GSTA Corner

This blog contains submissions from STP's Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) to the GSTA Corner column in STP News from January 2020 to the present.  The GSTA Corner first appeared in the April 2016 issue of the newsletter, which was then called ToPNEWS-Online.  You can read GSTA Corner columns from April 2016 through December 2019 in past issues of ToPNEWS-Online here.

For regular updates on GSTA activities, follow us on Twitter (@gradsteachpsych) and Facebook (groups/theGSTA), join the GSTA Listserv, check out our Blog and past entries for the GSTA Corner, or write to us at gsta@teachpsych.org.

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

    Lend a helping hand? GSTA Goals for 2023.

    Submitted by Skye Mendes, GSTA Chair

    GSTA closed our 2022 Corners by reflecting on high points in teaching and sharing our gratitude, with several steering committee members mentioning how mentors have made their teaching experiences so special. The generosity of spirit amongst teachers is robust, particularly within STP. The collaborative nature of our community leads GSTA to kick off 2023 by sharing our goals and the ways STP News readers (most of whom are not graduate students!) are uniquely positioned to help us accomplish them.

    GOAL 1: Continue to connect teaching-interested graduate students with one another.

    Lend a helping hand?

    If you teach at a university, share information about STP and GSTA with the relevant graduate programs at your school! Have graduate TAs at your institution? Suggest STP/GSTA be mentioned during any TA training events! Graduate students often hear about societies to join based on their research interests but might not realize they have a home in Division 2 regardless of SoTL experience! There are commonly financial concerns that make graduate students wonder whether the costs of memberships are worth the benefit; we want to shout from the rooftops that joining STP at the reduced graduate student rate is only $15 for the year and it is not necessary to hold broader membership in APA to do so. In terms of value, membership provides access to all the benefits you know and love! (In my experience, I find the posts in the STP Facebook group in one day alone are often wisdom worth $15!) Those who join STP as a graduate student automatically become members of GSTA, and we’re excited to see that membership grow.

    GOAL 2: Facilitate professional development opportunities targeted to GSTA members.

    Lend a helping hand?

    As our 2023 Steering Committee convenes, we’ll be finalizing the various formats our professional development opportunities will take, but one thing we know for certain is there is a crowd with vast collective expertise reading this today. Have a favorite teacher-training activity or demo in your back pocket that you’d be willing to repurpose and deliver to graduate TAs over Zoom? Let us know! Recently go through the process to land your first full-time position and live to tell the tale feel ready to share what you learned on a panel? Drop us a line! Serve on search committees and want to tell GSTA members how to stand out or what pitfalls to avoid? Can’t wait to hear from you! Been collecting nuggets of wisdom throughout your career and are willing to be interviewed in a written Q&A to be published as a future GSTA corner? Give us a shout! As our GSTA steering committee plans, it will be helpful to know who might have space on their plate to help out. If you are interested in any of the above or another idea or recommendation, please send a note to the new GSTA Chair (Skye Mendes) at gsta@teachpsych.org.

    GOAL 3: Plan for sustainable GSTA steering committees.

    Lend a helping hand?

    Consider forwarding the email calling for GSTA steering committee members that likely arrived to an inbox near you from the STP Listserv just a few days ago, Tweet a direct link to the application, re-tweet our own call from @stp_gsta, or contact us (gsta@teachpsych.org) if you’d like a copy of the call. We look forward to reviewing applications after the 2/1 deadline and welcoming new committee members who will have quick paths to further leadership (e.g., a new member will transition to the Associate Chair role when our current Associate Chair graduates, midway through 2023). This plan aims to increase continuity and momentum on future projects, something that has been challenging with GSTA’s relatively brief terms in comparison to other STP committees. Sharing our call for members widely also helps with Goal 1 since it puts GSTA on the radar of future members, even if they don’t wish to serve in a leadership capacity.

    Thank you for your time and consideration of how you can support STP’s graduate student members. We wish a wonderful year ahead to all in the STP community!

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

    This month’s corner is meant to address the many experiences we as graduate students have had over the past calendar year, and to highlight what we have been thankful for as we continue to grow as instructors.

    Authors: William Ridgway, Madeline Bruce, Skyler Mendes, Jackson Pelzner, and Morgan Franklin

    William: Similar to each year as a doctoral student, there is much that takes place. This past year is no exception. From working with an amazing team of GSTA graduate students, to the development of forensic-based courses, to meeting with fellow instructors at STP’s 2022 annual conference, this year has certainly provided me with many joyful memories. Prior to serving as GSTA Chair, I have always had a love for teaching. I suppose in many ways, my time spent lecturing came naturally; however, I owe much of my foundation to my teaching mentor, Wayne Weiten. I will always be thankful for the time spent learning from him, and the opportunities I have and continue to be provided. In fact, as I reflect on the last year, I am perhaps reminded most of the influence we as instructors have. The extent to which we commit ourselves to teaching and mentoring plays a notable role in the lives of our students. Our presence and how we show up for our students can go on to change the very course of their academic journey. Given that graduate programs can lack an emphasis on the importance of teaching, it’s crucial that anyone who ever takes on the position of an instructor, ensures that they do everything they can to be prepared and to make a positive impact. Overall, this year and my experiences both in the classroom, and outside of it, will be remembered fondly.

    Mads: The past year was notable, both personally and professionally. My partner and I moved 800 miles to Houston, TX for my internship year, which is the last year of a clinical doctoral program! Teaching is unfortunately not a part of my duties right now, but through the year, memories and future ideas for teaching have kept me grounded. As it is my last year as a student, I’ve tried to dive into topics and roles where I have little to no experience, and sometimes, I’ve gotten a lot of water in my nose. Sometimes things are smooth, and sometimes, it feels like a tsunami. And during a particularly turbulent week, what kept me afloat was a phone call from my mentor. Swimming and other water-based metaphors aside, I am grateful to have been taught by thoughtful teachers and to enter this field to do the same, because through each hardship, I’ve found myself asking, “What if a student came to me with this situation?” I find I’m perhaps my best self when I think about what I would do if I were to teach about what I’m encountering. A thoughtful, compassionate voice often comes through with some empowering advice. I’m grateful for teaching and learning. Cheers to more lessons in 2023!

    Skye: I find myself reflecting this year on my gratitude for mentorship. For the faculty reading, please know how much of an impact you have when you help graduate students (or others in your sphere of influence) pursue their interests in teaching. As GSTA members, many of us are in PhD programs built on mentorship models in research training but few (if any) formal structures for mentorship in teaching. I have learned a great deal this year from my informal group of teaching mentors who show up like a loyal Avengers team around me whenever I send up even the smallest flare seeking guidance. They have served as my biggest cheerleaders and sagacious sounding boards throughout 2022 while I taught two new courses. I am deeply thankful to have them in my corner, from navigating the (thankfully quite rare and small) challenges along the way while teaching those courses, to helping me make major decisions about my next teaching employment while I embark on 2023 and the final year of my program in nonresidence. I would also like to name and thank several of these people. I feel deep gratitude for the connections I have with two of the teaching faculty at my University, Carolyn Cavanaugh Toft and Christina Pedram at Arizona State, who have been frequent sources of shrewd advice and supportive reassurance. Next, it has been one of my greatest joys this year to reconnect not only personally but also to begin collaborating as colleagues with my former undergraduate advisor, Michael Spiegler of Providence College, who supervised my work as an undergraduate interteaching coach 10+ years ago, and who now provides support while I supervise my own crew of outstanding coaches. Michael and I have this very publication, STP News, to thank for that reconnection spark, since Michael reached out after recognizing my bio that appeared in the April issue! Last, I’d like to give a shoutout to the STP Professional Development Mentoring program which connected me this summer with a formal teaching mentor, Sarai Blincoe of Longwood University, who has provided savvy insights throughout the last year. As 2022 comes to a close, I give heartfelt thanks to these and all of the mentors across STP (formal or not!) who have helped graduate students navigate their adventure in teaching.

    Jackson: This past year has been another successful year of growth and learning as an instructor. At the start of 2022, I made significant strides with improving my course structure and automating many of the mundane tasks that instructors must endure as part of their job. For example, I was able to eliminate, or otherwise significantly reduce, the time spent answering redundant emails by creating a frequently asked questions document that students use as a supplemental resource. The best part is that some students have reached out to personally tell me how much they appreciate having that resource when they have questions about the course that are not explicitly outlined in the syllabus. I think as instructors it’s important to provide all the tools necessary so that students can devote more time to studying and less time waiting for a reply, especially if several students have the same question. I’m especially grateful to GSTA and the rest of our committee members for a great year. Thank you for this opportunity to meet some very impressive graduate student instructors and for all the great discussions we’ve had during our monthly meetings.

    Morgan: As I reflect on my experience teaching, I am always grateful for the relationships I build with my students and mentors. When we consider teaching, we often think about the ways in which we may impact and educate students. However, I find that in my teaching my students have also challenged and inspired me in my work as an instructor and psychologist. While I have not engaged in teaching in the fall semester, I have found other ways to engage in informal instruction (i.e., assisting colleagues who are teaching and mentoring students. I am always grateful for the insights I gain from students in the student-instructor relationship.

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

    This month’s corner focuses on how research can inform one’s teaching. This is an important topic given that there is a myriad of ways in which instructors tend to utilize research in their courses. Here, some of the GSTA committee members share their own stories when it comes to teaching practices that are informed by research, as well as general practices of assessment and how those inform their future instruction.

    Authors: Jackson Pelzner, Chris Kleva, Morgan Franklin, William Ridgway

    Jackson: I think when it comes to teaching, understanding research is critical to our roles as instructors. Whether in the form of new teaching practices or new discoveries in experimental research, I think we owe it to our students to provide a course that keeps up with the current trends. When I started out in this graduate program, I was mainly interested in how we use mental representations to improve learning. My thesis focused on how we form mental representations from visual narratives (e.g., comics/graphic novels) to aid learning. Because of this interest, I tend to use a lot of images with my slide text seeing as I have a good understanding of dual code processing. Being a memory researcher gives me the added benefit of applying my research to my course because I know several mnemonic strategies that can help students. Likewise, I spend a good amount of time in between semesters improving the structure of my course so that students avoid many of the pitfalls in human memory. Altogether, I think being a graduate student researcher and instructor allows me to approach the topics in my course with both a more critical eye as well as the ability to convey my expertise in learning and memory.

    Chris: Similar to research, teaching is ever-evolving. One strives to become better at teaching, but one must continuously work towards improving and adapting in order to be effective and successful. For me, teaching is not merely the act of sharing knowledge but requires the tailoring of how the knowledge is being shared with others. To that end, I attempt, to the best of my ability, to match my teaching methods to ensure the needs of each student are being met. I emphasize effective communication with my students and prioritize making myself available. In my own research, investigating which characteristics both teachers and students find most important in the classroom, effective communication is frequently highly ranked. While I encourage students to meet with me outside of office hours, I also try to arrive to each class early and stay until each student has left. My intention is that this allows time for students to approach me to ask questions if they are anxious or nervous to set up another office time or to speak in front of the class. While I hope to foster an environment where students can express to me when they are struggling and how I may improve, I also rely heavily on structured, formal evaluations from my students mid-way through the semester and at the end of the semester. This allows me to adapt and improve my teaching to ensure I am successful in sharing knowledge with students in a way they gain the most.

    Morgan: I try to supplement my teaching with research wherever possible. This may include digging into the literature surrounding whatever topic I may be discussing in lecture so I may support my information with data, or it may include assigning additional readings (peer-reviewed articles) related to a particular week’s content. I discuss articles in class with my students and work with them to build skills of critical analysis of research.

    William: Throughout my time in academia, I have come across many helpful resources when it comes to effective teaching practices. From research that focuses on basic skills for facilitating student learning, to understanding students, there exists a wide range of resources. For example, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2013) is a phenomenal resource for instructors. When it comes to the teaching of forensic psychology, I utilize a variety of empirical articles while also relying on notable forensic cases that tie together many psycholegal concepts. One of the ways in which I approach the teaching of psychology is to begin with the idea of skepticism and how that mindset can be quite useful. Influenced by the work of Scott O. Lilienfeld, I make sure to lay a foundation comprised of many key principals that students should consider, such as ruling out rival hypotheses (Have important alternative explanations for the findings been excused?), correlation vs. causation (Can we be sure that A causes B?), falsifiability (Can the claim be disproved?), replicability (Can the results be duplicated in other studies?), extraordinary claims (Is the evidence as strong as the claim?), and Occam’s razor (Does a simpler explanation fit the data just as well?). Overall, the emphasis of scientific skepticism and informing students of a basic framework for scientific thinking is crucial.

    Reference

    Svinicki, M. D., & McKeachie, W. J. (2013). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. Wadsworth.


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

    Quite Quitting in the Classroom

    Authors: Skye Mendes, Madeline Bruce, Jackson Pelzner, William Ridgway

    One topic of conversation that has been getting attention this year is quiet quitting. This work-related narrative refers to maintaining one’s duties without subscribing to the cultural notion that work is life. One of the primary reasons for which individuals are finding themselves engaged in the process of quiet quitting is that it emphasizes a healthier work-life balance while simultaneously safeguarding mental health. In fact, individuals across the board have experienced heightened rates of burnout while also reporting marked increases in cognitive weariness, emotional exhaustion, and physical fatigue since 2019 (Abramson, 2022). More recently, the conversation surrounding quiet quitting has also expanded to comprise actors in academia, with undergraduate and graduate students reporting increased levels of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wang et al., 2021). In addition, new survey results from 1,000 current students between the ages of 18 and 24 ranked mental health as most important when compared to good grades, physical health, relationships, and finances, respectively (Beard et al., 2022). Given that students have reported increased disengagement, and the need for more mental health support services, we focus on viewpoints surrounding quiet quitting and potential ways in which instructors can become more involved in addressing such issues from a multitude of vantage points.

    Skye: “Quiet quitting” has been interesting to unpack: if people in the workplace perform the minimum job duties to acquire their paycheck, rather than going above and beyond and wrapping their identities in work, that seems to be reasonably described as “doing their job.” Going above and beyond in the workplace certainly has classroom parallels (i.e., working hard may help accelerate career growth, and going above and beyond in their undergraduate education is generally an essential ingredient for students who aspire to graduate school). In my previous work, I had the “new manager” realization that I would have to learn to manage the employees I had rather than the ones I wished I had. Though management is much more enjoyable when employees are all on their “A game” and teaching a class where one hundred percent of students are highly engaged is a joy, neither is typically a reality. When it comes to the idea that “quiet quitting” is creeping into academic spaces, I think our call remains the same: teach the students we have and meet them where they are at. This includes if their goals (e.g., simply passing the course) are not what we wish in our psychology-loving-nerd-heart-of-hearts for their goals to be (e.g., stellar enthusiasm for mastering all objectives from our carefully curated syllabus). Since we design courses and enter the classroom each day with plans for keeping students engaged, it can understandably be tough to see students seemingly “checking out,” and it may take the wind out of our sails to feel like the course experience is now more transactional than transformational. But in meeting students wherever they are at, we get not only to push the students who are highly engaged and enjoy their excitement and riveting questions, but we also get to check in on students who might otherwise start to fade into the background, which can itself be a transformational experience for them to be seen and heard at a time when they may be struggling. When I am privileged to have the more honest and vulnerable 1:1 conversations with students and tell them I do see them and I respect how tough their balancing act can be (e.g., our course, financial stress, mental health challenges, family problems, other courses, etc.) and I’m happy to help them project what they need to do to meet their goals for their course performance and calibrate accordingly, I tend to see engagement quickly go up. Perhaps in those moments of outreach, they see they have a teammate and not someone who will shame them, especially not if their available resources (mentally, fiscally, etc.) mean they’ve chosen to engage in “quiet quitting.”

    Mads: I’ve mostly heard “quiet quitting” in the context of the corporate world, where people try to reclaim their work-life balance back from meaningless paperwork deadlines in jobs where they do not feel they will grow professionally or personally. So, to think about “quiet quitting” in the context of higher education, where the purpose has historically been to grow, to wonder, to discuss, even outside the class, leaves me a little discouraged. Are students quiet quitting out of a “C’s get degrees and that’s fine with me” mentality, or have recent events left students questioning the meaning of their education? Surely, the pandemic, recent social events, and the rising cost of a college degree, have likely left all of us questioning what really matters to us and what education should look like in the grand scheme. We have an opportunity now to shape our day-to-day toward what can be most meaningful. I’m not sure what the answer is, and I imagine that a student stepping away from timely assignments can be understood a multitude of ways. However, I do wonder if quiet quitting in the classroom is a signal that we need to reorient our daily grind back toward what education can be: empowering our next generation to grow.

    Jackson: This is a difficult topic to drill down. Overall, I think it is important to find the right balance between work and life. There are times when I find myself more on the side of “life” than “work” to my own detriment. Personally though, I do not buy into the notion of “quiet quitting” in academia. For one, instructors or advisors at the undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively, are not forcing their students to be present. Unless you are on a full scholarship, you are paying a lot of money to acquire an education, one that you voluntarily signed up for. If you want to do the bare minimum to get a passing grade, that is perfectly within reason. Balancing multiple classes, work, experiments, and publishing is hard given the limited number of hours in the day and overcoming the mental fatigue that comes with it. I am very empathetic to that. However, I still come back to the idea that at this stage you are only hurting yourself by not making the sacrifices required to succeed. How do we deal with this growing issue as instructors? Personally, I do not take offense to students that “quietly quit.” It does, however, concern me to the extent that I want to have my students learn and take away the same enjoyment that I experienced as an undergraduate student. At the end of the day, you get what you put into it. If a student decides to “quietly quit,” I think there are many other pathways one can take in life that can motivate them to give their best and find enjoyment.

    William: The concept of “quiet quitting” can be unique in the context of academia. When it comes to individuals quitting the notion of going above and beyond—primarily applied to industry settings—to achieve a healthier balance between work and life, academia and the pursuit of one’s degree often entails a specific framework. Students attempting to achieve the result of a degree comprises many layers and complexities. The balance of coursework, academic programs, and community service—just to name a few—typically place individuals in an environment where there is always something to be working on. Granted, the extent of day-to-day involvement can vary from student to student depending on what they choose or are required to take on throughout their university experience. Nevertheless, the act of consistently placing certain priorities over others is not a novel concept. Where the difficulty lies is where to focus efforts that will help combat quiet quitting, to further help students. On the one hand, one’s academic experience is what you make of it and depending on the extent to which one takes on an extensive amount of work, will influence the need at times to make certain sacrifices when it comes to a personal life. Thus, while there may exist a plethora of resources that can be of great assistance to students, there comes a point where it is ultimately up to the student in terms of how far they are willing to push that threshold of a healthy work-life balance to achieve a particular outcome. On the other hand, some may present the argument that quiet quitting is a feature of, or exacerbated, by poor management. As instructors, it is important that we both maintain and encourage transparency with our students. Maintaining clear expectations for the course, scheduled check ins, and the fostering of a supportive environment, will help to ensure that we consistently participate in such a way that allows students to know that we as instructors are one of many reliable resources for them.

    References

    Abramson, A. (2022). Burnout and stress are everywhere. Monitor on Psychology, 53(1). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/01/special-burnout-stress

    Beard, J., Dinh, D., Jain, P., Leng, A., Marvin, D., Phan, N., … & Williams, B. (2022, September). One-third of college students quiet quitting to preserve mental health. Intelligent. https://www.intelligent.com/one-third-of-college-students-quiet-quitting-to-preserve-mental-health/

    Wang, C., Wen, W., Zhang, H., Ni, J., Jiang, J., Cheng, Y., ... & Liu, W. (2021). Anxiety, depression, and stress prevalence among college students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of American College Health, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2021.1960849

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

    With the upcoming semester starting, this corner focuses on how to handle moments in which you as an instructor are asked questions to which you do not know the answer to. This topic is particularly geared toward first-time instructors and highlights the various ways in which one can responsibly address such moments.

    Authors: Skye Mendes, Morgan Franklin, Christopher Kleva, Madeline Bruce, and William Ridgway

    Skye: For some educators, the instances of being stumped with a question posed by a student might be navigated without any increase in heart rate, however, for those starting out—and whose “not knowing” may possibly be perceived with bias by students based on the instructor’s age, race, gender, ethnicity, or potential disability—can interpret such a moment as a somewhat threatening. Will students think I am not competent in this area? Will they remember this during the teaching evaluations? As with all things related to teaching, I try to guide my approach with a core belief that is clearly seen and understood by each student: I care about their learning. This approach almost always includes (1) expressing appreciation for the question and acknowledging any ways it demonstrates the type of critical thinking the course aims to develop, (2) letting them know I’m uncertain of the answer but I am excited for us to figure it out, (3) making a plan to figure it out, depending on the type of question and context (e.g., modeling the process of finding information in the text or literature, facilitating class discussion and having the group generate plausible answers based on prior knowledge before we look it up, or offering to delve into the topic myself after class), and (4) following through on making sure we get to the bottom of it if it cannot be resolved during class. Again context-dependent, the last step may involve follow-up at the beginning of the next class session, the inclusion of an answer and source in a class announcement post, perhaps an office hours meeting, or even facilitating a connection to someone more expert. Even if the question is resolved one on one with a student, I aim to make sure the answer gets to the whole class, whenever possible and appropriate, to show that I value their curiosities.

    Morgan: As instructors, I think it's natural for us to encounter situations in which we are uncertain or do not feel confident in our knowledge of the subject. These situations have occurred most frequently for me when lecturing over broad content (e.g., Introduction to Psychology) and when assigned to instruct courses that I feel to be outside of my research and clinical focus. In these situations, I think it's best to be as transparent as possible. I often inform my students of my own limitations in the content I am teaching, and/or communicate to them the "lens" that I am lecturing through (i.e., clinical). When my students have questions about content that I do not feel I am competent in, I have sometimes put them in contact with someone who does. I've been fortunate to make connections with many peers and professionals pursuing other specialties who are always open to discussing their areas of expertise with my students in more detail, should they have questions. If possible, it may also be helpful to students to invite guest lecturers who can provide more detail about the content. I think this is beneficial both in terms of providing students with greater depth and specificity in their learning, but also from a professional development perspective by providing students closer contact with professionals in that specific area of research. In situations in which the former options are not easily feasible, I do handle information-seeking myself and provide resources so that I may discuss what the literature shows with my students in a collaborative way. My hope is that bringing research to them and engaging in this process together will model literature review, as well as the critical assessment of research.

    Chris: There’s a clear power dynamic within a classroom, which is fueled by the assumption that the professor has all the answers. I am humbled by seeing the faces of my students when they ask me a question and I respond, “That is a great question! I don’t know.” Those three words can be incredibly difficult to say because there is an inherent questioning of one’s knowledge but it’s also where learning can begin. Pre-pandemic, I would invite students to come to office hours so we could brainstorm ways of seeking out an answer or simply update the class during our next lecture. Since many courses have gone virtual, it has been easier to meet with students and share how I seek out answers to questions I don’t know. This may include how to use our library databases, skim through a journal article or reaching out to colleagues in the field of interest through email and introducing my inquisitive student. I hope my students learn two important lessons that they can carry throughout their lives: (1) it is OK to say, “I don’t know” and (2) there are a myriad of ways in which one can seek out knowledge.

    Madeline: I will pass on advice that my mentor gave me: Find an “old head who earned their greys.” I believe he was playfully referring to himself, but he lived this advice and had his own go-to colleagues despite his seniority. In other words, find a mentor you trust and go to them. As we transition out of our student role, it’s easy to cling to the idea that you’re on your own, or that you should know everything and if you don’t, that somehow reflects poorly on you. This is not the case. We are all in this together. Our practice of psychology—from teaching, to research, to consulting, to clinical care—improves when we seek out others. Being open about this collaborative process with students and modeling it for them will go a long way to alleviating their nerves about needing to know everything off the top of their head and shows them how to collaborate with others regardless of their field.

    William: Instructors will at some point encounter a question they cannot immediately answer. How one approaches this moment is crucial. It is a universal certainty that one does not know everything, yet there are moments or positions we find ourselves in where we tend to ignore this simple truth. Arguably, this can be quite applicable to first-time instructors who at times dread the idea that their students may view them as lacking an ideal level of competence if unable to provide an answer to each question provided to them. As a result, some may default to persuasive bullshitting to manage social impressions or increase status. One problem with this approach is that the trust between instructor and student is put at risk. In the end, it is best to be honest when asked a question to which you do not know the answer to. Doing so will allow you to maintain trust while demonstrating a quality that is often undervalued: humility. Afterall, humility is what makes us real.

  • 06 Jul 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Now that we find ourselves amid the summer months, it is important to address ways in which instructors can better prepare themselves for upcoming online courses. We highlight ways in which one can effectively engage students while remaining cognizant of key features unique to summer online courses.

    Authors: Morgan Franklin, Chris Kleva, Skye Mendes, and Jackson Pelzner

    Morgan: I have primarily taught online over the summer. While I’ve taught online over the fall and spring semesters as well, there are several factors I like to keep in mind when structuring and teaching my summer courses. One of these is simply the condensed time in which courses are taught; It’s incredibly important to be mindful of the mental, physical, and emotional workload that objectives and assignments will place on both you as the instructor, as well as students. It is also important to consider outside factors for students. Summer is usually a time for students to recuperate, visit family, re-energize and recenter. I think it is important to do our best to foster balance for students to buffer against burnout in the fall semester for students and instructors alike.

    Chris: Teaching an online course during the summer can be an extremely difficult feat. How do I condense a 10- or 12-week course into 4-6 weeks? How can I balance trying to engage my students with the material while also trying not to overwhelm them? There are two important features needed for a successful online course: communication and a distinctive structure that allows lecture materials to be delivered in a multitude of ways. Due to the condensed nature of an online course, I send multiple announcements throughout the week to ensure we’re all on the same page. During asynchronous courses, I’ve started to host a live lecture each week, so students can attend and ask questions. The live lecture is recorded and uploaded for other students to watch and hear student questions. Lastly, I incorporate podcast episodes and TED Talk videos to complement the lecture and textbook material.

    Skye: My biggest advice for cultivating skills and discovering technical tools for teaching online is to check out the available training and faculty development resources that may be available at your institution. If many courses (or entire degree programs) are offered in an online modality at your university, chances are good that there are experts on campus who know the ins and outs of what has worked well for others, and particularly how to integrate those techniques and tools with your institution’s learning management system (e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, etc.). Best of all, these training resources are generally available for free to those affiliated with the university, as opposed to paying for outside workshops. If your own institution does not have robust offerings, others will have some of their guides and resources freely accessible online. Don’t be afraid to poke around to see what peer institutions are up to in online learning!

    Jackson: As an exclusively online instructor now, I can attest to the notion that distance learning provides challenges that otherwise would not be experienced in an in-person setting. Without diving into many examples of what has or has not worked in my approach, my best advice for other instructors is to treat your course as though you were an enrolled student. Ask yourself, “Would this be worth my time if I were enrolled in this online course?” For this reason, I tend to stray away from discussion boards or posts. While I can see the benefit of including a place for open dialogue and discussion for an instructor, many students will not treat it as such. I place the most effort into the lectures and slides. If the information is structured in such a way that it is relatable to their everyday experiences, that is the starting point for any meaningful online engagement.

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

    By William Ridgway, Jackson Pelzner, Morgan Franklin, Skye Mendes, Morgan Franklin, Christopher Kleva

    As we journey into the summer months, it is important to discuss ways in which we can implement self-care strategies. Whether you plan on writing a funding application, working on specific research, or spending time preparing for an upcoming class, we highlight the importance of prioritizing one’s mental health and the need to take a step back every now and again.

    William: Often, the summer months signify an opportunity to work in such a way that allows us to continue our academic journey in a productive way, yet rarely includes time for ourselves. As graduate students, it is important to remain equally committed to oneself and academic journey. Given that graduate students are significantly more likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population (Evans et al., 2018), a good work–life balance is essential when it comes to positive mental health outcomes. Be sure to maintain or develop a healthy routine of sleep, nutrition, and exercise. In addition, let go of the seemingly endless workload. Learn to accept that there will always be something for you to work on and that taking time for yourself is perfectly fine and an essential part of life.

    Evans, T. M., Bira, L., beltram Gastelum, J., Weiss, L. Todd, & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36, 282–284 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.4089

    Jackson: Like most, I always look forward to the summer months to catch up on other projects that may have been set aside during the semester. What is important to remember though is that this is an opportunity to rest. Though the grind never ends, the pace of each day certainly slows down considerably. There is time to evaluate the previous year but at least for part of the summer you should step away from work and change things up. Personally, I gravitate toward activities that keep my mind stimulated but not overworked, like reading and playing golf. This approach works best for me because it doesn’t feel like starting up a cold engine when the Fall semester rolls around and I’m balancing teaching and academics once again. Overall, I think it is essential to our mental wellbeing that we slow things down and change up the day-to-day flow.

    Skye: Many of us appear quick to selectively ignore practical findings about wellbeing and the importance of rest. Whenever there is a semester break or a time of slightly fewer obligations, that time tends to be dedicated to getting done what we couldn’t in the thick of the semester. A lesson many have been humbled to learn the hard way is that when we are physically ill and cannot work, the world keeps spinning and the consequences of our unexpected pause are typically not as disastrous as we may have thought. Of course, when we design our own breaks proactively, we can strategically minimize interruptions to overall goals and plans. If as a reader you are someone who struggles with planning breaks, I hope you will commit to scheduling time this summer to do whatever feels restful. Looking back on the last few years in my PhD program I certainly regret the times I overaccommodated work demands during visits with family back home far more than I have ever regretted the times I begrudgingly tucked the laptop away to be more present in my life. Some of my best, most creative thinking about youth development has hit me while sitting poolside, flanked by nieces and nephews with no laptop in sight.

    Morgan: We all wear a lot of different “hats” in this field: student, instructor, researcher, clinician. Responsibilities do not slow down for many of us over the summer. It is important to have practices and create routines that limit the potential for burnout. In the past I have not set enough boundaries with my time. I wanted to always be available to my students to answer any questions/concerns, and this often interrupted other work and added stress. Over the past year I have found it helpful to set boundaries and stick to them. I am intentional about shutting down my computer and stepping away from my work at 8 PM every night. I also have found it helpful to schedule specific periods of time in which I am responding to student emails and holding office hours. This has helped create more structure in my own schedule. Over the summer, I think it’s also important to give yourself a break, and to make it an actual break! Do not bring work with you and set an away message for your email. Give yourself permission and time to have fun, relax, and rejuvenate. Finding a way to balance self-care with work is crucial. As one last note, remind yourself that self-care does not also have to be productive. In the past I placed pressure on myself to always be doing something that fosters personal and professional growth in my self-care time, and this often increased my stress.

    Chris: I frequently catch myself thinking that next week will be better. This thought is all too common in academia. The logic being that once I get past this deadline then I will be less stressed and have more time for other tasks that have been neglected. Over time, the thought changes slightly. Over the past couple of weeks, I have thought how once I get through this semester, then the summer will be better. I have come to learn that the to-do list is ever growing and there are always tasks that need to be prioritized, whether it be grading assignments, writing up a manuscript, or finishing therapy notes. Balancing productivity and self-care are a constant battle but the approach to a successful work/life balance is one that must be individualized. For many, self-care is preserved by setting boundaries and protecting one’s weekend. For example, from Friday evening to Monday morning, laptops remain closed, email notifications are silenced, and spending time with family and friends is the priority. It has taken me over two years to figure it out, but I’ve learned to balance productivity and self-care in a manner that works best for me. Remember, life does not stop while you are in graduate school. Similar to a car that needs the occasional oil change, we all need our own self-care, in whichever way works best for us!

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

    Amid our last bits of grading, the last thing we’re probably thinking about is our next semester. The time to review our courses and prepare for our next classes will be here before we know it! Here are some ideas to make this process less daunting and spark a little inspiration.

    Backward Design

    When a student is done with your course, what should they be taking with them? What goals did you set for yourself and your students? Were those goals met, and how do you know if they were or weren’t?

    Backward design helps us answer these questions. This process involves reviewing our goals, identifying evidence of us meeting our goals, and designing our course accordingly. Start with your course objectives and student outcomes. How did those go? Perhaps those are set by your department or college, but if you can change them, what would you do? Then, think about what you’d want to see from your students to show they are meeting these goals. Should they be able to write up results? Do they need to know APA formatting like the back of their hand? Putting a language to those expectations can help you select what activities go into your course. From the examples above, a paper would be a beneficial assignment for the course. These then give assignments and activities a purpose and meaning that can help both you and your students through the slow (or terribly fast) parts of the semester

    No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

    Lean on your colleagues and mentors. They can be a goldmine of great ideas and seasoned advice. You don’t have to develop the latest and greatest in learning technology in one summer. Collaborate and collect materials that have worked well before (and pass them to the next generation!)

    Incorporate Feedback

    Deep breath. Get a good meal. Get a good night’s sleep. Then, open up the student feedback from the last term. We care a lot about teaching and often dread hearing that something didn’t work well or otherwise reading grievances. That said, there are likely good ideas in those comments and/or validation that things are going generally well.

    Rest and Restore

    We’ll state the obvious. Things have been hard. Burnout is rampant, and connection on campus is not like it used to be. Find ways to re-ignite that spark that put you in the classroom in the first place. Since you’ve looked through feedback to incorporate into your course (!), you hopefully found a couple of comments that were beneficial. Copy them into a document. Look back at emails of someone saying you helped them out a lot or that a class really inspired them. Copy that into a document. In all, curate a place where you can hold space for the good things about being a psychology teacher. Students pick up on that spark, and (from the feedback I’ve gotten!) it’s meaningful for them.

    The Half-Life Rule

    A good rule of thumb to follow, though not exclusive to teaching and course preparation, is the Half-life rule. The rule goes as follows: When you think you’ll be done with something, you will only be halfway finished. I know some graduate student instructors may not be as fortunate to have months for course preparation, but the half-life rule can be applied just as easily on smaller scales. If you keep in mind that preparation takes longer than one might anticipate, you can better manage your time and not be in a position of creating slides the night before each lecture.

    The Final Exam: The Possibility of Selection

    When designing a course, it is important to consider providing students with the power of choice when it comes to assessments. Granted, this avenue will not be viable for everyone; however, designing a course that allows for students to select the ways in which they are assessed is a factor that should be given consideration. Whether you present the option for a term paper, a presentation, or an exam featuring multiple-choice and short answer questions, consider allowing your students to choose the way in which they are assessed. This will ultimately allow students to gravitate toward their strengths.


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

    Q&A with 2022 GSTA Leadership

    Submitted by: Skyler Mendes and Jackson Pelzner

    During these first few months of this new year, the GSTA Corner will be featuring brief interviews with all six members of our committee. This month, we are featuring two of this year’s committee members.

    Type of doctoral program, year, & expected graduation:

    Skyler: I am in my fourth year in the Developmental Psychology doctoral program at Arizona State University, planning to graduate in 2023.

    Jackson: I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and on track to graduate in Spring 2024.

    Classes you have taught and/or been a GTA for (undergraduate or graduate):

    Skyler: I am currently teaching two sections of a Research Methods lab course. In the past, I have taught Prevention Organization and Community Change online in a graduate certificate program, Success in HigherEd Learning Environments, Planning for Academic Success, and supervised for-credit independent study, honors thesis work, and internships. As a teaching assistant, I have worked with 2-8 sections each of Introduction to Psychology, Personality, Abnormal Psychology, and Abnormal Child Psychology. Most of these experiences were at Arizona State, but some at University of Rhode Island and Providence College.

    Jackson: I am currently the instructor of record for our web-based sections of Introduction to Psychology. Coming into teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to understand and improve upon methods of teaching for remote and distance learning.

    Experiences you have been able to participate in because of being a part of GSTA:

    Skyler: I am the newest member on the GSTA steering committee, so I look forward to the experiences ahead. Thus far, GSTA has provided a unique opportunity to meet graduate colleagues across the country who are similarly interested in the science and practice of teaching, so I appreciate the element of community that it provides.

    Jackson: I do not have many experiences yet, as I am new to the association. My time as a member of GSTA so far has given me the chance to work with other graduate students and faculty to provide resources for graduate student instructors.

    Benefits of GSTA on your professional development and future as an academic:

    Skyler: GSTA’s resources (e.g., How We Teach Now) have been helpful to my own professional development particularly because, as opposed to other more general resources, they are frequently contextualized within our field. Since graduate students are often put in front of a classroom with little-to-no teaching experience or training, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the GSTA team to continue to support rising graduate students in their development as instructors. I appreciate these opportunities to not only stretch my own teaching but to also dig into how to support others in theirs.

    Jackson: Networking is an important component of navigating graduate school, which is why I feel so fortunate to be a member of the association. The outreach goals outlined by the committee for this upcoming year will put us in contact with a range of outstanding academics and professionals and I cannot wait to collaborate with them all.

    Impact of GSTA on you personally:

    Skyler: I am looking forward to making personal connections with the other members of GSTA and Division 2 more broadly. While there is always official network growth in professional organizations, I have found the connections are often deeper and more personal with people who are passionate about similar aspects of psychology, such as its teaching.

    Jackson: GSTA has been a great opportunity so far to connect with other graduate students. I think it is important that more students reach out to their local organizations and associations to build a stronger community. I hope GSTA can be a support system for other graduate students who either need resources from outside their department or simply advice and guidance as graduate student instructors.

    Advice (teaching and/or research tips) for other graduate students:

    Skyler: Some of the most broadly valuable things I’d like to share aren’t so much quick tips but really the “bigger picture” perspectives I’ve developed on teaching. I’ve learned from excellent colleagues (and continually re-teach myself) that while I might enter the classroom with the vision to teach a specific set of content, it has been crucial to remember what I really teach, regardless of subject matter, is students. Students come to the classroom with all kinds of intersecting identities, interests, and experiences, and to the extent you can get to know them and empower them as active participants in their learning, it improves the experience on both ends of teaching and learning. The second thing that has helped me is reflecting on my teaching values. Who do you want to be as an instructor and what do you want students to be able to say about their experience in your class when it’s done? For me, I want students to walk away from the semester feeling like I genuinely cared about them and their learning. This guides all of my actions, from how I give assignment feedback to how I celebrate their successes, and even how I use a developmental lens to approach conversations about tough issues like academic integrity.

    Jackson: The best advice I can give to graduate student instructors is “optimization and efficiency.” For example, each semester I have students asking roughly the same questions when it comes to class structure and setting up their online platform. To me, this indicated either poor communication on my part or that students have a harder time with ambiguities than anticipated. What I decided to do was create a Frequently Asked Questions page for students as a reference and a way to avoid answering redundant emails. Prior to this, I could lose up to 3 or more hours each week just answering emails alone. This is one method to free up some time so that you can focus on what is most important: teaching and research.


  • 10 Mar 2022 12:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Morgan Franklin and Christopher Kleva 

    During these first few months of this new year, the GSTA Corner will be featuring brief interviews with all six members of our committee. This month, we are featuring two of this year’s new committee members. 

    Type of doctoral program, year, & expected graduation:

    Morgan: I am a fourth year in the Clinical Psychology - Adult Track doctoral program at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale. I am on track to complete and graduate by Spring 2024.




    Chris: I am a third-year Clinical Psychology doctoral student in the Behavioral Health concentration at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am on track to complete the program in Spring 2025!




    Classes you have taught and/or been a GTA for (undergraduate or graduate):

    Morgan: I have been both a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), as well as an Instructor of Record for Introduction to Psychology. I have also taught as Instructor of Record for Effects of Recreational Drugs, Abnormal Psychology, and Psychology of Crime. 

    Chris: I have had the pleasure of serving as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) and/or primary instructor for several undergraduate-level courses including Introduction to Psychology and Research Methods. I am excited for the opportunity to teach undergraduate Psychopathology this coming summer.

    Experiences you have been able to participate in because of being a part of GSTA:

    Morgan: I am new to the association, and I am excited to work with others who are involved in teaching and who share a passion for teaching to discuss actionable ways to improve the academic experience of students. 

    Chris: I am most appreciative of participating in the GSTA because it allows me to collaborate with other graduate students and professors who share a common passion for improving teaching.

    Benefits of GSTA on your professional development and future as an academic:

    Morgan: I think that being a part of GSTA will allow me to work and collaborate with like-minded individuals so that I may grow as an instructor and use my current role as an instructor, and any academic roles I may hold in the future, to be an effective instructor for students. 

    Chris: Being a part of the GSTA leadership team provides a unique service opportunity to have a seat at the table so I may collaborate with academics across institutions and make an impact for the better!

    Impact of GSTA on you personally:

    Morgan: Personally, I am hoping that GSTA may help me consider creative and unique ways to be accessible to students, foster a positive learning experience, and create an environment for students that provides adequate and appropriate resources and communicates transparency in academia.

    Chris: Being a GSTA member provides a sense of community, which arguably we all need to strive and are lacking now, especially since COVID has caused us to be virtual and feel isolated. Each GSTA meeting is another opportunity to share experiences/ideas and receive/provide support.

    Advice (teaching and/or research tips) for other graduate students:

    Morgan: I have found flexibility, both for myself and for my students, to be paramount in teaching (especially during COVID). I also find open and transparent communication with my students important in being able to meet students where they are at. Regarding research, reminding myself of what and why I enjoy and value the process is helpful. Research is a marathon, not a sprint. Reminding myself of why I value it helps to keep me grounded, focused, and enjoying the process.

    Chris: With respect to teaching tips, the priority should always be to create a safe and supportive learning environment for our students and I think the best way of doing this is emphasizing communication. Additionally, teaching should be conceptualized as a growing art, in which you consistently elicit feedback from your students and use them to further improve your teaching for the next cohort of students.


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