Endings, Beginnings, Misinformation, and Membership
As we near final exams and the arrival of vaccines in many countries (although not nearly enough!), we might imagine an end – to teaching via Zoom, to social isolation, and hopefully to the terrible suffering and loss experienced by so many. We might imagine new beginnings – from in-person classes to reunions with loved ones.
But multiple challenges remain, including one that we, as psychology instructors, can help overcome. Rampant misinformation has been responsible, in part, for the spread of the virus and for vaccine hesitancy (e.g., Hotez et al., 2021; Su, 2021). The resurgence of the virus in so many places in the world – most notably India and Brazil – has resulted in part from misinformation (e.g., Al-Zaman, 2021). We can work with our students at all levels – from secondary through graduate – to emphasize critical thinking and scientific literacy. And we can give students experience explicitly challenging misinformation (i.e., unintentional) and disinformation (i.e., purposeful). Here’s a great lesson plan related to that.
One study, for example, found that people who were able to detect disinformation and were higher in health literacy were more likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19 (Montagni et al. 2021). The authors define health literacy as “the extent to which people can access, understand, appraise and apply health-related information through all communication channels.” Replace “health-related” with “psychology-related” and this is what we do! In my own writing and teaching, I have increasingly focused on scientific literacy broadly. I find that students are engaged by the relevance of current examples, and, of course, many of these examples directly relate to psychology – for example, there is no evidence that crystals heal depression, that brain games reduce dementia, or that people learn better if lessons fit their “learning style.”
I have been steered toward great misinformation-related pedagogy and research by my STP colleagues, often on the STP Facebook page. (I particularly like checkology.org and firstdraftnews.org for classroom ideas and resources.) Hopefully, we’ll soon have these types of conversations in person at STP’s Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT), which will be both virtual and in person in Louisville, KY, in October – thanks to the great work of Lindsay Masland, our new Conference Director. And that is not fake news!
Finally, in my ongoing series of introductions of the Vice Presidents of STP, meet Meera Komarraju, our VP for Membership! The work of Meera and her team is essential to recruiting and supporting the members of STP who make us what we are as an organization – the members I turn to when I want to address misinformation in my classes, and much more. Below, Meera discusses her role within STP, the opportunities within her area, and why she so values her involvement in STP. As always, check out STP’s Get Involved page if you decide you would like to, well, get involved!
What would you like STP members to know about your position?
As Vice President of Membership, I interact with the following committees situated within this portfolio: STP Fellows, Early Career Psychologists, Graduate Student Teaching Association, Membership, Membership Communication and the This is how I teach Blog. Each of these committees works fairly independently and helps STP welcome new members, stay connected with continuing members, share important resources and provide opportunities for professional development. In particular, membership in STP offers a direct mechanism for getting networked with others who have an interest in the teaching of psychology. You can find mentors, peers, and gain knowledge that is passed along through informal conversations that is rarely taught in a classroom. This position gives you a chance to open doors for others seeking access to these resources.
What do you most value about STP?
My connection with STP goes back over a period of about twelve years. During this time, I have enjoyed a sense of belonging within a warm and welcoming community of colleagues. We share a passion for the Teaching of Psychology and this common interest as well as the friendship that has surrounded me represent my fondest professional experiences. STP is a society that welcomes teachers of psychology from a variety of backgrounds. These are psychology teachers in high schools, community colleges, or universities and could be tenure-track, adjunct, or graduate student instructors. Irrespective of backgrounds, the connecting link is our love of teaching. My interactions with my colleagues have been energizing and uplifting. So what I value the most is this bonding over the teaching of psychology!
Al-Zaman, M. S. (2021). COVID-19-related social media fake news in India. Journalism and Media, 2, 100–114. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia2010007
Hotez, P., Batista, C., Ergonul, O., Figueroa, J. P., Gilbert, S., Gursel, M., ... & Bottazzi, M. E. (2021). Correcting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation: Lancet Commission on COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics Task Force Members. EClinicalMedicine, 33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.100780
Montagni, I., Ouazzani-Touhami, K., Mebarki, A., Texier, N., Schück, S., Tzourio, C., & CONFINS group (2021). Acceptance of a Covid-19 vaccine is associated with ability to detect fake news and health literacy. Journal of Public Health, fdab028. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab028
Su, Y. (2021). It doesn’t take a village to fall for misinformation: Social media use, discussion heterogeneity preference, worry of the virus, faith in scientists, and COVID-19-related misinformation beliefs. Telematics and Informatics, 58, 101547. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2020.101547