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

ECP Corner

This blog contains submissions from STP's Early Career Psychology (ECP) Committee to the ECP Corner column in STP News from January 2020 to the present.  The ECP Corner first appeared in the November 2016 issue of the newsletter, which was then called ToPNEWS-Online.  You can read ECP Corner columns from November 2016 through December 2019 in past issues of ToPNEWS-Online here.

Submit questions to ‘Ask an ECP’

For their monthly column, the ECP Committee wants to research and answer questions that mean the most to you. If you have a question, fill out this simple form and your question may be featured in an upcoming column.

  • 04 Feb 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECP Committee,

    As we enter the month of Valentine’s Day, I started thinking about how we promote a sense of connection between the students in our classes. What are some strategies we can use to help students feel comfortable with each other, gain a sense of belonging within our classrooms, and perhaps even help students develop new friendships amongst their peers? Any suggestions?

    -Looking for Connection

    Dear Looking for Connection,

     What a great question! Some of our best class experiences have been those in which students really connect with each other. Furthermore, past research suggests that when students feel connected and supported by their peers in the classroom, their motivation, classroom participation, and performance can all improve (e.g., Frisby & Martin, 2010, Zumbrunn, McKim, Buhs, & Hawley, 2014), especially for historically underrepresented or marginalized students (e.g., Murphy et al., 2020) . As an ancillary benefit, social connection is also crucial for students’ mental health, which was reportedly negatively impacted by the COVID-pandemic in 72% of college students surveyed from over 650 higher education counseling centers (Scofield & Locke, 2022), and can negatively affect students’ academic performance as well. So, as instructors, helping to facilitate student connection can really pay off in terms of setting our students up for success, both in and outside the classroom. Below, several of our committee members share some of their favorite techniques for developing a sense of connection within the classroom:

    Amanda: I have used an activity called “Finding Common Ground” which is a nice way for students to form connections in the classroom. In this activity, students get into pairs (or small groups depending on the size of your class) and have to find three things they have in common. The only rule is that they can’t use the fact that they are 1) all in my class, 2) psychology majors, or 3) students at my University. I generally prompt them to think about favorite foods and hobbies, but remind them that it can be anything. Afterwards, I have them report out loud to the rest of the class so they can learn more about each other and I allow time for them to comment on each group’s responses (e.g., “I like running too!”). 

    In my larger (350) student class, I have a few online discussion boards to help students get to know each other outside of the classroom. For instance, there is a “study buddy” discussion board that students can choose to interact with. Students have used this discussion board to not only find people with similar availability, but also to disclose how they’re feeling about current material and share tips and tricks for learning statistics. These discussion boards are supplemented with in-class group activities where they work together to work through problems and code. 

    Courtney: I have used the “Fast Friends” procedure (see Aron et al. (1997) and Chopik & Oh (2022)) in several courses when we have discussed topics such as self-disclosure or relationship foundations. This task basically has students take turns answering personal questions (that move beyond more typical small-talk questions)  as a way to get to know each other in a more meaningful way. Students tend to leave the activity feeling much closer to their discussion partner and there are some teaching lessons you can easily embed (e.g., talking about how the method has been used in past research). Although I have often used it to illustrate relevant course content–it would also make a great standalone ice-breaker activity!

    Pulling from prior work on “capitalization support” (or getting support in response to positive event disclosures), I have also had students take turns sharing personal good news with each other in a classroom section as a way to build a sense of connection (see Gosnell, 2020). Students are simply asked to share something good that happened to them since the last class with a partner or in a small group. It can be something big (“I got an internship!”) or something small (“I had a delicious new sandwich in the dining hall!”).  This task is an easy (and fairly quick) activity that students can do at the beginning of class–and it can pay off in terms of helping them feel connected and supported by their peers. 

    Finally, I use a lot of small group hand-on activities and demos throughout my classes. I sometimes have students work with those around them (to build relationships with those they have close proximity to). But, I also will intentionally mix things up and have students move around the room to get in new groups so that students slowly (but surely) get to know all of their classmates (and not just the one or two people they tend to sit next to). This helps them start to feel closer to the class as a whole.

    Dina: I have also used the “Fast Friends” procedure that Courtney described above with great success as well as a similar research-backed ice-breaker you can try for social connection that only takes 9 minutes: the Relationship Closeness Induction Task (RCIT). The RCIT is another structured self-disclosure procedure that entails students pairing up and taking turns answering a total of 29 questions that get more and more personal in three rounds of 3 minutes each. (Most students won’t actually get to all those questions, but encourage them to answer as many questions as they feel comfortable answering in the time allotted.) I have students do this activity when they are learning about relationships and/or social connection, so I also have them use the Inclusion of Other in the Self (IOS) Scale (Aron et al., 1992) before and after to see if their closeness actually increased and discuss their experience. Students consistently report really enjoying this activity and feeling closer to their discussion partner afterward, and often engage more in class discussion, too! 

    In addition, I have used the capitalization exercise Courtney described with great success to illustrate active-constructive responding and its benefits in my Positive Psychology courses, but I look forward to trying this in my other classes as well. Since the pandemic, I began starting each class with an ice-breaker, connection exercise or check-in to show students I care about them as humans and also prime students for quality sharing. I highly recommend doing so if possible because the few minutes you spend regularly facilitating student connection and belonging can pay huge dividends in their engagement, learning, and success. A ritual at the end of class, such as “Exit Tickets” to assess and improve student learning, can also boost connection and a sense of community.  You may find this Padlet of resources on facilitating social connection online that I created for a past STP talk on that topic (you can also feel free to add to it with a free account :) helpful when teaching in person, too: www. 

    Finally, my courses usually entail regular group work, but in courses that don’t or in large classes where it may not be feasible to check-in with all your students regularly, it may be helpful to put students into “support pods” and have them (or assigned group leader) report back to you regularly on their progress.

    Vishal: One activity that I have used is the traditional game Two Truths and a Lie on the first day of class. Along with their statements, students are also asked to say one thing they are excited/worried about in this class and what their impression of the class is based on the syllabus. For example, for General Psychology, I often ask what they think psychologists study, since most don’t have a true understanding on day one. In upper level classes (e.g., cognitive psychology), I may ask what they think is the biggest factor that influences memory or how they think students remember more material from class. These types of discussion questions help students, especially in small class sizes, find common ground and understand that everyone is in this class together. I think it also creates a stronger learning environment from the first day of class.


    Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363-377.

    Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale (IOS) [Database record]. APA PsycTests.

    Chopik, W. J., & Oh, J. (2022). Implementing the Fast Friends Procedure to Build Camaraderie in a Remote Synchronous Teaching Setting. Teaching of Psychology, 0(0).

    Frisby, B. N., & Martin, M. M. (2010). Instructor–student and student–student rapport in the classroom. Communication Education, 59(2), 146-164.

    Gosnell, C. L. (2020). Receiving quality positive event support from peers may enhance student connection and the learning environment. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 6(4), 342.

    Murphy, M.C, Gopalan, M,. Carter, E.R, Emerson, K.T.U, Bottoms, B.L., Walton, G.M. (2020).  A customized belonging intervention improves retention of socially disadvantaged students at a broad-access university. Science Advances, 6(29). 

    Zumbrunn, S., McKim, C., Buhs, E., & Hawley, L. R. (2014). Support, belonging, motivation, and engagement in the college classroom: A mixed method study. Instructional Science, 42(5), 661-684.

    Ask an ECP!

    For our monthly column, we want to research and answer questions that mean the most to you.  If you have a question, chances are you are not the only one!  Email your questions to and your question may be featured in an upcoming column.


    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 03 Jan 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Welcome to 2023! Your ECP Committee is excited to kick off a brand new year. In 2023, we are hoping to continue to provide opportunities for early career teachers of psychology to network and receive support from their peers and other colleagues within the larger STP organization. In addition, we hope to provide useful teaching resources and tips along the way! To that end, we know many of you may be thinking about upcoming Spring classes–whether it be prepping a class for the first time or trying to think about re-vamping a class that you will be teaching again. Below are some quick tips or beloved favorite teaching techniques and tools from our own ECP Committee!

    Amanda: Think-pair-share is a technique that I use in all of my courses (big and small). For larger classes, I ask students to consider a question alone (e.g. “Does falling on ice cause hot chocolate sales to increase?”) and report it with polling software like Vishal mentioned. Then, students talk in pairs or small groups about why they chose the answer they did. Finally, students share how their thought process has changed and their final answer, either through polling software or out loud. This has been a great way to identify common misconceptions my students have as well as to help me figure out any sticking points in my larger classes.

    In terms of course design, I enjoy using backward course design and group projects. Backward course design involves thinking of your course goals first, designing assessments that evaluate these goals, and then designing lessons. This has helped me be more intentional with my courses, and make sure that students learn the important information. In addition, scaffolding semester long group projects has provided a way for me to provide students with some autonomy in their learning. It’s fun to see how they think to apply the material we cover and to learn more about the topics they find interesting!

    Courtney: I really love having students use an online social annotation tool called Perusall ( I have found that it is a great way to keep students engaged in the reading and I am able to use some of the examples, questions, and comments they generate to spark class discussions. Plus, Perusall will grade student engagement with the platform for you–saving you some time! In terms of re-vamping classes, I also highly recommend checking out the STP Facebook page. This has been so helpful for me if I get stuck on trying to think of new activities or demonstrations for a particular lesson! You can search past discussions and if someone hasn’t asked about it yet–add yours in!

    Dina: I share Courtney’s love for Perusall and my students seem to really like it, too. I recommend having students annotate the Syllabus as their first assignment in Perusall. It’s a great way to ensure students read the Syllabus (an effective alternative to a Syllabus Quiz) and answer any questions they have so you can focus more on course content in class.

    Vishal: When I was in graduate school, a faculty member introduced me to Poll Everywhere, and I use it in every class now! It is free (for classes under 40 or so students) and allows instructors to ask anonymous, ungraded check-in questions for students to answer. After students answer, I can display results so everyone can see what their peers thought. This provides a good chance for discussion about the question as well as something for me to think about if most of the class got a question wrong or seemed to misunderstand. Students consistently write in evaluations that this exercise makes them feel more comfortable and less stressed, so I use it every semester now!

    Looking for other ideas? Don’t forget you can still access online content from the 2022 STP conference here. This can be a great way to get even more great ideas for your classes and help you feel recharged heading into your Spring (or winter) terms! Wishing you all a great new year!

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee:

    Dina Gohar, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D

    Vishal Thakkar, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 10 Dec 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As the year winds down, we are happy to share that the ECP has some exciting announcements! In this newsletter we get to recognize outstanding ACT ECP posters, announce that Courtney Gosnell will take on the role of ECP committee chair, and say goodbye to two of our cherished members. We’ll also take a moment to briefly describe what we hope to accomplish in the coming year, so look out for some exciting things happening in the coming months!

    ECP Poster Awards @ ACT 2022

    Each year, the ECP committee gets the chance to read and review all ACT posters where the first author is an ECP. This year, for the first time ever, we got to review posters for both in person and online formats. There were so many wonderful posters that it was a challenge to narrow them down to just three! Here are the top three 2022 ECP ACT poster prizes, all of which are available online for ACT 2022 registrants:

    ·         1st Place: Megan Ringel - Flipping the Introductory Statistics Classroom: Benefits and Challenges Observed in the First Year

    ·         2nd Place: Shaina Rowell - Integrating Information Literacy in a Developmental Psychology Course (co-author: Melissa Vetter)

    ·         3rd Place (pictured): Shana Southard Dobbs - The Impact of Syllabus Statements of Support and Allyship on Student Perceptions of Instructor and Course (co-author: Tess Gemberling)

    Welcome to Incoming Chair

    We are excited to announce that Courtney Gosnell will be the 2023 ECP Committee chair! Courtney has been on the ECP committee for two years and throughout her time, her main role has focused on planning the ECP speed mentoring event at STP’s Annual Conference on Teaching. She’s excited to spend her last year on the committee getting to know the new members and supporting the committee’s mission to serve ECPs.

    Saying Goodbye

    In addition to welcoming our newest members and chair, we must also say goodbye to our outgoing members: Janet Peters & Albee Mendoza. Janet has been on the committee since 2019 and served as chair this past year. She considers serving on the ECP as the most personally and professionally rewarding experience to date. Albee joined the committee in 2020 and after her term concludes, she hopes to carry on her legacy of service to STP by participating in other task forces and committees.

    What’s in store for 2023

    From mentoring to ACT 2023 in Portland, we are planning several opportunities for ECPs to engage in networking and development. And we invite you to be part of the process! What would you like to see from your ECP committee? What workshops, trainings, programs, or resources can we provide to help facilitate your personal and professional success? If you have an idea, email us at:

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee,

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 04 Nov 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear STP ECP Committee,

    I missed the Annual Conference on Teaching this year but I would love to hear more about it and know if it’s possible to access any of the posters or presentations that I missed? 

    Please inform,

    Missed Out

    Dear Missed Out,

    Have no fear! Although the conference is over, a lot of programming is still available to you online! And, if you are in the middle of midterms and grading, the good news is you can continue to view all of the content until October of 2023 so feel free to put this on your winter break or even summer to-do list! If you didn’t register for the conference you’ll need to do that to access the online content so register here. Online registration is only $25 for STP members (or $50 for non-members but includes STP membership). For ECPs that attended the conference in person, note that you get free access to the online program as part of your registration (so check your email for the conference link!). 

    Those who register can browse all of the programming on the conference website. In particular, you can find 

    • On-site recordings of some of the in-person conference presentations

    • Resource folders for many of the presentations and posters (both online and in-person)

    • On-demand virtual posters

    • On-demand virtual presentations

    Your ECP Committee was busy providing a variety of programming and networking opportunities for ECPs at the conference! At the in-person conference we hosted an ECP dinner, social, and a speed mentoring event (which allowed ECPs to get advice from 6 of our 13 mentors representing diverse perspectives and career stages). We also ran a workshop titled, “Learn It, Share It, Plan It, Bring It: Building an Innovative Teaching Toolkit for ECPs.” If you missed this workshop, fear not! You can find a copy of our presentation, a list of resources, and a worksheet for thinking through these strategies on the conference webpage!

    JOIN US!

    If learning more about the conference or viewing the materials has you feeling inspired to join us next year, mark your calendars now for our next ACT conference which will be held in Portland, Oregon October 5th-7th, 2023. If you are an ECP looking to get more involved in STP, consider applying to join the ECP committee! This is a great opportunity to really get to know people within the STP organization and serve your colleagues by providing resources and programming geared towards ECPs. Applications are due November 16th! See additional details below.

    We can’t wait to connect with you all at next year’s ACT in Portland! Until then, we will be busy digesting all of these great resources online!


    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 05 Oct 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECP Committee,

    I will be attending the STP Conference in-person for the first time this year. I’ve been to ACT virtually, but I don’t know what to expect from the face-to-face format. Do you have any advice on how an ECP should spend her time?

    -Conference Rookie

    Dear Conference Rookie,

    What a timely question! The ACT program this year is fantastic, so make sure you explore the full schedule. However, here are a few activities that we would recommend for a first time ECP attendee (or any ECP!).


    Socialize at the Opening Night ACT Welcome Reception

    ·        Thursday from 5:00-6:30 pm in the Omni William Penn Hotel (Three Rivers Room on the William Penn level)

    ·        This is a great opportunity to network with colleagues and other conference attendees. All are welcome! And if you don’t know anyone, come find us and introduce yourself!


    Visit the ECP table

    ·        Chat with your ECP committee members, sign-up to have dinner with fellow ECPs, and get some ECP swag!

    ·        We are looking for two new ECP committee members! If you want to join the committee, feel free to stop by and ask questions!

    Interact with colleagues at the Poster Session

    ·        Friday 4:30-6:00 pm in the Sternwheeler and Riverboat rooms (William Penn Level)

    ·        Many of your fellow ECPs will present their research at this time - a great way to meet colleagues and see some of the latest SoTL research!

    ·        There will be prizes for exceptional ECP posters: First Prize $250, Second Prize $150, Third Prize $100 (this includes the virtual poster session, as well)

    Sign-up for dinner with members of the ECP committee

    ·        Friday from 6:30-8:30 pm at The Yard

    ·        Learn about opportunities with the ECP committee and connect with other ECPs in a casual setting

    ·        Appetizers for each table are on us! Space is limited (20 people), so make sure to sign up at the registration table starting Friday morning.


    Attend the professional development workshop presented by your ECP committee:

    ·        Learn It, Share It, Plan It, Bring It: Building an Innovative Teaching Toolkit for ECPs from 8:30-10:30 am in the Carnegie III room (Conference Floor)

    Participate in the ECP Speed Mentoring Event

    ·        This is completely FREE and takes place 5:30 - 7:30 pm in the Frick Room (Conference Level). Connect with mentors in the field!

    ·        You will have the option to continue the conversation over appetizers and drinks at the ECP Social Hour afterward.

    ·        Interested? We are still accepting registration for mentees! Register here

    Join us for the ECP Social Hour

    ·        Meet up with us for one last ECP get together at Forbe’s Tavern from 8-10pm. The ECP committee will provide appetizers, drinks, and excellent company.

    Whatever ACT events you choose, we are confident you will have many opportunities for professional development and networking. We look forward to seeing you at these activities and other scheduled events. Feel free to come say hi to any of us at any time during the conference. We’d love to meet you!

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 01 Sep 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ECP Member Spotlight: Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    What is an ECP?

    An ECP is a faculty member who is within ten years of starting their career. I am starting my 6th year of full-time teaching, and I believe regardless of the length of time someones been teaching, there are always new things to learn and ways to evolve as an instructor.

    How did you get involved in STP?

    I joined STP when I was a graduate teaching assistant. I loved teaching and quickly realized that I wanted it to be my focus after graduation. I had a friend who had been to the National Institute of Teaching in Psychology, so I began looking for other teaching focused opportunities at conferences and online. 

    What is a challenge you faced as an ECP?

    A challenge I faced as an ECP was learning how to say no to something. I enjoy being a part of different groups on campus and teaching a lot of classes, but these can’t be done at the same time. Every committee takes time away from teaching so striking a balance between serving the university in some way and focusing on teaching is so important to be able to do. I also think that as an ECP it's intimidating to say no to something on the chance that it might be something that helps your tenure application (if you are tenure track). I don’t think I necessarily have this figured out yet.

    What does being an ECP in STP mean to you?

    Being an ECP in STP means that I have opportunities to connect with other ECPs. This opens so many doors to talk with others who are going through similar situations or asking similar questions. 

    What advice would you give to newer ECPs?

    It’s okay to change your mind. Whether it’s about a job you thought you wanted, a committee you joined, a class you designed, or a writing group you joined. If you assess your goals and your capacity and something no longer serves you, you don’t owe people your time and energy. Should you be respectful and courteous to others if changing your mind impacts them, yes; and there’s a lot of different ways to do this depending on what it is. Be willing to adapt and evolve as you go through life and career! 

    What is an interesting fact about you?

    I have spent two summers coaching in our local soccer kids program. After playing youth soccer as a kid, I wanted to provide the experience to others. Even though I have worked with 6/7 year olds, I apply some of the things I’ve learned as a teacher to help manage a team and teach skills! 

    What is next after being an ECP?

    I hope to continue to be involved in STP as part of different committees and perhaps in different leadership roles. There are so many opportunities to serve and the Get Involved page on the website is updated regularly. 

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.

  • 01 Aug 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ECP Member Spotlight: Albee Mendoza

    What is an ECP?

    An ECP is a faculty member who is within ten years of starting their career. I am in my 7th year of full-time teaching, and I believe I still have so much to learn about being an effective teacher of psychology.

    How did you get involved in STP?

    I joined STP when I was a graduate teaching assistant. I did not know where to start in terms of course preparation. When I discovered the Project Syllabus page on STP website, I voraciously looked through different syllabi to get ideas on readings, assignments, and activities.

    What is a challenge you faced as an ECP?

    As an ethnic minority woman, I was looking for ways to incorporate issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity in my courses. In my institution, I had senior colleagues who dissuaded me from following through on ideas (e.g., partnering with local agencies to include service learning activities, having community/student leaders be guest speakers, publishing works with undergraduate authors). I had to find avenues and find advocates to support me, which took trust and time.

    What does being an ECP in STP mean to you?

    In terms of my own involvement in STP, I believe junior faculty need to have a voice when it comes to issues of professional development, work/life balance, and teaching effectiveness. In my time in STP overall, I volunteered on several committees including the Partnerships Small Grants Committee, Teaching Awards Committee, and am currently on the ECP Committee. As part of the STP ECP Committee, I have met amazing colleagues from all over the world, written newsletters for our column, and presented workshops at ACT. I also contribute to the ECP Corner Blog and the ECP page on the STP website. My greatest achievement so far in this committee is being in an APA panel with ECPs from Division 16 and Division 33. That opportunity paved the way for collaborative presentations in future APA conventions!

    What advice would you give to newer ECPs?

    It certainly gets overwhelming being new to an institution, learning the culture, knowing who to trust all while preparing courses that are engaging, especially in light of the pandemic and rising gas prices. In terms of teaching, my main pieces of advice would be to segment lectures into increments and end those increments with review questions or an activity. Another would be to incorporate visualization tools as much as possible to support learning of material (e.g., timelines, flow charts, Venn diagrams). In terms of navigating the cultural landscape, I would advise newer ECPs to find a support network within your institution of like-minded individuals and work collaboratively to implement goals (e.g., participating in new employee orientation events, attending Happy Hour held by the Center for Teaching and Learning in your institution, being involved in learning management system workshops). I would also recommend participating in mentoring programs in your institution and/or at STP to engage in deep conversations about imposter syndrome, professional identity, and self-care. The Mentoring Services page on the STP website was a wonderful resource for me.

    What is an interesting fact about you?

    I play the Island Princess as part of Pursuit for Peace, a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers who dress up as fairytale characters to spread joy and magic to medically vulnerable children. Notably, I include my involvement in this organization in my annual evaluation as part of service.

    What is next after being an ECP?

    I hope to continue to be involved in STP as part of different committees and perhaps in different leadership roles. There are so many opportunities to serve and the Get Involved page on the website is updated regularly.

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

  • 10 May 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hello STP ECP Committee!

    As an ECP, I am often asked to teach summer classes. I agree to teach these classes due to the motivation of boosting my teaching skills as well as enhancing my portfolio. With less traffic on campus and with the onset of warmer temperatures, what are some ideas to make summer classes more interesting and engaging?

    Looking for Sum-mer (some more, get it?!) Activities

    Thank you so much for your question! Being an ECP, I (Albee) taught summer classes for some of the reasons that you outlined as well as my own ambition of doing something different in my teaching practices (since the classes are longer in duration, are on an accelerated schedule, and there are often less students enrolled). Taking advantage of the weather that summer brings, I incorporated nature-based activities in my in-person as well as online classes.

    Benefits of nature

    Research consistently demonstrates that there are cognitive, physiological, and emotional benefits to being in green spaces and blue spaces (Clay, 2001). For those of us who wear masks indoors during class time, going outside may be a way to see our students’ faces as well as breathe in fresh air. Nature therapy or ecotherapy is a growing field within clinical and mental health counseling, emphasizing the need for physical movement and exposure to multisensory experiences (Fisher, 2021). The effects on mood, attention, and self-reflection apply even with just images of nature (Weir, 2020). Thus, as teachers of psychology (TOPs), we can incorporate nature-based activities in our in-person classes as well as our online classes.

    Impact on instructors

    For TOPs, on our end, it may take a little more time and planning since we will not be able to have our slides or a chalkboard accessible (unless you are fortunate enough to utilize an outdoor classroom!). However, these outdoor activities, if done early enough in the semester, sets up the course for active learning in which students (vs. instructors) find and then evaluate information (Butler et al., 2001). Active learning can include a range of activities, such as small group learning simulations, and skills on learning how to learn. For example, in my Introduction to Psychology course, students completed readings and videos on the lobes of the brain in preparation for a certain class. We meet outside in the nearby parking lot, which is surrounded by grass, trees, and shrubs, and I ask them to get with their Psych Pals groups to discuss the concepts they read about. Then, I ask each group to draw their own cerebral cortex (large enough to stand in) with the four lobes on the ground with chalk. We then review concepts based on their preparation (e.g., “Stand on the lobe of the brain that directs speech production). We complete this activity with chalk in classes centering on a variety of concepts (e.g., the parts of the neuron, the process of synaptic transmission, the inner structures of the brain, operant conditioning principles, etc.).

    Impact on personal and professional experiences (from actual students)

    ·        I incorporated more nature-focused activities to my daily life by doing my homework or studying outside more and going to the park for walks more often.

    ·        I started a daily journal and while I write, I sit next to a plant and breathe in the natural scent.

    ·        I started planting herbs and helping my parents with their garden. One major thing that we are doing as a family is planting trees at our local park.

    ·        I am walking more, meaning walk to all my classes now instead of driving.

    ·        For Spring Break, I did more outdoor activities: going for hikes, going in the backyard, and laying a blanket, taking walks around the neighborhood, and riding bikes near wooded/forest areas.

    Ideas for nature-based activities

    ·        Reserving your institution’s outdoor classroom to hold a full or a part of a class session

    ·        Having class outdoors (the frequency can vary depending on class needs) and if virtual, instruct students to be outside and show their screens and/or utilize outdoor backgrounds (e.g., beach, forest)

    ·        Taking a class picture of everyone being outdoors

    ·        Walking around campus or their local neighborhood (if online) and finding sit spots in green or blue spaces to talk with classmates, do schoolwork, or read articles

    ·        Completing a class field trip to get out of the classroom and engage with nature (e.g., visiting an organization specializing in equine therapy)

    ·        Doing a scavenger hunt or Bingo based on class concepts around campus or their neighborhood (e.g., take a picture of an item used by an individual in the early childhood developmental period)

    ·        Conduct a brief research study by having students take a pre-test on stress or concentration or memory, hold class outdoors in nature, and then take a post-test and discuss the results

    ·        Incorporate walk-talk sessions at the beginning or end of class. For example, in a 15-minute walk as a class, partners could be assigned, and discussion questions prepared so the students are engaged when walking

    ·        Having a game day and asking students to demonstrate actions (e.g., fine motor skills vs. gross motor skills) and relate them to concepts learned in class

    ·        Drawing hopscotch squares with A, B, C, or D choices and having students step on the square that corresponds to their answer

    ·        Drawing a line and writing True on one side and False on the other side and having students step quickly to the side that corresponds to their answer

    The above list of nature-based activities may need more thought and consideration depending on how hot or cold temperatures can get in the summer months where you teach, how many students are enrolled in your classes, whether you and/or your students need physical accommodations, etc. What do you think about these ideas? How might you incorporate these activities in your future classes? We would love to hear any nature-based teaching activities that have worked well for you and your students!


    Butler, A., Phillmann, K. B., & Smart, L. (2001). Active learning within a lecture: Assessing the impact of short, in-class writing exercises. Teaching of Psychology, 28, 257–259.

    Clay, R. (April 2001). Green in good for you. American Psychological Association, Retrieved from

    Fisher, C. (Winter 2021). Nature therapy: Movement and mental health for kids. Eye on Psi Chi, Retrieved from

    Weir, K. (April 2020). Nurtured by nature. American Psychological Association, Retrieved from

  • 10 Apr 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Planning for the Summer Months

    Dear ECPs,

    Although our university just had Spring Break last month, many of us (educators) are already starting to talk about our plans for the summer. With a 9-month position, how do you plan your summer to balance prep work and personal time?


    Summer Planner

    Dear Summer Planner,

    What a fantastic question! We don’t blame you for already thinking ahead to your summer plans. Given that much of our academic work is compressed into a 9-month timeline, we agree that thinking a “semester ahead” can help us plan for productive and restorative summers. The following ideas might help you organize your plans for the summer.

    Relax and Restore (Self-Care)

    You’ve been teaching during an on-going pandemic where student mental health issues are substantial, you might be juggling increased family/personal demands, and you’ve been asked to take on more responsibilities as an ECP. We wanted to start this column with an essential recommendation for the summer – Take Care of Yourself.

    • ·        Some research suggests that early career faculty might be at a higher risk for burnout when compared with middle and late career faculty (Blix et al., 1994; Gonzalez & Bernard, 2006). Consequently, it seems imperative that we (ECPs) check-in on our own well-being and the well-being of our ECP colleagues. There are a number of articles and books containing self-care tips. However, here are some of our favorite (and often forgotten) suggestions:

    ·        Schedule and guard your self-care time during the summer. This is your opportunity to decompress and reconnect with your interests or hobbies. If you are asked to serve on a student thesis or service committee over the summer, ask yourself: Does this opportunity align with my professional goals? Does this opportunity impede on my self-care time?

    ·        Reconnect with your family and friends. Does anyone else feel like they’ve lost touch with family or friends during the pandemic? Reschedule those monthly “lunch dates'' with a friend or send a quick social media message to a family member.

    ·        Take care of your physical needs. You should catch-up on sleep, engage in nutritious meal planning, and/or start a new exercise routine in the warm weather. Summer schedules often allow for more flexibility in starting or stopping our healthy/unhealthy habits.

    Teaching Prep

    Like many of us, you likely have an overflowing desktop folder with innovative teaching activities and course ideas that you have not yet been able to implement. If you don’t already have one of these folders, consider checking out some of the recent resources from STP:

    ·        Teaching Tips: A Compendium of Conference Presentations on Teaching (2020-2021)

    ·        Teaching Psychology Online

    ·        Psychological Myths, Mistruths, and Misconceptions

    ·        E-xcellence in Teaching essays

    ·        APA’s Introductory Psychology Initiative

    The summer gives us ample time to revise and revamp our regular courses. For example, I (Christina) am really excited to be overhauling my Introductory Psychology course based on some of the new Introductory Psychology Initiative recommendations. If you have one of these folders, schedule some of your summertime to re-introduce yourself to the fun course ideas that you’ve gathered.

    Catch up on Research

    Do you also have a folder of research that you’ve been intending to read through? You might allocate some of your summertime for a review of recent research publications. If you have a stack of unread Teaching of Psychology or Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology publications, take a few days to indulge in contemporary research that can inform your teaching.

    Are you hoping to contribute to the research in our field? Or perhaps you have a new teaching idea that hasn’t yet been represented in the current research? Some of your summer schedule might include preparation of a new SoTL study for implementation in the Fall. I (Christina) often find that the summer gives me enough time to dig into some of the prior literature on a topic, brainstorm a new SoTL study, and then prepare my IRB materials for a Fall submission. This allows me to conduct my research in the early Fall or prepare for a Spring semester data collection period.

    Plan for Academic Year Service

    Some of the best advice that I (Christina) ever received about service was: Choose service commitments that you are excited about. To effectively use this advice, I often need to take inventory of my current commitments to assess whether these activities still align with my professional goals. I also make a list of potential service positions for the upcoming academic year, ensuring that I don’t “miss out” on an upcoming call for a rare editorial position, APA committee, or STP committee position. Your summer schedule may give you time to start thinking ahead for these service roles.

    Many of us look forward to our summer off-season as a time to self-reflect, catch-up, and take a much needed breath after a busy semester. We strongly encourage you to take care of yourself (first) before you consider tackling some of your neglected academic to-do lists. Once you’re feeling refreshed, you can start preparing for the next academic year.

    Ask an ECP! Submit a question for a future column.

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Christina Shane-Simpson, M.S.W., Ph.D.

  • 10 Mar 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear ECPs,

    I have been hearing more and more about the use of OER textbooks and resources –but what does that really mean and why might I want to look into these?


    OER Investigator

    Dear OER Investigator, 

    OER stands for “Open Educational Resource” and refers to freely available educational materials that typically do not carry traditional copyright constraints so they can be shared, modified, and used freely. OER resources are growing in popularity as a way to ensure education is open and available to all. 

    Benefits of Using OER Resources: 

    There are several benefits of using OER resources. For one, they are free to students! Beyond saving your students some money, they can also ensure every student in your class has access to course materials. Students often avoid buying textbooks as a way to save money or just because they simply can’t afford them. By utilizing OER resources, that potential barrier is removed. Because OER resources are free and easy to adapt, they can also provide instructors with a lot of flexibility to mix and match different readings or materials. Our students would likely revolt if we asked them to pay for 3 or 4 textbooks just so they could get the “best” coverage from each of them. But, if materials are free, it’s easy to pick and choose the best source for coverage of a particular topic. In addition, instructors can write in their own material or edit materials to fit their course goals, providing customization that we often don’t see with traditional textbooks.

    Resources for Getting Started: 

    If you are interested in looking into OER, where do you start? Note that there are a wide variety of resources out there and some have been more heavily reviewed and used than others. These resources can help you get started:

    *OER Commons: This website lets you search for OER content in a variety of areas and includes both lower-level and upper-level psychology course content. You can also read reviews of the various OER materials (or leave a review of your own!) and get basic information about the material (including any copyright restraints). In addition, their tool “Open Author” provides a mechanism by which you could begin creating your own OER materials.

    *NOBA: NOBA offers Psychology-specific OER textbooks (including ones focused on Introductory Psychology and Social Psychology). In addition, they have a variety of modules that could be mixed together to customize your course or support other course topics in Psychology. They also offer some instructor resources (powerpoint slides, test banks, etc.)  to help support your teaching.

    *OpenStax: Openstax was developed by Rice University and they offer textbooks in a variety of fields (including Psychology). Their current Psychology offering is Psychology 2e which is primarily designed as an Introduction to Psychology textbook. OpenStax also offers instructor resources and gives students the option to purchase a low-cost print textbook if they prefer holding a book over the online format.

    *Rajiv Jhangiani’s Psychology OER Resource Links: Although OER is increasing in popularity, it has been around longer than you might think! In fact, Rajiv Jhangiani presented on OER at the 2014 STP Annual Conference on Teaching and provided a list of links to help Psychology instructors get started with OER. This list of resources includes not only links to popular OER textbook resources but also a variety of OER resources and tools (including videos, demonstrations, interactive online material, etc.). In addition, he has shared a video overview of OER resources in Psychology that he posted in 2018 which provides specific suggestions for content based on the areas of Psychology that you teach.

    To Go OER or Not?: 

    Picking course materials can always be a challenge when designing a new course (or when re-vamping an existing course). OER resources offer an accessible option that can be investigated and compared alongside traditional textbooks as you make the decision about what is best for your course and for your students. Keep in mind your course goals and examine if you can find high-quality OER materials that speak to those course goals and cover the content that you need. With OER, even if there isn’t a “perfect” resource, you might be able to mix and match a few resources to provide your students with the coverage they need. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t see an OER option that fits your class now, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t design your own OER resource in the future and share it with your fellow STP members!

    Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

    Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.

    Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

    Janet Peters, Ph.D.

    Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.

    Christina Shane-Simpson, M.S.W., Ph.D.

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