School name: Earlham College
Type of college/university: Small Liberal Arts College
School locale: small town
Classes I teach:
Introduction to Psychology; Research Methods in Peer Relationships; Adult Psychopathology; Developmental Psychopathology; Senior Research
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
The best advice was actually the first time I taught a class. Someone told me that I wouldn't be particularly good at it that first semester, but that I would get better. That was really helpful. My first semester was OK, but I tried to do too much and there was a lot I wanted to change. Because of the advice I had, I didn't feel like a failure -- I just felt normal. Subsequent semesters were much better as I learned from my mistakes.
Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
The courses I teach on psychopathology are my favorites. I always have students who are doing service-learning placements. Sometimes all the students are doing placements as a requirement of the course; sometimes it is an optional additional credit. They work 2-3 hours per week out in the community for most of the semester. I have them respond to journal prompts, lead discussions in class, and present on their experiences at the end of the semester. It's really satisfying to read their reflections and to see them change throughout the semester. I don't think there's a good way to demonstrate the complexity of real-world people and institutions within the classroom. Students learn a lot more when they are out in the community, but reflecting on their experiences in a structured way and making connections to class material.
Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
In Developmental Psychopathology, I developed a "case" for students to practice assessment on. Students are given a brief intake description of a child. In small groups, they talk about the case and what kinds of assessments they want, such as unstructured interview with the mom or behavioral checklist from the teacher. They have to ask for each assessment one at a time, take it back and talk about how the information has influenced their case conceptualization -- what they think is going on with this kid and his family. I have 15 or so prepared assessment reports for this assignment. We usually take a full class period to do it, and the groups never get all of the possible assessments. Then we talk about each group's view of this child, possible diagnoses, broader family issues, etc. Pretty much every time, the groups end up with different perspectives because they collected different pieces of information. I use this to show them that diagnosis is a complicated process and the kinds of questions we ask (assessments we get) can really change our perspective. The students almost always comment that the assignment was very difficult but also illuminating and enjoyable.
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
In my introductory courses, I use a lot of quizzes. I post questions from previous tests into online quizzes that are completely non-graded. I also give quizzes with questions similar to the test in class, scored taken/not taken. Since I've started doing this, particularly the in-class quizzes, I've seen test scores go up. I believe this is largely from improved study skills. A lot of students have pretty bad metacognitive skills and overestimate what they know. The in-class quizzes give them firm evidence that they need to study.
What’s your workspace like?
Controlled chaos. Mostly. Sometimes just chaos.
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Organized, Fast-paced, Applied
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.
My first semester teaching in graduate school, I was teaching sensation and perception, and I pronounced "timbre" like "timber." A very nice, polite student waited until the other 300 students had left the lecture hall to come up and mention that it's actually pronounced "tam-ber." Oops.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
They seem easily surprised. Most recently one of them was surprised that I was also a religion major in college.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
Five Billion Years of Solitude
What tech tool could you not live without?
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
Probably too much chatter. We talk about food and cute/absurd things we've seen on Facebook.