School name: Avila University
Type of school: Small, private liberal-arts university
School locale: Kansas City, MO
Classes you teach: Research Methods & Statistics, Cognitive Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, and Senior Seminar, along with my research lab. I’ve also taught special topics courses on scientific thinking and metascience in psychology.
Average class size: 15
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Probably the best advice I’ve received in my entire life: “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the possible.” My PhD advisor taught me this and it’s so true – especially right now -- having to adapt to a new format and trying to fight the urge for everything to go perfectly. First, perfect is not a thing that exists in education, and second, the desire to approach perfection can keep you from taking risks and trying new things.
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire. I am re-reading it right now with our current situation; even though it was first published in the 1970s, the concepts have never been more timely.
Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. My favorite lecture topic *right now* is experimental methodology. With all the questions around possible treatments for COVID-19 (including “remedies” being promoted by folks like Jim Bakker), understanding the benefits of randomized controlled trials – as well as why we have to wait for them to be completed and potential dangers if we don’t -- is so important. The story of Thalidomide’s failure to be approved by the FDA to treat morning sickness is a very good cautionary tale here.
Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. Right now, my favorite thing to do is include a question on EVERY assignment for a couple of points of extra credit that just asks students to tell me how they’re doing. If they don’t want to answer, they can say “pass” and still get the credit. It’s allowed me to connect folks to resources and also extend some grace on assignments without them having to ask.
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? Now that I’m at home, working my cats into my lectures has been essential… Especially since the cats leave me little choice.
What’s your workspace like? Normally, my office is small, and clearly defined with things like doors and windows. Right now, my workspace is a hypothetical construct that is impossible to measure even indirectly.
Three words that best describe your teaching style. My “Pandemic response”: Flexible, encouraging, and understanding.
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? My COVID-19 teaching philosophy is “Make it work”. Thanks Tim Gunn!
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I embrace embarrassment and bounce back pretty easily. See: https://twitter.com/jorowags/status/1242633396226011137?s=20
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? That I pretended to be hypnotized by The Amazing Kreskin on New Year’s Eve in Times Square in 2007 and it aired on Fox News. There are multiple pieces here that are orthogonal to so many of my values.
What are you currently reading for pleasure? Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez and about five other books that I’ve started and haven’t decided if I’m going to finish. I’m also reading this super cheesy YA sci fi novel but honestly I can’t remember the title OR the author and it’s all the way on the other side of my house so you’ll just have to live in suspense.
What tech tool could you not live without? Instacart. But you probably meant about teaching, so let’s say … nope, still Instacart.
What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? The hallways are pretty empty right now, but we’ve pretty good about texting each other general encouragement and funny memes. When school’s in-person, we talk about pretty much everything. The area between my office and my two colleagues across the hall has been affectionately nicknamed “the vortex” because if the three of us are in, you WILL be sucked into a conversation about… something.