Welcome to the GSTA blog! 

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

If you are interested in submitting a post, please email us at We are especially seeking submissions in one of the 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 and we will post them as a comment on your behalf.

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Hallie Jordan, Sarah Frantz, Maya Rose, Raoul RobertsTashiya Hunter, Laura Mason and Megan Nadzan

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

  • 21 Nov 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous
    By Charles Raffaele, Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center, CUNY

    Writing abilities are among the most important skills for psychology students to develop for work in the “real world” after college, regardless of the area of higher education or employment they pursue. Writing effectively is necessary for tasks ranging from communicating with collaborators on a project to generating proposals to convince others to invest time or money behind a plan, as well as for everyday situations in which writing with finesse and efficiency are essential. In addition, writing can be a method for students to perform higher-order thinking, using writing as a tool to help put varied thoughts into a logical sequence, organized discretely around a focus or in the service of a broader goal.

    For the purpose of helping professors in their implementation of writing in coursework, Kaitlin Mondello and I recently gave a presentation at the GSTA’s 2018 Pedagogy Day event on how we teach writing skills to students and teach content to students by way of these writing skills. Our workshop was based in the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) movement, which addresses the importance of writing’s place in any and all academic disciplines, and has developed over decades (see Northern Illinois University’s A Short History of WAC page for more information about the history of this movement). WAC has yielded various approaches to implementation of writing in the classroom may be utilized for achieving the aforementioned purpose. This current blog post, following generally the structure of the workshop Kaitlin and I gave, will cover a few central ideas of WAC. These will be advanced roughly in the sequence of, initial planning of writing → construction of writing assignments → use of rubrics for showing which competencies an assignment taps → how to leave effective feedback on students’ papers.

    Backwards Course Design (Starting with Objectives and Designing Assignments Accordingly)

    Start with your personal course objectives: What is it you want your students to get out of the course? Do you want them to remember a lot of theory or research findings? Apply psychological ideas to the real world? Attain a more general critical/questioning lens? By identifying what your learning goals for the students are, you will be better able to construct writing assignments that help your students to achieve those goals. See the American Society for Microbiology’s page Starting at the End: Using Backward Course Design to Organize Your Teaching for more information about this approach.

    Ensure you are constructing writing assignments all from a ‘writing to learn’ standpoint – this is not elementary school, where children are largely ‘learning to write.’ This is also not high school, where students are mainly already writers, but are often engaged in more rote or other low- to mid-cognitive engagement writing tasks (e.g., summarization, regurgitation of facts). This is college, where the writing in which pupils are most importantly engaged revolves around constructing knowledge (i.e., taking course content and giving their own analyses or making connections utilizing the content). Your own existing assignments that may not fully meet this criterion may be modifiable to attain these characteristics. For example, perhaps the assignment you already have asking students to summarize Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory and its key elements could be modified to have students analyze a situation (either from their own experiences or one you provide to them) through the lens of the theory. This adjustment to the assignment would cause them to put their own signature on the paper and thereby ingrain it more firmly in their own memory.

    Incorporating Both Low- and High-Stakes Assignments

    Utilize both low-stakes and high-stakes assignments. Low-stakes assignments are small and low-grade impacting (e.g., 3–5 minutes of freewriting in response to a question), while high-stakes assignments are large, formal and high-grade impacting (e.g., a 4–6 page paper organized into paragraphs including APA style references). Effective use of these in tandem can help more of your students achieve execution of higher-order thinking on important topics by writing well-organized in-depth papers (i.e., in high-stakes papers), built up to by their having been provided lower-level scaffolding to help them work towards those higher goals (i.e., in low-stakes assignments; e.g., by trying out possible paper topics, or practicing how to cite relevant information from a journal article).

    Using Rubrics (Communicating Expectations to Students Systematically)

    It is very important that a rubric for an assignment doesn’t (a) just redundantly re-describe the assignment, duplicating the instructions in your initial written prompt, or (b) indicate arbitrary criteria that do not line up with your learning objectives or with the weighting system used for grading the assignment. Instead, a well-constructed rubric should help students gain further insight into the skills you’re asking them to practice/demonstrate before writing and, after receiving feedback, allow them to know better on which areas they performed well/poorly. It will also help you grade in an objective, standardized, and transparent manner. A few rubric formatting tips that may be useful:

    Use what Bean (2011) calls a task-specific, analytic rubric. The task-specific guideline recommends use of one rubric per assignment rather than one rubric for all assignments. Rubrics that highlight the assignment-specific elements make grading and feedback clearer for students. The analytic guideline recommends using a rubric with different sub-grades for each competency rather than a rubric that combines all competencies into a global evaluation or grade. See Figure 1 for an example of a task-specific, analytic rubric.

    Example of a task-specific, analytic rubric (Bean, 2011)

    Figure 1. Example of a task-specific, analytic rubric (Bean, 2011)

    In using an analytic rubric, keep the number of competency categories to 3–6. Fewer than 3 categories gives the student too little detail on the breakdown of their grade, and more than 6 can be over-encumbering to both you who have to grade the student in all those categories and the student who has to interpret such a complex breakdown.

    Giving Effective Feedback on Students’ Papers (Minimal Marking, and in a Coach-Like Style)

    Have you ever received feedback on a paper and been discouraged by the reviewer’s comments that only mentioned what was ‘wrong’ with your paper? Or a reviewer leaving so many notes on your paper that you don’t even know where to begin in reviewing them? If you are willing to adjust how you look at students’ written work when giving feedback, these issues could be ameliorated for your students. In addition, making certain adjustments in how you give feedback may help your students improve their writing more efficiently, both in terms of revision and in future writing they generate from scratch. The suggested adjustments are these: when you grade, only point out the few most important points for the student to be aware of, and give both positive feedback and feedback on areas that could benefit from modification, rather than areas that are ‘wrong’. This manner of feedback-giving is more like ‘coaching’ in that it is similar to how a sports coach would both encourage what the learner is doing right and also suggest areas to modify as the learner continues practicing the skill. It is also similar to how a coach would only give the feedback that is appropriate to helping the student reach the next level of ability. For example, a student writing a paper for your class may feel more encouraged to keep trying and persist in editing previously misunderstood theoretical aspects of Information Processing Theory if you also compliment the student on the paper’s accurate description of effects the theory had on the field of psychology. In addition, this student may feel more encouraged to make the aforementioned edits if you stick to just mentioning those and not every grammatical mistake the student made. (Note: See Figures 2 and 3 for examples of both unsuccessful and successful feedback given on student work.)

    Example of unsuccessful feedback given All on grammar and none on contentideas (Bean, 2011)

    Figure 2. Example of unsuccessful feedback given: All on grammar and none on content/ideas (Bean, 2011)

    Example of successful feedback given Concentration on contentideas, and a combination of encouragement and suggestions for future revision (Bean, 2011)

    Figure 3. Example of successful feedback given: Concentration on content/ideas, and a combination of encouragement and suggestions for future revision (Bean, 2011)

    All in all, WAC’s approach to feedback helps us realize that feedback is not most crucial for justifying a grade – it is most crucial for helping students continue to develop their skills in the field. After all, did we become college instructors to only make sure students know why their grades were as far below an A as they were, or to provide students with manageable next steps they can take and inspire them to reach for those stars?

    Through the use of these foundational elements of WAC applied with psychology instruction in mind, you may find substantial changes in your experience of teaching and the work you receive from students. These may be achieved with only a few easy-to-implement (but of great significance) adjustments to your use of writing in teaching. In fact, I hope I will experience these enrichments in the future as an instructor as well, as my semesters of teaching college thus far have all been before my induction as a WAC Fellow at Queensborough Community College. I am excited for my return to the classroom and possibly realizing the benefits I have seen happen for professors who are taught to incorporate the main WAC principles into their classrooms. In the end, we all recognize the importance of writing in college teaching from the outset, so why not make it a personal goal to improve the way writing is implemented in our courses to the greatest degree possible?


    Bean, J. C. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor's guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Acknowledgments: A big thank you to Dr. Kaitlin Mondello, who as mentioned in this post I had the pleasure of presenting on WAC with recently at the GSTA’s 2018 Pedagogy Day event; the Writing Intensive Training Program at Queensborough Community College, where I have had the opportunity to perform the bulk of my training and work in WAC; and Dr. John Bean, whose great ideas I take from routinely through his book cited here.

    Charles Raffaele is a doctoral student in the Learning, Development, and Instruction specialization in Educational Psychology at The Graduate Center, The City University of New York. His research focuses on theoretical domains of second language acquisition, the use of multimedia and games in learning, and intersections between these. He is an editor of the GSTA Blog, webmaster for DE-CRUIT and the AERA SIG Studying and Self-Regulated Learning, and a member of the Child Interactive Learning and Development (CHILD) Lab.

  • 14 Nov 2018 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    By Patricia J. Brooks, Ph.D., and Jessica E. Brodsky, Ph.D. Student, The College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center, CUNY

    In today’s media-saturated world, we are likely to encounter false or biased information in our news feeds, as well as images that have been altered or miscaptioned. It is challenging to determine who is behind the information that we consume, and we struggle to distinguish between credible and untrustworthy content (Wineburg & McGrew, 2017).

    At the 9th Annual Pedagogy Day Conference recently held at the Graduate Center, CUNY on October 26, 2018, we shared resources from the AASCU’s Digital Polarization Initiative  (DPI)—a national effort involving 11 colleges (see Figure 1) that aims to help students develop fact-checking skills and become more critical consumers of online information.

    Figure 1. The 11 colleges participating in the AASCU’s Digital Polarization Initiative. (Black Hills State University, CUNY College of Staten Island, Georgia College, Indiana University Kokomo, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, San Jose State University, Texas A&M International University, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Washington State University Vancouver)

    The DPI, led by Mike Caulfield of Washington State University Vancouver, builds on the work of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), which published an influential study suggesting that students of all ages lack fact-checking skills (McGrew, Breakstone, Ortega, Smith & Wineburg, 2018). The SHEG researchers developed a set of problems (available on their website) to test students’ civic online reasoning abilities, encompassing knowledge of how to determine who is behind information, what evidence supports their claims, and what other sources have to say about the information. They found that, unlike professional fact-checkers, students rarely engaged in lateral reading (see Wineburg & McGrew, 2017) by opening up multiple tabs on their browsers to find out what other trusted sites (such, Wikipedia, or NPR’s fact-check website) have to say about a particular topic or information source.

    At the College of Staten Island, CUNY (see far right marker in Figure 1), we are pilot-testing the DPI’s web literacy curriculum in COR100—a required general education course for first-year students. COR100 focuses on contemporary American society and democracy, and its curriculum aligns well with the DPI’s emphasis on building students’ civic, information, and web literacy. In COR100, we teach students the four moves and a habit of expert fact-checkers (see Table 1) through a series of linked online homework assignments and assessments. To develop our assignments, we used online news stories and images from Caulfield’s blog , which he regularly updates with new materials. These examples are free, and you can use them to create lessons in web literacy for your students. More information about the four moves and a habit is also available in Caulfield’s free online book (2017).

    We have also begun incorporating these materials into PSY100, where we draw connections between media literacy and critical thinking skills. We use a dual-systems model of thinking (see Kahneman, 2011) to help students develop the habit of checking their emotions (a System 1 reaction) as they learn to investigate online sources of information (a System 2 response). Throughout the semester, our lesson plans build students’ metacognitive awareness of processing biases and shortcuts that influence how we take in information. In our first class, we use illusions to highlight the extent to which our information processing system generates and acts on representations of the world that may be inaccurate (see Table 2). We also contrast System 1 and System 2 thinking using the Cognitive Reflection Test (Frederick, 2005). See below for other examples of key terms that we discuss in relation to information processing and online media consumption.

    We encourage instructors, particularly those teaching general education courses, to consider ways that they can teach students to think critically about the online content they consume. The four moves and a habit of expert fact-checkers can be introduced to students across disciplines as efficient and effective strategies for evaluating online news stories and images. Additionally, instructors can also identify opportunities in their courses to develop students’ metacognitive awareness of how their biases and mental shortcuts affect the ways they perceive and interpret information.


    Caulfield, M. (2017). Web literacy for student fact-checkers… and other people who care about facts. Retrieved from

    Frederick, S. (2005). Cognitive reflection and decision making. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(4), 25–42. Retrieved from

    Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Lewandowsky, S., Ecker, U. K., Seifert, C. M., Schwarz, N., & Cook, J. (2012). Misinformation and its correction: Continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(3), 106–131.

    Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2009). Fifty great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

    McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., Ortega, T., Smith, M., & Wineburg, S. (2018). Can students evaluate online sources? Learning from assessments of civic online reasoning. Theory & Research in Social Education, 46(2), 165–193.

    Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Barthel, M. & Sumida, N. (2018, June 18). Distinguishing between factual and opinion statements in the news. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:

    Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think. New York, NY: Penguin.

    Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2017). Lateral reading: Reading less and learning more when evaluating digital information. Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1 . Retrieved from:

    Patricia J. Brooks is Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY and GSTA Faculty Advisor.  Brooks was recipient of the 2016 President’s Dolphin Award for Outstanding Teaching at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  Her research interests are in two broad areas: (1) individual differences in language learning, (2) development of effective pedagogy to support diverse learners.​

    Jessica E. Brodsky is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY and a member of the GSTA. Her research interests include assessing and fostering media literacy in adolescents and college students, as well as using games to train executive function skills in adolescents.

  • 14 Nov 2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous

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

    Many students appear to struggle with writing tasks in college for at least several reasons. In college, there is typically a higher demand for high-quality writing across many college-level courses and disciplines (Oppenheimer, Zaromb, Pomerantz, Williams, & Park, 2017). In addition, for a student who is unfamiliar with a topic, writing may be particularly straining on attention and memory capacities (Kellogg, 2001; Kellogg, Olive, & Piolat, 2007). Although practice, along with adequate feedback, is considered essential for improving one’s writing (Graham & Perin, 2007), there may be few opportunities for college students to practice writing not tied to their grades. From the instructor’s perspective, however, managing time necessary to provide adequate feedback to students on written work through detailed commentary on their initial drafts is not always feasible. In light of these challenges, Manuscript Builder was designed to provide structure through a set of ordered prompts to support students' writing. In the latest iteration of the tool, it now also provides a platform for conducting peer reviews.

    Prior studies have shown that student-led peer review can be effective at improving students’ writing skills (Topping, 1998; Van Zundert, Sluijsmans, & Van Merriënboer, 2010), tends to be valid and reliable assessment of student work (Cho, Schunn, & Wilson, 2006), and is viewed both as motivational and meaningful by students (Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001). Student-led peer review is also effective when conducted through a computer-mediated format (Cho & Schunn, 2007).

    Student-led peer review can be conducted through an online tool available to instructors and students. As a pedagogical tool, Manuscript Builder is designed to facilitate the planning and outlining process by providing a purpose, a text structure, and prompts to guide students in drafting a written research report. The user can navigate between pages, with most representing a specific section that would appear in the final written report (e.g., Introduction, Methods, Results and Data Analysis, Discussion, References). Each page contains a set of prompts and an input text field. Users can create an account on the site and return to previously drafted work by logging-in at any time. When users have finished writing responses to prompts, they can copy their responses and share as a finalized post. The finalized post can then be used for further writing, editing, student-led peer review, and finally, publishing on the site. The steps below outline the process for adding a manuscript and conducting a peer review.

    Instruction around writing, and communication more generally, remains an essential component of the undergraduate curriculum, regardless of students’ majors. Direct writing instruction for undergraduate students has benefits for learning (Graham & Perin, 2007). It also stands as a core goal of the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Major, version 2.0 (APA, 2016). By leveraging peer-feedback, Manuscript Builder helps to facilitate student-led peer-review processes, which may be one effective means by which to provide students an engaging and collaborative activity to promote their writing skills.

    Steps for Conducting a Peer-review Activity in Manuscript Builder

    Instructions for Creating Your Manuscript Builder Account

    1)    Log-in to your computer and open a web-browser.

    2)    Go to the URL:

    3)    Enter your first and last name, the class code your instructor gave you, a username, your email, and a password that you will remember.

    Instructions for Publishing Your Report

    1)    Once you are logged-in, go to the “Publish Your Work” page (URL:

    2)    Add the title for your report and copy-and-paste the main body of your report.

    3)    When you are ready, just click the button at the bottom of the page.

    4)    You can always return to your drafts by going to the “View Your Work” page (URL: On this page you can choose to continue editing your draft or delete it entirely.

    Instructions for Review: Conducting a Peer-Review

    1)    Go to the “Published Work” page (URL:

    2)    There you should see a list of published reports.

    3)    Click on one.

    4)    After you are redirected to that page, you should see a side-bar open up on the right side like this image below.


    5)    Log-in to Hypothesis with your Hypothesis account information. (Note that this is a separate log-in from your Manuscript Builder account.)


    6)    Once logged in, you can begin commenting on your peer’s work!


    Cho, K., & Schunn, C. D. (2007). Scaffolded writing and rewriting in the discipline: A web-based reciprocal peer review system. Computers & Education, 48(3), 409–426.

    Cho, K., Schunn, C. D., & Wilson, R. W. (2006). Validity and reliability of scaffolded peer assessment of writing from instructor and student perspectives. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(4), 891.

    Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 445–476.

    Hanrahan, S. J., & Isaacs, G. (2001). Assessing self-and peer-assessment: The students' views. Higher Education Research & Development, 20(1), 53–70.

    Kellogg, R. T. (2001). Competition for working memory among writing processes. The American Journal of Psychology, 114(2), 175–191.

    Kellogg, R. T., Olive, T., & Piolat, A. (2007). Verbal, visual, and spatial working memory in written language production. Acta Psychologica, 124(3), 382–397.

    Oppenheimer, D., Zaromb, F., Pomerantz, J. R., Williams, J. C., & Park, Y. S. (2017). Improvement of writing skills during college: A multi-year cross-sectional and longitudinal study of undergraduate writing performance. Assessing Writing, 32, 12–27.

    Topping, K. (1998). Peer assessment between students in colleges and universities. Review of Educational Research, 68(3), 249–276.

    Van Zundert, M., Sluijsmans, D., & Van Merriënboer, J. (2010). Effective peer assessment processes: Research findings and future directions. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 270–279.

    Teresa Ober is a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Teresa designed and created Manuscript Builder in completion of the certificate program in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy at the Graduate Center. She is interested in the role of executive functions in language and literacy. Her research has focused on the development of cognition and language skills, as well as how technologies, including digital games, can be used to improve learning.

  • 06 Nov 2018 8:13 PM | Anonymous

    By: Elizabeth S. Che and Patricia J. Brooks, The College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY

    In teaching Introductory Psychology, we aim to infuse a healthy dose of research methods into our lesson plans for each course topic. A key point that we emphasize throughout the semester is that all research starts with a question: What do we want to find out? Then, researchers select methods that are appropriate to address their question.

    For our unit on personality, we pose the broad question: How does personality impact social media use? After posing the question, we demonstrate how to use Google Scholar to find existing research on the topic. Most of our students have never heard of Google Scholar and have limited, if any, experience reading journal article abstracts. As Part 1 of the activity, we identify possible keywords to use as search terms, such as personality and social media. Figure 1 below shows the results of our Google Scholar search as well as links to access some of the articles via our campus library.


    Figure 1. Screenshot of Google Scholar results using keywords “personality” and “social media.”

    The next step is to open up the links to view abstracts of relevant articles. When reading abstracts, we teach students to look for five key pieces of information: the rationale for the study, the research question, the results, the conclusion, and the implications. For example, the abstract for the first article, Who interacts on the Web: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use (Correa, Hinsley, & De Zuniga, 2010), summarizes a study identifying links between Big Five personality traits (i.e., openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) and social media use. As a class exercise, we have students search for the five key pieces of information from one or more abstracts and paraphrase the findings in their own words. This semester, our students completed the paraphrasing exercise as a homework assignment, but it can also be implemented in class followed by discussion.

    Part 2 of the activity involves generating our own dataset, which allows us to compare results from our class with the findings reported in the published articles. Here, we start by administering a short-form assessment of the Big Five Inventory (Lang, John, Lüdtke, Schupp, & Wagner, 2011). This assessment is a structured personality test consisting of three Likert-scale items for each of the Big Five traits. Items include, e.g., I see myself as someone who is outgoing, sociable. Students are instructed on how to score the assessment, including how to factor in responses on reverse-scored items.

    Next, we ask students to take out their smartphones, check the number of Facebook friends that they have, and write the number on their Big Five worksheets (for students who are not on Facebook, we have “missing” data that can prompt discussions on how to operationalize variables such as social media use). At the end of the class period, we collect the results, emphasizing to the students that they should provide us with anonymous data. After tabulating the data in Excel, we create scatterplots in the next class to display results relating each personality factor to the number of Facebook friends (see Figure 2 for an example).


    Figure 2. Screenshot of the class data and scatterplot relating extraversion and number of Facebook friends.

    We demonstrate how to generate a best fit line to make clearer observations by clicking on “Chart Elements,” then “Trendline,” and lastly “Linear.” Double clicking on the trendline lets us add additional options, such as a linear equation and R-squared value. As we generate the scatterplots, we ask students to interpret them in relation to our research question—How does personality impact social media use?—while emphasizing that correlation does not imply causation. Using terminology such as positive, negative, and zero correlation, we evaluate the evidence linking specific personality factors with the number of Facebook friends. Finally, we ask students to compare the class results with findings from the previously reviewed articles. Further discussion may center on confounds, replicability, and issues of validity.

    Introducing data collection in Introductory Psychology courses provides students with opportunities to develop quantitative thinking and research skills. Such skills include using databases to locate relevant prior research on a topic, reading scientific abstracts and paraphrasing information, generating graphs and statistics using spreadsheet software, and interpreting data.


    Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., & De Zuniga, H. G. (2010). Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), 247–253.

    Lang, F. R., John, D., Lüdtke, O., Schupp, J., & Wagner, G. G. (2011). Short assessment of the Big Five: Robust across survey methods except telephone interviewing. Behavior Research Methods, 43(2), 548–567.

    Elizabeth S. Che is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY and the GSTA Deputy Chair. Her research interests include individual differences in language development, creativity, and pedagogy.

    Patricia J. Brooks is Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY and GSTA Faculty Advisor.  Brooks was recipient of the 2016 President’s Dolphin Award for Outstanding Teaching at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  Her research interests are in two broad areas: (1) individual differences in language learning, (2) development of effective pedagogy to support diverse learners.

  • 01 Oct 2018 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Diane Finley, Ph.D., Prince George's Community College

    You go in for a meeting with your advisor and she points out a new program available through the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) – a mentoring program for early career faculty (EC) and advanced graduate students. She recommends that you apply for the program. Your first thoughts: no way – there is no way I can add anything else to my life. I already have classes, teaching, dissertation, meetings with advisors, meetings with the Graduate Student Teaching Association (and not to mention my family and personal life). There is no way I can add one more thing!! Life in a rigorous graduate program can be daunting with all of its competing demands. Why should you make time for the STP Mentoring Program? What is it?  How can it benefit you?

    First let me talk about what mentoring is and what it is not. The terms “mentor” and “mentoring” are used extensively today to refer to all sorts of relationships in business, academia and even just everyday life. It has become the ultimate appellation to call yourself a mentor and too often, the popular media would have us believe everyone needs a mentor for everything. I think that when the term is overused and/or used incorrectly, it dilutes both the term and the relationship it connotes.

    While the term first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey, its current connotations first appeared in the United States in the late 1800s and it was largely confined to experienced teachers shepherding novice teachers. In 1910, mentoring took on the meaning of helping a younger person with the founding of the Big Brothers Organization. However, it was not until 1973 that we first see the term in the research literature (Irby & Boswell, 2016). Mentoring programs are now found in most universities and businesses. Mentoring programs for new faculty are essentially de rigueur although they vary greatly. So, it is highly likely that you will be part of some sort of mentoring program. How is STP’s Mentoring Program different from those at academic institutions and why should you consider applying?

    What really is a mentor, at least in the work of academia? One comprehensive definition is “mentors are advisors, people with career experience willing to share their knowledge; supporters, people who give emotional and moral encouragement; tutors, people who give specific feedback on one’s performance; masters in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed; sponsors, sources of information about and aids in obtaining opportunities; models of identity, of the kinds of person one should be to be an academic” (Zelditch, 1990). The aim of STP’s Professional Development Mentoring Program is to provide EC individuals with career-related assistance to improve their performance early in their academic careers and to help with the transition to faculty. STP members are generally eager to share their wisdom and experiences with newer faculty who get the benefit of an experienced professional with no role in their evaluation. Mentors are not asked to assume specific roles for their mentees. But all STP mentors have extensive academic experience and they are willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

    The program is built around the needs and interests of the EC individual or advanced graduate student, who will specify her or his goals and interests in the application. As Director of the Mentoring Program, I try to match mentors and mentees based upon these interests. Communication takes place through phone, internet (e.g., Skype, Zoom), and email. Mentees are not matched with anyone from their own institution. Having an experienced colleague not at your own institution can provide a sense of safe harbor and give you a place for questions that you may not want to ask senior faculty or even a mentor at a new institution. They can provide a wider viewpoint about academia which can help new faculty develop perspective. Mentors can provide guidance about navigating the academic career at different types of institutions.  

    In the research literature, we see that mentors serve as advisors, role models, coaches, and even support teams. In the evaluations from the first year of the STP Mentoring Program, I saw mentors who assumed all of those roles as well as many others, including listener. Contact occurred most often on a monthly basis, but most mentors said they let their mentees decide how much contact was needed. It was more frequent in the fall, the first semester of the yearlong program.

    In the literature on mentoring in higher education, several topics emerge as common to mentees: stress overload and managing multiple responsibilities, information on teaching (online, hybrid, large classes, new topics), establishing credibility and connecting with professional organizations. In the recent evaluations, our pairs followed these patterns with the addition of some discussion of research programs and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) as well as strategies for promotion/tenure. In monthly emails, I send out suggestions on topics for discussion as well as resources to help pairs find common ground.

    It can be daunting to add one more thing to do in an already packed schedule. However, I would encourage you to consider this program. Scheduling an hour or two a month can be a part of self-care and give you someone with whom you can talk without concerns about evaluation. The research literature shows that new faculty who are mentored have an easier transition into the role of faculty and they show an increase in job satisfaction. On the recent evaluations, mentees overwhelmingly reported that the program was helpful, and they wished they had more time to spend with their mentor.

    The STP Mentoring Program is really designed to help new psychology faculty find a colleague within the discipline but outside of the home institution. This additional mentor is there to answer questions (or bring them to the larger mentoring program participants) and serve as a support. The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive in their assessment of the program as a help in their early years of teaching. Advanced graduate students who are teaching are welcome to apply for the program. The program runs from August-May (the traditional academic year). Applications will be available on the STP website - in late May 2019. Participants do need to be members of STP so be sure to keep yours current!



    Irby, B. J.,  & Boswell, J. (2016) Historical print context of the term, “mentoring.”  Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 24(1), 1-7, DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2016.1170556

    Zelditch, M. (1990, March). Mentor roles. Paper Presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Western Association of Graduate Schools. Tempe, AZ.

    Additional Resources:

    Establishing productive mentoring relationships (n.d.) Retrieved August 1, 2004 from

    Kanuka, H. (n.d.). Does mentoring new faculty make a difference? Learning Commons. Retrieved July 31, 2004 from

    Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan. (2018). How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students. PDF available online:

    Diane Finley, PhD, is a psychology professor at Prince George’s Community College. Dr. Finley has been active in the STP, having formerly served as the Vice President for Membership from 2010 to 2016. Well-known for her enthusiasm for teaching, Dr. Finley is the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus Award.

  • 24 Sep 2018 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Hallie Jordan, Ph.D. Student, The University of Southern Mississippi, and Charles Raffaele, Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center CUNY

    So that we can all learn more about incorporating ethics into the classroom, the importance of having and sharing reasons for what we do in teaching, and sustaining passion in one’s work, GSTA co-editors Hallie Jordan and Charles Raffaele interviewed Dr. Mitch Handelsman.

    Dr. Handelsman earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Kansas, and remains a licensed psychologist in the state of Colorado. He is currently Professor of Psychology and President’s Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado Denver, and author of a Psychology Today blog titled “The Ethical Professor.” Dr. Handelsman has written numerous book chapters and articles, many of which focus on ethics and/or teaching of psychology. Last, but certainly not least, he is the author of several books, including texts on ethics as well as a book with Charlie Burrell, who broke the color barrier in classical music. He is even a jazz musician - a trumpeter - which we got to talk about later in the interview!

    The  piece below is a summarized version of some of the questions and answers over the course of GSTA’s interview with Dr. Handelsman. To listen to the interview in full, click HERE.

    Question (HJ): We read that you were inspired by your undergraduate psychology professors to pursue teaching. What was it about these past experiences that inspired you to pursue teaching as a career?

    Answer (MH): The psychology professors where I went to school at Haverford College were wonderful, thoughtful people. They were welcoming. Part of education is that students get engaged in a lot of different ways - with material, pedagogy, technology, instructors, among others - and I think I was one of those students who was engaged with the faculty process as much as the content.

    Question (CR): Instructors often find it difficult to encourage students to attend office hours. Have you found methods that work to get students involved with faculty on this level?

    Answer (MH): A lot of teaching is getting students involved in some way. In terms of coming to see me, one of the principles I operate under is college is not a stepping stone to anything. Rather, it’s your first professional position. So, I try to make the experience students have relevant to the kinds of experiences and skills they’re going to need in the professional world.

    For example, in my first-year seminar, I require students to come see me twice in office hours. They get 80% of the points from coming to see me, and 20% of the points for bringing an agenda. I’ve had 100% attendance so far this year! I tell them, “Look, if I were the CEO of a company, or your boss, I might say you get 20 minutes to come on in and present something to me.” I’m not that harsh! But, I do explain to them that, in the real world, when you go see your boss, you need to express what you want to talk about with a clear agenda. I also encourage them to go see every professor they have – even if they won’t earn points for it. I try and communicate that visiting professors’ office hours can go very far in helping the professor ultimately write a strong recommendation letter down the road.

    In my teaching, I try to have reasons for what I’m doing. Often, the reason is that they’re going to need these skills elsewhere. From the first semester, my goal is to help create a set of professional skills for the future that are applicable outside the field of psychology. That’s why I do a lot of papers rather than tests every three weeks, because nowhere is a boss going to ask someone to read something and then be tested weeks down the road. In the real world, bosses will ask people to read something, think about it, and bring a report about it the next day to guide a discussion.

    Question (CR): Could you describe how you became involved in the ethics of teaching and the ethics of psychology as a particular focus in your career?

    Answer (MH): It’s a good question, and I wonder that myself sometimes! I actually never had an ethics course in college or graduate school. My first exploration of formal ethics in psychology leads me back to discussions with fellow graduate students about boundary issues inherent in seeing clients.

    Going back to my childhood, when my family got a new game, I was the little kid who made everyone wait to play until we read all of the rules first. That same attitude has apparently lasted a long time, because it related to a dozen years of research on informed consent in psychotherapy. I got into this research because I was not ever going to start psychotherapy without everyone knowing what the rules of psychotherapy were.

    Question (HJ): Do you feel like the way psychology as a field has approached ethics has shifted over the past decade or so?

    Answer (MH): I think so. I think we’re getting more realistic and more on top of how to teach and approach ethics. My colleagues Sam Knapp and Michael Gottlieb talk about positive ethics, which is striving for ethical ideals rather than just following the rules. Being ethical is more than just following the rules. We didn’t go into our fields (e.g., psychotherapy, educational psychology, research, teaching) to avoid complaints. We went because we had high aspirations and high ideals. One of the trends in ethics is to ask, “What can we do to add on to the quality of our professional lives through striving for ethical ideals?”

    Question (CR): When you’re teaching these kinds of ethical concepts to students, how do you structure the classroom to get at the deeper aspects of ethics?

    Answer (MH): One way is to have them read some of the stuff I’ve written (which I’m not sure is compassionate - you’ll have to ask them that!). We need to create an environment in the classroom that’s safe for them to express themselves. Sometimes I’ll take a case and ask students what their options are for responding. They seem to try to come up with the most professional response, but I ask them to think about all the possibilities of human responses. I do this to help students come to grips with our own, natural, human reactions. We must first understand what all the options are, and then we can explore where these reactions are coming from, what purpose they serve, and what action(s) might be most ethical.

    Question (HJ): A lot of learning how to make ethical decisions is figuring out what to do in the grey areas. What do you find to be difficult in teaching about the grey area of ethics, and what do you find to be helpful in teaching about this grey area?

    Answer (MH): Part of it is helping students learn to work on continua rather than dichotomously (e.g., with “all or none” thinking). People seem to take extreme approaches on either end – either everything is relative, or everything is very rule-based. Different people have different ideas about how to operate in grey areas, based on past experiences such as their own family of origin. Part of the deal is opening this up to discussion to help facilitate an awareness that what we often see as dichotomies are continua. We have to teach students to use their judgment, because the ethics code doesn’t tell people what to do in every situation. Instead, it tells people what to think about.

    Question (CR): How do you go about assessing students’ learning of ethics?

    Answer (MH): Part of it is assessing their choice-making processes. How are my students going to make their choices now that they’ve had the course? My final exam is often a couple of questions, with about one hour to answer each. One question might be a case study. A case study I’ve used before is asking the student to imagine they work at a mental health center, and a news outlet wants to film the inner workings of the center to increase awareness. Your boss wants this to happen to increase publicity for the clinic, and your job is to write a report on how you can do this ethically. It’s a big, unsolvable problem, but students can break off what they want to demonstrate how they understand ethics. Another question might be asking the students to create a policy for their future practice that deals with an ethical dilemma – for example, what is your policy regarding accepting gifts? They can’t get away with saying they simply won’t accept gifts!

    The thread that comes through is this is real life, and we need to make connections so students can generalize what they learn in the classroom to work they do outside the classroom. So having problems and discussions based on complex, real-life situations is important. Memorizing the ethics code is NOT part of what I do. I’ve never been to a physician and refused to let them look at reference materials to diagnose me! Memorization is ridiculous because we have easy access to finding information. Instead of memorizing, what we need to do is develop skills, and so that is what we should assess.

    All my finals everywhere are open book, open phone, open brain, because it’s an artificial situation to say you have to have stuff memorized. I think there's stuff we should know, of course, but I think we can come to know that stuff through working with the material rather than memorizing.

    Question (HJ): What have you noticed about students’ reactions to these assessments and activities compared to what they’re used to in the past?

    Answer (MH): For example, I have students write POT papers. This stands for “Proof of Thinking” (not to be mistaken with the Colorado assumption!). In these papers, students apply their thinking to a short reading prior to class, and then we use the POT papers in class. The assessments become learning materials. Students’ reactions run the gamut – some are really happy because they can see the relevance, some are not very happy.

    I’ve learned over the years to be much more transparent about what I’m doing. Once I make it clear that what I’m doing in the classroom is with the goal of helping them prepare for any job in the future, most students do come along.

    Our students now demand reasons for what we do. The days of people listening just because we are professors with “profound wisdom” are gone – which is wonderful because now I have to prove I have something of value for them – and if I can prove that, then they will become involved. I want to have reasons for everything I do. Convenience is a reason, but I want to have ethical, pedagogical reasons for what I do. So, for example, I do a lot of group work rather than lecturing because it encompasses more beneficence, it’s more helpful, and more respectful.

    Question (CR): Your example of a democratic approach to creating content, creating teaching methods, is definitely very inspiring to beginning instructors, and all instructors! As you’ve developed this large corpus of teaching methods and research, how did you come to a point to start the ethical professor blog?

    Answer (MH): That was an outgrowth of the book I wrote with Sharon Anderson. Psychology Today approached us, and given Sharon’s interest in psychotherapy she started a blog called “The Ethical Therapist,” and I started a blog called “The Ethical Professor.” The blog is a great place to write, be creative, and share ideas without having to go through the usual publication process. It’s also been an opportunity to use a different form of writing. I’ve had some people use the blog in class, which makes it feel especially useful.

    To learn more about Dr. Handelsman’s approach to getting writing done and the use of quizzes, listen to the interview in full! You can also reference the “Resources” section at the end of the interview for an abridged explanation of these topics.

    Question (CR): As you mentioned, you’re a jazz musician. It’s interesting how you co-authored the book The Life of Charlie Burrell: Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music with Charlie Burrell, which sits alongside your ethics in psychology books. How did this work relate to your work in ethics in psychology?

    Answer (MH): The answer is, it didn’t! And that’s why I did it. I balance my life with my involvement in music. I got a little money from the university to help with the project, but I didn’t come at it from a psychologist’s perspective. Every word in the book, aside from a few I added for continuity, were Charlie’s. I went to Charlie’s house every Tuesday with my little tape recorder, recorded his stories, transcribed at home, and then edited them – so it’s really his book, his autobiography. I’ll take credit for helping him with it, but not for any psychological investment. I got to play (trumpet) with Charlie too!

    Question (CR): Do you think it’s helpful as a psychologist to have these large meaningful projects alongside your work in psychology?

    Answer (MH): You know, you have to have something. We talk a lot in psychology about self-care, and whether its big meaningful projects or small meaningless ones, I don’t think it makes much difference. People can do all kinds of things. For me, being involved in things like [playing trumpet, helping Charlie write his book] help me live my life.

    Question (HJ): What are the parallels in self-care between practicing psychotherapy and teaching?

    Answer (MH): Part of it is to become more mindful of what we’re doing – I knew we couldn’t get through an interview without talking about mindfulness somewhere! The nice thing about an academic career is it has built-in balance. There are research meetings, committee meetings, meetings with students, etc. However, there are times I need to leave the university, go across town, and play my horn a little bit too – for 3 hours, forget what I do for a living and create more balance in my life. We need to practice stress management techniques as intentionally as we can. I’m going to argue that the days after I play gigs, I might be better in the classroom!

    Working on preventing burnout is really important. Part of that is also an acculturation process. The university tells us what we need to do, and that’s one circle in the venn diagram. Then, we have what we really want to do – that’s the other circle in the venn diagram. I try to make those circles overlap as much as possible, to incorporate what I'm really interested in with my job requirements. This may mean I say no to a few committee things, and say yes to a few student-oriented things, because working with students is what I am really excited about. It is important to take advantage of choices to fit with what I want to do. Another part of preventing burnout is to leave a little space (psychological, schedule) to be surprised.

    Question (HJ): When thinking about the future and the rapidly shifting nature of higher education, what do you think is changing in academia? What do you envision being developing ethical concerns?

    Answer (MH): Teaching is going to change more in the next 20 years probably than it has in the last 100. When I learned how to teach, I didn’t learn about online teaching, but now it’s not clear how much time we are going to spend working (e.g., teaching, research, psychotherapy) online.

    One of the advantages of an accelerated rate of change is that we may have more opportunities than previous generations to create positions rather than fill positions--in other words, to create what being a professor means. I consider myself to have a relatively non-traditional academic career given the amount of theoretical or practical writing I’ve engaged in compared to less grantsmanship. In the future, it’s possible there might be more unlimited freedom in academia.

    Another change is the increase in diversity. There are more and more students entering college because, as a society, we see the advantages of an education, and we need to respond to make education relevant for people who don’t necessarily come from all the same backgrounds, or the backgrounds we come from. The ethical concerns here are using respect, not doing harm, and ensuring we practice justice.


    On writing: Dr. Handelsman reflected on his writing process, sharing that he typically does not have a set writing time. Rather, he always has something to take notes with (e.g., recording voice memos on his iPhone) so that when an idea for a blog post or other writing piece strikes him, he can make note in the moment. Then, he will use these notes as inspiration to produce a written product.

    On quizzes: To encourage students to engage with readings prior to class, Dr. Handelsman sometimes incorporates quizzes into his classrooms. When he does so, he asks students at the start of class what questions they had about the reading to initiate a discussion. Upon answering any student questions, the quiz (typically multiple choice) is administered. Dr. Handelsman noted he tries to promote a democratic quizzing process, in that students are asked how they want to be quizzed (e.g., multiple choice, short answer) and can contribute questions.

  • 24 Sep 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Ryan C. Thompson, Ph.D. Student in Clinical Psychology, Palo Alto University

    This past summer, I attended the 2nd Annual Evidence-Based Teaching Conference at Palo Alto University (PAU) sponsored by the Office of Faculty Learning and Instructional Development. Directed by Dr. Kristel Nazzal and under the guidance of President Maureen O'Connor, educators, researchers, leaders, and interested students from across the country attended the conference with aims of collaborating and integrating innovative knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the field of pedagogy. The conference included a series of interactive workshops that focused on various ways to make course curricula more accessible for learners. Presenters focused on teaching as it relates to intersectionality, transparent counseling pedagogy, challenges of first generation college students, online teaching, and creating courses using universal design for learning (UDL).

    The conference began with a keynote address by Dr. Kim Case detailing her research into the importance and necessity of an intersectional approach towards higher education. Dr. Case discussed how the unique and complex experiences of privilege and oppression become salient in the classroom, using examples of her own missteps in conceptualizing race and gender separately rather than intersectionally. Her passion for diversity and openness about her growth as an educator was humbling, and by engaging with the crowd, she kept the audience focused on the importance of examining privilege, power, invisible identities, social location, self-reflection, and marginalization. I had not fully conceptualized the impact of social justice and advocacy in my role as an educator; however, Dr. Case's presentation offered a relevant perspective into how transformative inclusive pedagogy can be for educators as well as students. The central themes of social responsibility and equitability discussed throughout the keynote address encouraged audience members to think critically about the messages and dynamics that they co-create with their students that have the potential to be facilitative or barrier-inducing. Dr. Case continued her presentation by expanding on specific strategies and techniques for developing an inclusive pedagogy. As a novice educator and graduate student, seeing a leader and innovator in the field with such a strong commitment to changing higher education inspired me and many of my peers. All the presenters at the conference shared Dr. Case’s passion for transformative pedagogy, and each workshop organically built upon the others. 

    Dr. Kelly Coker and I offered a workshop on the importance of critically engaging graduate students in interactive and collaborative role-play exercises to consolidate and expand upon the material learned during graduate school using the transparent counseling pedagogy model. Finding a balance between engaging students with significant experience without overwhelming new student therapists is tough for many educators. As a co-instructor for a Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy course, I felt privileged to share the experience of using this applied framework, having recently been in the same shoes as the students I was helping to teach. Overall, transparent counseling pedagogy combines a psychotherapy role-play facilitated by co-instructors along with an in-vivo discussion of the role-play. The co-instructors use frequent pauses to allow students to discuss their reactions and guide the course of the role-play based on their knowledge of the chosen theory or technique. This approach reduces the anxiety commonly felt by counseling and psychology graduate students learning about these theories and techniques for the first time while allowing space for students of all skill levels to actively participate in the exercise. The experience of teaching as a PhD student afforded me a unique perspective when collaborating with Dr. Coker on how to best implement this approach in the classroom—one that I believe is invaluable for all PhD students looking to enter academia. Furthermore, by presenting this material in a professional setting, we reflected on the model's strengths and areas for growth with the audience, further refining the approach for future classes. The experience of developing, implementing, and then presenting on this material challenged my preconceptions of teaching and expanded my understanding of the diligence and adaptability required to be an educator. Finally, our presentation, surprisingly, aligned closely with the other presentations in that other presenters used examples and reflected on topics discussed in our presentation.

    In the morning, Dr. Kimberly Balsam facilitated a faculty panel discussion with President Maureen O'Connor and Drs. Stacie Warren, Chris Weaver, and Predair Robinson addressing the experience of being first-generation undergraduate and graduate students. The panelists stated that a lack of knowledge around the unspoken rules of getting into graduate school, the necessity of mentorship fit, the impact of hidden identities, as well as not sharing a common experience with their fellow classmates and instructors were some of the biggest obstacles that they faced when entering into higher education. President O'Connor stated that not until she saw an academic poster presentation on "The Experience of a Rural New Hampshire First-Generation College Student" did she come to understand her own identity as a first-generation college student. Each of the panelists’ journeys of self-exploration, resilience, and determination highlighted how exclusive the world of academia continues to be. The road to graduate school is long and twisted for many; however, the shared experience described by these faculty members showed just how important inclusive pedagogy is in today's changing educational landscape. Future educators like myself must appreciate the rich backgrounds of our students and make higher education more accessible to diverse students.

    In the afternoon, workshops demonstrated the challenges and benefits of online teaching as well as strategies for making education flexible and engaging for diverse learners through UDL. In the growing landscape of online teaching, educators must learn ways to engage students in meaningful ways without being in the same physical space. Drs. Darlene Chen, Cristen Wathen, Kelly Coker, and Donna Sheperis highlighted fundamentals of transitioning from a traditional classroom to a virtual one. Furthermore, Dr. Eduardo Bunge and Taylor Stephens shed light on the importance of intentionality and preparation when using video conferencing platforms like Zoom to create an online learning experience, especially for diverse students. Dr. Jill Grose-Fifer described ways to make education more accessible and relevant to students using the principles of UDL, which aim to support diverse learners through flexible, engaging, and accessible courses and assignments. By listening to these workshops, I gained a deeper understanding of ways to deconstruct barriers maintained by traditional pedagogical approaches to increase student motivation and critical thinking in the academic setting. Whether online or in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting, as educators, we can no longer expect all students to fit into the same mold and learn in the same way. We must expand our techniques and engage with students in new ways that honor their experience by embracing both technology and flexible curricula designed to support and empower student development.


    The 2nd Annual Evidence-Based Teaching Conference at PAU highlighted several examples of how innovation and collaboration in pedagogy are informing higher education for diverse student populations. I am honored to have learned from so many leaders in the field of pedagogy, expanding my novice view of what the role of an educator can and should be. The opportunity to participate as a presenter was powerful, and I look forward to my next opportunity to add to the collective resources of my colleagues. Inclusivity and accessibility are quickly becoming the expectation rather than the exception in higher education, and I am now armed with several tools to meet that challenge because of the information that I learned and connections that I made through this conference. I encourage all my fellow graduate students and early career educators to engage openly with the changing world of higher education in the United States by attending conferences on evidence-based pedagogy and commit to gaining professional development in teaching and learning.

    Ryan C. Thompson is a 2nd-year PhD student in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University interested in evidenced-based, inclusive pedagogy along with clinical research in neuropsychology.  He is a teaching assistant in the Department of Psychology and the Office of Faculty Learning and Instructional Development.  He is a member of Dr. Rayna Hirst's Behavioral Research and Assessment in Neuropsychology Lab and affiliated with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center through the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

  • 18 Sep 2018 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Philip Higham, Ph.D., University of Southampton

    Technology is having a huge impact on all aspects of our lives. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat might have sounded like rock-and-roll bands two decades ago! Today they are all part of the modern lingo and most young people have an account with one or more of these services.

    Education is not exempt from the impact of technology. Gone are days of lectures being delivered with chalkboards and students taking copious notes on blank pieces of paper. Chalkboards have been replaced with software such as PowerPoint, which is used to present lecture material in the form of digital “slides.”  Moreover, students commonly rely on laptops and tablets to take notes and have access to lecture material that they can download prior to lectures. Sometimes, that downloadable material consists of copies of the lecture slides themselves, which may relieve the pressure on students to take many notes at all during lectures.

    For educators, technology is developing so quickly it is often difficult to decide what is the best way to use it to enhance education. One problem in making good decisions about this issue is that students and educators alike often fall for metacognitive illusions (e.g., Yan, Bjork, & Bjork, 2016). These illusions are false beliefs or assumptions about the way that memory works. They often stem from a common but false heuristic that “if learning is fluent and easy, then I will remember what I learn for a long time.” Thus, students often feel they learn more from a fluently-presented lecture compared to a disfluently presented one, or from massing their learning (i.e. cramming) rather than spacing it (i.e. spreading study time over several short, spaced intervals). Fluently-delivered lectures or reviewing material when related material is already in working memory, as it would be during a cramming session, make learning seem easy and hence memorable. However, the data do not support these assumptions. As long as the same material is taught, the fluency of lecture delivery seems to make little difference to later test performance (and sometimes even favors disfluent delivery). Similarly, even though it is harder, hundreds of studies have shown that it is better to engage in multiple, short learning sessions distributed over time than to learn material in a single marathon session (see Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006 for a review).

    Instead, enduring memories are usually formed under learning conditions which Robert Bjork from UCLA describes as desirably difficult (see Bjork & Bjork, 2011). According to this principle, the presence of difficult but surmountable obstacles that create disfluency and slow the process of learning are usually good for learning, and not things to avoid at all costs.  Much like the common adage applied to physical exercise – “no pain, no gain” – if learning is to last for longer than 24 hours, it usually requires effort. 

    Does that mean that teaching should be a sadistic process of turning simple concepts into difficult ones so students will remember them? Of course not. That is where the term “desirable” comes in; speaking in a foreign language that students don’t understand or deliberately cutting sentences short to make an incomprehensible lecture would create undesirable difficulties rather than desirable ones. However, there are desirably difficult activities that can be easily implemented in lectures or tutorials, and there are some modern technological advances that can facilitate this.

    One activity that I have started implementing regularly in my large classes is interpolated testing (e.g., Szpunar, Khan, & Schacter, 2013). Instead of speaking for the full length of the lecture, break your lecture into several segments of, say, ten minutes each separated by three-minute pauses. Have your students do nothing but listen during the ten-minute segments. Then, during the pause, use a tool such as MeeToo1 to have students answer a series of questions about the previous lecture segment using their smartphone or tablet. Once the time is up, provide some feedback, and then continue on to the next lecture segment. If you do not have access to a tool like MeeToo, then ask your students to generate on paper some key points about the preceding segment during the pause.  

    Interpolated testing has been shown to not only enhance memory for the material being tested (i.e. the previous lecture segment), but it also facilitates learning of the upcoming lecture segments, most likely because of improved attention (e.g., Jing, Szpunar, & Schacter, 2016). It also reduces negative feelings toward high-stakes cumulative exams (Szpunar et al., 2013). In other words, there are multiple benefits to interpolated testing. And, far from being tortuous, most students enjoy the activity even though being tested during lecture pauses can be quite difficult. It wakes them up, gives them a challenge, and helps them to monitor their understanding.

    Generally, technology-enabled learning has great potential, but it is important that educators base their decisions about how to use that technology on the science of learning rather than intuition. If you use these tools to have your students engage in retrieval practice over spaced intervals, which is what the activity described above is all about, then you are bound to see good results because countless studies dating back to the 1800s show that they work (for a review of the benefits of retrieval practice, see Rowland, 2014, and for spaced practice, see Benjamin & Tullis, 2010). Furthermore, your students will enjoy the activity as well!

    1 MeeToo is software that allows students to anonymously answer questions and take polls in class using their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Instructors can then display results to the whole class. See


    Benjamin, A. S., & Tullis, J. (2010). What makes distributed practice effective? Cognitive Psychology61(3), 228-247.

    Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2011). Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning. Psychology and the Real World: Essays Illustrating Fundamental Contributions to Society, 56–64.

    Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin132(3), 354–380.

    Jing, H. G., Szpunar, K. K., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). Interpolated testing influences focused attention and improves integration of information during a video-recorded lecture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied22(3), 305–318.

    Rowland, C. A. (2014). The effect of testing versus restudy on retention: A meta-analytic review of the testing effect. Psychological Bulletin140(6), 1432–1463.

    Szpunar, K. K., Khan, N. Y., & Schacter, D. L. (2013). Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences110(16), 6313–6317.

    Yan, V. X., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2016). On the difficulty of mending metacognitive illusions: A priori theories, fluency effects, and misattributions of the interleaving benefit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General145(7), 918–933.

    Philip Higham, Ph.D. is a Reader in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on long-term human memory and metacognition as well as methods to ensure that student learning endures over time.

  • 05 Sep 2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous
    By Jaclyn Ronquillo-Adachi, Ph.D., Cerritos College, Jennifer Thompson, Ph.D., University of Maryland University College, & Christina Shane-Simpson, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Stout

    Need ideas on assignments? Ever wonder whether your students are actually grasping course content? If so, you should check out APA’s Project Assessment! Project Assessment ( is a digital library of assessment tools that were designed to help psychology teachers demonstrate evidence of teaching and learning effectiveness. The site is available at no cost and requires only a quick registration process. Experienced and innovative teachers are continuously adding new tools and materials to the site, making it a continuously-evolving source of information on assessment. Although the site is accessible to APA members of all ranks, this resource could be particularly valuable for graduate students and early career professionals. As a graduate student, finding the time to prepare for a new course and create new assignments from scratch can be difficult and time-consuming. Project Assessment is a fantastic starting place if you’re looking to save time on your course prep. The website includes a variety of evidence-based assessments that can be easily integrated into the most commonly-taught psychology courses in higher education.

    Image 1. The search feature allows users to browse by learning goals, among other assessment aspects, as well.

    All of the assessments found in Project Assessment align with the learning outcomes identified in the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major: Version 2.0. Visitors to the site can search by assessment topic (e.g., ethics, development, methods), assessment type (e.g., quiz, presentation, creative product), or by learning goal(s) for the assessment based on the APA guidelines (see Image 1). Within each assessment document, teachers will find an overview of the assessment, a description about how it aligns with the APA guidelines, and the corresponding teaching materials. Sample assessments include Designing a Restaurant Menu for Zombies (see Image 2), Psychology in the Public Media, and The Effect of Music on Performance.

    Image 2. "Restaurant Menu for Zombies" activity showing outcomes, indicators, and an overview of the assessment.

    Project Assessment was designed by teachers as a resource for teachers. It is a win-win for graduate students who are new to teaching, as materials on Project Assessment can help novice instructors develop their teaching skills in Psychology. This can provide your students with an enhanced learning experience in the classroom, increasing engagement via activities and other assessment materials. The Project Assessment review team is also accepting innovative and evidence-based assessments. If you have an assessment that you feel may be valuable to other teachers, you also might consider sending the Project Assessment review team through the “Become an Author” link on the site. Check out this valuable resource at!

    Jaclyn Ronquillo-Adachi, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and department chair at Cerritos College. Dr. Ronquillo-Adachi is an active member of the APA Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education (CABE).

    Jennifer Thompson, Ph.D., teaches courses in introductory psychology, research methods, human sexuality, memory and cognition, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, and senior seminar. Dr. Thompson is also an active member of CABE.

    Christina Shane-Simpson, Ph.D., is a former GSTA Chair and current professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin, Stout. Dr. Shane-Simpson is an active member of CABE.

  • 04 Sep 2018 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Bethany Fleck, Ph.D., Metropolitan State University of Denver

    You're a grad student not a miracle worker, right? And here I am, suggesting yet another thing to be added to your to-do list that's already a mile long and a few hours late. I know how this feels, but let me see if I can convince you of an overlooked but powerful influence that your soon-to-be faculty position has on the bigger picture… on our democracy.

    Am I being dramatic? Yes and no. We are facing times unlike any we have seen before. The very thread of our democracy is being challenged by sentiments such as “fake news” and the complacency of youth in their lack of participation in the political processes and community issues that make our country what it is today, for better or worse. For example, participation in the 2016 election was down among millennials, a group that will soon take over the baby boomers in number of eligible voters (Khalid, 2016). But, the tide could be changing. We see a new wave of participation in, for example, the youth protesters that organized in Florida after the massive school shooting that took place in Parkland. These people are our students now, or will be tomorrow when you take your first teaching jobs. What should we do to serve them and to increase the civic engagement of our current college goers? 

    In 2012, The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement released a national call to action. The first essential action recommended was to “reclaim and reinvest in the fundamental civic and democratic mission of schools and of all sectors within higher education (p. vi).” This action recognizes that higher education plays a critical role in fostering civic engagement (also known as civic learning). One entity working toward this goal is The American Democracy Project (ADP), an ever-growing network of state colleges and universities whose mission is to “produce college and university graduates who are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and experiences they need to be informed, engaged members of their communities (ADP, n.d.).”

    What does this have to do with psychology? Everything. These desired outcomes are in line with the American Psychological Association Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major. Students should become “ethical and socially responsibility in a diverse world” (2013, p. 26). Objectives for students under this goal include applying ethical standards, fostering interpersonal relationships, and adopting values that build from community up to global levels (Fleck, Hussey, & Rutledge-Ellison, 2017). Furthermore, civic learning embraces psychology domain-specific academic knowledge alongside more global values such as justice, critical thinking, public problem solving, and ethics (Saltmarsh, 2005). Simply put, we can use psychology-specific education and training to help create ethical citizens who value and participate in democracy.

    How should we do this? First, I beg you to consider integrating innovative civic engagement teaching techniques into your psychology courses. You can do this through service-learning, community-based research, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities. (For more information on experiential learning, see Schwartz, 2012).  These techniques are called high impact practices according to Kolb (1984), who describes how knowledge is created through the alteration of experience based on a person’s new involvement in different settings. Each of the pedagogies listed above warrant their own blog posts, and if you look back (thanks to the GSTA) some have already been written about–for example, see Shor’s (2018) blog post on Transformative Service Learning.

    A second way you can integrate civic engagement into your courses is slightly simpler. In the content, assignments, and discussions of your classes you can highlight community issues and use psychology research to help find solutions. Connections to community issues can be made within all areas of psychology. For example, in developmental psychology, my area of expertise, you might consider adding content around current educational policy at either the local, state, or national level. A fantastic example is given by Ahmed (2017) in another GSTA blog post called “Being Betsy DeVos: Bringing Politics into the Study of Developmental Psychology.” Another community issue you might consider is mental health and the opioid epidemic. A ballot initiative in Denver in the 2018 election cycle proposes to increase taxes to fund mental health and substance abuse programs (Daley, 2018). Psychology students can study the pros and cons of this initiative, educate others on campus, and cast their own informed vote on the subject. In previous work I have found that focusing on local level issues is a strong motivator for college students’ voting behavior. I encourage you to consider what other connections you can make between the community and your course content, and to work to bring those issues into the classroom.

    Last but not least, consider participating with ADP. To be an official ADP school your institution must be part of the AASCU (American Association of State Colleges and Universities, ADP, n.d.). A list of schools already participating can be found on the ADP webpage. If you are not already a member, or an AASCU school, you cannot officially join but you can still utilize all the great resources ADP offers. One example of a current initiative is called the Digital Polarization Initiative, or for short “DigiPro” led by Dr. Michael Caulfield of Washington State University Vancouver. This project has “students participating in a broad, cross-institutional project to fact-check, annotate, and provide context to the different news stories that show up in our Twitter and Facebook feeds (Digital, n.d.).” It is being pilot tested at 11 universities across the country (MSU Denver being one of them) right now and will take off widely very soon.  ADP has ongoing projects, such as this one, and will prove to be a great resource for you.

    In conclusion, I urge you to use the ivory tower to break it down. What I mean is that you have the potential to influence your students’ behavior in a way that can increase their participation in their community and in the political system. You can create a movement where universities contribute to the communities in which they are located. If you want to see change, cultivate it in your students. However, be cautious. You are not drawing conclusions on issues for your students, you are not telling them the positions they should take when they vote, and you are certainly not able to solve the nation’s problems single-handedly. But, you are communicating to your students that they need to vote and you are asking them to do so using psychology content to inform their decision-making. You are encouraging them to participate in tough conversations so that community problems can be addressed. Avoid pushing your own political agenda, yet send a clear message that motivates students to take ownership of their own power to vote and their power to participate in their communities. This might seem like a fine line to walk, but it is an important one. The time is now, and you can make a difference.


    ADP, (n.d.). About. Retrieved from

    Ahmed, T. (2017, October) Being Betsy DeVos: Bringing politics into the study of developmental psychology. (GSTA Blog). Retrieved from 

    American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major (Version 2.0). Retrieved from

    Daley, J. (2018, August). Denver voters to decide on a tax that will fund mental health, substance abuse care Colorado public radio. Retrieved from

    Digital Polarization Initiative (n.d.). American Democracy Project. Retrieved from

    Fleck, B., Hussey, H. D., & Rutledge-Ellison, L. (2017). Linking class and community: An investigation of service learning. Teaching of Psychology, 44(3), 232-239, DOI:

    Khalid, A. (2016, May). Millennials now Rival Boomers as a political force, but will they actually vote? Retrieved from

    Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Saltmarsh, J. (2005). The civic promise of service learning. Liberal Education, 91(2), 50-55. Retrieved from

    Schwartz, M. (2012). Best practices in experiential learning. Ryerson University. Retrieved from

    Shor, R. (2018, June). Transformative service-learning. (GSTA Blog). Retrieved from

    The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. (2012). A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from

    Bethany Fleck, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is committed to an active, learner-centered approach to teaching. Her research centers on cognitive development in K-12 and university classroom contexts. Recently her work focuses on innovative teaching pedagogy that supports student civic engagement.

    To learn more, consider attending The American Democracy Project Regional Institute hosted by MSU Denver on Friday, November 2, 2018:

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