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

E-xcellence in Teaching
Editor: Manisha Sawhney
Associate Editor: Annie S. Ditta

  • 05 Apr 2021 12:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Deborah Miller, PhD, HSPP

    Assistant Professor of Psychology

    Indiana University East

    I like having fun with my students. It’s one of my favorite things about teaching. Getting to know about them and their personalities, senses of humor, pets, jobs, families and how they interact in a group of their peers is so rewarding. But beyond being enjoyable for me (and hopefully the students!) the sense of engagement and classroom community engendered by a positive classroom environment is beneficial to overall student success (Kuh, 2001).

    Personalized interactions can be tough to cultivate in an online environment. I’m sure many of us have found out just how tough it can be as we’ve pivoted to online instruction during the COVID pandemic. And it’s likely that online learning is only becoming more prevalent with time – in 2019, about 65% of students had participated in an online course (Sellers, 2019) and that number will likely be closer to 100% by the time the pandemic comes to its conclusion. It will be essential in the coming semesters and years to find innovative ways to engage students in the online learning environment and create a sense of community that allows for relationships between faculty, students, and their peers to grow.

    One way to do that is through new technology that is popular among younger generations and allows for glimpses into our students’ lives and personalities. A few studies have explored the use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as tools to increase engagement and community (e.g. Heiberger & Harper, 2008; Junco et al., 2011), but we certainly find that new technologies are springing up and gaining popularity at rates that make it difficult for researchers (and instructors!) to keep up.

    TikTok is one such technology that is incredibly popular and also provides ample opportunity for students to engage with class material, faculty, and peers in creative, highly personalized ways. If you’re like many faculty members, you’ve perhaps peripherally heard of TikTok but may not have ventured to use it yourself. But, if there was ever a time to put yourself out there and learn something new for the sake of your students, now is that time.

    What is TikTok?

    TikTok is a smartphone app that allows users to create short video and photo projects that can be edited to include music, filters, effects, text captions, and more. TikTok-ers use the app in many ways, including creating lip sync videos and viral dances to their favorite songs, brief comedy videos, and other incredibly creative, engaging content styles. The allure of TikTok is that the videos are short, engaging, and creative. Once you get the hang of it, TikTok is very easy to use and videos can be created anywhere in a short amount of time.

    Why would I use TikTok in my classes?

    TikTok can provide a unique way for students to engage with the course material, their instructor, and their peers. It offers a chance that goes beyond ordinary assignments, papers, and discussion posts for students to inject their personality, sense of humor, and snippets of their personal lives into the classroom in ways they might typically do in seated courses. When creating their videos, students turn to their environment for inspiration – whatever is nearby gets used as the cast and crew. For some students, this means allowing their peers and instructor to meet their pets, family members, roommates, significant others, etc. while creating their videos. For others, it is an opportunity to display an artistic skill or a behind the scenes look at an aspect of their lives that would not normally be presented in an online course. This sharing of themselves can increase a student’s sense of belonging and community with their online peers and faculty.

    How can I use TikTok in my classes?

    While there are endless uses of TikTok depending on your own level of creativity, there are two ways I typically use this in my course to promote engagement and community. First, I want to promote engagement with the material in a creative way, so the TikTok assignments always require students to create a video explaining a concept from the week’s materials according to their own understanding of it. They can complete this in any way they want, whether it is ultra-creative or just meeting the basic requirements. Second, I want the students to engage with each other, so the TikTok video creation assignments are embedded within a discussion post. Students are divided into small groups of about 5-6 and must post their own video to the discussion, view each small group member’s video, then vote for their favorite video of the week by “liking” their favorite video’s discussion post (a feature that can be enabled in the Canvas LMS, but I’m unsure about the features of other LMS platforms). This creates a slight sense of competition for some students and for those who enjoy competition, it motivates them to do their best work to impress their peers. However, I ensure that the environment is not so competitive that it intimidates the students who are less competitive in nature.

    This model of discussion board TikTok assignments is very effective at increasing students’ engagement with material and each other, but one final factor requires instructor attention throughout the course so that student-instructor engagement is increased. I make sure to watch and make personalized comments on every student’s video in each discussion. Students are putting themselves out there in a somewhat vulnerable manner for their peers and instructors – showing parts of their personal lives that they may not be accustomed to sharing with online peers and instructors (or even in seated classrooms if they are more introverted). It can be an intimidating and vulnerable process for some – but I have certainly found that the students who were willing to step out of their comfort zones to fully engage with this assignment had incredibly positive experiences when they were met with encouraging responses to their videos, not only from peers but especially from the instructor. I take great pains to make an encouraging comment about a personalized aspect of the video (e.g. I love your dog! You certainly used him to effectively explain the concept of operant conditioning.)

    An additional way that I actively use TikTok is to make my own videos that use my own personal life and environment. This is a great way to let students get a feel for who you are as an instructor and just regular person behind your instructor persona, which can highly contribute to students’ perception that you are accessible, approachable, and authentic – three factors that are important to students forming a personal connection with their instructors, which is a predictor of student engagement and sense of community (Mandernach, 2009). I not only create TikTok videos as examples of what students could do for their discussion assignment videos, but also to embed into course materials as a quick way to illustrate a variety of course concepts. This way, students get “behind the scenes” engagement with me throughout the semester, just as they would if we were chatting before or after class or if I told an interesting personal story that related to the lecture material.

    Are there any downsides to TikTok?

    If students are unfamiliar with TikTok, it can feel intimidating or vulnerable. Nontraditional students may feel especially nervous to leave their comfort zone and learn a new technology that is typically associated with younger people. That is why it is important to design all TikTok assignments with transparency in mind – students need to know that there is a pedagogical purpose behind the activity. You’re not just trying to be a “cool parent” who knows the latest trends – you’re using this app for real purposes that will help them succeed and as an added benefit, hopefully have fun at the same time. This is one assignment that can benefit especially from the Transparent Teaching framework by Winkelmes (2016), so students fully understand the goals and rationale for the assignments at the outset.

    Another important factor is that students will need plenty of time to learn how to use TikTok before the first assignment is due. Provide some tutorial materials (easily found on YouTube) and plenty of examples of the types of videos you are expecting. Make the first TikTok assignment a complete/incomplete grade to allow students some wiggle room as they are learning a new skill. Give them a wide range of acceptable types of videos for the assignment.

    Finally, you will have students that for whatever reason, students just feel a lot of anxiety about creating a video of themselves. It is important to be clear to those students that personal information is NOT required. TikTok allows users to create photo slideshows and text-based videos that do not require the students to video themselves or their surroundings if they want to retain their privacy. I have had students create a slideshow using a series of memes they found on the internet and did not contain any private information at all. Other students have used tools within TikTok to create text-based explanations of their chosen course concept accompanied by a song – again, no personal disclosures required. It can also be helpful to let students turn in video using ANY app they wish, even just the video recording app on their phone, if they have a particular aversion to TikTok. Students can also create private videos in TikTok, download them to their computer or phone, and re-upload them to the discussion board so that they do not have to use the public sharing feature of TikTok or link their peers and instructors to their personal TikTok account if they have one for personal use. For students who are extremely averse to this assignment, I allow them to create more traditional presentations in PowerPoint or Prezi, if they meet the minimum standard for explaining course concepts.


    Using new technologies to engage students and create a sense of classroom community should be a strategy in addition to what has already been found to work. However, popular technologies like TikTok can provide unique opportunities to engage students in ways that are not possible with traditional strategies. While it can be challenging to learn something new, it can also be highly rewarding. Whatever strategies you end up using to create engagement and community, you can be confident that you are doing your students a service and contributing to their success.


    Heiberger, G. & Harper, R. (2008). Have you Facebooked Astin lately? Using technology to increase student involvement. In R. Junco & D. M. Timm (Eds), Using emerging technologies to enhance student engagement. New directions for student services issue #124 (pp. 19–35). San Francisco, CA: Jossey‐Bass.

    Junco, R., Heiberger, G. & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 2, 119–132. doi:10.1111/j.1365‐2729.2010.00387.x.

    Kuh, G. D. (2001). The National Survey of Student Engagement: Conceptual framework and overview of psychometric properties. Retrieved from

    Mandernach, B. J. (2009). Effect of instructor-personalized multimedia in the online classroom. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3).

    Sellers, E. (2019). Poor time management in online education. Seattle PI.

    Winkelmes, M. A., Bernacki, M., Butler, J., Zochowski, M., Golanics, J., & Weavil, K. H. (2016). A teaching intervention that increases underserved college students’ success. Peer Review, 18(1/2), 31-36.

  • 06 Mar 2021 11:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Brian D. Bergstrom, Shirley A. Ashauer, and Dustin R. Nadler

    Maryville University

    Psychology majors are often attracted to the discipline by a deep and authentic desire to help improve the lives of others through the application of psychological science. Yet, as students encounter unexpected challenges or setbacks in courses such as Statistics or Research Methods, they sometimes become disenchanted, thinking they lack the ability to be successful in the field. After their first “C” on a Statistics exam, for example, they throw up their hands and despair that they no longer “have what it takes” to make it in psychology. A rather narrow and specific disappointment gives way to a fretful concern that their performance reflects a lack of ability, and some students surrender to the conclusion that they are not be “cut out” for psychology if they can’t compute a MANOVA (on their first attempt!).

    In short, they implicitly believe that statistical ability is a fixed, innate trait that some lucky students possess, while others (like them) lack the “right stuff.” Even students who have learned the concept of growth mindset - the belief that ability can be developed - may not be able to implement that belief in the face of their own academic struggles. This dilemma raises two questions: what factors stymie the productive application of a growth mindset among students, and how can we intervene to bolster psychology students’ resilience when they encounter such setbacks in challenging psychology courses?

    In a recent study, we addressed this question with an entire first-year cohort of college students that was part of a broader longitudinal assessment on college student development and success (Ashauer et al., 2020). Research on growth mindset has received much attention for its relevance to academic performance (Paunesku et al., 2015; Robins & Pals, 2002; Walton, 2014; Yeager et al., 2016). But, we asked, is having a growth mindset enough? Or are there individual differences that support (or undermine) its application? To address this, we considered two major themes in college student development that are critical aspects of becoming a mature, fully functioning adult: (1) intrapersonal development, toward becoming an autonomous individual, and (2) interpersonal development, as social relationships undergo considerable change (Allen & Land, 1999; Erikson, 1961). Specifically, we examined whether attachment theory (relationship functioning) and self-determination theory (autonomous functioning) might inform the trajectory of student success, and whether these constructs might contribute to our understanding of why some students are better able to mobilize a growth mindset when they encounter academic struggle.

    Attachment and Autonomous Functioning

    Attachment relationships are those in which another person serves, in some measure, as a “secure base” and a “safe haven” for the student. The attachment system is often conceptualized as including a pair of unconscious mental models—one of self, one of others—that are “tuned” to different degrees of anxiety and avoidance and provide default expectations for social relationships (Ainsworth et al, 1978; Bowlby, 1982). Anxiety is associated with concerns about self-worth, the dependability of others, and a high need for reassurance, while avoidance is associated with a strong desire for independence, a reluctant stance toward intimacy and disclosure, and a tendency to pull away when their autonomy is challenged (Crowell et al., 2016). Previous studies have found that greater attachment security is associated with better adjustment to college, higher academic performance, and higher self-esteem (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2016).

    We believe that the cognitive and emotional volatility of insecure attachment can disrupt the application of cognitive and emotional resources needed to implement a growth mindset. When the attachment system is activated by a perceived threat, the cognitive, emotional, and motivational resources consumed by attachment processes might make it hard to redirect those resources in the service of academic goals. In this way (and others), a growth mindset may lie impotent in the mind of an otherwise capable student, as attachment dynamics co-opt attention and subvert the executive resources needed to drive a growth mindset into action.

    The transition to college is also an important time in development during which a major task is becoming an autonomous individual (Allen & Land, 1999; Erikson, 1961). Thus, we also examined autonomous functioning (self-governance) in students (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000), and more specifically, authorship, which involves being primarily guided by one’s own personal values (Weinstein et al., 2012). Authorship has been positively associated with persistence and confidence (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Nix et al., 1999); greater self-esteem (Deci & Ryan, 1995); and heightened vitality and academic performance (Ryan & Frederick, 1997; Vansteenkiste et al., 2008). We believe that authored students will be less vulnerable to the slings and arrows of academic challenge as well attachment distress, and thereby could translate a growth mindset into concrete, constructive action because they have more cognitive and emotional resources to invest in academic tasks and are less likely to engage in off-task cogitation related to attachment concerns (Bernier et al., 2004).

    In our study of a first-year cohort of college students, we found precisely that (Ashauer et al., 2020). Students with more of a growth mindset had higher end-of-semester GPAs, but insecure attachment completely dissolved that link. Concurrently, authorship buffered this inverse relationship such that authored students maintained higher GPAs than less authored students. Because attachment anxiety played a significant role in compromising the growth mindset-performance relationship in our study, we focus our teaching recommendations on mitigating attachment anxiety and bolstering attachment security. Based on our findings as well as the extant literature, we propose three strategies from the growth mindset, self-determination, and attachment literature that could be applied in psychology courses: 1) short-term strategies to create a “safe haven,” (2) process versus person feedback strategies, and (3) long-term strategies to promote autonomous functioning through security-enhancement.


    Short-Term Strategies to Create a “Safe Haven”

    Attachment theory has shown that relationship partners, including instructors, can provide a safe haven for students during moments of challenge and distress, as well as a secure base from which to explore and make mistakes that are an inevitable part of learning new concepts (Mikulciner & Shaver, 2016). Yet, when anxiously attached students become distressed, they exhibit hyperactivating strategies to attain reassurance that the instructor will still respect them. These strategies can preoccupy them such that their performance is compromised, prompting the question: what strategies can instructors use in the moment to create a safe haven and mitigate momentary anxiety for such students?

    Caprariello and Reis (2011) found that when an anxiously attached student perceives a relationship partner as responsive (that the instructor understands, respects, and values the student), the student becomes less defensive after receiving failure feedback because they feel they are valued for who they are (rather than how they perform). With the increased social isolation of the current pandemic (possibly exacerbated in anxiously attached students), the social connection and support created by perceived instructor responsiveness may be even more critical to the learning process. When students feel valued and respected, they experience fewer concerns about perceived worth and diminished social value (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Instructors can support anxiously attached students by calming them when they encounter challenge, helping them to acknowledge the issue, discussing ways in which the issue can be solved, and providing the reassurance they need to remain constructively focused (Arriaga et al., 2018).

    Process Versus Person Feedback Strategies

    Moreover, instructors can play crucial roles in helping anxious students mitigate their sense of contingent self-worth (the belief that their worth is contingent on performance) by helping them attribute their successes to their own efforts (Caprariello & Reis, 2011). When instructors bolster students’ internalized beliefs that they are capable and worthy, they decrease an overdependence on instructors to affirm their self-worth. What concrete practices can instructors enact in the classroom to do so?

    By providing students with effort-oriented feedback (“You worked hard to troubleshoot what went wrong in SPSS when you ran the MANOVA!”), instructors focus student attention on process (problem solving strategies) and their own effort, which fosters better self-regulatory skills and ultimately autonomy. Moreover, process feedback, whether it is praise or criticism, encourages mastery-oriented responses to setbacks (Kamins & Dweck, 1999). For example, attributing failure to effort or strategy (“you didn’t read the chapter on MANOVA before completing the assignment”), rather than a fixed trait (“statistics just comes easier to some students”) mobilizes student persistence, their willingness to use error as diagnostic information on how to improve, and improves academic performance (Kamins & Dweck, 1999).

    On the other hand, when instructors provide students with person or trait-oriented feedback (“you are so talented in statistics!”), students learn to measure their self-worth by their performance and innate ability (Kamins & Dweck, 1999). Instructors may be unwittingly teaching students that their competence or self-worth is determined by their performance when they use person-oriented feedback, leading to a student’s belief that “I must not be cut out for psychology!” and a helpless response pattern of anxiety, lowered persistence, and decreased performance (Burhans & Dweck, 1995). By providing students with process feedback, instructors can help anxious students mitigate the hyperactivating strategies that often compromise their performance when they experience distress during setbacks.

    Long-term Strategies to Promote Autonomous Functioning through Security-Enhancement

    Although the aforementioned strategies can assuage students’ momentary anxieties of self-worth triggered by setbacks, these short-term strategies may unintentionally lead to students’ overreliance on instructors for reassurance, and an overdependence on them to boost their sense of self-worth (Arriaga et al., 2018). As a result, students’ maturation into autonomous individuals with secure relationship functioning can be stunted. According to the Attachment Security Enhancement Model (ASEM; Arriaga et al., 2018), instructors can implement long-term developmental strategies to shift students’ dependency on them in the direction of greater independence and autonomous functioning by enhancing their secure model of self and others.

    In the short term, instructors can employ autonomy-supportive teaching behaviors by making connections on the relevance of a topic to students’ lives and engage students in learning for its intrinsic value (Black & Deci, 2000). In the long-term, however, instructors might employ strategies that encourage students to pursue their own personal learning goals and the activities associated with those goals, thereby building students’ self-esteem and autonomy (Feeney, 2004). As anxious students begin to internalize the belief that their instructor views them as capable and worthy, their self-confidence should increase, and their overdependence on instructors for reassurance and approval should decrease (Mikulciner & Shaver, 2016). Finally, instructors can both challenge and support students’ development of autonomous functioning by increasing students’ self-awareness and endorsement of their own actions (Sheldon et al., 2018). Rather than telling students what to do, instructors can ask them questions like “What do you think? What do you want to do?” and then problem-solve together to build confidence in their skill and ability to autonomously self-regulate.


    In sum, our findings showed a more complex, nuanced relationship in the growth mindset – academic performance relationship. Our results suggest that a promising future direction for promoting and predicting success among psychology students may involve a “hearts and minds” approach: that is, seeing students as whole persons may improve the teaching and learning process. The relationship an instructor develops with their students – the social connection they create, the type of feedback they provide, and supporting students’ development of self-awareness and endorsement of their own internalized actions - may play an important role in bolstering students’ resilience and academic performance in the face of challenge throughout their college experience.


    Ainsworth, M.S. (1989). Attachments beyond infancy. American Psychologist, 44(4), 709-716.

    Aninsworth, M.S., Blehar, M.C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Oxford: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Allen, J., & Land, D. (1999). Attachment in adolescence. In J. Cassidy & P.R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 319-335). New York, New York: Guilford.

    Arriaga, X.B., Kumashiro, M., Simpson, J.A., & Overall, N.C. (2018). Revising working models across time: Relationship situations that enhance attachment security. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 22(1), 71-96.

    Ashauer, S.A., Nadler, D.R., & Bergstrom, B.D. (2020, June 1-September 1). Attachment and growth mindset: Future directions for promoting and predicting academic success among first-year college students [Poster presentation]. 32nd Association for Psychological Science Annual Convention, Virtual Poster Showcase.

    Baumeister, R.F., & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 20, 1175- 1181.

    Bernier, A., Larose, S., & Whipple, N. (2005). Leaving home for college: A potentially stressful event for adolescents with preoccupied attachment patterns. Attachment & Human Development, 72(2), 171-185.

    Black, A.E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The effects of instructors’ autonomy support and students’ autonomous motivation on learning organic chemistry: A self-determination theory perspective. Science Education, 84, 740-756.

    Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss (Vol.1: Attachment). 2nd ed. New York, New York: Basic Books.

    Burhans, K.K., & Dweck, C.S. (1995). Helplessness in early childhood: The role of contingent self-worth. Child Development, 66, 1719–1738.

    Caprariello, P.A., & Reis, H.T. (2010). Perceived partner responsiveness minimizes defensive reactions to failure. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 365-372.

    Crowell, J.A., Fraley, R.C., & Roisman, G.I. (2016). Measurement of individual differences in adolescence in adult attachment. In J. Cassidy & P.R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications, 3rd ed, (pp. 599-634). New York, New York: Guilford Press.

    Deci, E.L, & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, New York: Plenum.

    Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (1995). Human autonomy: The basis for true self-esteem. In M. Kernis (Ed.), Efficacy, agency, and self-esteem (pp. 31-49). New York, New York: Plenum.

    Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 4, 227-268.

    Erikson, E.H. (1961). Youth: Fidelity and diversity. In E.H. Erikson (Ed.), Youth: Change and challenge (pp. 1-23). New York, New York: Basic Books.

    Feeney, B.C. (2004). A secure base: Responsive support of goal strivings and exploration in adult intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 631-648.

    Kamins, M.L., & Dweck, C.S. (1999). Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 835–847.

    Mikulciner, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change, 2nd ed. New York, New York: Guilford Press.

    Nix, G., Ryan, $. Manley, J.B., & Deci, E.L. (1999). Revitalization through self-regulation: The effects of autonomous and controlled motivation on happiness and vitality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 266-284.

    Paunesku, D., Walton, G.M., Romero, C., Smith, E.N., Yeager, D.S., & Dweck, C.S. (2015). Mind-set interventions are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement. Psychological Science, 26(6), 784-93.

    Robins, R.W., & Pals, J.L. (2002). Implicit self-theories in the academic domain: Implications for goal orientation, attributions, affect, and self-esteem change. Self and Identity, 1(4), 313-336.

    Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

    Ryan, R.M., & Frederick, C.M. (1997). On energy, personality, and health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

    Sheldon, K.M., Gordeeva, T., Leontiev, D., Lynch, M.F., Osin, E., Rasskazova, E., & Dementiy, L. (2018). Freedom and responsibility go together: Personality, experimental, and cultural demonstrations. Journal of Research in Personality, 73, 63-74.

    Vansteennkiste, M., Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2008). Self-determination theory and the explanatory role of psychological needs in human well-being. In L. Bruni, F. Comim, & M. Pugno (Eds.), Capabilities and happiness (pp.187-223). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Walton, G.M. (2014). The new science of wise psychological interventions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(1), 73-82.

    Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A., & Ryan, R.M. (2012). The index of autonomous functioning: Development of a scale of human autonomy. Journal of Research in Personality, 46, 397-413.

    Yeager, D.S., & Dweck, C.S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302 -314.

  • 07 Feb 2021 2:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Kevin J. O’Connor (Providence College)


    Most schools and their disability services office require students with disabilities to hand deliver accommodation notification letters to their professors. This is done with purpose. The exchange of the letter invites a conversation about the accommodation and learning needs of the student in relation to course requirements and delivery.

    This essay grew from a question about how often a meaningful discussion regarding accommodations is had. Findings from a brief study I conducted on the topic indicate the accommodation process may have become commonplace resulting in only a cursory interaction between students and professors before or after class when the accommodation letter is submitted (O’Connor, 2020). I view this as a lost opportunity to help students maximize their experience in a course. In response, I share with you some thoughts and suggestions on how to communicate with students regarding academic accommodations with the hope that I may pursued interest in doing so.

    The Accommodation Letter

    The accommodation letter is a notification (not a request) that identifies the student as having registered with the campus disability services office and identifies the accommodations the student is to receive in your class. The letter forces disclosure of disability status on the part of the student in order to receive accommodations; however, the specifics of the disability itself are not disclosed. The process is backed by federal civil rights statutes supportive of equal educational opportunity – the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA, 2008; formerly ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973).

    Delivering the Accommodation Letter

    A core value of disability services on campus is the promotion of self-determination in the students who access services (Gelbar et al., 2020). The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD, n.d.) calls on disability service programs and specialists to “use a service delivery model that encourages students with disabilities to develop independence” (Section 5. Counseling and Self-Determination). This includes educating and assisting students to function independently and to develop a program mission that promotes student self-determination. So it is quite intentional when schools put students in the position of having to deliver the news of their accommodation needs to their professors.

    Discussing Accommodations with Students

    You do not have to be a disability specialist or service provider to talk with students about their accommodation needs. The expertise you bring to the conversation is in knowing how you conduct your course. Here is an approach and some suggestions on how to have this conversation with students:

    Syllabus and First Class Meeting

    Students with disabilities often look for signs from their professors that they will be supported if they disclose their disability status through the accommodation process (Quinlan et al., 2012). You can let students know that you will be supportive by having a statement in your syllabus that speaks to your openness to work with students needing academic accommodations and referring to it during an early class meeting. This goes beyond simply stating that students needing accommodations should contact the disability services office. It is a statement that lets students know it is important to you personally as their instructor.

    Invitation to Meet

    When handed an accommodation letter ask the student to schedule a meeting with you to discuss what is in the letter. I phrase this as an invitation to discuss how an accommodation will be provided and an opportunity for me to share in more detail information about the course and how it is delivered.

    Preparing to Meet

    Ask the student to prepare for the meeting by looking over the course syllabus. I ask students to think about accommodation needs and themselves as learners in relation to what is seen from their review. For your part, you should prepare for the meeting by gathering materials that represent the course and what the requirements will entail. In addition, it is helpful to have a description in mind of the teaching approaches you plan to use (lectures, group work, write on the board, show slides, expect class participation, and so on).

    Conducting the Meeting

    Let the syllabus be your template for the meeting and keep the accommodation letter at hand. Use gathered additional course materials as needed. I usually guide the discussion as follows: 1) review the obvious alignments that exist between the accommodations listed in the letter and course assignments (e.g., there are tests-student needs extended time-how will we do this?), 2) review other course requirements of a less obvious nature for the same (e.g., there are also weekly quizzes-student needs extended time-will extra time be needed for the quizzes and if so how will we do this?), 3) discuss the student’s accommodations in relation to teaching approaches (e.g., often call on students-is the rationale behind needing extended test time going to hold any relation to being called on in class and if so what will we do about it?), and 4) notify that you will be checking in with the student a few times to see how it is all working.

    After the Meeting

    Send an e-mail thanking the student for meeting with you and note anything of importance that may have been discussed. Following a first milestone in the course where an accommodation may have been used (e.g., first exam, paper) check in with the student to see how it went. You will discover all kinds of things at this point (e.g., student with fine-motor impairment couldn’t finish open-response items; student finished exam in half the required time; the quiet testing environment wasn’t quite at all; the student had a few questions during the test but couldn’t ask because it wasn’t taken in the classroom; there was so much information on the exam the student couldn’t remember it all). Each of these examples comes from students I have had. In each case adjustments were made that contributed to a more accurate demonstration of learning on the part of the student. Without an open conversation about accommodations and learning needs this would not have occurred.

    Additional Considerations

    Here are some additional suggestions to keep in mind when interacting with students regarding their academic accommodations:

    It would be pollyannaish to assume that students will always have a favorable experience discussing accommodations with professors. Documentation of the contrary has been shared (Lyman et al., 2016, Toutain, 2019). Be mindful that some students may be guarded about discussing accommodation needs as a result of past experiences.

    Avoid asking students what their disability is. Students are obligated to disclose that they have a disability in order to receive accommodations but they are not required to disclose specifics. In my experience students will be open about their disability and share how it impacts them as learners if they know you have their best interests in mind.

    Prior to college, students with disabilities receive a tremendous amount of support from others and may not have had the opportunity to develop the skills required to discuss their learning needs (i.e., self-knowledge, awareness). Receive students where they are at and be patient if they do not have insight when you meet. This is particularly so for students new to the college setting.

    Remember to hold information about the disability status of students in confidence. Students are often comfortable sharing their disability letters in the presence of classmates but this is for them to do, not you.

    If you don’t agree with an accommodation, and it happens sometimes, don’t put students in the position of having to defend or negotiate the request. Start with the disability support services office or person who handles accommodations and then work backward to the student. Have this discussion with the disability services office before you meet with the student.

    You are not obligated to go beyond what is in the accommodation letter. This said, accommodation letters are often general in nature and do not take into account all of the idiosyncrasies of a particular course. There may be some adjustments needed or additional accommodations that may be beneficial to the student – to the extent you are comfortable offering these.

    Final Thoughts

    Students with disabilities make up a good amount of the undergraduate population (in 2015-2016, 19 percent according to estimates of the U.S. Department of Education, 2016). An important predictor of their college success is the extent to which course accommodations are provided. The process of obtaining accommodations is complex but it can be made easier when faculty are supportive and open to engaging in a meaningful dialogue with students about their learning needs.


    Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, Pub. L. No. 110-325 § 3406 (2008).

    Association on Higher Education and Disability (n.d.). Program standards and performance indicators.

    Gelbar, N., Madaus, J. W., Dukes, L., Faggella-Luby, M., Volk, D., & Monahan, J. (2020) Self-determination and college students with disabilities: Research trends and construct measurement. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 57(2), 163-181.

    Lyman, M., Beecher, M. E., & Griner, D. (2016). What keeps students with disabilities from using accommodations in postsecondary education? A qualitative review. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 29(2), 123-140.

    O’Connor, K. J. (2020, June 1–September 1). “Here’s my accommodation letter”: Student perspectives on interacting with faculty about accommodation requests [Poster presentation]. Association for Psychological Science/Society for the Teaching of Psychology Teaching Institute Virtual Poster Showcase.

    Quinlan, M. M., Bates, B. R., & Angell, M. E. (2012). ‘What can I do to help?’: Postsecondary students with learning disabilities’ perceptions of instructors’ classroom accommodations. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 12(4), 224–233.

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Pub. L. No. 93-112, 87 § 394 (1973).

    Toutain, C. (2019). Barriers to accommodations for students with disabilities in higher education: A literature review. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 32(3), 297-310.

    U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Digest of Education Statistics, 2015 (2016-014). Retrieved from

  • 04 Jan 2021 7:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Melissa Maffeo Masicampo, PhD 

    Wake Forest University 


    I’m a mean teacher, its true. I trick my students all the time. I’ve given my students PTC paper to demonstrate bitter taste (I do warn them first, though). Once I encouraged a Pepsi vs. Coke taste-test and debate and got the students really riled up. The thing was, unbeknownst to them, both of the sodas they tasted were Coke. My biggest trick, though, is teaching students to use metacognitive strategies without them even knowing it. And I do it with zombie brains.  

    Zombies are the perfect model organism for studying neuroscience. In neuroscience, researchers will often manipulate the brain of a model organism like a rat or mouse, and then observe the behaviors through carefully planned testing. Zombie brains are already altered, and these alterations result in some very specific behaviors. Since we can’t get our hands on a real zombie to examine the actual underlying neural damage, we have to infer the damage through careful observations of their behavior. To provide one example, Voytek and Verstynen (2014) argue that, based on characteristics of movement, there are two subtypes of zombies. Type 1 zombies are the prototypical stiff-moving zombie with the slow, lumbering gait and wide-legged stance. And yet, they appear to have little to no trouble initiating or executing goal-directed movement. These zombies very likely have damage to regions of the cerebellum, leaving basal ganglia and cortical motor pathways largely intact.  Conversely, Type II zombies can move very quickly and very little difficulty moving from victim to victim. From this motor behavior, we can infer that Type II zombies probably have little, if any, damage to motor areas of their brains. Voytek and Verstynen point out that any motor impairment of Type II zombies is probably more likely due to the fact that their arms and legs are rotting, rather than a specific neural deficit. Type II zombies, however, might lack attentional control, as they appear to move quickly from victim to victim, hardly devouring the first victim before shifting attention to the next.  

    Using zombie brains and behavior as a backdrop, my goal is to design engaging assignments that help students develop skills to become more efficient learners. Research shows that students who engage in metacognitive strategies, that is, students who learn how to learn, are much more poised to achieve learning outcomes for their courses (for review, see Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014 and Lai, 2011). In this essay, I’d like to share some of these assignments that I’ve used in my classes. But first, I’d like you to imagine you are a student, sitting in your first biopsychology class. Your worst nightmare has come true – your university is now overrun with the flesh hungry undead. You know in your heart that you and your peers must not only learn biopsychology, but also master it, in order to find a cure for this awful affliction and save your campus. To do so, your professor unleashes her plan for training, practice, and ultimate mastery of both biopsychology and the apocalypse:  

     Strategic Planning Exercises. These weekly reflections are intended to be low stakes formative assignments that help students engage in metacognitive strategies. In this way, students can “strategically plan” for both the zombie apocalypse and for larger stakes assignments. In most semesters, there are four ways a student can complete their strategic planning:  

    Conduct a necropsy: Students had to find a zombie kill it, and bring it back to their lab for necropsy. After examining the brain, students should write a blog post about their observations. The blog post should describe a brain area or system, the role of that area/system in human behavior, and how it because dysregulated in the zombie brain to produce aberrant zombie behavior.  

    Video lab notebook: In a video lab notebook, students could video record themselves teaching a topic to me – but that catch is that they must do it with no notes.  

    Reflection: In this Strategic Planning, students could submit a journal reflection to me, following the prompt, ““Something I learned recently that I found particularly interesting is _____. I think this topic is super cool because _____, and it relates to my life because _____. I was also a bit confused by ____, but one thing I did to help myself understand the content was ____.” 

    Demonstration: To demonstrate knowledge, students have the opportunity to work either solo or in small groups to create a skit, screenplay, or other artifact reflecting course content – the sillier, the better!  

    Target Practice. In every good apocalypse, its important to test our aim to make sure we’re actually doing what we should be doing. It would not be a good idea to go into a zombie battle without any target practice, and nor would it be a good idea to begin a high stakes assignment without practice! In this class, Target Practices are low-stakes, progressively cumulative quizzes that students take outside of class time through the learning management system.  

    Battles. These are the highest-stakes assignments, and this is what students prepare for with the strategic planning and target practice. This is where we take everything we know and go fight those zombies. Students typically have four Battles over the course of the semester. The first Battle asks students to write a short story or narrative where the characters of the story are either brain areas or cells of the nervous system. The functions of the area or cell must be evident from the behavior of the character. Battles two and three ask students to respond to a primary research article in a ‘summarize-connect-apply’ format. The final Battle is a group project. Each group asks a question about aberrant zombie behavior (e.g., as a zombie is ruthlessly devouring your flesh, can it recognize you?”). Each group presents their answer to the class and submits a short written summary of their findings.  

    By doing these regular assignments, students are less likely to fall behind because procrastination is less of an option. All too often, students sit in classes with unit exams, and don’t begin studying for that exam until a day or two prior (at best!). The student might make a high grade on the exam, but they will likely not retain the material they were tested on. At the start of the semester, I ask students if they’ve ever had experiences like what I just described, and invariably, most hands go up. I take the opportunity to explain to my students that my primary course objective is to help them learn biopsychology and think about it in their everyday lives. To do this, I tell them, I encourage them to start thinking about their own thinking, and start engaging in evidence-informed good learning practices. Using these practices will not only help them in this class, but also in other classes and even outside the classroom. I’ve received good anecdotal feedback from students, saying that they have used strategies like these in their other classes, with good results. I’ve also had students say things like, “The assignments are bad, because they force you to stay on top of the material, but they’re also good, because they force you to stay on top of the material.” I’ll take that as a win.  

    By taking this class, students are gaining exposure to techniques that should help them think about their own thinking, and experience learning as a process, not as a destination. When students learn to reflect on the course content, it encourages engagement with the course content, as well as engagement with the instructor and their peers. In this way, students start making connections between aspects of their lives and aspects of the course, which further solidifies learning. And, by the way, my students can learn biopsychology in the midst of a zombie apocalypse as they fight to save their campus. Can yours?  



    Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M. (2014) Making it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.  

    Lai, E. (2011) Metacognition: A literature review. Retrieved from 

    Verstynen, T. & Voytek, B (2014) Do zombies dream of undead sheep? A neuroscientific view of the zombie brain. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 


  • 02 Dec 2020 2:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    David E. Copeland 

    University of Nevada, Las Vegas  

    The psychology major is unique in that there are a wide variety of paths that students can pursue. While having many options can be great, it can also lead to students being unsure about their future. In addition, those that are confident in a path that requires more schooling may not know how to properly prepare for graduate programs. I can relate to this because during my undergraduate years I was initially lost as to what I wanted to do -- and if that was not bad enough, once I thought about what I might do, I was not sure how to prepare! 

    I designed an Introduction to the Psychology Major course to address these issues, so that students can start planning for their future while in college by getting the most out of the major (Copeland & Houska, 2020). Importantly, I try to set students up for success so that they continue to prepare for careers and graduate school after they finish working with me in my course. In the sections below I first explain why it is important for students to plan their future path, and then I follow that with how I help them with the process and why more programs should offer this course (Norcross et al., 2016).  

    Why Should Students Plan Out Their Future? 

    Students should plan their future so they can tailor their college experience to help prepare them for their goals. Those who need to pursue a Ph.D. for their career goals will want to take advantage of opportunities to get involved with research. Students with interests outside of psychology may want to add a minor or a second major – for example, students interested in marketing might want to minor in business or take part in a summer internship. 

    Another reason is that it can help to take action early. If students want to dive into graduate school after commencement, then they should be applying to programs during their senior year. If students want to start a job right away, they may want to submit applications while wrapping up their courses -- this will improve the odds of having a job lined up. Failing to take these actions early enough in college may lead to an unwanted gap of time after graduation. 

    Explore the Possibilities 

    Over the years, I have encountered students at different levels of certainty (or uncertainty) about their career path -- some have one selected, some have no idea, and others fall in between. For example, students in this last group might want to do something related to mental health treatment but may not have thought much about the details. If students do not have a passion about what they want to pursue, make sure that students know that this is okay. Passion can be developed by learning about a field and getting more immersed in it. 

    Regardless of students’ confidence, I start by presenting them with a list of career possibilities to explore. I also have them fill out career interest/personality tests that are available online or through a campus career center -- however, I warn them that the results are merely suggestions they might consider. Because I know that not every psychology student wants to pursue a career in psychology, I have put together materials about ways that psychology can help prepare students for careers in other areas (e.g., business, medicine, law). A final approach is to encourage students to think about careers that they have noticed in the world around them, but they should know that some careers are not always portrayed accurately in television shows or movies (Smith et al., 2011). 

    Learn More about Possible Choices 

    At this stage, I encourage students to learn as much as they can about their possibilities. This includes learning about the career itself, pros and cons of that path, and the skills and degrees that are needed. I find that some students are surprised when they dig more deeply -- for example, some students who originally say that they want to pursue clinical psychology later find that therapy or counseling are better fits for them. 

    Students can easily find career websites online, but two of the best are O*Net and the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop. Students can also access some excellent books about psychology careers. There are some great books that cover mental health paths such as clinical psychology, counseling, therapy, or social work (e.g., Metz, 2016), and there are others that provide perspectives about a variety of careers in psychology (e.g., Sternberg, 2017). 

    Students can also schedule a meeting with their campus career center to discuss their interests and to learn about resources. Students should be encouraged to utilize their career center regularly -- they should not think about it as a one-time visit. Not only can career centers help them think through career possibilities, but most can help with other preparation such as improving a resume or practicing common interview scenarios. 

    I have students take things further by building and utilizing a network. One approach is to connect them with fellow students who have similar interests so that they can share information and ask questions (a classroom or online discussion can work for this). In addition, I push students to talk with other high achievers at Psi Chi events. Students should also expand their networks into the professional world by conducting at least one informational interview. Ideally these can be done in person, but with more technological tools available, students have options for communicating with others. To help them out, I provide a set of starter questions that they can use. 

    Map Out Helpful Experiences and Accomplishments 

    After students have settled on a small number of career possibilities, they should map out their plans to get there. Students can think about the necessary degrees, skills, and experiences. In addition, I also tell them to identify possible obstacles in their path (e.g., finances, competitive graduate programs) and whether or not they can overcome them. 

    Mapping out their path serves two big goals. First, students can learn whether a career path is possible -- if not, they should consider other options. Second, it allows students to explicitly plot out what they need to accomplish as they move forward. For example, if they know that they need volunteer or internship experience, they can start making plans now. If they need to earn a Ph.D., they can look for research opportunities. If leadership is important, then they might get involved as a student club officer. I also encourage non-traditional students and those who are working while in school to look at ways in which they are developing skills and building accomplishments in their work environment.  

    If graduate school is needed, students can reach out to current graduate students. This is helpful because students can hear directly what graduate school is like and whether it would be a good fit for them. Current graduate students can also inform them about what an undergraduate needs to accomplish in order to be an attractive applicant. Some students mistakenly think that a solid grade point average is all that they need to get into graduate school -- it is important that they learn what else graduate school admission committees’ value. 

    Topics and Assignments 

    I help them with this entire process by discussing resources and experiences that are related to the psychology major and teaching them the basics about graduate school preparation (Copeland & Houska, 2020). For the former, I teach them about student groups, professional organizations, research opportunities, internship or volunteer positions, and psychology courses. For the latter, I let students know about what graduate programs value, including the importance of letters of recommendation. 

    An assignment that helps to reinforce the mapping process is to have my students create a Superstar CV -- this also teaches them how to document their accomplishments too. Students start by listing their current accomplishments but take it a step further by adding experiences and achievements that they want to have when they graduate. To distinguish this from their actual CV, I have them use the title “Superstar Curriculum Vitae” at the top and I also have them write their goals in a different font color (to signify that these are not actual achievements. . . yet). 

    I require some of the activities I described in this article (e.g., Superstar Activity, mapping out their career paths) in my course. However, because not everyone is following the same path and not everyone is at the same stage in their career preparation process, I also create a menu of activities and students choose which of those they want to complete (e.g., visit the career center, attend a Psi Chi event, conduct an informational interview). This way students can take actions that fit their goals. 

    Continue to Seek Out Information and Refine the Plan 

    One of my big goals is to encourage students to strive for continuous improvement by learning and acting after they finish my course. I push them to regularly visit the career center for different types of career preparation. I also let them know that their career choices do not have to be etched in stone -- it is okay for them to change their mind. For example, students might complete a summer internship in their desired field only to learn that the field does not seem to be the right fit for them -- I tell them that this is perfectly fine as it is better to learn that now rather than years down the road. 



    I am a big believer in the idea that we need to be helping students prepare for their futures. Some students might already have career ideas or help from parents, but many first generation students are unaware of the importance of planning for their future path. I have lost track of how many times students have finished my course and told me “I really did not know what to expect from a class like this, but this course was the most impactful class that I have taken -- I now have an idea of what I want to do and what I need to do to get there!” I strongly encourage faculty to develop an Introduction to the Psychology Major course to help prepare their students for the future! 


    Copeland, D. E., & Houska, J. A. (2020). Success as a psychology major. Sage. 

    Metz, K. (2016). Careers in mental health: Opportunities in psychology, counseling, and social work. John Wiley & Sons. 

    Norcross, J. C., Hailstorks, R., Aiken, L. S., Pfund, R. A., Stamm, K. E., & Christidis, P. (2016). Undergraduate study in psychology: Curriculum and assessment. American Psychologist, 71, 89-101.  

    Smith, S. M., Stinson, V., & Patry, M. W. (2011). Fact or fiction? The myth and reality of the CSI effect. Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 47, 4-7. 

    Sternberg, R. J. (2017). Career paths in psychology: Where your degree can take you. American Psychological Association. 

  • 06 Nov 2020 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    John M. Malouff and Ashley J. Emmerton (University of New England, Australia)


    Some psychology teachers develop innovative teaching methods that could benefit other teachers. There are many options for psychology teachers who want to disseminate as widely as possible information about a new teaching method. This article describes a range of dissemination methods psychology teachers can use, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, psychology magazines, ERIC, teaching conferences, and teacher training courses. The authors suggest using a cost-benefit analysis to choose dissemination methods.

    How Psychology Teachers Can Widely Disseminate Their Innovative Teaching Methods

    Using teaching innovations to deliver psychology topics can help improve education by leading to more learning and to more interest in learning (Savelsbergh et al., 2016). Using teaching innovations can also help increase the work satisfaction of teachers (Gordy, Jones, & Bailey. 2018).

    Recent teaching innovations involve different types of assignments for students, such as recording a video presentation explaining how to do something relevant to a course and uploading it to YouTube (Malouff & Shearer, 2016). Using an escape room to teach is another innovative method (LaPaglia, 2020). Because teaching is both an art and a science, the possibilities for innovation are great.

    Innovation sometimes is forced on teachers by circumstances such as pandemics or wars. Usually, though, teachers innovate to try to find more effective, more efficient, more engaging, or more long-lasting ways to help students learn. The students helped by an innovation can be a subset, such as gifted students (Prochaska & Prochaska, 1983) or non-traditional students (Naz & Murad, 2017), who may face barriers to benefitting from traditional teaching and learning methods. Sometimes we innovate to satisfy our own curiosity or to make our work more interesting.

    When these new methods seem to work, teachers often try to share them broadly so that others may benefit from the innovation. To help the most teachers and students, a new teaching method needs to escape the confines of a single classroom and a single school. Other teachers must become aware of the method and its potential value (Smith, 2012).

    What modes of dissemination are available?

    We identified and evaluated different methods of disseminating information about new teaching methods. The following is a summary of possible dissemination methods, with information on their potential effectiveness based on access statistics (numbers of views, participants, subscribers, or downloads) and engagement level (frequency of comments or interactions between audience and idea developer), along with guides on how to use each method successfully.


    Twitter has about 330 million users each month (Lin, 2019). Teach Psychology (@getRAPT; n.d.) has used the social media platform Twitter since July 2013 to disseminate innovative teaching ideas, resources and articles for psychology teachers. This Twitter handle has 1,146 followers (at the time of writing) and has posted 1,279 tweets since the handle’s creation. A tweet can have a maximum of 280 characters, allowing only brief descriptions of new methods, unless one posts multiple tweets on a topic or includes links to further resources and articles. The Twitter Guide for Teachers (Pappas, 2013) offers advice for teachers on how to use Twitter effectively.


    Facebook has a wide reach, with over 2.4 billion monthly users in 2019 (Wolfe, 2019). Teachers can create their own Facebook group about innovative teaching, or they can post their ideas on the page of any of a number of existing groups. We created a Facebook group called Innovative Teaching Methods (2020) to disseminate new teaching ideas. Over 3,000 members have joined in the past 15 months; members come from over 100 different countries and include school teachers and university professors. Members post links to teaching materials they have made and describe their novel teaching ideas. Pappas (2015) offered tips for educators using Facebook for teaching, as does the Facebook Guide for Educators (The Education Foundation & Facebook, 2013).


    YouTube is a widely used platform, with over two billion monthly users generating a billion hours of viewing daily (YouTube, 2020). Channels focusing on innovative teaching methods such as the Edutopia (2020) channel, which has 125,000 subscribers, can reach a large audience. YouTube allows teachers to demonstrate innovative teaching methods. Users can give responses to new teaching methods using the comments function. For example, an Edutopia video titled Keeping Students Engaged in Digital Learning, published one week ago at the time of writing, attracted 86,553 views and seven user comments. Some comments offered additional strategies beyond those presented in the video. While YouTube tends to be more unidirectional in design than other social media platforms (with the focus on the video itself rather than the comments), the ability to easily share YouTube videos on other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter increases its reach. The Teach Thought (2016) website offers tips for using YouTube for sharing teaching ideas. Teachers can create their own video that they upload, or they can ask to be part of an established video series.


    A blog is an online journal or information site. Teachers can start a blog on teaching or ask to post an article on an existing blog. E-xcellence in teaching (Society for the Teaching of Psychology, 2020) is a popular teaching blog which allows psychology educators to write about innovative ideas they have used. Obtaining permission to post a guest entry on an existing teaching blog can be much faster and easier than building up readership of a new blog. Blogs can be set up so that readers can request an email when the next entry is posted. Blogs typically allow comments from readers, creating a possibility of interaction with the author. Start Your Teaching Blog (Davis, 2014) offers resources and advice on how to blog effectively.


    A podcast is an audio recording that can be downloaded from the Internet. Podcasts discussing innovative teaching methods, such as the Cult of Pedagogy podcast produced by Jennifer Gonzales, can be effective ways of disseminating ideas. This podcast is released twice monthly and averages over 100,000 downloads per month (23,000-30,000 unique downloads per episode; Gonzalez, 2020). The PsychSessions: Conversations about Teaching N' Stuff (Neufeld & Landrum, 2020) podcast consists of 140 episodes focusing on the teaching of psychology and interviews of top psychology educators. The podcast is available over multiple providers making it easily accessible. It might be possible to obtain a guest appearance on a popular teaching podcast. The alternative is to create your own podcast. Like YouTube videos, podcasts are largely unidirectional with limited opportunities for discussion and engagement. The New York Times (Daniels & Schulten, 2020) and Edutopia (Ramirez, 2016) offer advice on how to make a professional podcast.


    There are online psychology magazines such as Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association, 2020) that feature, among other things, articles on teaching methods, lesson plans, and ideas for educators. This magazine is available in print and online, with the online version being free to access. Teaching magazines typically have lower standards for publication than teaching journals. There is advice online, e.g., from Freelance Writing (n.d.), on how to write effective magazine articles.


    ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center (2020), puts online published and unpublished articles relating to teaching, with free viewing. ERIC reviews unpublished articles before accepting them, but the acceptance standards are lower than for education journals. We have documents in ERIC, e.g., on how to teach problem solving to college students. Most search engines include ERIC, which has video guides giving advice on submission and writing (ERIC, 2016).

    Teaching conferences

    National and international psychology teaching conferences and general teaching conferences provide opportunities for disseminating innovative teaching methods. The conferences may focus on teaching in psychology or teaching in general. Keynote speakers can reach hundreds of teachers; other presenters may reach only a handful of attendees. The standard for getting a proposal accepted for presentation can be relatively low, while keynote addresses are by invitation. For tips on giving conference presentations, see online articles such as that of Golash-Boza (2018).

    Online MOOCs

    Another option for disseminating innovative teaching methods is through massive online open courses (MOOCs). Education providers such as Future Learn and Coursera provide MOOCs to millions of users (Shah, 2016). Students engage with instructors through discussion forums. Some MOOCs are free for students. Tips for delivering MOOCs are available online (Morrison, 2014; Richer 2013).

    Things to consider when choosing an outlet

    We have described several ways of disseminating innovative teaching methods. When choosing one or more potential outlets, use a cost-benefit analysis. Consider how much time you need to devote to use or try to use the outlet, how likely your idea is to become available on the outlet, how many teachers and teachers in training are likely to learn of your method, and how persuasive the outlet is as a carrier of your idea.

    We recommend using multiple outlets for disseminating new teaching ideas in order to reach the most teachers and future teachers. It is possible to provide a link to one type of outlet when using a different type. We suggest trying to use at least one free-online outlet in order to help maximize the number of teachers who become aware of the new method. Finally, we suggest using at least one interactive outlet so that educators can comment and make suggestions. That interaction can help improve a new teaching idea (Lewis, 2003).


    American Psychological Association. (2020). Monitor on psychology.

    Daniels, N., & Schulten, K. (2020, April 22). Making a Podcast That Matters: A Guide With Examples From 23 Students. New York Times: The Learning Network.®i_id=107746693&segment_id=25876&te=1&user_id=2dc49c9f83df8e2ab6a37ac38d0209ea

    Davis, M. (2014, June 18). Start your teaching blog: Resources, advice, and examples. Edutopia.

    Edutopia (n.d.). Home [YouTube Channel]. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from

    ERIC (2020).

    ERIC (2016). Grantee and Online Submission System. ERIC.

    The Education Foundation & Facebook (2013). Facebook Guide for Educators. The Education Foundation website.

    Freelance Writing (undated). 6 important tips for magazine article writing. Freelance Writing.

    Golash-Boza, T., (2018, March 8). 6 tips for giving a fabulous academic presentation. Wiley.

    Gonzalez, J. (2020) Cult of Pedagogy: Advertising opportunities for education companies.

    Gordy, X. Z., Jones, E. M., & Bailey, J.H. (2018). Technological innovation or educational evolution? A multidisciplinary qualitative inquiry into active learning classrooms. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 18(2), 1-23.

    Innovative Teaching Methods (2020). Home [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from,

    LaPaglia, J. A. (2020, June 1). Liven up review sessions with an escape room. E-xcellence in Teaching.

    Lewis, E. (2003). Dissemination of innovations in higher education: A change theory approach. Tertiary Education and Management, 9(3), 199-214.

    Lin, Y. (2019, November 30). 10 Twitter statistics every marketer should know in 2020. Oberlo.

    Malouff, J. M., & Shearer, J. J. (2016). How to set up assignments for students to give oral presentations on video. College Teaching. 64 (3), 97-100.

    Morrison, D. (2014, February 2). MOOC development advice from instructors that have ‘been-there-done-that’. Online Learning Insights.

    Naz, F., & Murad, H. S. (2017). Innovative teaching has a positive impact on the performance of diverse students. SAGE Open.

    Neufeld, G. & Landrum, E., (2020) PsychSessions: Conversations about Teaching N' Stuff [Podcast].

    Paniagua, A. & Istance, D. (2018). Teachers as designers of learning environments: The importance of innovative pedagogies. Educational Research and Innovation.

    Pappas, C. (2013, August 6). The twitter guide for teachers. eLearning Industry website.

    Pappas, C. (2015, May 31). Using Facebook for eLearning: The ultimate guide for eLearning professionals. eLearning Industry website.

    Prochaska, J. O. & Prochaska, J. M. (1983) Teaching psychology to elementary school gifted students. Teaching of Psychology, 10 (2), 82-84.

    Ramirez, A. (2016, February 29). Start that podcast!. Edutopia website.

    Richer, S. (2013, October 7). Tips for designing a massive open online course (MOOC). Northern Illinois University: Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

    Savelsbergh, E. R., Prins, G. T., Rietbergen, C., Fechner, S., Vaessen, B. E., Draijer, J. M., & Bakker, A. (2016). Effects of innovative science and mathematics teaching on student attitudes and achievement: A meta-analytic study. Educational Research Review, 19, 158-172.

    Shah, D. (2016, December 25). By the numbers: MOOCs in 2016. Class Central MOOC Report.

    Smith, K. (2012) Lessons learnt from literature on the diffusion of innovative learning and teaching practices in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49(2), 173-182.

    Society for the Teaching of Psychology (2020).

    Teach Psychology [@getRAPT]. (n.d.). Tweets [Twitter Profile]. Twitter. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from

    Teach Thought (2016, February 2). 9 Tips for smarter teaching with YouTube.

    Weaver, D., Robbie, D., & Radloff, A. (2014). Demystifying the publication process–a structured writing program to facilitate dissemination of teaching and learning scholarship. International Journal for Academic Development, 19(3), 212-225.

    Wolfe, L. (2019, September 24). The number of Facebook users worldwide. The Balance Career.

    YouTube (2020) YouTube for press.

  • 04 Oct 2020 7:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Genevieve Condon, MS Forensic Psychology and Legal Studies 

    Senior Lead Faculty Psychology, Bay Path University, TAWC 

    It is no surprise that online learning is becoming more popular as time goes on. As of 2019, 65% of students have participated in an online course (Sellers, 2019). With this comes the need to ensure that online education is as dynamic and engaging as its traditional counterpart. While this may seem like tough undertaking, with technology, dynamic staff, and various activities sprinkled throughout the course ensuring that the online learner remains engaged is possible. 


    When looking at the online learning environment, we want to ensure that we are hiring instructors that are well versed not only in their area of teaching, but in how the online classroom works. This does not simply mean how to navigate Canvas or Blackboard, but rather, being able to anticipate what the students may need. Part of this is going to be real time interaction and various modes of communication (Peterson, 2016). The real-time interaction and various modes of communication can go hand in hand. Students long for interaction so offering a phone call, a live webinar or Skype/Google chat is ideal. Also, posting weekly announcements in video format is useful and adds a personal touch. Students are then able to see the instructors face, and listen to their voice. This may seem small but it adds a visual approach to learning and makes the classroom seem more dynamic. 

    From a personal perspective, it is also vital to set time aside to “breath”.  Technology is flexible and makes individuals easily accessible across different countries and time zones. However, many of us working in education are constantly connected. I know that personally, all my emails go to my phone so I am available even when I am not sitting at my computer.  Often, I will find myself out to eat with friends, and replying to an email or sitting at my daughter’s school function doing the same. However, this can get exhausting. Setting expectations are important within the classroom. What are your office hours? Do you typically respond quickly to all emails? I respond quickly, even on weekends and evenings, however, there are evenings I reserve for myself and family, and when the university is closed for breaks, I set this expectation within the classroom. It is important that we take time for ourselves to prevent burnout and ensure that we are at our best for our students. 

    Another option is to set days for certain tasks. You can reserve Monday’s for grading, Tuesday’s for lesson planning etc. (Sellers, 2019). While this approach may not work for everyone, it can help with time management and enforce a strict schedule for students and help with their expectations. This can aid us in being task oriented and lessen the overwhelming sensation that can come when teaching, especially multiple courses. 

    Curriculum Design: 

    When building curriculum and lesson planning, learning to learn is a phrase that is essential to success (Gulati, 2014). Learning to learn can be defined as the ability to create learning goals, motivate oneself to learn, apply learning strategies, and self-reflect to guide future efforts (Gulati, 2014). To ensure that these abilities are met, as an instructor we plan. This requires that we do the following: 

    • Explore: Understand and define what is required. Here, being able to have specific goals for the course will be helpful. These are generally referred to as course competencies. 

    • Plan: After it is understood what is required to learn, identifying the necessary steps and coming up with an action plan is essential. What skills must the students know? How will be assess these skills? 

    • Implement: We must put each step into motion.  

    • Assess: This is where course evaluations and the course requirements are essential. Requiring discussion posts, assignments in the form of papers, videos, etc. to examine what the students have learned and whether the course competencies are met. 

    Be sure when planning curriculum to step outside of the box. It may be easy to simply require that a paper is written each week, think about how this will keep students engaged if week after week it is the same requirement. There is group work (yes, it is challenging to complete this online but doable), videos they can make, interviews and reflections etc. The sky really is the limit. Make your classroom and curriculum something that students are eager to engage in and leave them looking forward to the next week. 


    Lastly, asking for feedback is essential. When ensuring that as instructors we are engaged, available and build a dynamic classroom, we must provide a way to assess ourselves, just like we do the students. Typically, the most-straight forward way to do this is by having a survey at the end of each course. To ensure participation, this can be a requirement for the course, otherwise there might not be many participates. 

    Keeping students engaged is a difficult task. By ensuring as faculty we are using various resources, building dynamic curriculum, and assessing progress, it is an attainable goalIt is crucial to remember that education is an everchanging field and many ideas, tips and tricks will change with time and the ever-changing demographic of online learners. 



    Gulati, R (2014). The importance of goal setting for curriculum design. Medium 

    Peterson, A (2016). Five ways to make your classroom more interactive. Faculty Focus. 

    Sellers, E (2019) Poor time management in online education. Seattle PI. 


  • 06 Sep 2020 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jennifer M. Knack (Clarkson University) and Melisa A. Barden (Walsh University) 

    As many instructors can likely attest, there is a certain joy that comes from a student making a connection between course material and their everyday lives. Perhaps they let you know about a recent episode of their favorite show that utilized operant conditioning or how they stopped their younger sibling’s tantrum by breaking a cookie in two due to a lack of conservation. Since we knew that it is beneficial to the learning process to make these types of connections, we set out to create a project aimed at facilitating this process. In addition, we believe it is important for our students to understand that this field can have actual real world implications when it comes to making a difference in areas that matter such as social justice, parenting, education, workplace issues, sustainability, and conservation. For this semester-long group project, we focused on problems in the world that students would be motivated to reduce/solve. Due to our large class size our students worked in groups, but it could be adjusted to an individual project. Social psychology is an area that is well-positioned to apply psychological concepts to address real world problems/issues which is why we created the project in this specific course. However, it could be adapted to a different course such as Human Development or Principles of Learning.  


    Purpose and goals of the project 
    We designed this project to give students the opportunity to identify a real world problem or issue they are personally interested in and deeply consider what the problem is and why it continues to exist despite other people trying to address it. Then, students are tasked with proposing a solution that is grounded in evidence from social psychology. This project is designed to encourage students to think critically and creatively to identify root causes of the issue as well as factors that contribute to the issue persisting. Throughout the semester students complete smaller assignments that engage them in this type of thinking. At the end of the semester, students produce a final paper report and give a presentation in class. In addition, students will use the campus “maker space” (i.e., a space on campus where students can produce physical objects and receive assistance in the design and production of the physical objects as well as digital create products including making or editing videos, audio, or photography) to produce a tangible product appropriate to their proposed solution. As such, this project is designed to help students develop and improve written and oral communication as well as gain experience in the maker space. 

    Major components of the project 

    Phase 1: Identify and evaluate a problem. Students first write a problem statement that conveys the scope of the problem and the specific aspect they will address this semester (assignment 1); then students identify and evaluate specific barriers and factors that created and maintained the problem, consider who is involved in it, and what has already been done to address the problem (assignment 2). The main purpose of this phase is to help students more deeply understand the problem they selected and to guide them to understanding the inherent social issues or nature of the issue. In addition, this phase helps students consider how large issues (e.g., climate change) are comprised of smaller issues that may have different causes and therefore need to be addressed differently (e.g., reducing use of plastic bags, conserving water). In this phase of the project, students are also encouraged to consider why they selected this issue (i.e., why it is important to them personally and as a group) and why it is important at a societal/community level. By the end of this phase, students should be able to (1) identify the opposing perspectives and barriers that have created the problem/issue and impeded resolution, (2) consider who is impacted by the problem/issue (e.g., who is involved, who experiences the ramifications), and (3) determine what is currently being done to address the problem/issue. For example, by the end of phase 1, students might have decided to address reducing the use of plastic bags because they are particularly concerned about the resulting harm to marine animals. 


    Phase 2: Gather evidence and consider solutions. Over the course of two assignments, students start brainstorming ways to address the issue (assignment 3) and gather evidence from the social psychological field to support and improve their proposed solutions (assignment 4). During this phase, students are encouraged to revisit their problem statement to ensure that their solutions and evidence are actually addressing the initial problem they identified. Sometimes students will inadvertently stray from their original path throughout the course of their research. By the end of this phase, students should have a clear plan for how to address the issue as well as evidence from the social psychological field indicating why the plan should be successful. For example, students may consider banning plastic bags in stores or consider how information about attitude change and behavior change can be used to get people to use reusable bags. 


    Phase 3: Final proposal. The project culminates with three outcomes. First, each group prepares a written paper that summarizes their work throughout the semester. The paper is comprised of a description of the real world issue being addressed, a full explanation outlining the major aspects of the issue, a proposed plan to address the issue that is clearly supported and informed by social psychological information, and a brief summary of how to evaluate the success of the proposed plan. Second, each group presents their project to the class during the last week of the semester. Third, each group creates a tangible product in the university’s maker space. This product should be relevant to the group’s proposed plan to address the issue; groups are encouraged to be creative in what this product is. Groups can create something using the digital maker space (e.g., a podcast, commercial, public service announcement) or the physical maker space (e.g., 3D print a template, create bumper stickers, design flyers). For example, students might create a token to serve as a reminder that people can put on their car to prompt them to bring reusable bags into the grocery store (e.g., a sticker, some sort of device) or a public service announcement raising awareness about the need to use reusable bags. 


    Group member evaluations. Despite this project being designed to be engaging and relevant to students, there is always a risk of social loafing. In an effort to reduce social loafing, at the end of each phase students complete self and peer evaluations to rate each person’s contributions and efforts to the group work. Students who do not contribute to the group’s work will have their scores reduced. 


    Final thoughts 

    In our experience, this project has been quite successful. It is worth noting that many students are often concerned about the project at the beginning of the semester since it differs from traditional academic papers that many college instructors require. Students are often worried about coming up with a solution and concerned about thinking creatively. In addition, students typically want to skip straight to developing a solution before they have carefully considered what the problem is and understand the complexity of it. Students often benefit from more coaching and intensive feedback during the first phase of the project. We provide extensive comments on the first two assignments and strongly encourage groups to meet with us to discuss their project development throughout the semester. Students also tend to appreciate the first two assignments being graded more leniently so they can explore and consider the selected problem without fear of  their grade being negatively affected. 


    As students get into the project, they report (anecdotally and on student evaluations) that they found the project meaningful and valuable. Students appreciate working on a project that has personal relevance as well as real application. For example, we have numerous students who plan to pursue health careers; these students have been in groups that examined the misconception that vaccines are associated with autism as well as how to recruit and retain physicians in rural regions. Other students interested in careers in law enforcement have examined how to address the divide between police and the community; students interested in sustainability have examined how to increase water conservation.  


    Overall, this project can satisfy a number of learning outcomes. Not only are the students gaining a better understanding of course material, but they are working on their communication (oral and writing) and interpersonal skills which are incredibly important. It also encourages critical and creative thinking. Finally, this project has the potential to elicit real change in our world if the students are motivated to move forward with their solutions. 

  • 05 Aug 2020 8:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Peggy Christidis and Jessica Conroy

    American Psychological Association

    The mission of APA’s Center for Workforces Studies (CWS) is to collect, analyze, and disseminate data that is relevant to the psychology workforce and education pipeline. CWS has looked extensively at the psychology education pipeline, focusing on psychology degree recipients at the master’s and doctoral levels, but in recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding our psychology bachelor’s degree recipients. In particular, we were interested in knowing what psychology baccalaureates are doing with their degrees once they graduated. Are they moving on to graduate school? If so, are they continuing with a psychology graduate degree, or a degree in a different major? How many psychology baccalaureates are entering the workforce? What types of jobs are they doing? What sorts of skills are they developing during their undergraduate study and using most often at their jobs? Do these skills coincide with the types of skills employers are looking for? Our goal was to collect vital statistics about career trajectories, outcomes, and the psychology job market, as well provide useful resources and tools for psychology faculty and students exploring their future careers. Our research has led to several findings which contribute to the corpus of knowledge currently available, which psychology faculty and students can use to understand their postgraduation options.

    What do you do after receiving a psychology bachelor’s degree?

    According to data from the 2017 National Science Foundation’s National Survey of College Graduates, there were approximately 3.5 million people in the United States with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. For two million of these people (56 percent), the psychology baccalaureate was their highest degree earned, meaning most students directly enter the workforce after graduating.

    The remaining 1.5 million (44 percent) did obtain a graduate degree, but not necessarily in psychology. In fact, 1.1 million (30 percent) of psychology bachelor’s degree holders obtained a master’s or doctoral degree in a field outside of psychology. Approximately 13 percent of psychology baccalaureates went on to receive a psychology master’s degree, and only four percent obtained a doctoral degree in psychology (to learn more about degree pathways in psychology, CWS provides an interactive data tool:

    These findings suggest that the degree pathways of psychology baccalaureates do not necessarily lead to a psychology graduate degree. In fact, this path is the one least traversed. This information has implications regarding what elements of a psychology degree should be emphasized and which skills should be taught to prepare students entering the workforce. As such, psychology faculty and students should be aware of the types of occupations psychology baccalaureates are entering after graduation.

    What jobs can you get?

    According to NSF’s 2017 National Survey of College Graduates, 72 percent of the two million psychology bachelor’s degree recipients were employed. Another 24 percent were not in the workforce for various reasons, such as being retired, leaving the workforce temporarily for family reasons, or working on another degree but not having earned that degree just yet. Only 4 percent were unemployed.

    For the 72 percent who were actively employed, what were their occupations? Psychology baccalaureates cited 92 different types of occupations, including counseling, accounting, marketing, personnel, and insurance. However, most often noted were occupations such as “social workers” (5 percent), “management-related positions” (5 percent), “administrative occupations” (5 percent), and “service” (4 percent). Three percent also had occupations as top-level managers, executives, and administrators (to learn more about careers in psychology, CWS proves an interactive data tool:

    Individuals with a psychology bachelor’s degree as their highest degree are clearly finding employment, in a variety of occupations. This finding suggests that the psychology bachelor’s degree, at the very least, is giving the degree recipient skills and abilities that are transferable to a number of different occupations and make them well-suited candidates for management and leadership roles. As such, faculty and students need to be aware of the types of skills that are developed during a baccalaureate education so that students can both recognize the occupations they are suited for and capable of entering, as well as market themselves effectively when seeking employment.

    Skills and the psychology job market

    So, which skills are important? Understanding the skills that students acquire during their education, those they need in the workforce, and how those skills are changing over time, is of vital importance to preparing students for life after graduation. Unfortunately, there are few sources of information on this topic, so how can we know which and even if the skills students are earning in their programs are being used in the workplace? To begin addressing this question, we have explored and analyzed multiple sources to understand the skills used on the job, as well as the skills employers are looking for.

    To access the demand for skills from an employer perspective, we used a text analysis of psychology job advertisements pulled from the APA psycCareers job board (APA, 2018a). This provided unique and valuable insights into the skills employers are looking for in psychology fields and a snapshot of how those skills are changing over time. To complement these data, we also performed analyses on interviews from the APA’s “How Did You Get That Job?” webinar series and of the O*NET database to find the most important skills for performing psychology jobs. Using these three data sources, we were able to identify several important skills that employers are looking for, as well as skills that are vital to performing psychology occupations. It is important to note that while employers may be placing a high emphasis on certain skills, it may not indicate the skills that are actually being used on the job, but rather, the skills that employers are having the most trouble finding in their candidate pool.

    Which skills do employers want?

    Using a keyword-based decision-tree, we identified the skills requested in all the job advertisements posted to the APA psycCareers job board over a three-year period; from 2015 through 2017. This dataset consisted of 6,922 advertisements, approximately 48% of which were for health service psychologist positions and 37% of for faulty positions. The remainder were for researcher (6%), applied psychologist (4%), and other positions (5%). Across all job types, the most frequently requested skills included “leadership,” “cultural awareness,” “teamwork,” and “communication.” However, the pattern changed when examined by job type.

    Employers looking for faculty candidates requested “cultural awareness” most frequently, followed distantly by “leadership” and “teamwork” skills. Postings for health service positions, on the other hand, requested “leadership,” “teamwork,” and “communication” the most and at almost the same rates. Unsurprisingly, “analytical skills” were most requested among researcher positions, and “communication” and “leadership” skills took the lead for applied psychology positions which included human factors, consulting, and forensic psychology.

    Over time the frequency of advertisements requesting at least one skill has increased, with 45% of advertisements posted in 2015 increasing to 49% in 2016 and 54% in 2017 (APA, 2018b). When broken out by skills requested, we found that some skills were increasing in frequency more than others. Specifically, cultural awareness, which overtook leadership skills as the most requested in 2017. Teamwork and communication skills also increased in frequency between 2015 and 2017. An investigation into these trends found that the increase in requests for cultural awareness was driven primarily by advertisements for faculty positions, while the increase in requests for teamwork and communications skills was likely driven by ads for health service positions. These trends have important implications for students and early career psychologists looking for positions in these fields. They may indicate areas of increased emphasis, such as a shift in the health services field towards interdisciplinary care. They may also indicate the skills that employers are having difficulty finding in the candidate pool (Burning Glass Technologies, 2015). As such, psychologists on the job market should consider highlighting some of the more sought skills that they possess and developing those that they don’t.

    Which skills will you use?

    Accessing the skills used on the job for psychology degree holders is extremely limited by the available data sources. To gain an understanding of these skills, we used a two-fold approach, using both a small dataset of 18 interviews from the APA’s “How Did You Get That Job?” (HDYGTJ) webinar, and an analysis of occupations requiring a higher than average knowledge of psychology from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).1 The HDYGTJ Interviews consisted primarily of applied psychologists, while the O*NET analysis used the average importance of psychology to job performance to determine which occupations to include, and therefore includes jobs that are performed by individuals with or without a degree in psychology.

    The analysis of HDYGTJ Interviews consisted of methods like those utilized in the psycCareers analysis, using an automated key-word search to identify the skills mentioned most frequently. Analyzed questions included a description of the interviewee’s current position, similar job titles for the role, and the most valuable skills and abilities acquired during their training. This analysis identified communication skills, analytical skills, and critical thinking skills as the most frequently used and most useful skills in day-to-day job performance.

    The O*NET analysis consisted of filtering the database for occupations with an importance of psychology higher than average for day-to-day job performance (386 of 967 total occupations represented in the O*NET database).2 Across these occupations, we then averaged the importance scores for the 35 different skills included in the O*NET database. Similar to the HDYGTJ findings, communication skills like active listening and speaking, and critical thinking had the highest average importance scores.

    These findings can be used to help point students and early career psychologists in the right direction when exploring their current skill profile and options for professional development. Furthermore, understanding the skills gained during training and how those can be leveraged on the psychology job market is an important steppingstone for success, and one that should not be ignored.


    Psychology students often turn to faculty for information and guidance regarding the next step after graduation, whether that be graduate school or entry into the workforce. As such, it is essential to provide psychology faculty with the necessary data and statistics to help inform their students. It is also important to recognize the variety of pathways from undergraduate psychology education. While some psychology baccalaureates obtain graduate degrees in psychology, more sizable proportions obtain graduate degrees in other fields or go directly into the workforce. Students that follow that latter pathway could benefit from information about employment options, how to find a job, the skills they should highlight when looking for employment, and a general understanding that a wide range of career pathways exist beyond a graduate education in psychology. We hope that both psychology faculty and students will take advantage of the tools, reports, and statistics that CWS offers, and that these resources will provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions about the many education and career opportunities that are available to psychology baccalaureates.

    For more information on the Center for Workforce Studies and the various resources we have available for psychology students and faculty, visit our website at


    American Psychological Association. (2018a). 2015-17 Psychology Job Advertisements: An Overview. Washington, DC: Author

    American Psychological Association. (2018a) 2015-17 Psychology Job Advertisements [Unpublished special analyses]

    Burning Glass Technologies. (2015). The human factor: The hard time employers have finding soft skills. Retrieved from

    National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. (2017). National Survey of College Graduates Public Use Microdata File and Codebook. Retrieved from


    1Source: This information is from the O*NET 24.1 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. The American Psychological Association has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed or tested these modifications

    2 Importance was scored on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (very important). Ratings were based on survey data collected from representatives in each occupation and input by occupational experts with years of experience in and around the occupation. Additional information on O*NET knowledge definitions and methodology can be found at

    Suggested Resources

    CWS Data Tools -

    APA’s “How Did You Get That Job?” webinar -

    O*NET OnLine tools for career exploration -

  • 07 Jul 2020 1:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Brien K. Ashdown1and Jana Hackathorn2 

    1Hobart & William Smith Colleges 

    2Murray State University 

    Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Brien K. Ashdown, PhD, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 300 Pulteney Street, Geneva, NY 14456; 

    As the American Psychological Association includes writing as a major undergraduate learning outcome (APA, 2013), meaning that teaching psychological writing skills is of the utmost importance. However, actually teaching students how to write can be pain-staking and tedious, for a wide variety of reasons. One notable reason is that students struggle to build cohesive arguments in their introductions or research proposals. Having students draw a metaphorical map of their own or a peer’s writing can help students focus on the importance of structure and flow when writing the introduction section of an empirical article. This activity could help students get one step closer to effective writing skills in methods courses.

    Teaching How to Write Can Be Frustrating

    The American Psychological Association (APA, 2013) includes writing as a major learning outcome in the undergraduate psychology education. As a result, teachers find this skill to be important and there are a plethora of how to guides and resources full of best practices (e.g., Giuliano, 2019; Ishak & Salter, 2016). Despite the professional guidance, many instructors find teaching students how to write strong papers of significant length is challenging, vexing, or even unenjoyable (Ishak & Salter, 2016). Teachers report myriad reasons for this struggle. For example, students with minimal writing experience tend to have an unrealistic beliefs about how much time and effort they will need to create a high quality piece of writing, often underestimating the required effort (Walvoord & McCarthy, 1990). Often, students confuse introduction sections with annotated bibliographies, and thus write in a way that lacks structure or a coherent argument. As a result, the flow of many students’ introduction sections or literature reviews are choppy and hard to follow (Baumeister & Leary, 1997). Add to this the significant amount of time and effort it takes for instructors to provide quality feedback (Ishak & Salter, 2016), and it’s no wonder that many instructors find the process of teaching students how to write fatiguing and frustrating.

    In our classrooms (and we assume in most of yours,) we tend to see a lot of student writing that contains introduction sections that are really nothing more than a series of strung-together independent paragraphs, each one providing a review of a different (hopefully) relevant article. It seems students believe that providing this list of article summations is sufficient to construct a coherent argument—yet any of us who have read this kind of writing know how painful these types of papers are to read and grade. Moreover, this type of writing tends to lack critical thinking which involves the evaluation and synthesis of their chosen literature, to create the actual underlying argument (Ishak & Salter, 2016).

    One frequently used tactic to help with this problem is peer assessment (see Ramon-Casas et al., 2018, for a review). Although there are some variations in how this works in each classroom, students generally exchange papers and then give each other feedback (Falchikov & Goldfinch, 2000; Guilford, 2001; Ramon-Casas et al., 2018; Venables & Summit, 2003). These kinds of activities typically happen in the classroom or as homework, but tend to be effective, especially for lower achieving students (Ramon-Casas et al., 2018). Importantly, to be effective, instructors need to provide specific instructions, such as rubrics, on how students should work to provide good feedback (Ramon-Casas et al., 2018). More specifically, instructors should tell students what they should look for (i.e., simply telling students to “read and provide feedback” isn’t enough!). We’ve found that this often does not solve the problem of a lack of flow and structure in introductions. After all, why would writers who don’t know how to do this effectively be able to help other writers in doing it?

    We’ve learned that by providing the students with a clear metaphor for the peer editing work they do increases the quality of the feedback they give their classmates. We call this metaphor Mapping a Thesis, and we tell students to envision their peer’s writing as a map that will move them from point to point. The key the success of this activity is having each student draw a literal map of their peer’s argument—which makes very clear quite quickly where the failures of structure and flow are lurking.

    Mapping a Thesis

    Before putting students into pairs to begin the peer workshop, we tell students to think about a popular tourist activity that many of them might have participated in at some point—a city walking tour. One of us teaches at a school in the Northeastern USA, and many students who come from that area have at some point participated in The Freedom Trail that is laid out through and around Boston, Massachusetts ( This particular walking tour is approximately 2.5 miles long, and takes participants on a loop that includes visits to more than a dozen historic sites (such as Boston Common, the site of the Boston Massacre, and Paul Revere’s house). Participating on The Freedom Trail is simple—you simply have to follow the red line that has been painted on the sidewalks. As we discuss The Freedom Trail (or a similar type of walking tour that students in your area might be more familiar with), we talk with students about how the point of the red line is to take tourists from one point of interest to the next in the most logical way possible.

    This is the point at which we shift from talking about city walking tours and tell students that the main points or topics of their papers are the points of interest in their own and their peers’ writing. Sometimes these main points are formatted section headings and subheadings, and sometimes they are not. We explain that often identifying and describing these points of interest is the easiest part of the writing an introduction section. The challenge is constructing the red line that will carry their readers from one point of interest (e.g., a main point or topic) to the next point of interest in a clear, logical, and meaningful way. Creating that red line, or in other words maintaining the flow and structure of their argument from one point to the next, is the challenge we ask them to focus on specifically in the peer workshop activity.

    After putting students into pairs during class and having them swap papers, we provide them with a blank piece of paper. We tell them to read their peer’s paper, marking it anyway that makes sense to them (e.g., typos, spelling, grammar, etc.). Then, after they have finished reading the entire paper, we tell them to draw a map, of their partner’s introduction section. Many students struggle a bit with this at first, but with some encouragement and prodding, they can get to the point of thinking about their peer’s paper as a map that carries them along from one point of interest to another until they arrive at the end (which we explain is the section that describes the project’s hypotheses). We tell students to indicate the points of interest or main topics in the paper, and then draw lines that show how the writer moved or meandered from one topic to the next. We also tell students to write notes along those connecting lines to highlight the ways that the writer made (or didn’t make) that transition in a clear and logical way.

    Once students begin, they often realize how frustrating it is to map an introduction that has no structure, flow, or coherent argument. Most of them can find and identify the points of interest, but quickly realize there is very little, if any, clear path to connect the very next point. This provides a fast lesson in the importance of making sure that their own writing has a clear structure and flow (which often requires a re-write to create).

    After students have finished reading and drawing their maps, they spend time in their pairs sharing and discussing the maps they made of each other’s work. The hope, of course is that this conversation is fruitful and respectful. In the end, the feedback should help the writer to think about how to re-design the paper to provide the flow and structure that is missing on both a macro and microlevel.

    Does It Work?

    Via a quick data collection process that could have been much more scientifically rigorous, we asked students in one of our writing-based classes to respond to a few questions about the Mapping a Thesis activity. The responses were anonymous and collected at the end of the same day as the activity. All of the students in the class reported that the activity was useful and helpful for them in understanding their peer’s paper. One said, “Breaking down the details helped me understand what the heck was going on” and another stated, “It helped me focus on their argument.”

    About two-thirds (62%) of them said that mapping their peer’s paper helped them understand how to better construct the flow and argument of their own paper. For example, one student claimed that “this exercise allows you to see if your paper flows nicely when read by others…what makes sense in your head could confuse others.” Another student said, “It makes me think about whether my own intro flows well. Whether I have properly elaborated on my areas of interest.”

    Finally, the vast majority of the students (92%) said that the drawing their peer did of their own paper was useful in improving the structure of their paper as they worked on the subsequent draft. One student stated: “It helped me to see my thoughts. Sometimes things I know in my head isn’t clear to everyone else and she was useful in seeing that.” And another student succinctly said: “As they are going into this blind, so if they don’t know what I mean, [then] I need to address this.”


    We still share the frustration that many instructors experience when attempting to teach students how to write well. Like many others, we often focus our time and attention on issues of grammar, syntax, APA formatting, and other writing mechanics because, to be blunt, that’s a lot easier to teach than how to structure a cohesive, logical, and flowing argument or synthesis of the literature. Getting our students to understand the necessity of creating such an argument is still difficult and at times infuriating, not only for us but the students, as well. However, we believe that the Mapping a Thesis activity has made our task a bit easier and made us more successful teachers of writing in the process. The flexibility inherent in the assignment has allowed us to use it in ways that best fits with our current goals (evaluations vs. synthesis), the level of the class we’re teaching (intro vs. methods), and at the time of the semester that makes the most sense for that particular course. In fact, it’s an activity that we ourselves have begun using in our own writing as a tool to ensure our arguments flow clearly and logically.


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