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

GSTA Blog

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 gsta@teachpsych.org. We are especially seeking submissions in one of the five 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
  • Advice for successfully navigating research and teaching demands of graduate school

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 gsta@teachpsych.org and we will post them as a comment on your behalf.

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Teresa OberCharles Raffaele, Hallie Jordan, Ryan Thompson, and Sarah Frantz


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


  • 10 May 2018 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Regan A.R. Gurung, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

    Pick a book. Look at someone else’s syllabus. Modify the latter to fit the former. You are now teaching!! 

    I have come a long (long long) way from the way I designed my first class. I did not take a ‘how to teach’ course. I will admit that in graduate school I felt pressured to work on being a stellar researcher above all else. I worked on publications and not on the craft of teaching. Little did I realize that the same skills I took to doing research could, can, and should, be applied to being an excellent teacher as well.  Teaching needs to be examined in the same way as we examine research.

    When I started, I did not have the advantage of the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) resources and the area of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), while around, was not as developed as it is now. Times are different now.  There is now a variety of resources on how to teach well (see Gurung, Richmond, & Boysen, in press for a review and summary) and subjecting your teaching and your students’ learning to the same scrutiny as you do your research question is now easier to do. You can browse through an empirically based guide to being a model teacher (Richmond, Boysen, & Gurung, 2016) or even develop your own SoTL skills (Gurung & Wilson, 2013). Most importantly, there is a now a virtual home to bring together those interested in advancing teaching and learning.

    If you are interested in questions such as ‘What is the best way to teach psychology?’ and ‘How should students study to learn?’, there is now a resource to help share answers and facilitate the search for solutions to common pedagogical problems. If you are a graduate student teaching your first class, you may believe that the challenges you face are unique. You may attribute the issues to newly venturing into the classroom or newly taking on the mantel of instructor. While both these attributions are valid, nearly every graduate student and many novice instructors and faculty face the same questions. To date there has been no coordinated effort to examine these questions. Whereas a large body of pedagogical research on teaching and learning exists, I have found that the absolute majority of research is conducted within individual classes at different institutions. Furthermore, few studies test theoretically-derived questions and not enough classroom research sufficiently translates and tests lab findings.

    The reasons for these shortcomings are clear. Relevant research is published in diverse areas. Whereas many readers should have read articles from Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, Teaching of Psychology, and Psychology of Learning and Teaching, that is only the beginning of a long list of journals that cover material related to teaching. As a graduate student you may not have the time to prepare your next class, let alone read the literature on teaching. Then there is the pressure, both real and imagined, to get your dissertation done and publish enough to make you a good job candidate. Even most faculty do not have the time to fully explore the rich literature on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Interested faculty often lack the time, network, design expertise, or experience to conduct classroom research. The time to alleviate these problems is here.

    Thanks to support from APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science, I have been able to design a new online resource to serve those interested in evidence-based practices in the classroom. The site helps coordinate scholarship on teaching and learning with a variety of tools and resources. It can also foster collaborations between researchers investigating the science of teaching and learning to catalyze further research on these topics. Do you feel isolated as a graduate student who is passionate about teaching?  Great news.  There are many similar individuals who also feel the same and who have put their names together.

    If you want to invigorate your teaching and lay the groundwork for a satisfying professor of psychology, start early. Connect with the Hub for Introductory Psychology and Pedagogical Research (HIPPR).  If you get HIPPR (pronounced hipper) now, you will find the answer to many teaching challenges and have the support network for your pedagogical explorations.

    HIPPR provides:
    - Literature Central: A central clearinghouse for research on teaching Introduction to Psychology and pedagogy in general, providing research summaries from multiple disciplines to aid future research.

    - Collaborator Finder: Instructors can find collaborators, faculty who have similar pedagogical questions, or instructors willing to volunteer their classes/students for testing of pedagogical interventions.

    - Scales-n-More: A collection of questionnaires and surveys commonly used in pedagogical inquiry that are ready for use. A particularly handy resource for novice pedagogical researchers, these measures will also help ensure comparisons across samples.

    Future innovations will include a Data Repository (data sets for secondary analyses) and a Virtual File-Drawer (brief reports of unpublished studies which may prove helpful in the design of additional work).

    You can learn more about HIPPR and the tools it offers at HIPPR.UWGB.ORG.

    Get started now. Perhaps you will find collaborators for a study or pools to test your own pedagogical innovations. In either case, I hope the resource will fuel your passion for teaching.


    References

    Gurung, R. A. R., Richmond, A., & Boysen, G. A. (in press). Studying excellence in teaching: The story so far. In B. Buskist & J. Keeley (Eds.) New Directions in Teaching and Learning.

    Gurung, R. A. R., & Wilson, J. H. (Eds.). (2013). Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning: Measuring systematic changes to teaching and improvements in learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Richmond, A., Boysen, G., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2016). An evidence-based guide to college and university teaching: Model teaching competencies. New York: Routledge.


    Regan is the Ben J. and Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Human Development and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Born and raised in Bombay, India, he received a B.A. in psychology at Carleton College (MN), his Masters and Ph.D. in social and personality psychology at the University of Washington (WA), and then spent three years at UCLA as a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research fellow. His Health Psychology: Well Being in a Diverse World (Sage) is now in its 4th edition and he is also the co-author/co-editor of 15 other books and over 150 articles and book chapters. A dedicated teacher, he is a recipient of the APF Charles L. Brewer Award for Distinguished Career in Teaching Psychology, The CASE Wisconsin Professor of the Year, and the UW System Regents Teaching Award, amongst othersHe is also the  founding Co-Editor of APA's journal SoTL in Psychology.  MORE:  ReganGurung.com

  • 25 Apr 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Patricia J. Brooks, Ph.D., Ayşenur Benevento, Ph.D. Candidate, & Teresa Ober, Ph.D. Candidate, The Graduate Center, CUNY

    The GSTA hosted a roundtable discussion titled “How to turn your teaching into research” at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) on April 18, 2018. The goal of the roundtable was to introduce graduate students to opportunities to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) as they embark on their careers as instructors of undergraduate psychology courses.  The panelists were Dr. Phil Kreniske, post-doctoral fellow at HIV Center at Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, Dr. Kasey Powers, post-doctoral research scientist at Mercy College, Professor Michael Mandiberg of the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and Professor Eduardo Vianna of LaGuardia Community College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Mandiberg is an interdisciplinary artist and coordinator of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (ITP) Certificate Program at the Graduate Center. Three of our panelists (Kreniske, Vianna, and Powers) are alumni of the PhD Program in Psychology at the Graduate Center, who engaged in SoTL research as part of the doctoral studies (see, e.g., Kreniske, 2017; Powers, Brooks, Galazyn, & Donnelly, 2016; Stetsenko & Vianna, 2009), with Kreniske and Powers also completing the ITP. Additionally, Powers and Kreniske were the founding editors of the GSTA blog, which makes it even more exciting to feature their accomplishments!  

    We asked our panel what they thought were some of the hot topics within the SoTL field that graduate students might fruitfully pursue as instructors. Mandiberg said, “I think graduate students considering SoTL work should ask not what the hot topics are, but what the topics are they are struggling with in their own classroom, from technical matters like OER [Open Educational Resources] and learning delivery to digital information literacy and civic engagement.”  Some of the questions Mandiberg and students have explored in prior work include: How can our students contribute to a digital commons, and what influence does this have on learning when they do so? What does experiential learning look like in a digital field? How can learning inside the classroom scaffold better learning outside/after the classroom?

    Kreniske emphasized issues of inequality and access: “College retention and success and issues of inequality are really critical topics right now. One study I often cite showed that despite record enrollment rates in American colleges only 11% of low-income and first-generation students earned a Bachelor's degree within six years, compared to 54% of the general population (Wine, Janson, & Wheeless, 2011). Institutions like CUNY who serve a large proportion of low-income and first generation students are working hard to address these issues but more can be done. From my perspective, the question for faculty and graduate teachers is what can we do to help support these students.” He added, “I’m super interested in the power of writing as a tool for creating and organizing thoughts and emotions. This is particularly the case in challenging life transitions, like the transition in and out of middle school or in my most recent work the transition to college, and the transition to adulthood.”

    At LaGuardia, Vianna coordinates a Peer Activist Learning Community that promotes equitable, student-centered learning. According to Vianna, “the focus is on introducing theories and concepts as analytical tools that promote critical engagement with knowledge to interrogate its competing and often clashing ethical-political underpinnings and implications in order to spur agentive positioning in learning.” Regarding topics for new SoTL research Vianna stated, “I would emphasize the issue of curricular change, particularly in introductory psychology courses. Attention to integrating curriculum design and progressive pedagogy has become paramount in light of the recognition that ‘psychology has traditionally presented a culturally limited perspective of human beings’, as ‘culture, ethnic minority groups, gender, sexual orientation, and disability were often viewed as peripheral or outside of the mainstream of psychology’ (Sue, 2003, p. xvii). Therefore, recent scholarship on psychology teaching has made a compelling case for infusing curricula with diversity topics. Importantly, APA has also committed to promoting the significant role of psychological science in achieving the twin goal of (a) understanding and reducing discrimination and (b) identifying and implementing pathways to beneficial diversity (APA, 2012).”

    At Mercy College, Powers coordinates a program involving Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL). As she describes it, “PLTL is an approach that puts peer leaders into sections of Statistics for Social Sciences and General Biology. Peer leaders work with the students in small groups for an hour on problem solving strategies as they work through activity sheets reinforcing content covered in lectures.”  As possible SoTL research topics, Powers answered. “A couple of things I see that could be interesting avenues are around growth mindset and science identity. There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of having a growth mindset but not a lot of research on how to get one. Using your classroom to practice ways that might increase growth mindset that could be measured with a pre- / post-design. Another thing we have run into here is that many of the psychology students do not see themselves as being part of STEM, and are scared of research. This could be addressed by adding small changes in teaching to foster development of the idea of psychology as a science.”

    The panel addressed a wide range of topics including, for example, interdisciplinary perspectives on SoTL research methodology, mentoring undergraduate students as research assistants, and sharing one’s own research with students in the classroom. For those who were not able to attend the roundtable in person, a recording of the event is available online. We were grateful to the panel for a lively discussion and hope you will enjoy watching the recording!


    References

    American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity. (2012). Dual pathways to a better America: Preventing discrimination and promoting diversity. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/promoting-diversity.aspx

    Kreniske, P. (2017). Developing a culture of commenting in a first-year seminar. Computers in Human Behavior, 72, 724-732.

    Powers, K. L., Brooks, P. J., Galazyn, M., & Donnelly, S. (2016). Testing the efficacy of MyPsychLab to replace traditional instruction in a hybrid course. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 15(1), 6-30.

    Stetsenko A. & Vianna E. (2009). Bridging developmental theory and educational practice: Lessons from the Vygotskian project. In O. A. Barbarin, B. Hanna Wasik (Eds.), Handbook of child development and early education: Research to practice (pp. 38-54). New York: Guilford.

    Sue, D. W. (2003). Overcoming our racism: The journey to liberation. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

    Wine, J., Janson, N., & Wheeless, S. (2011). 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS: 04/09). Full-Scale Methodology Report. NCES 2012-246. National Center for Education Statistics.

  • 05 Apr 2018 5:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By: Teresa Ober, PhD Candidate, The Graduate Center CUNY, and Minzhi Liu, MA Student, New York University

    To learn how we might improve our teaching by including the perspectives of International Psychology, we interviewed two experts on the topic. We spoke with Dr. Florence Denmark and Dr. Janet Sigal. Dr. Denmark is a former President of the American Psychological Association (APA) and currently serves as the main representative of the International Council of Psychologists (ICP), a non-governmental organization (NGO) with official affiliative status with the United Nations (UN). Dr. Sigal is a current representative of ICP and has previously served as the main representative of the APA to the UN, and as President of APA Division 1, Society for General Psychology. Both have been very active as faculty whose expertise in Social Psychology, Women’s Studies, and International and Cross-cultural Psychology has left quite a legacy.

    *           *           *


    Teresa Ober (TO): Thank you again for agreeing to take part in this interview. We are planning to ask questions about your experience in relation to International Psychology and teaching. We would like to know what conclusions your experience has led you to in relation to how instructors can better prepare their students to appreciate psychology from multicultural and multinational perspectives. To start, what factors drew you to study psychology?

    Janet Sigal (Sigal): I have always been interested in how people think and their behaviors. In Introductory Psychology, I had Philip Zimbardo who inspired me to become a psychology major. Social Psychology appealed to me because it dealt with issues in the real world.

    Florence Denmark (Denmark): I was a history major at the University of Pennsylvania when I took Introduction to Psychology. It was a two-semester course with a lab. We carried out 16 experiments over the year from reaction time to several Asch studies. It was exciting to either support or refute certain hypotheses. For example, looking at children’s pictures and rank ordering them in terms of IQ showed that you could not judge children’s intelligence by how they looked. For me it was really an important thing to learn. I became fascinated with Psychology and received honors in both History and Psychology. My interest in Psychology was to carry out research to find out what people did and why.

    TO: 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 talk a little about the history of International Psychology?

    Sigal: One of the significant things that happened was the development of Division 52 [International Psychology]. Before that there was not that much interest in International Psychology.

    Denmark: Well, I think a lot that, other than certain basic things, psychology was really not international. More so it became with the inception of Division 52. Also, with other international organizations, for example, the International Council of Psychologists (ICP), which was formed in 1941, and others that had an interest in networking cross-nationally, there was increased interest in international collaborations. That, and along with the international Division 52, made psychology more international.

    Sigal: It took some time before the international organizations became effective.

    TO: How did you become interested in International Psychology?

    Sigal: I had several international students in the doctoral program. Many of the students were interested in conducting some of the studies in their home country. By comparing results in the U.S. with those in the students’ countries we learned a great deal about International Psychology.

    Denmark: I became interested in several different ways – through the APA and because of CIRP [Committee on International Relations in Psychology]. I was elected to that committee; I got to meet different people and when I was president of APA and president-elect, I started going to international meetings and meeting people from many international countries. As president-elect of APA, the first person I met was from Lima, Peru. As APA President and as an ICP member, I went to different countries—to Norway, West Germany, East Germany, China and Israel. The whole thing made me very interested in what was going in different countries. Through APA and ICP, I really got to meet people and collaborated in research with them.

    TO: Do you believe that it is important to bring International Psychology into the undergraduate curriculum?

    Sigal: I do believe that it is important, and especially felt that way when I was teaching. However, in my experience the teaching of International Psychology often is not a high priority in traditional psychology departments. I taught in a university that was very diverse and emphasized the importance of culture in all areas of psychology.

    Denmark: I wonder what is going on in the U.S. in terms of the curriculum and including International Psychology. Maybe we have more of an interest in certain regions? I am not sure what is included, but I would like to know. One of the things that I find important is for instructors who are writing or even just reviewing and considering textbooks for undergraduates, especially in areas of general psychology, is the inclusion of an international context as well.

    TO: What challenges do you foresee in making topics related to International Psychology a greater part of the foundational undergraduate psychology degree?

    Sigal: I do not think that there needs to be a separate course on International Psychology, but an international perspective should be included in every psychology course.

    Denmark: maybe a lot of this would be up to Division 2 [Society for the Teaching of Psychology] to produce sample syllabi of different courses that include international topics. These could point out the importance of it—the teaching of International Psychology.

    Denmark: Finding out what’s going on in Division 2 would be a good place to start.

    Sigal: One of the challenges is how the international research is viewed by U.S. researchers.  Often, there are no research participant pools, and random selection of participants is impossible in cross-cultural studies. However, I don’t think that it makes the research any less valuable.

    Denmark: The other challenge is how to get people who have been teaching the same courses year after year with the same notes to make changes and include international work.

    Sigal: The fact that we are at the UN makes it easier for us to consider international research important. New technologies might not exist in less developed countries. International organizations, such as ICP, and Division 52 have ways for people to forge international collaborations.

    TO: What do you foresee as big topics related to instruction in International Psychology?

    Sigal: I think that the work we do on women’s issues will be very important. The issues dealing with collectivistic or individualistic cultures remain significant. There will continue to be an emphasis on developing culturally sensitive measures of mental illness. There also may be an interest in the impact of social media.

    Denmark: As someone who teaches the History of Psychology, it should be interesting to look at different countries in different parts of the world. In Africa, Asia, the Arab world, there are a lot of things going on that we are not aware of that should be included in history.

    TO: Minzhi Liu, a current APA intern also has some questions to ask. I am going to turn things over to her now.

    Minzhi Liu (ML): Thank you Teresa. It is my pleasure to interview Dr. Denmark and Dr. Sigal and I’m grateful for this opportunity. My questions are of interest to the cultural perspective and how we could further apply the knowledge of International Psychology in our careers and research. Is there a disparity between western countries in viewing psychology and the rest of the world? If so, what are the problems and how can we solve them?

    Sigal: There definitely is a disparity between western and non-western countries. The only way to resolve these problems is to work with someone from that culture. It is important to ensure that the research is acceptable and understandable within the context of that culture. In terms of clinical research, for example, a clinical psychologist from Kuwait spoke during one of Dr. Denmark’s classes. He discussed the difficulty of doing therapy in this culture because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

    Denmark: Many countries don’t even have or use the word “psychology.” There are many other words used instead of psychology, depending on what you’re talking about, whether it is mental health, well-being, etc. This is one of the problems. I think that there is a certain disparity, but not in all places, and people are eager to learn. That is something that we can do. If you’re working with someone and speaking about the problems that they have, don’t come in as if you know it all, and say this is what you should do to solve your problems. It is important that you work with a person or a group and help them become the facilitator.

    Sigal: When we did our study on sexual harassment, there was no such word in the language in some countries. Even with a good translation, some of the concepts used in the U.S. research project may not apply to participants in other cultures.

    ML: What types of professions/occupations are available to individuals who study International Psychology?

    Denmark: We have the term International Psychology, but it is not at the same level of cohesiveness as something like Social or Clinical Psychology. However, there are academic careers where people can teach in other countries. It is often advertised for teaching in other places. Even in the United States, there are courses being taught more and more in International Psychology or in Global Psychology, such as at Pace University where there is a Master’s program with a global track. Of course, faculty have to be available to teach these courses, which means there is a demand for careers in this field. There are also work and internships at the UN where people can get positions as a psychologist. Knowing different languages helps.

    Sigal: I also think that even in I/O [Industrial-Organizational Psychology], there are jobs for graduate students where having the degree in International Psychology would be very helpful. I think it will be a growing field.

    Denmark: And one can be a consultant in different countries.

    ML: How can International Psychology establish human (i.e., personal and professional) connections throughout the world?

    Sigal: One thing I have found in my experience with ICP is that when you meet people at international conferences, personal connections will form quite easily. For example, often the President of ICP is from a different country such as Japan and you can connect with this psychologist.  Our interns often are from other countries and that is another method of making personal and professional connections internationally.

    Denmark: When you say “human connection”—I think that it’s important to go to international meetings and belong to different groups to make personal and professional friendships. I have a lot of friends around the world. We communicate with each other about research ideas and it is really a friendship. It is really great to see these people from all parts of the world.

    Sigal: It is possible even for graduate students at different places to make those connections early on. At the UN, most psychology NGOs have intern programs. Once the interns have returned to their home countries, we often hear from them. We have a very different view of their countries once we have listened to their experiences.  

    ML: I think it is very amazing to network through the same interests within International Psychology, but I also wonder, in terms of a global context, how International Psychology could build up human connections from different countries?

    Sigal: Some psychologists often travel to international conferences or conduct research in other countries. However, it is difficult for us to have any impact on national policies.

    Denmark: The only way that we can help is by way of the UN. If the statements that we write for different commissions have an impact, then it could influence policy. However, to have a major impact at the governmental level is more difficult.

    Sigal: We do have Psychology Day at the UN, where we meet with Ambassadors and they get to know about Psychology.

    Denmark: We have in some ways influenced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the inclusion of well-being as part of SDG 3. The Commission on Ageing was also influential in including [well-being] when referring to women.

    Sigal: These changes happen on a person-by-person level. Our interns often do presentations in NGO committees. That makes an impact on the NGO level and the society-level. If I were still teaching, the impact would come from my class and I would talk about the things I learn from the interns and from UN conferences.

    Denmark: Maintaining personal connection in an international context is very important.

    Sigal: The world is smaller now because of social media. That can lead to false impressions. We don’t have much control over what type of information is transmitted and what people can see. I still believe in the personal connection.

    ML: In what ways does international psychology contribute to the UN or other UN based NGOs?

    Sigal: I think we bring a different kind of perspective to the UN; we try to understand what people’s attitudes are and how they think. We don’t automatically assume that they are like Americans. We also learn to be diplomatic and are respectful of another person’s culture. We learn and observe before we form impressions of other people.

    Denmark: You learn to value people as they are and where they come from. It is important not to just recognize differences and similarities but also appreciate them. I also learn a lot from the interns. The interns are generally terrific.

    Sigal: One of the best parts of being a representative at the UN is working with interns. Organizing UN events also involves contact with UN staff and Mission staff which is exciting.

    TO: Thank you so much for your time and thoughts during this interview. A final question: if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

    Sigal: I would love to Italy again and Greece for the first time.

    Denmark: I’ve been to 115 countries and now I would just like to go anywhere!

  • 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?

     

    References

    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!




    References

    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). https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=t-FL8odgGm8C&rdid=book-t-FL8odgGm8C&rdot=1

    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). http://www.henamedmemalalamovie.com/  

    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 http://joetobin.net/videos.html

    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 http://laurenajkirby.wixsite.com/laurenajkirby/teaching. 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!


    References

    Kennedy, M. J. (n.d.). CAP [Content Acquisition Podcast] Production Steps. Retrieved from http://www.pbis.org/common/cms/files/Forum12/B11_Handout_CAP_Production_Steps.pdf

    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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888406412451158

    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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731948713507262

    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  http://www.vocabsupport.com.

    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.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0162643416673916

  • 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)

    Probability

    (Train late)

    Running Behind

    4

    6

    2:3

    40%

    Not Running Behind

    2

    3

    2:3

    40%

    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.


    References

    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.

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