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


Welcome to the GSTA blog! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Teresa Ober and Charles Raffaele

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

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • 16 Mar 2018 5:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Melissa Beers, Ph.D., The Ohio State University

    There is no such thing as the perfect teacher.

    Now, this is not to say I haven’t tried to achieve that elusive perfection.  I spent a long time trying to be perfect — to have perfectly organized lectures with just the right examples and the perfect activities, and most of all the perfect image on every slide, even if I had to stay up half the night to find just the right one.  Graduate school is often an exercise in trying to achieve the highest standards in many tasks at once — research, coursework, writing, and for some, clinical work.  Just when you think you have a handle on everything, that’s usually when you get to start teaching.

    I’ve had the great fortune to work with hundreds of graduate students teaching for the first time at Ohio State over the last 12 years, and I watch as they make that singular transformation from student to teacher. Being a part of such an important moment in someone’s academic career is an honor and a privilege I don’t take for granted.  Yet, I have seen that this transition comes with many predictable concerns and worries.  New teachers often fret: “What if I try to have a discussion and no one talks?  What if I make a mistake and teach them the wrong thing?”  And inevitably: “What if they ask me a question and I don’t know the answer?”

    I acutely recall having all these worries when I first started teaching. My program offered a teaching seminar prior to teaching, but when the class ended we were on our own to make our syllabi, prep our courses and figure out issues of practical implementation. Although my peers and program faculty expressed their confidence in me, I was deeply insecure and abjectly terrified. I urgently needed to prove my credibility to students who were mostly only a few years younger than I was. So, I loaded my course (statistics, no less!) with an unreasonable amount of content and planned almost-impossible tests once a week. I obsessively rehearsed practice problems so I wouldn’t make any errors in my calculations in front of the students. Petrified about being asked a question I might not be able to answer, I plowed relentlessly through the content so there wasn’t a chance for students to ask me anything. They were too overwhelmed to respond to my perfunctory, “any questions?” in the last few minutes of class. Honestly, I was relieved at the silence. 

    I thought I had to prove to students, to my program, and to myself that I was a “good teacher.” I also thought that being a “good teacher” was something you had or you didn’t have — some inherent, innate quality that I desperately wanted to show I possessed. Unsurprisingly, these early teaching experiences didn’t go well. Student evaluations that were (predictably) disappointing and critical only fueled my self-doubt and anxiety. Instead of asking for help and feedback, I walled myself off. I grumbled about my unmotivated, unappreciative students. Eventually I told myself I just wasn’t the teaching “type” and even decided against pursuing a career in academia.

    Looking back, I can see that the root of my anxiety was the wrong mindset about teaching.  My thinking about teaching was characterized by a fixed mindset. I viewed teaching competence as a fixed quantity — I was either going to be good at it or not, and I needed to prove that I had the chops for it.  I took criticism personally and considered my poor student evaluations a personal failing. As we now know from the extensive research on mindset (Dweck, 2006), a fixed mindset leads to poor outcomes in many contexts where motivation and achievement matter, from education to sports to parenting to business.  With such a perspective on teaching, I didn’t stand a chance. 

    Eventually, after a rather circuitous path through industry and back to academia, I came to embrace a growth mindset for teaching. It was positively freeing for me to view teaching as something that I could constantly work to improve. Ultimately I came to recognize the fallacy of being perfect. I accepted that some classes may just go better than others and there is always a way to rebound from a setback.  Being asked a question I couldn’t answer off the top of my head was no longer a personal failing because there is no way any teacher can possibly know everything. Now, I’m delighted when students ask questions I hadn’t thought of before because we can find out the answer together. And when an assignment doesn’t play out the way I planned, I focus on what went well and how to get better results the next time. Most importantly — I ask for feedback all the time. I ask students for feedback early in the semester, at midterm, after assignments, and at the end of the semester. I invite colleagues to observe my teaching and I value hearing about what the class looked like from their perspective. Feedback stopped being paralyzing because with a growth mindset, feedback helps you get better. It doesn’t define you or reveal your flaws, and you certainly can’t improve without it.  It was transformational for me to finally realize that teaching really wasn’t about me at all.  I needed to stop worrying about what I was going to do in class and instead focus on what the students were going to do — and that made all the difference.

    So, for those of you taking on the role of “teacher” in graduate school, please remember that there is no such thing as a “perfect teacher.” Effective teaching is not the result of talent or luck — it’s a constant process that takes sustained effort, collaboration, and support to achieve. Even the most accomplished teachers are always learning — in fact, the very best teachers work the hardest to improve.  When you are new at something, especially teaching, ask for guidance every step along the way. Seek feedback from your peers, your mentors, your students, and use it.  Let go of the harmful myth of perfection and the rigidity of a fixed mindset; look at each course as an opportunity to gain experience and grow, and that is precisely what will happen. 

    After all, isn’t that what exactly what we’d hope for from our students?



    Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House. Chicago

    Thanks to my colleagues Kevin Apple, Ilana Seager, and Raechel Soicher for their helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this post.

    Melissa Beers, Ph.D., is Program Director for Introduction to Psychology and Coordinator for Introduction to Social Psychology, two high-enrollment general education courses at The Ohio State University. In this role she trains and supervises over 40 graduate teaching associates each year and oversees curriculum and assessment of course and general education learning objectives.

  • 15 Mar 2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Uwe P. Gielen, Ph.D., St. Francis College, New York City

    At a roundtable discussion held on March 14, 2018 at the Graduate Center CUNY, we asked Dr. Uwe P. Gielen the following question which prompted the response that follows:
    Despite the fact that psychology, in some form, has been a topic of study and interest across international boundaries pretty much since its inception as a field of study, the area of international psychology seems fairly new. Could you say a little about the history of international psychology and/or your involvement in this field?
    Psychological topics have been discussed in a scientific manner for many centuries. For instance, in 1808, a 771-page volume on the history of psychology by Friedrich August Carus (1770-1807) was published posthumously in Germany (Carus, 1808). It traces psychology back to authors such as Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) while noting that psychological topics were widely discussed in the 18th century. Following a different scientific path, the French-Canadian psychiatrist Henri Ellenberger (1970) has traced for us The Discovery of the Unconscious and the gradual emergence of dynamic psychiatry and psychotherapy back to a clash between the German physician Franz Anton Mesmer and the Austrian exorcist, Father Gassner in the year 1775. A century later, the rise of international psychology became clearly visible at the 1889 International Congress of Psychology in Paris that was attended by some 200 participants from numerous -- though predominantly Western -- countries (Sabourin & Cooper, 2014). And by the end of the 20th century psychology had finally spread to many non-Western countries as well. Two books edited respectively by Stevens and Wedding (2004) and Baker (2012) chronicle the rise as well as the present status of psychology in 27 countries spread around the world.

    Too many U.S. psychologists, however, are still liable to take a myopic and more or less culture-blind view of their field's history. For instance, Haggbloom et al. (2003) published a rank-ordered list of the 100 (actually 99) most eminent psychologists of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of North American psychologists. Although Piaget (Switzerland) and Freud (Austria) were ranked, respectively, second and third in this list, 89% of the psychologists included in it had taught and/or practiced in the U.S.A. Wundt, for instance, who wrote 10 volumes on "cultural psychology" (Völkerpsychologie) between 1900-1920, barely made the list and was ranked No. 93.5. More generally, almost no cross-culturally oriented psychologists can be found in this ethnocentric list although cultural forces shape human behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in a pervasive way (Wang, 2016). Fortunately, however, the forces of globalization are belatedly making themselves felt in the field of psychology, in part reflecting the fact that about three quarters of the world's estimated one million psychologists are nowadays residing outside the USA (Zoma & Gielen, 2015). Moreover, those instructors prepared to introduce international and cross-cultural perspectives into their teaching activities can consult a considerable number of helpful publications.

    These include a pioneering publication by Leong, Pickren, Leach, and Marsella (2012), which has been designed to help American psychology instructors internationalize their undergraduate courses. A more recent and comprehensive volume by Rich, Gielen, and Takooshian (2017) includes suggestions suitable for a broad range of undergraduate and graduate psychology courses offered around the world. In addition to introducing a considerable variety of international viewpoints, each of that volume's 28 chapters contains an annotated bibliography discussing pertinent books, articles, web-related materials, films, DVD's, and so on. Furthermore, Takooshian, Gielen, Plous, Rich, and Velayo's (2016) readily accessible article provides useful suggestions for developing more internationally oriented psychology departments, faculty, students, and curricula.

    Let us take the field of developmental psychology as an example of internationalization, given that courses in that area are offered by numerous departments around the world to students of psychology, education, social work, ethnic studies, and so on. Fortunately, a considerable number of sources are now available to developmental psychology instructors if they wish to discuss human lives in and across a broad variety of sociocultural settings (Gielen & Rich, 2017). These include textbooks (e.g., Gardiner, 2018; Gielen & Roopnarine, 2016), handbooks (Bornstein, 2010), surveys of hunter-gatherer childhoods (Hewlett & Lamb, 2005), an anthropologically oriented overview of children growing up in traditional and small scale societies (Lancy, 2015), the annual global UNICEF survey entitled The State of the World's Children, documentaries (Guggenheim, 2015; Tobin, Hsueh, & Karasawa, 2009), cross-culturally informed surveys of aging (Sokolovsky, 2009), and so much more.

    The U.S. population makes up merely 4.34% of the world's population yet a highly disproportionate percentage of the research cited in American textbooks remains based on American or other Western perspectives together with the reactions of research participants enrolled in Western academic institutions. So as up-to-date psychology instructors it behooves us to add perspectives and research evidence to our teaching activities that are more culturally varied and global in nature. Only in this way can we fulfill our (implicit or explicit) claims that we are attempting to discuss human nature rather than remaining imprisoned in American and Western belief systems. Fortunately, enough scientific materials are now available to fulfill such ambitions - and especially so in regards to the more socially oriented areas of psychology (Heine, 2016). Let's get busy!


    Bornstein, M. H. (Ed.). (2010). Handbook of cultural developmental science. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

    Carus, F. A. (1808/2014). Geschichte der Psychologie [History of psychology] (E-book reprint).

    Ellenberger, H. F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. New York, NY: Basic Books.
    Gardiner, H. W. (2018). Lives across cultures: Cross-cultural human development (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

    Gielen, U. P., & Rich, G. (2017). A global perspective on lifespan psychology. In G. Rich, U. P. Gielen, & H. Takooshian (Eds.), Internationalizing the psychology of curriculum (pp. 315-329). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

    Gielen, U. P., & Roopnarine, J. L. (Eds.). (2016). Childhood and adolescence: Cross-cultural perspectives and applications (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Guggenheim, D. (2015). He named me Malala (documentary).  

    Haggbloom, S. J., Warnick, R., Warnick, J. E., Jones, V. K., Yarbrough, G. L., Russell, T. M., Borecky, C. M., McGahhey, R., Powell III, J. L., Beavers, J., & Monte, E. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. The Review of General Psychology, 6(2), 139-152.

    Heine, S. J. (2016). Cultural psychology (3rd ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

    Hewlett, B. S., & Lamb, M. E. (Eds.). (2005). Hunter-gatherer childhoods: Evolutionary, developmental and cultural perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    Lancy, D. F. (2015). The anthropology of childhood: Cherubs, chattel, changelings (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Leong, F. T. L., Pickren, W. E., Leach, M. M., & Marsella, A. J. (Eds.). (2012).Internationalizing the psychology curriculum in the United States. New York, NY: Springer.

    Rich, G., Gielen, U. P., & Takooshian, H. (Eds.). (2017). Internationalizing the teaching of psychology. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing - IAP.

    Sabourin, M., & Cooper, S. (2014). The first International Congress of Physiological Psychology (Paris, August 1889): The birth of the International Union of Psychological Science. International Platform for Psychologists, International Journal of Psychology, 49(3), 222-232.

    Sokolovsky, J. (Ed.). (2009). The cultural context of aging: Worldwide perspectives (3rd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.

    Stevens, M. J., & Wedding, D. (2004). Handbook of international psychology. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

    Takooshian, H., Gielen, U., Plous, S., Rich, G., & Velayo, R. (2016). Internationalizing undergraduate psychology education: Trends, techniques, and technologies. American Psychologist, 71(2), 136-147.

    Tobin, J., Hsueh, Y., & Karasawa, M. (Directors). (2009). The new preschool in three cultures revisited. Check availability at

    UNICEF (2017). The state of the world's children. New York, NY: United Nations Children's Fund. [Annual publication]

    Wang, Q. (2016). Why should we all be cultural psychologists? Lessons from the study of social cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(5), 583-596.

    Zoma, M., & Gielen, U. P. (2015). "How many psychologists are there in the world?" International Psychology Bulletin, 19(1), 47-50.

    Uwe Gielen is Professor of psychology and the Executive Director of the Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York.

  • 06 Mar 2018 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Lauren A. J. Kirby, M.S., Auburn University

    I recently co-authored a chapter with my colleagues Bill Buskist and Jessica Busler in Obeid, Schwartz, Shane-Simpson, and Brooks’s (2017) GSTA Guide to Student-centered Teaching available online called ‘Five Steps to Becoming a Student-centered Teacher.’ In that chapter we discuss ways that graduate student teachers can implement active learning strategies, as well as overcoming the barriers to those techniques. In this post I focus on one of those barriers: time. Graduate students may feel especially pressed for time and especially shy of using unorthodox teaching techniques. It may seem easier and time-saving to teach in ways we have been taught for most of our academic lives, and for many of us that involves mostly lecture. However, this rests on the assumption that active learning necessarily takes more time than passive approaches. I am currently a fifth-year graduate student and am teaching for the 6th consecutive semester, having prepared three different courses: Introduction to Psychology, Research Methods in Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology. I have taught sections with as few as 10 and as many as 175 students with the assistance of undergraduate teaching assistants, graduate teaching assistants, and sometimes no teaching assistants. All the while I have been working on graduate milestones such as my own coursework, my General Doctoral Examination, my dissertation, and a job search, which consisted of submitting over 50 applications and traveling to multiple campus interviews. How have I made it work? With plenty of active learning techniques, believe it or not! Following are four of the key strategies I have used to save time on my teaching (which I love to do!) while balancing all my other responsibilities.

    1. “A stitch in time saves nine.” “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You get the idea. Most of my work is on the front end of the course. Create a detailed syllabus that anticipates as many student concerns as possible. You might even politely refuse to answer e-mails that would be answered by reading the syllabus. This approach requires much organization: you must decide before the first day of the semester exactly how many assignments you will give, point values, extra credit opportunities, and policies concerning late work, among other issues. For an example, check out sample materials at my teaching page of my ePortfolio at A well-organized syllabus can provide students with details about the front-end work they may need to do in a more active classroom, such as watching lectures on their own time and doing “homework” in class. By providing all due dates ahead of time and holding students responsible for them, I encourage students to manage their own reminders for assignments rather than relying on my announcements in class. Thus, they learn self-reliance while I save time.
    2. Consider your use of technology. I use classroom polling technology to ask students questions during lectures and class activities. I have personally used Top Hat, but my colleagues have used a variety of platforms such as iClicker or Poll Everywhere. Make sure to check with the IT department in your college as to which platforms are allowed or encouraged. Many can use secure attendance collection while providing a variety of question formats to use. Students can remain more alert during class, and you can assess their learning quickly with easy grading.
    3. Student autonomy (within bounds) can be your friend. I sometimes leave some flexibility for due dates in the syllabus. For example, in my Introduction to Psychology class (which is typically large), I give a writing assignment, but instead of having it due at the end of the semester, I have four possible due dates on the syllabus among which students can choose. This way, I only have a quarter of the class’s papers to grade at any given time. If given the opportunity, most students will choose the latest due date, and that won’t save you any time. Thus, I allow only a limited number of students to sign up for each due date, and if they do not sign up for one in a timely manner, I assign them myself. Another way I allow autonomy is by providing students with several writing prompts from which to choose. Too much structure (e.g., one or two topics only) tends to bore students, whereas too little (e.g., “Examine a psychological phenomenon of your choice through the lens of a theory discussed in this course.”) sows confusion. I also allow students in upper-level courses a degree of self-governance. For example, when I assign students to work in teams, I require that they create their own team policies and sign a contract that I approve and sign as well. They may include regulations for choosing roles in the group, operationally define minimum acceptable contributions, sanction means of intra-team communication, and even provide for means of removing team members. I borrowed this from my undergraduate Experimental Psychology professor Dr. Gabriela Carrasco at the University of North Alabama and it appears to work swimmingly. This allows students to resolve disputes amongst themselves and saves you many potential complaint emails.
      • Bonus tip: consider using peer review. In order for peer review to benefit students and not waste everyone’s time, you need to give them practice with giving and receiving actionable, specific, and kind (ASK) feedback. In my Cognitive Psychology course last semester, I asked groups of students to practice oral presentations in small groups and implement peer feedback. I gave them a rating scale the previous day in class and asked them to watch two 3-Minute Thesis presentations I selected from YouTube. I then polled the class with a show of hands (e.g., “Raise your hand if you gave this speaker a 3/5 or above on clarity.”). If the majority of the class agreed with each other and me on the presenter’s strengths, I only briefly explained the presenters’ techniques. When I found significant disagreement, I asked for students to share their answers: in this way, I opened class discussion about communication skills. Then, the next day in class, students rated each other’s presentations using the same scale and gave qualitative feedback as well. These two class days required very little preparation on my part. I merely set up the conditions for student discussions to flourish. During class, I walked around to listen and drop in on groups in the presentation and feedback process. I did not have to rehearse anything or even put together any PowerPoint slides like I might have done had I lectured that day instead. Another key to using peer feedback to save time, be it on speeches, writing assignments, or problem-based learning exercises, is providing students with a structured set of questions to answer about their peers’ work. Otherwise, peer feedback can be vague and unhelpful, and students may come to you in confusion about their performance, or worse—stay silent and perform poorly on future work. Thus, peer feedback can save you time not only on grading the assignment at hand, but on future ones as well.
    4. Effective early feedback goes a long way. In my experience, assignments with more mistakes take more time to grade. When I catch as many crucial mistakes as early as I can, later assignments are more pleasant to read and faster to grade. Clear rubrics aid in this process as well. For writing assignments, I break them up into at least four different pieces and give feedback at each smaller stage, ensuring that my later papers are in better shape and take less time to edit. In order to ensure this, I do not award any points for papers turned in without clear effort to incorporate my previous feedback. Thus, students cannot get credit for turning in an unchanged draft. I start with an outline and topic: they must give me a clear thesis with an approved topic at this stage and an idea of the topic for each paragraph. Next, I ask for an expanded outline (to flesh out each bullet point into a paragraph) or an annotated bibliography for more research-heavy papers. One trick I use to get better papers is to never use the term “rough draft” for an earlier submission: instead a “first submission” is due. Along each step of the way, I give completion credit as long as each section of the rubric is present, regardless of its quality. I do not deduct points for mistakes at these early stages, but rather give written feedback for areas that need improvement for the next draft. By the time final drafts or “revisions” make it to my desk, many mistakes have already been caught. Students have learned something about how to improve their writing and APA formatting, and they have generally gained some writing confidence as well. All the while, I have saved valuable grading time.
      • Bonus tip: Consider giving mass feedback when appropriate. For example, when I give writing assignments, I get the same APA style errors from multiple students and I don’t want to type the same comment 50 times. This semester, I made a screen recording with my voice-over of me creating an appropriate APA running head, title page, reference page and other formatting points in Microsoft Word and posted it on Canvas. I told students the video was necessary feedback and that I would not grade assignments that had clearly not benefitted from watching it. I created this recording using the native application Quicktime on a MacBook; there are similar native capabilities in Windows 10. You may also create documents, PowerPoint presentations, or templates for similar purposes. Students are less likely at first to engage with and incorporate mass feedback, but sticking to hardline policies about feedback like I described above ensures that they quickly learn to pay attention. In this way, students can also have a bit more direction in difficult open-ended tasks like writing assignments because they have positive examples rather than simply deductions.

    Thus, I have been able to balance teaching duties with the other hats I wear as a graduate student. I organize courses early and carefully, use technology in time-saving ways, encourage student autonomy, and give feedback early and often. All of these strategies are aimed at helping students develop skills of self-reliance, self-governance, self-reflection, and written and oral communication, among others. Don’t let anyone tell you that active learning is more work. Just remember not to make too many changes at once and stick to what feels natural to you at first. The bottom line is to work smart, not hard: consider these active learning techniques or others that fit your teaching style and personality.


    Lauren is a PhD candidate at Auburn University in the Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences Program, working with Dr. Robinson in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. Upon graduation in August 2018, she will begin a position as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler. 

  • 22 Jan 2018 10:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Dana S. Dunn, Ph.D., Moravian College

    During graduate school, some students get the regrettable message from their mentors—sometimes implicit, often explicit—that seeking teaching experience is an unwanted distraction from research and publishing or finishing the dissertation. Unfortunately, such advice does not help students who follow it; they can struggle when it’s time to enter the academic job market. Although research-intensive universities may hire promising ABDs or Ph.D.s with little or no teaching experience, jobs at such places are scarce and highly competitive. Most available academic jobs, whether tenure track or visiting positions, require a fair amount of teaching (think 3 or more courses per term). Liberal arts colleges and less research-focused universities post jobs and can expect that their most competitive applicants will have had teaching experiences.

    At the other extreme are graduate students who are told by their mentors from the get-go that teaching is a way to finance their way through graduate school. These students often teach a lot, adjunct teaching hither and yon, so much so that they take longer to do research, publish little, and may spend beyond the usual 5 to 7 years or so in graduate school. Although they may like, even love, teaching, they are less competitive on the crowded job market because their CVs have few to no publications and they look like slow starters.

    My message is to avoid these extremes by seeking a middle path: moderation. Be judicious when accepting teaching assignments (I am referring largely to instances where you become the instructor of record—not when serving as a teaching assistant—“TA”—a discussion leader, or the similar—those are important but less demanding roles). Teaching well takes time, so you should teach a few classes during graduate school, but not too many or your progress to your degree will suffer.

    What sorts of classes should you teach as a graduate student? Introductory psychology is a good choice, as it is the most popular class in the psychology curriculum and the one for which adjuncts are most often hired. Beyond that, research methods and statistics can serve you well. But both classes are demanding in terms of time and preparation and delivery, and both are easy to teach badly. However, they are often in demand—good statistics instructors, in particular, are hard to find.

    How far ahead should you be where lectures are concerned? First, don’t lecture all the time—make sure that you carve out time in each class for some discussion. When it comes to class preparation, try to stay two weeks ahead as you craft lecture notes the first time. This “cushion” will serve you well when unexpected demands on your time appear; you won’t have to stay up all night to read a chapter and write a lecture.

    Avoid teaching too much about your area(s) of expertise. Yes, you love neuroscience or social or health psychology—but such knowledge is often too detailed for a lower level course. Save your expertise for the seminars you will teach when you land a tenure track job. For now, be a thoughtful generalist—teachers who only teach about their research topic are boring. Your goal is to meaningfully reach and connect with the non-psychology majors as well as the undergraduate psychology majors in the diverse audience found in most introductory psychology courses.

    Craft a solid but doable syllabus. First time teachers are often like first time cooks; they go for the elaborate. Learning to make spaghetti and meatballs is tough enough the first time—starting out in the kitchen trying to make lasagna is stressful and a (pardon me) recipe for disaster. Again, moderation: Two or three exams, not six; one or two short papers, not four; weekly quizzes seem like a good idea, but only if you have a teaching assistant. Remember, moderation is key.

    Stand on the shoulders of giants and crib from them. If you had an excellent undergrad psychology teacher, can you remember what she did to make her classes so memorable? Borrow her technique or her activities! Read the journals Teaching of Psychology, Scholarship of Teaching & Learning in Psychology, Psychology Learning and Teaching, and so on. But, once more, be selective—don’t try every activity or technique—pick one or two, not 10 or 12. The moderate teacher doesn’t schedule a demonstration for every class—50 minutes goes fast! Once a week or once every two weeks is sufficient.

    Assess how you are doing. Around mid-term, pass out a short survey (1 side of 1 page—no more!) where you ask students to let you know how the class is going (you can usually just use the end-of-term form, as it will have questions about the class structure and your teaching style). Don’t let the one or two nasty comments (we all get them and, yes, they grate on our egos, but teaching is not for the faint of heart) distract you from the actually helpful suggestions, such as “don’t talk with your back to the class” and “rely on PowerPoint less.”

    Invite a trusted soul to observe your work. Don’t ask Mom or Dad or you best friend or life partner. Ask a faculty member (sometimes your advisor is a good choice, sometimes not) who is regarded as a skilled teacher to attend one class. Listen to his or her suggestions without being defensive or explaining why you did something such and such a way. The writer-ly maxim that “readers are almost always right, but editors always are” fits well here. If a trusted teacher sees something that can be changed in your developing style, change it.

    Other closing thoughts. Should you tell jokes? Yes, but only if they come naturally, you have a good (not acerbic) sense of humor, and you pace them—you are teaching, not doing stand up. Avoid politics at all costs. Always define terms, including heavy-duty vocabulary words that are grad school vernacular but will be unfamiliar to undergraduates. Be friendly with students, but not friends. Never present personal details about your life in class unless they illustrate a concept perfectly—maybe do so once or twice a semester. Take roll and track absences. Enforce deadlines by reminding students (and yourself) that the syllabus is both a roadmap and a contract. And remember, moderation in all things.


    Dana S. Dunn is professor and chair of the psychology department of Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA.

  • 09 Jan 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Maya Rose, Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center CUNY (Presentation given at the 8th Annual Pedagogy Day)

    During the October 2017 Pedagogy Day, I spoke about the implementation of Content Acquisition Podcasts into Intro and Upper-Level Psychology Classes. But what are Content Acquisition Podcasts or CAPs?

    CAPs are short multimedia videos made in PowerPoint or a similar program that deliver content on one concept or term in a self-paced and interactive environment. Their design is based on Mayer’s Principles of the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTLM) which states that meaningful learning is enhanced when learners simultaneously encounter relevant information in both visual (e.g. pictures) and verbal (e.g. spoken words) modalities (Mayer, 1997; Mayer & Moreno, 2002). As a result, CAPs serve to decrease extraneous load and thus increase germane load. The extent to which CAPs strategically integrate Mayer’s instructional design principles along with evidence-based principles for concept learning has been researched and evaluated across age groups (see Kennedy et al., 2012; 2014).

    The effectiveness of CAPs depends on the integration of these principles, and as such, it is critical for CAP creators to closely adhere to the following steps for producing a CAP (for more information about creating CAPs and for example CAP videos, see Kennedy et al., 2012; Vocab Support, 2018).  

    1.     Identify the term or concept you want to target. Shorter CAPs may for example cover the psychology term “conformity” (a term we know oh so well), but longer CAPs may cover all of the relevant experiments having to do with “conformity” and “obedience” (think Milgram, Zimbardo and Asch).

    2.     Create slides on the information you want to deliver along with an accompanying audio script. Make sure you satisfy the following requirements (adapted from Kennedy’s, n.d., CAP production steps):

    • The first and last slide of the presentation should include a definition of the targeted concept
    • Include examples of the targeted concept
    • Only include one detail per slide
    • Keep it very simple

    3.     Replace most of the slides with high quality images so that each slide is only an image accompanied by relevant audio (before step 3, your slides will probably be quite text heavy). Do not include any unnecessary words or images!

    4.     Insert key ideas on some of the slides if need be (but no full sentences)!

    5.     Record accompanying audio script in iMovie or a similar platform that will allow you to integrate the audio with the slides. Make sure to practice reciting the script beforehand to make sure that the audio correctly coincides with the appropriate images in the presentation. You also want to make sure that the viewer can pause or slow down the CAP.

    Past research has designed rubrics for evaluating CAPs by measuring the extent to which the CAP successfully integrates the CTML principles. This is critical because if these items are not met, extraneous load will not be mitigated! For more information on these rubrics, see Weiss et al. (2016).

    How might we integrate CAPs into our courses? When are we supposed to use them? Do we include them in our in-class lessons or do we have students view them as “homework”? Both! CAPs can serve as supplemental material to textbooks or traditional lectures. Students may view CAPs at home on their own time in order to become more familiar with certain topics or when studying for exams.

    Remember, CAPs can be shorter in length (2-3 minutes) and describe one concept or term (e.g. fundamental attribution error, conformity, or the Big 5 factor model of personality). They can also be longer in length (up to 7 minutes) and describe a larger topic such as a group of psychological disorders. Overall, the format is very flexible. CAPs can be designed for a variety of topics for students at all levels!

    It may be useful to get together with your department and have a CAP party where you spend time creating and evaluating each other’s CAPs. CAPs can then be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo so that students can view them on their own time. This may be especially useful for online or blended classes or instances in which you do not have time to go over every important concept in class. In the end, the integration of CAPs into a course will afford you more time for in-class activities that are critical for learning and engagement. Lastly, teachers may include a CAP creation project as a requirement for their class where students design their own CAPs independently or in groups. Overall, this would serve as a motivating activity that could facilitate an active learning environment!


    Kennedy, M. J. (n.d.). CAP [Content Acquisition Podcast] Production Steps. Retrieved from

    Kennedy, M. J., Ely, E., Thomas, C. N., Pullen, P. C., Newton, J. R., Ashworth, K., Cole, M. T., Lovelace, S. P. (2012). Using multimedia tools to support teacher candidates’ learning.Teacher Education and Special Education35(3), 243–257.

    Kennedy, M. J., Thomas, C. N., Meyer, J. P., Alves, K. D., & Lloyd, J. W. (2014).

    Using evidence-based multimedia to improve vocabulary performance of adolescents with LD: A UDL approach. Learning Disability Quarterly37(2), 71–86.

    Mayer, R. E. (1997). Multimedia learning: Are we asking right questions? Educational Psychologist.

    Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2002). Aids to computer-based multimedia learning. Learning and Instruction12, 107–119.

    Vocab Support. [Online] Retrieved on Jan. 4 2018 from

    Weiss, M. P., Evmenova, A. S., Kennedy, M. J., & Duke, J. M. (2016). Creating content acquisition podcasts (CAPs) for vocabulary: The intersection of content, pedagogy, and technology. Journal of Special Education Technology31(4), 228–235.

  • 03 Jan 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Teresa Ober, Ph.D. Candidate, The Graduate Center CUNY

    Why are we prone to make mistakes in light of misleading information, even when accurate information is right there in front of us?

    Demonstration #1

    Before we get started on addressing this question, I would like to you to try to answer another very straightforward question: Are there more words in the English language that begin with the letter r or have r as their third letter?

    The answer, as some, though likely not all, may have guessed (without reading ahead, of course!) was that there are more words that have r as the third letter. In reality, there are nearly twice as many words that have the letter r in the third position as opposed to the first position by some estimates. Most people guess that there are more words that begin with r because such words are easier to generate; however, there are apparently many more words that have r as the third letter (see Tversky and Kahneman, 1973). To name a few as examples: car, bird, warm, xerox, etc.

    But why does this seem so counterintuitive? Probably because words that begin with the letter r tend to be more familiar to us than words that have r as the third letter. Simply put, knowledge of words that begin with the letter r are more available to the mind. This is a common phenomenon generally referred to as the availability heuristic.

    Demonstration #2

    It is likely that more than several of our own students will use the availability heuristic to judge the frequency or likelihood of certain occurrences. In the 1970’s, Slovic, Fischhoff, and Lichtenstein (1976) discovered that only a small percentage of participants, who happened to be college students at the time, gave the correct answers when asked which of two options was more likely to lead to a fatality. A pairing included, for example, fatality due to a tornado vs. asthma. The odds ratio of a fatality due to a tornado relative to asthma is 1 to 20.90, meaning that for every 1 fatality due to a tornado, there are approximately 20.90 fatalities due to asthma. Based on these figures, asthma is on average deadlier than a tornado. When presented with the odds ratios and probabilities, the answers may seem obvious, but as the authors of this original study found out, participants were more often incorrect than not. Of those who responded to the questions, only 42% guessed that asthma was more fatal than a tornado.

    Has increased media reporting on some of these causes of death (e.g., asthma) changed estimates since this study was conducted first in 1976? Perhaps. Has our media awareness actually improved across the board? Most likely not.

    In judging the frequency of fatalities from different causes (morbid, I know), people tend to overestimate the number of deaths from, say, tornados, but underestimate the number of fatalities from, say, asthma, despite the latter once having been much more common. This is because we are more likely hear about the dangers of tornados sensationalized in the news, but we are much less likely to recognize the physical and health risks of asthma.

    This demonstration also provides a teachable moment for students by demonstrating to them that in today’s world, we should be especially conscious of the availability heuristic when making judgments about things we hear, regardless of whether the source is the news, social media, family or friends, etc. While there is a convenience of choosing types of news and news sources that you have readily presented to you at your leisure, one could argue that it allows people to construct a siloed version of current events. This could be problematic if news you choose is not always accurate and honest.

    We use the availability heuristic when we estimate frequency or probability in terms of how easily we can think of examples of something. This heuristic is generally accurate in our daily lives, and people can estimate relative frequency with impressive accuracy. However, this type of availability comes with the cost that it may be potentially contaminated by two factors that are not related to objective frequency: recency and familiarity. Therefore, when you make judgments about the frequency or likelihood of something happening, consider asking yourself whether you are giving an advantage to items that occurred more recently or that are somehow more familiar.

    The use of the availability heuristic is so pervasive that instructors and students alike may not even notice that we have succumbed to using it at our convenience. The availability heuristic may lead us to make illusory correlations, which occur when two variables appear to be correlated, although there is actually no statistical relationship. For example:

    The weather is always bad on the weekend.

    The bus/train is always late when you are running behind.

    The phone always rings when you are busy.

    But how can instructors get students to be more conscious of the negative consequences of the availability heuristic, if we ourselves are susceptible to it? One way is to get them to consciously strive to observe true frequencies. By doing so, instructors may encourage students to use their own metacognition to separate true relationships from merely perceived ones.

    Preventing this phenomenon can be done simply by calculating an odds ratio, but most people don’t bother to do this (or don’t know how to do so). If students did, they may become more aware of the types of inaccurate illusory correlations that are salient and difficult to reason through due to an overactive availability heuristic.

    In-Class Activity #1

    Here is a quick activity to get students thinking about likelihood by learning about odds ratios (adapted from Prasad et al., 2008).

    1. First, determine the type of sport the students might be interested in. For the purpose of this example, let’s say it’s basketball.
    2. Then ask the students: what do people mean when they say—the odds of your favorite basketball team winning a game is 1:1? Some students would say that the favorite team has the same chance of winning as they do losing. Others might reply that it means your team has a 1 out of 2 or 50% chance of winning this game. Both answers are correct.
    3. You can explain that odds correlate to probability. For example, a 1:3 odds indicates that your favorite team is expected to win 1 in every 4 attempts, hence the probability is 25%
    4. Now test students’ understanding on new odds ratios. For example, a 4:1 corresponding to an 80% chance because 4/(4+1) = 80%, and 1:5, corresponding to a 20% chance because 1/(1+4) = 20%, and so forth.
    5. Inform students that odds ratios are not just useful in shattering expectations formed from illusory correlations, but have actually been used in the medical sciences for many years. (It is necessary to understand relative risk, that is, how likely someone is going to have a certain condition based on some piece of information you have about them—something that can also be introduced with an example, such as the relative risk of developing lung cancer if you smoke.)

    In-Class Activity #2

    Next, provide another hypothetical example based on the contingency table below. 

    Train Late

    Train Not Late

    Odds Ratio

    (Train Late: Not Late)


    (Train late)

    Running Behind





    Not Running Behind





    In this hypothetical example, inform students that you decided to keep of the number of times the train (or bus) arrived late when you were running behind. Without showing them the odds ratio just yet, ask them to speculate whether there was a relationship between running behind (or not) and the train arriving on time (or not). In fact, there would be no relationship based on the figures in this table. The odds of a train running late when you are or are not running behind is exactly the same. The odds ratio is 2 to 3, or a 40% probability which is 2/(2+3). That means that the probability of the training running behind is actually 40% in this example, regardless of whether you are running late or not. 

    Take-Home Activity

    Next, students in groups choose a perceived correlation and set out to record it using a contingency table, such as the one shown in the previous example.

    During the next class, students briefly report their findings.

    In so doing, they discuss whether the perceived relationship be due to an actual correlation?

    If so, what might be the relationship between variables? Is the perceived relationship may be due to contaminants in the availability heuristic? If so, was it due to either recency or familiarity and what do they take as evidence of this?

    While this may seem simple enough, getting students to stop and think about the information available to them in their environment and apply metacognition without jumping too quickly to rash conclusions may provide a powerful lifelong cognitive tool. These simple classroom demonstrations and activities of a popular phenomenon from cognitive psychology may help students understand an essential concept while also preparing them to think more critically about the world around them.


    Hamilton, D. L., & Gifford, R. K. (1976). Illusory correlation in interpersonal perception: A cognitive basis of stereotypic judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12(4), 392-407.

    Prasad, K., Jaeschke, R., Wyer, P., Keitz, S., & Guyatt, G. (2008). Tips for teachers of evidence-based medicine: understanding odds ratios and their relationship to risk ratios. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(5), 635-640.

    Slovic, P., Fischhoff, B., & Lichtenstein, S. (1976). Cognitive processes and societal risk taking. In J. S. Carroll & J. W. Payne (Eds.), Cognition and Social Behavior. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive Psychology, 5, 207-232.

  • 30 Dec 2017 5:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Jane S. Halonen, Ph.D., University of West Florida

    One of the most daunting prospects of assuming the role of the professor is the implicit expectation that your sturdy disciplinary expertise can be displayed (flaunted?) to justify the respect that the position deserves. This expectation is the basis for the very common experience of the imposter phenomenon that regularly attends how graduate students feel when they inherit teaching responsibilities and also influences how new professors feel when they grasp the full range of what they are expected to know and do.

    Early in my teaching career (more than 35 years ago and prior to the instant answer culture enabled by the Internet), I had a brutal, humbling, and glorious experience that taught me a lot about true teaching expertise. I was teaching an introductory psychology course and was facing the content area I dreaded the most—sensation and perception. The truth is that all psychology professors have a specific “soft underbelly” of content in which they don’t feel entirely competent. Sensation and perception was definitely the most unsettling of the content areas I had to teach in introductory psychology.

    I opened my class dedicated to sensation and perception with a standard gambit, “Do you have any questions about the reading you prepared for today?” Although that may not be the most stimulating way to start a class, I was surprised when a hand shot up. “Why do you see yourself upside down in a spoon?” asked the volunteer. I was flummoxed (I love that word and don't get to use it often enough…)! Not only could I not answer the question, I wasn’t aware of the phenomenon. I think I responded with a rather weak, “Do you?” I regained my composure as the students laughed, admitted sheepishly that I didn’t have the foggiest notion how to answer that question, but would find out before the next class.

    I said, with no small amount of fear, “Any other questions?” Another student raised his hand, “Why do wagon wheels appear to be turning backward when you see them on film?” At least I recognized that observation was valid, but was clueless how to explain it. “Hmmm… again, I don’t know.” I repeated that this phenomenon would be added to my homework for the next class.

    I inadvertently encouraged them to think of other gaps in my knowledge when I inquired, “Does anyone else wish to play ‘stump the prof?’” Five more unanswerable phenomena, and a great deal of good-natured laughter, emerged. At the conclusion of my class I had substantial homework that had to be done to salvage the potential damage done by my utter lack of expertise. I was feeling especially inept because my status as “all-knowing” clearly had come undone.

    I dutifully did my homework and managed to deliver the requested content in the next class. Students visibly enjoyed the fact that I completed my homework and provided positive comments about how much they had enjoyed “stump the prof.” I began to rethink the experience and have extracted pedagogical lessons from that experience that have had a life-long impact:

    Lesson #1. You won’t die if you say “I don’t know” to a class. And it is far better to confess ignorance in the interest of promoting healthy discussion than to try to bluff your way out of a potentially embarrassing situation.

    Lesson #2. It is often not about the content, but the process. According to cognitive science, the minute details of convex spoon reflection or optical processing times are going to be forgotten by most students shortly after the course ends. However, helping students engage in the spirit of inquiry should have a lasting effect on their ability to learn in the future.

    Lesson #3. You can also learn from a missed opportunity. By focusing on delivering the right answer (the content), I missed the opportunity to have students think through their own ideas and hypotheses about what could account for the phenomena. Questions I can’t answer now become great teachable moments in which I invite students to generate their best ideas to improve their engagement and sharpen their critical thinking skills.

    Lesson #4. Students are on your side. If you make a good faith effort and have established the right kind of atmosphere, students are not only forgiving, but they are supportive. The overwhelming majority of students want their professors to succeed so they can feel confident they have invested their time and money properly.

    Lesson #5. Teachable moments are just as important for teachers as students. Choosing teaching as a profession offers endless opportunities for learning about the content, about the humans we serve, and about ourselves. Staying open to change—which can begin with a robust “I don’t know”—is one of the most important characteristics of truly effective teachers.

  • 16 Dec 2017 1:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Dr. Ken Keith, Ph.D., University of San Diego

    As a young boy on a small farm near a tiny rural village, I was, in the words of poet William Kloefkorn (2005), “doing my level best to grow up.”  The county seat, a booming metropolis of 5,000 citizens, was 12 miles distant, and the nearest big city was beyond that.  Psychology might as well have been a foreign country, and for that matter, other countries really were also foreign territory.  Like the ancient frog in the well, for all I knew my immediate surroundings and my little patch of sky were all the world I knew or needed.  I had not met a person of another race and had not traveled farther afield than one or two adjacent states.

    Eventually, as a regular patron of the village library, I stumbled upon the legend of Siegfried and the Dragon, and in geography class I learned that the ancient Egyptians produced flax.  However, I probably could not have found Egypt on a map, and my understanding of flax was hazy, at best.  The only professionals I really knew were my teachers, aside from local farmers, truckers, and shopkeepers.  Medicine and dentistry were sources of pain, and thus professions to be avoided.  My understanding of psychology and culture could be easily summarized in two words: ignorant and naïve.

    High school and undergraduate college days brought new experiences and new people, including classmates from such places as England, Germany, and Lebanon.  My circle widened as I studied French with a delightful French Canadian, met students from distant American cities, and found new friends from a variety of ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds.  My major was mathematics, due largely to the influence of a wonderful high school geometry teacher, but I also loved the subject matter (if not the professor) of introductory psychology.  Ultimately, I completed a psychology minor and switched from math to psychology for graduate school.

    The graduate school professors to whom I was drawn were behaviorists.  If B. F. Skinner was the high priest, Murray Sidman’s (1960) Tactics of Scientific Research was the bible.  Behavior analytic skills in hand, I set out to change the world, spending a number of years consulting around the country on the cases of people with intellectual disability and serious medical conditions, whose behavior was sufficiently violent or impoverished to render ineffective the traditional methods of education and treatment.  All the while, I was teaching my students the virtues of a scientific approach to behavior, hopeful that they too would go forth and save the world through behavior change—perhaps by ending pollution, eliminating smoking, or extinguishing Type A behavior.

    Then came a young colleague who had just completed a master’s thesis exploring the quality of life of people who had left an institution for people with intellectual disability.  She wanted to do more research, she said, but needed help.  I explained to her, as gently as I could, that quality of life was a warm, fuzzy, nondescript entity—not the sort of thing that real scientists studied.  But she was persistent, and I could see that she was right; we really did need to know more about the quality of life of people with disability, and its relation to their living conditions and services.  Together with my long-time colleague Bob Schalock, I began to take seriously the necessity of defining quality of life in such a way as to make it a legitimate area of study.  Bob and I did that, and continued to publish in the area for the next 30 years.  But the story doesn’t end there.

    At the beginning of the 1990s my wife and I had an opportunity to take a sabbatical in Japan.  In addition to teaching there, I wanted to take along our program of research in quality of life, and to explore the situation for people with disability and for students.  However, faced for the first time with the prospect of studying people whose culture was so dramatically different from my own, I had to face the facts: I simply did not know enough about the effects of culture on the sorts of things we had measured in our research.  What provisions must I make for linguistic differences?  How does culture influence the ways in which people respond to research instruments?  Do cultural values--such things as individualism/collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, or views of men and women—invalidate what I know based on my own culture? 

    Returning from Japan, I realized that I would never again see psychological science in quite the same way.  Each time my circle has widened, new experiences and new knowledge have required new ways of thinking.  My career has spanned a half century, and I have been privileged to visit many countries.  I have also taught cross-cultural psychology for many years, but have come to believe that, while such a course can be useful for consciousness raising and for conveying such important aspects as cross-cultural research methods, a specialized course is no substitute for infusion of culture across the curriculum.

    The APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major (American Psychological Association, 2013) recommend the infusion approach to the teaching of sociocultural content, observing that “When students encounter a stand-alone course requirement or a forced diversity ‘add on’ to an existing course, we are likely to fail to achieve the outcomes we seek” (p.38).  If we intend to teach a psychology of all people, the role of culture must be an integral part of all courses.  Elsewhere, I have suggested some simple ideas for the kinds of questions we might encourage students to ask (e.g., Keith, 2017), and in a forthcoming book (Keith, in press) specialists in the various subfields of psychology present teaching approaches and activities for integration of culture across the curriculum.

    As Lonner and Murdock (2008) noted, our textbooks have improved in their inclusion of cultural content, but we still have a long way to go if we are to do justice to the people whom Arnett (2008) called “the neglected 95%”—those individuals who do not live in North America.  So every time we enter the classroom, or engage students in discussion about research or theory, we should be asking ourselves (and our students) such questions as these:

                --Is it possible the researchers have a cultural bias?

                --Who are the research participants?

                --Are tests or other instruments linguistically fair and equivalent?

                --How do people of different cultures respond differently?

                --Do classic processes (e.g., temperament, attachment, reinforcement, memory) play out differently in different cultures?

                --Do different cultures define psychological constructs (e.g., intelligence, personality) in the same ways?

                --Are there really universal differences between women and men?

                --Does the American biomedical approach to health reflect cultural bias?

                --Is “normal” the same across cultures?

    These questions, and a hundred more like them, can represent a start toward an integrative approach to teaching in any of the subfields of psychological science.  We can no longer afford the luxury of thinking of culture as an interesting add-on.  All people deserve dignity and respect, not only as we encounter them in our daily lives, but also in our efforts to study and understand the people of the world.

    It is a long way from my tiny rural community to the continents of the world, and finding them has involved a long and winding road.  But the journey truly is the reward, and the farm boy’s ongoing effort to grow up has opened the door to undreamed diversity and beauty.  Let’s open that same door for our students as we send them out into the world.


    American Psychological Association (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major. Washington, DC: Author.

    Arnett, J. J. (2008). The neglected 95%: Why American psychology needs to become less American. American Psychologist, 63, 602-614.

    Keith, K. D. (2017, October). Saving the soul of psychology: Why teachers matter. Presented at the Annual Conference on Teaching of Psychology, San Antonio, TX. Available upon request:

    Keith, K. D. (Ed.). (in press). Culture across the curriculum: A psychology teacher’s handbook. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Kloefkorn, W. (2005, April). The poetry of people and place. Presented at Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Annual Conference, Chadron, NE.

    Lonner, W. J. & Murdock, E. (2008).  Introductory psychology texts and the inclusion of culture. 

    Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Unit 11.1,

    Sidman, M. (1960). Tactics of scientific research: Evaluating experimental data in psychology. New York, NY: Basic Books.

  • 20 Nov 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ayşenur Benevento, Ph.D. Candidate, The Graduate Center CUNY

    Whenever you move, you move from a place. The movement could be big or small. The place you move from could be a continent, a country, a region, a city, or a neighborhood. Your experience in the new place could be drastically different or the same as before.

    I moved from Turkey to the USA in 2012. When I first arrived, I lived in New Jersey, and then moved to Staten Island, New York. The countries, cities, and neighborhoods I have lived in have been drastically different from each other. In this blog post, I will not spell out what were the things that were different and educate you on my personal experiences. Instead, I will encourage you to use the narratives your students can bring to the classroom based on their own experiences of movement to create a classroom where students know each other’s unique experiences and can connect to each other on personal and professional levels.  The place narrative assignment I will describe accomplishes two things: first, it encourages students to question established “facts” by bringing diverse individual perspectives together and second, it helps students hear and understand each other and, eventually, build a community where they are more aware of each other and how they can contribute to the classroom discourse.  

    At the College of Staten Island, I have taught a very diverse student population over the years. When I want to move away from mainstream psychology and help students critique theory and research based in the western hemisphere, I turn to my students and ask them the following questions: Is there anyone with a counterexample to what we have just described here? What would happen if we were to move the researcher/participants to somewhere else?

    According to the results of a recent campus climate survey, many students lack a sense of belongingness at the college where I teach. To be fair, our campus feels far from the heart of New York City, far from anything. Most of the students commute for at least an hour to get to campus and only a small number stay in the dormitories. In order to deal with the problem of remoteness of the campus and build connection among students I thought to myself, “As teachers, how about we bring faraway places into our classrooms?”

    Narratives are personal but also relational. Hearing or reading somebody else’s stories is known to increase empathy towards the narrator and the group that the narrator belongs to. With this in mind, I asked my students to write a narrative essay on their neighborhood using photographs, drawings, or maps, with at least five visuals included in their narratives.  Photographs help students to organize and portray the details they write in their narratives and may help them to communicate, given the preferences they tend to have for visual and impactful media.

    In the place narrative assignment, I prompt students to reflect on their neighborhood, more broadly defined as a “place.” They are instructed to not limit themselves to a few streets, and to branch out as needed to include countries, cities, or old schools, parks, other landmarks that they believe are local and important to them. By reflecting on their “place,” students are able to show their classmates something about where they are coming from. If there was a major move to/from this place they are encouraged to write about their particular experiences. They are also instructed to think about how places relate to their development.

    Some of the questions I have used in this exercise include: What memories do you have around certain places in your neighborhood? What are/were your routines and rituals? Who were/are you with? How long have you lived there? How do you feel connected to these place(s)?

    Think About Images:

    This is not just a written reflection. I want you to use original and found images; include photos of your present or past neighborhoods, drawings, and/or maps to accompany your words. Think of this as a photo essay (similar to making a story on Instagram, but with a bit more words).  The story should make sense with the images—so the words and pictures need to work together. Consider how each section relates to the other ones.

    Think About Audience:

    Remember, you are familiar with the place. You know it well. You are an insider. But most of your classmates who will read your essay are outsiders to that place. As you are writing your story, keep your perspective as an insider, but also adopt the perspective of an outsider in writing descriptions.

    Some useful questions to consider: What details should you focus on? The placement of objects? The layout of the landscape? The weather at certain times of year? What are the smells of your place? The noises? Try to use figurative language: metaphor, simile, and personification in your descriptions.


    Think About Topics We Cover:

     The essays you produce are likely to involve psychological topics, such as Emotion, Memory, Human Development, Perception, and Personality. It is important to think about these topics when writing your essay.

    Think About Purpose:

    Ask yourself: Why am I writing about this place in particular? What do I want my classmates to understand about this place, about my life, about life in general, after they finish reading my piece?

    After the essays are written and photos are added we divide the class into small groups and students share their narratives with each other. In the end, this activity helps individuals to organize their thoughts related to a place but also make them relatable to others. This activity could also be great way to ignite interest in students about each other and help them become more aware of the diversity of the community that surrounds them. 

  • 18 Nov 2017 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Dr. Beth Morling, Ph.D., University of Delaware

    Here’s a tale from my graduate course on the teaching of psychology. It was the second half of the semester and students were engaged in microteaching, preparing short lessons for each other. On her chosen week, a 3rd year Ph.D. student delivered an intro psych lesson on learning theory. She started with a mini-lecture with illustrated slides, then performed a short demonstration of the phenomenon. She conveyed a warm personal presence, used student names, and delivered responsive feedback. Her demo involved every student in the room; the audience loved it. There was only one problem: Her slides had introduced classical conditioning terms, but her demonstration involved only operant conditioning. She didn’t realize she had muddled the difference between the two types of learning.

    And here’s a tale from the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP). During a keynote presentation, distinguished developmentalist Dr. Nora Newcombe (2016) described the weak scientific support for Piaget’s stage theory and presented alternatives such as Vygotskian and information processing approaches. She openly wondered why textbooks persist in their focus on Piaget, given how the field has moved on. She speculated that Piaget remains in textbooks because his stages are simple to teach. Testbank authors can easily write multiple choice questions about Piaget’s stages and students feel mastery easily. While many in the audience were inspired to modernize their lessons, others seemed to resist. Why are some teachers and textbooks content with outdated research?

    It might seem obvious that we need both pedagogy and accurate, modern content to be effective psychology teachers. However, these two events illustrate how sometimes content can take a back seat. 

    Faculty used to complain that “nobody ever teaches you how to teach in graduate school!” sometimes adding, “I only learned how to conduct research and read journal articles.” Graduate students didn’t get trained in pedagogy because they focused on developing expertise in the field.

    Luckily, the pedagogical training of graduate students has been improving. More graduate students take courses on teaching, and psychology’s vibrant teaching culture engages both faculty and graduate students. Teaching pre-conferences are attached to APS, SPSP, and SRCD, and there are free-standing teaching events such as NITOP and ACT. We’re developing a body of knowledge about active learning, course design, feedback, and student engagement. It’s all good. But our new focus on pedagogy should never eclipse expertise. Teachers of psychology need to know their content deeply, they need to know where students struggle with it, and they need to constantly update their understanding.


    There’s a saying that goes: “Good teachers can teach anything!”  Or perhaps you’ve heard, “those who can’t do, teach.” Although we don’t have much data at the college teaching level, the K-12 literature disagrees. Students learn more from teachers who have high levels of content knowledge in their specific discipline. For example, Willingham (2013) blogged about a study of middle school science teachers (Sadler et al., 2013). It found a main effect such that students learn more from teachers who know their stuff. The pattern was also moderated by student ability. When teachers were low in subject-matter knowledge, their high-ability students could still learn something—presumably from the textbook. But their low-ability students learned….. nothing.  At the college level, we might reason that if students just use think-pair-share, just-in-time-teaching, and writing-to-learn, they will be engaged enough that learning will just happen. But such techniques are empty pedagogical shells until they are filled with content.

    We have to convey content to our students because critical thinking—the skill we all value highly—cannot take place in a content-free space.  Content knowledge enables better learning and thinking in our students (Willingham, 2006).

    Ruth Ault raised a similar point in the context of the job market. In a chapter about teaching at a liberal arts college, she wrote:  

    “When candidates boast that they can teach anything in the discipline, our suspicions are aroused that the person does not understand the rigor of our courses or the caliber of our students.” (Ault, 2014, p. 167)

    I think Ault’s statement is exactly right. A teaching-focused academic career does not preclude being steeped in the nerdy details of one’s discipline.

    Ideally, content knowledge includes knowing what students struggle with.  Shulman writes:
    “content knowledge includes an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to the learning of those most frequently taught topics and lessons.” (1986, p. 9).

    Indeed, the Sadler et al. study (2013) introduced above also measured teachers’ knowledge of student misconceptions. Teachers were best able to produce learning when they were content experts and when they knew what students struggled with.


    Building and Sustaining Content Knowledge

    How can you ensure your preparation for college teaching includes both pedagogy and content? First, as you develop expertise in graduate school, track metacognition as well. My microteaching student got into trouble because she didn’t know what she didn’t know. Metacognitive accuracy comes from feedback (and probably humility, too). Put yourself in situations that answer, “What do I still need to learn?” Chart the course of your own misconceptions and learning because it’s likely your students will get snagged in similar spots.

    Second, let your excitement about mastering content as a graduate student transition into a sustainable career of learning new things. I estimate that up to 90% of what I use in the classroom is stuff I learned after graduate school. My graduate education never touched behavioral genetics, gene-culture coevolution, zero-acquaintance accuracy, learning science, or Bayesian statistics, but I’ve learned them (OK… the last one’s still a work in progress). A lifetime of learning is probably what attracted you to the professoriate, but it’s not always easy. I’ll admit that when there’s a body of knowledge I’ve needed to learn, I grumbled and tried to avoid it. It can be hard on the ego to be the amateur in the room (see: Bayesian statistics, above). Acknowledge your resistance, but then get yourself to the library.

    You can keep your learning going by regularly attending academic conferences---and not only the sessions on pedagogy. Even at NITOP, we take care to make sure our program includes content updates by subject matter experts as well as pedagogical talks. We know that our attendees need both.

    Although there are no shortcuts, an enjoyable approach is to read (or listen to) trade books written by psychologists. I follow a rule that my audiobooks have to be nonfiction, so I’ve  “read” 8 psychology-related titles this year (including this one,  this one, this one, and this one.) If you’re about to point out that such books are not peer-reviewed and don’t dig into the research details—you’re right. But when it comes to introducing research I should know about and providing excellent real-world examples, they are invaluable.



     Shulman (1986) noted that 100 years ago, U.S. qualifying exams tested teachers’ knowledge of mathematics, spelling, grammar, penmanship, history, and so on—with only a few questions about pedagogy. But now, K-12 teaching standards focus on pedagogical topics such as organization, classroom management, and cultural awareness; not content. Shulman asked, “Where did the subject matter go?  What happened to the content?”  (p. 5). In our own enthusiasm for the latest pedagogical techniques for psychology, let’s not let our content knowledge stagnate: Keep the balance between the two.

    As a member of GSTA, you’re commended for supplementing your rigorous content training with pedagogical engagement. As you embark on your career, I hope you’ll also find sustainable ways to deepen your expertise so you can share the constantly-changing wonders of our field with your students.  


    Ault, R. L. (2014). Four desirable qualities for teaching at a small liberal arts college. In J. N. Busler, B. C. Beins, & B. Buskist (Eds.) Preparing the New Psychology Professoriate: Helping Graduate Students Become Competent Teachers, 2nd ed. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site:

    Newcombe, N. (2016, January 4). New Ways of Thinking about Cognitive Development: Implications for Teaching. Keynote presentation at NITOP, St. Petersburg Beach, FL.

    Sadler, P. M., Sonnert, G., Coyle, H.P., Cook-Smith, N., & Miller, J.L. (2013) Student learning in middle school science classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 50, 1020-1049.

    Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Research, 15, 4-14.

    Willingham, D. (2006) How knowledge helps. It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning—and thinking. American Educator (online edition).

    Willingham, D. (2013). What science teachers need to know. Downloaded from

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software