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

Paul Thibodeau: I'm a Member of STP and This is How I Teach

31 Jan 2018 8:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School name: Oberlin College

Type of school: Small liberal arts college

School locale: Small town: Oberlin, OH (population ~10,000) in a fairly rural area about 45 minutes west of Cleveland, Ohio

Classes you teach:

Introduction to Psychology; Research Methods; Cognitive Psychology; A Research Practicum in Cognitive Psychology; a seminar called Language & Thought

Average class size:

Intro Psych: 120

Research Methods / Cognitive Psychology: 40 each

Research lab / seminar: 15 each

What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

Make sure the students understand the question/problem/issue before you start explaining the answer.

What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? 

Bain (2004). What the best college teachers do

Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

My favorite course to teach is Research Methods because I love teaching students the analytical and quantitative reasoning skills that research requires. I like to help students who think they hate math develop their ability to make arguments with numbers. I like seeing students feel empowered as a result of learning the material. And I like grading / giving feedback in this class: because it can feel a little more "grounded" or "objective" than in more conceptual classes.

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

At the beginning of each Research Methods class, I post a "question of the day." Students have about 10 minutes to work on it. Then we go over the problem together. It helps get the class started. And students show up on time, ready to work.

What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?

I try to make my courses as active for the students as I can. I don't love to stand in front of a room and talk at students. It's just not my style. I try to create to develop classes around questions/problems and tasks that are actively engaging for the students -- for which I am more of a facilitator than one-man-show.

What’s your workspace like?

I usually work in my office on campus or in my basement at home. My office on campus has a nice desktop computer and a large desk (that ends up sort of messy and cluttered, no matter how hard I try to keep it organized). I also have a nice desktop computer in the basement of my house. I usually work at home for a few hours in the morning before going into the department. It's a little less likely that I'll get distracted when I work at home. 

Three words that best describe your teaching style.

Dedicated, student-centered, a-work-in-progress

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

Inspire students to become excited about what they are learning.

Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

Every once in a while, there will be a (really bad) typo on a slide or handout. This is especially challenging in research methods, where we're working with formulas that are fairly rigid. I tell students in advance that this may be an issue. When it comes up, I try to be self-aware and self-deprecating -- students seem to appreciate that. Most importantly, I do everything I can to communicate the corrections. 

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

That I was a pretty decent long distance runner in college (and for a few years after college). I ran a marathon in 2 hours 49 minutes in 2006 (6:30/mile pace).

What are you currently reading for pleasure?

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 

What tech tool could you not live without?

Tile -- which helps me keep track of my keys. 

What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

I have two daughters, 2 and 4. I talk a lot about them. Most of my colleagues also have kids, so it is fun to talk to them about being a parent. 

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