initiative, or for short “DigiPro” led by Dr. Michael Caulfield of Washington State University Vancouver. This project has “students participating in a broad, cross-institutional project to fact-check, annotate, and provide context to the different news stories that show up in our Twitter and Facebook feeds (Digital, n.d.).” It is being pilot tested at 11 universities across the country (MSU Denver being one of them) right now and will take off widely very soon.  ADP has ongoing projects, such as this one, and will prove to be a great resource for you.

    In conclusion, I urge you to use the ivory tower to break it down. What I mean is that you have the potential to influence your students’ behavior in a way that can increase their participation in their community and in the political system. You can create a movement where universities contribute to the communities in which they are located. If you want to see change, cultivate it in your students. However, be cautious. You are not drawing conclusions on issues for your students, you are not telling them the positions they should take when they vote, and you are certainly not able to solve the nation’s problems single-handedly. But, you are communicating to your students that they need to vote and you are asking them to do so using psychology content to inform their decision-making. You are encouraging them to participate in tough conversations so that community problems can be addressed. Avoid pushing your own political agenda, yet send a clear message that motivates students to take ownership of their own power to vote and their power to participate in their communities. This might seem like a fine line to walk, but it is an important one. The time is now, and you can make a difference.


    ADP, (n.d.). About. Retrieved from

    Ahmed, T. (2017, October) Being Betsy DeVos: Bringing politics into the study of developmental psychology. (GSTA Blog). Retrieved from 

    American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major (Version 2.0). Retrieved from

    Daley, J. (2018, August). Denver voters to decide on a tax that will fund mental health, substance abuse care Colorado public radio. Retrieved from

    Digital Polarization Initiative (n.d.). American Democracy Project. Retrieved from

    Fleck, B., Hussey, H. D., & Rutledge-Ellison, L. (2017). Linking class and community: An investigation of service learning. Teaching of Psychology, 44(3), 232-239, DOI:

    Khalid, A. (2016, May). Millennials now Rival Boomers as a political force, but will they actually vote? Retrieved from

    Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Saltmarsh, J. (2005). The civic promise of service learning. Liberal Education, 91(2), 50-55. Retrieved from

    Schwartz, M. (2012). Best practices in experiential learning. Ryerson University. Retrieved from

    Shor, R. (2018, June). Transformative service-learning. (GSTA Blog). Retrieved from

    The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. (2012). A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from

    Bethany Fleck, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is committed to an active, learner-centered approach to teaching. Her research centers on cognitive development in K-12 and university classroom contexts. Recently her work focuses on innovative teaching pedagogy that supports student civic engagement.

    To learn more, consider attending The American Democracy Project Regional Institute hosted by MSU Denver on Friday, November 2, 2018:

  • 27 Aug 2018 7:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By David Myers, Ph.D., Hope College

    My in-class teaching of introductory psychology changed over time. My initial compulsion to cover everything—with micro explanations of many things—evolved into focusing on fewer, bigger ideas. Textbooks, I realized, could more efficiently cover the gamut of psychology’s insights into our humanity. Books—which can be read at double a teacher’s speaking rate—are efficient vehicles for transmitting ideas and concepts from one head to another. Moreover, textbooks are broader, less idiosyncratic, and more carefully checked and edited (thanks to editors and reviewers) than any one instructor’s lecture could possibly be.

    Recognizing the functions of the text freed me (especially after I started using my own text, which stole my best lecture material!) to keep this question at the front of my mind: What does an educated person need to know? For example . . .

    1)    In today’s “post-truth” world, how can we enable students to think smarter about life-relevant matters? Educating students about psychology’s scientific methods enables them to supplement their intuition with critical thinking, encouraging them to ask, what do you mean and how do you know? As I have explained elsewhere, our intuition—our automatic, implicit, unreasoned thinking—is vast. But it is also perilous and can lead to implicit prejudice, poor risk assessment, and overconfident predictions.

    So, when in conversation about, for example, the supposed criminality of immigrants, the effects of well-meaning educational and therapeutic interventions, the realities of sexual orientation, and much more, let’s guide our students to reach beyond anecdote, to embrace evidence, to be truth-discerning—in short, to be open to new wonders but not to be gullible. And let’s ensure students fully understand that psychology is a science that they can use.

    2)    How can we not only expand students’ minds but enlarge their hearts? How can we restrain judgmentalism with compassion? How can we help students appreciate both our human kinship and our diversity?

    In a world that divides “us” from “them,” educated people should, first, appreciate our essential unity as humans who share an evolutionary and biological heritage. We therefore sense and perceive, learn and remember, hunger and emote in similar ways. As kindred humans, we are all social animals. We flourish in groups, recognize social status, punish offenses, fear strangers, favor those like us, and grieve loved ones’ deaths.

    Yet we also differ. We differ in our individual aptitudes, traits, and vulnerabilities; in our sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation; and in our culturally shaped attitudes and beliefs, social practices, and life priorities. In a world that struggles with national, cultural, and racial diversity, it’s increasingly important both to accept and value our diversity and to affirm our deeper human kinship.

    3)    How can our teaching of psychology enable students to flourish—to become self-disciplined, happy, healthy people, and effective global citizens? In teaching introductory psychology we aim not just to teach a discipline for its own sake, but to support and enrich our students’ lives. Psychology has so much to offer, with its big lessons about the benefits of delay of gratification, aerobic exercise, sleep, supportive relationships, flow, and so much more—including how to effectively learn and remember (for which I offer a 5 minute animated tutorial at

    Mindful that students forget many of the details of what we teach, it seems best to teach fewer things with greater emphasis— focusing each class session on a big take-home message. For example, when teaching Sensation and Perception, you might focus on a small set of topics that you can teach with passion, using captivating examples. For me, these topics have been hearing, as a person with hearing loss who appreciates the wonders of hearing, and ESP, for which I demonstrated a series of pseudo-psychic magic tricks. The “magic” enabled me to astonish students, while leaving them with a reminder that just because something looks like a paranormal psychic phenomenon—because there seems no other explanation—does not mean that it is.

    For more specific teaching tips and demonstration ideas derived from my experience (and that of many other teachers) see here. And for a weekly blog essay that reflects on psychological science and its insights into teaching and everyday life, visit

    David Myers, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Visit to explore his scholarship, science writing, and books.

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

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

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

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

    1) Weekly Quizzes

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

    2) Mini Lectures

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

    3) Lecture Note Handouts

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


    4) Fostering Teamwork and Additional Exploration of Course Content

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

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


    Student Feedback on Lab Structure

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

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

    Table showing data from in-class responses.

    What did you like the most about the neuroanatomy labs?

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


    American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major. [Data File]. Retrieved from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1.              Being part of a larger community

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

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

    2.              Building a professional network

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

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

    3.              Exploring new opportunities

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

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

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

    4.         Finding Teaching Resources

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

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

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

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


    Tips for Professional Twitter

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

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

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

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

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


    Additional Resources

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

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

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

    4.              Short blog post: Teachers on Twitter

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

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