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


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:

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

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

  • 20 May 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Rita Obeid and Jeremy Sawyer, The Graduate Center and City University of New York, CUNY

    For new psychology instructors, designing a writing assignment is often the last thing on our minds. We may be scrambling to prepare a syllabus for new course, mastering unfamiliar content (since psychology has multiple subfields), or organizing a series of slide-based lectures. In the mad dash of course prep, the potential learning benefits of student writing can be easily overlooked.

    When our thoughts finally do turn to writing, we may wonder: Do my students really need to write? Won’t they get plenty of practice in writing-intensive courses? As a graduate student instructor, do I even have time to read and grade writing for a class of 50 or 100? In this blog, we aim to demonstrate that engaging students through writing not only helps them to learn more deeply, but is entirely manageable and beneficial to you as an instructor.

    To learn, students need to actively engage in course material, whether through discussion, group projects, hands-on experience, or writing. An approach called writing-to-learn is a way of encouraging students to enhance their understanding by thinking through important course concepts using writing (Zinsser, 1988). The primary goal is not to improve students’ writing skills in general (though that may occur), but to promote critical thinking, expressive skills, and student reflection on course material (Bensley & Haynes, 1995). Having students reflect on their learning through the use of brief writing assignments (whether in class or at home) can promote this full range of skills. We will illustrate this process with some brief, low-stakes writing assignments that we used to help students grapple with new concepts in our Developmental Psychology classes.

    We have found that students often do not have a clear perspective on a topic until they are required to reflect on the topic, connect it to their own experiences, and to try putting their thoughts on paper. In our Developmental Psychology courses, we wanted to avoid bombarding our students with endless PowerPoint slides that dulled their senses as they explained developmental concepts. Thus, along with five other graduate students we chose eight key concepts in Developmental Psychology (e.g., attachment, joint attention, Piaget’s stages, etc.) and created 8 lessons featuring active learning activities for use in our classes. To get students’ cognitive wheels spinning, we began each lesson with a “Question of the Day” that asked students to connect their everyday experience to the concept at hand. When teaching joint attention, for instance, our question was “Do you make eye contact with others in social situations? Do you think eye contact is important? Why or why not?” This was followed by a brief instructor-led illustration of the concept, and then a YouTube video which depicted one child engaging in joint attention, and another child who struggled with establishing joint attention. To get students observing and thinking deeply about what they saw in the video, we provided a series of brief writing prompts - known as “minute papers” - to be written on the spot (See Figure 1).

    The goal of this brief writing activity was not to produce a masterpiece of writing, but rather to have students “think through writing” about what behaviors they observed, what they could infer about each child’s ability to establish joint attention, and how joint attention might help the children’s social, cognitive, and linguistic development. These brief writing assignments do not need to be graded (or even collected) by the instructor, they merely use the process of writing for the students’ own benefit. Using anecdotal feedback from students, as well as assessment data we collected in our classes, using these brief writing prompts led to higher student learning, as measured by short quizzes requiring students to demonstrate understanding and application of these developmental concepts. Below is a sample of some slides and writing prompts from a lesson module that we used in one of our courses.


    In addition to brief in-class writing, we also assigned weekly written responses to a question pertaining to that week’s lesson. Below is a sample weekly writing prompt:

    Assignment 1: What is Your Theory of Human Development?

    Whether we are conscious of it or not, we live our daily lives using some type of “theory” of development. Try to describe your current theory (or theories) of development, answering the following questions in approximately two paragraphs.

     What causes humans to become the people that they become?

          What do you think are the most important factors that influence development?

          What causes us to change?

          What causes us to remain the same?

    So how much time do we spend grading these assignments? The truth is, we have two methods: no stakes and low-stakes. In the no-stakes approach, we typically have the short writing assignments (e.g. question of the day) count as students’ attendance, after quickly skimming to make sure they made an effort. For low-stakes writing we skim the assignment for the basic ideas communicated and give the student a grade of 0, 1, or 2 depending on effort and a few simple criteria. In sum, we recommend that you start with a few brief writing prompts dispersed through each class session that will get students thinking more deeply about what you are learning that day. We promise that the minimal time spent reading and marking them will more than pay off in student learning, as well as your insight into students’ experiences and understanding of course material!

    Figure 1. Sample slides from one of the modules on joint attention


    Bensley, D. A., & Haynes, C. (1995). The acquisition of general purpose strategic knowledge for argumentation. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 41-45.

    Zinsser, W. (1988). Writing to Learn: How to Write-and Think-Clearly about Any Subject at All. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

  • 14 Apr 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ashley Davis

    On October 13, 2016, the American Psychological Association (APA) detailed findings from a survey that indicated that the 2016 presidential election was a significant source of stress for more than half of American adults, both Democrats and Republicans (APA, 2016). Thirty-eight percent of adults attributed this stress to “political and cultural discussions on social media.” Long story short, we were all feeling the heat!

    Last semester was different for me as well. I was finally feeling like I had hit my stride as an educator. Something no one tells you is that if you do it right and care for your students, the teaching becomes both your greatest joy and the thing you lose sleep over at night. Being a graduate student and an adjunct professor is like finding the balance between giving, and keeping enough for yourself.

    I was assigned to teach Human Development, an introductory course in the Psychology Department that encompasses physical, emotional, and cognitive development from conception until death. The course is a lot of everything, but there are several dominant themes that run through a critical study of human development. Unfortunately, inequality is one of them. The text I was using for the course didn’t waste any time making that point. In chapter 2, students are introduced to how public policy decisions influence or intersect with human development, how developmental outcomes look very different across neighborhoods, and how a history of housing segregation in this country still matters today.

    My students hailed from more than 10 different countries and spoke more than 10 languages as a group. They were Muslim, immigrants, young women and young men of color, and a major party candidate for president of the United States had already spoken of banning Muslims from the country, mocked a disabled reporter, and bragged about sexually assaulting women. They were young Americans who were suddenly questioning everything and they wanted to talk about it, to ask questions, to challenge each other’s ideas, but they were nervous. In the rest of their interactions, these conversations had not been going well. I endeavored to make our space safe enough for them to feel open enough to try. The research suggests that stereotypes and hatred are challenged in instances where people must take on another’s perspective (Broockman & Kalla, 2016). The election was stressful, but it also highlighted the fact that as a country we are not very good at talking.

    I have a few lines I always say to my students in one form or another: “This classroom is a safe space where you are free to disagree with everyone, especially me, but you must disagree in a respectful manner. Nothing is true just because I say it. Disagreeing with me might feel weird at first, but it’s necessary.” I then make sure I create a classroom environment where it is clear that I don’t possess all of the knowledge. Once when we were discussing how education varies globally, I simply opened the floor to all of the students who completed their K-12 schooling careers in another country. I joked with them asking why they were asking me when there were experts present.

    Another thing I did was set up an FYI folder on Blackboard where I gave them as many things to read as I could. In my experience, being exposed to the ways others craft academic arguments makes you better at crafting your own. When I brought optional articles to class I never had any extra copies to bring home. One of the articles I assigned for homework towards the end of the semester was a reading I had been assigned in one of my doctoral level classes: a chapter on linguistic domination (Heller & Martin Jones, 2001). A student wrote a reaction to that article that I’ll never stop thinking or talking about. Many nights they kept me on my toes and became formidable debate opponents.

    A third thing that happened is that we found a way to keep politics out of the classroom. The way we accomplished this was simple, we critiqued policy, and policy decisions, societal characteristics and differential access without mentioning anyone by name. We realized that in reality neither candidate had done a good job discussing things like healthcare, public education, or environmental protections, things that our class discussions made us realize were important.

    The final and most important thing I did was to try to see them as whole people and not just students. When something particularly difficult occurred like the dumpster bombing in Chelsea (Wilson, Schmidt, & Nir, 2016), we would talk about it. Instead of making my students request off for Eid-al-Adha (one of the holiest days in the Muslim faith, during a time of increased hate crimes against Muslims) I simply let them know that if they observed a religious holiday that the university did not recognize missing class wouldn’t be a problem. The day after election day, knowing many students would want to go protest and recognizing the importance of them doing so, I told them that I understood if there were other places they felt they needed to be. In my experience as an Early Childhood educator, we call this the whole child approach. This approach to early childhood seeks to offer cognitive, creative, constructive, and community engagement learning experiences to all learners everyday. Last semester I brought this approach to my college students because in the era of fake news my lecturing seemed incredibly insufficient; all of us are a part of this country’s future.

    I couldn’t tell you one way or another if students liked this approach. I didn’t survey them at the end of the semester. There are, however, a few things I know for sure. The first is that their final presentations were phenomenal. The second is that the class did change perspectives. One of my toughest critics said that the class made him hopeful about our country’s future. Recently, I’ve run into a few of them on campus – the reunions are always joyful. Somehow, in all of that stress, we carved out a space of rigorous scholarship. A space where I learned more than I taught. A space where we managed to learn together and from each other.

    American Psychological Association (2016, Oct. 13). APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans. APA Press Release. [Online]. Retrieved from

    Broockman, D. & Kalla, J. (2016). Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing. Science, 352(6282), 220-224.

    Heller, M & Martin-Jones, M. (2001). Introduction: Symbolic domination, education, and linguistic difference. In Heller, M. & Martin-Jones, M. (eds). 2001. Voices of Authority: Education and Linguistic Difference. Westport, Conn: Ablex.

    Schmidt, S. (2016, Aug. 28). Muslim Holy Day on Sept. 11? Coincidence Stirs Fears. New York Times. [Online]. Retrieved from

    Wilson, M., Schmidt, S. & Nir, S. M. (2016, Sept. 18). After Blast, New Yorkers Examine Themselves for Psychological Shrapnel. New York Times. [Online]. Retrieved from

  • 30 Mar 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Teresa Ober

    Since 2007, the members of various Psychology NGOs at the United Nations have been active in organizing an event that has gained increasing precedence in recent years. “Psychologists have been actively engaged at the UN for a long time,” commented Dr. Ayorkor Gaba, the current Co-chair of Psychology Day, an American Psychological Association (APA) Representative to the UN, as well as a central figure in the organization of the event. Dr. Gaba continued by commenting that “For the past 10 years, Psychology representatives at the UN have been hosting the Psychology Day at the UN to highlight Psychology’s contributions to the UN Agenda.” Now in its 10th inception, Psychology Day at the United Nations continues to attract a wide range of individuals from across broad disciplines both within and peripheral to the field of Psychology. Each year, the organizers focus on timely issues that impact the psychology of humanity on a global basis. Last year, the theme of the event focused on the psychological well-being of refugees and migrants. This year, the theme focuses on the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3): Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for for all. The conference aims to provide insights into how an understanding of psychological processes may contribute with respect to the social, economic, and environmental pillars of the UN.

    As it has in the past several years, Psychology Day at the UN this year will provide an opportunity for experts and students across the field of psychology to share in a learning experience within the confines of the famous grounds of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Many who teach psychology with an emphasis on international, cross-cultural or multi-cultural issues may already encourage their students to attend.

    “For the most part, students get much of their information from lectures and textbooks,” stated Dr. Comfort Asanbe, Associate Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island CUNY and APA Representative to the UN. This format of transmitting information can be problematic particularly when trying to support students in understanding the complex ways that human beings are affected when their human rights are not recognized. Dr. Asanbe continued, expressing that “Attending Psychology Day at the United Nations event provides a unique opportunity for students to experience the dissemination of psychological information derived from principles and scientific studies, to the world body.” Dr. Asanbe further conveyed that “This has applied value for the development of policies that have the potential to better psychological health at the global level. In essence, if the stakeholders adopt and implement relevant information presented at this forum, this will be a strong justification for all the efforts put into hosting the Psychology Day at the UN.” Speaking to the power of taking action, Dr. Asanbe emphasized that “Students can read about each of the topics that will be presented at this UN event, but I believe that being there in that setting, will be quite an experience that they will not get sitting in their classrooms.”

    More information about the event can be found here: . Those who plan to attend are encouraged to register as soon as possible and no later than April 7 as registration is required to attend.

    A special thank you to both Dr. Ayorkor Gaba, Dr. Comfort Asanbe, and Dr. Janet Sigal for their support in writing this piece!

  • 13 Mar 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Amy Silvestri Hunter, Ph.D., Seton Hall University

    I remember the first course I taught like it was yesterday: Biological Psychology at the University of Vermont. I was in my last year of graduate school and like many of my peers, I offered to teach an evening section of a course in my area of specialization to gain teaching experience and earn some extra money. I distinctly remember the paralysis that overtook me as I realized how many decisions needed to be made about the design of the course: What text should I use? Would I try to cover all the topics in the text, or just some? If the latter, which topics should I prioritize? How much material should I cover in class, and how much of the textbook material should students be responsible for on their own? How should student grades be determined?

    I quickly realized the path of least resistance was to design my course with basically the same format as the large, daytime section taught by my PhD advisor. I had served as the TA for that course and knew that model worked for him and the students, who consistently gave him and the course high evaluations. With a syllabus in hand that was basically a clone of his (with permission, of course!) I moved onto issues that were important as a new instructor but now seem obvious (e.g. what do I do if a student asks a question but I don’t know the answer? – look it up and get back to them) or irrelevant (e.g. how do I maintain a sense of authority despite my relatively young age? – a problem that has resolved itself with time).

    While many aspects of teaching remain the same since my first experience, other aspects have become more complicated. Faculty are expected to develop learning objectives and course goals, use innovative teaching techniques, have multiple assessment strategies, and to some extent accommodate the varying backgrounds of our students. While the standard “sage on the stage” still has its supporters and can be used to great effect, our perspective on teaching and our role as professors has changed greatly over the years. There is now a wealth of pedagogical research that we can use to guide our decisions about course design. Although this new research is undoubtedly beneficial for our students as it requires us to be much more deliberate in the course-related decisions we make, it can also be overwhelming for new faculty members.

    One approach that can make the task of course creation somewhat less daunting is to obtain sample syllabi. While you can (and should!) ask members of your professional network for their syllabi and course suggestions, there are other resources. One of these is Project Syllabus, a peer-reviewed compendium of syllabi coordinated by APA’s Society for the Teaching of Psychology (Division 2). Project Syllabus includes over 200 syllabi across a wide range of Psychology courses, from Introductory Psychology to upper-level seminars and even graduate courses. Each syllabus is reviewed using a newly revised rubric (available on the website) that was developed based on findings from the scholarship of teaching and learning.

    The new rubric is organized into five categories:

    • Teaching Methods: An exemplary course includes teaching methods that follow best practices. This can include things like critical thinking and problem solving, new teaching methods, multimedia use, etc. as appropriate for the particular course. An exemplary course also effectively engages students in the learning process in a variety of ways (i.e., the course is not solely lecture and exam based).
    • Learner Support & Resources: An exemplary syllabus clearly states faculty roles and responsibilities, student roles and expectations, methods for student-faculty and student-student interaction, and uses principles of universal design for learning.
    • Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning: An exemplary course includes assignments that are consistent with best practice pedagogy, clear guidelines for student evaluation, opportunities for formative student performance feedback, and multiple forms of assessment.
    • Course Design, Goals, & Learning Objectives: An exemplary syllabus clearly states the rationale for the course and its design and has clearly defined course goals that are linked to measurable learning objectives. Class time allocation is aligned with learning objectives, which are aligned with assessment.
    • Syllabus Organization & Design: an exemplary syllabus is well organized, aesthetically designed, has a warm tone, and is free of grammatical problems, typographical errors, etc. Required materials are clearly stated, relevant, and current.

    One way in which Project Syllabus may be useful to new faculty is to provide a sense of how others in the field design their courses. What learning objectives and course goals do they specify? What types of assignments do they require? What textbook do they use? While there is no single “correct” way to design a course, looking at how others do so can provide new faculty with an idea of best practices for a particular course.

    Another use of Project Syllabus is to provide a source of novel ideas for course design and assignments. For example, what are some alternatives to exams for assessment of student learning? How might students demonstrate their knowledge of a particular topic other than the traditional literature review? How can writing assignments be used to provide students with job-related skills? How can assignments be structured to improve student learning?

    Finally, Project Syllabus has recently revised its rubric to be consistent with the results of research in the scholarship of teaching and learning. These references are also posted on the Project Syllabus web page, and I encourage you to look them over as there may be individual articles that are particularly relevant to your course.

    While the syllabus for your first course (or even first few courses) may not cover all items on the rubric, the document distills some of the relevant literature and provides specific outcomes that you can incorporate as you refine your courses over time. Once you have a syllabus that meets the criteria on the rubric, please consider submitting it for review and possible publication on the Project Syllabus website!

    For more information about Project Syllabus, check it out:!

  • 05 Mar 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Teresa Ober

    A recent cover article published in the "Monitor on Psychology" (March 2017) provided some more information about how access to mobile technologies can affect our lives from a psychological perspective. For more information, please consider reading the article. The reference and link is posted below:

    Weir, K. (March, 2017). (Dis)Connected: Psychologists' research shows how smartphones are affecting our health and well-being, and points the way toward taking back control. Monitor on Psychology, 48(3).  Retrieved online from

  • 20 Feb 2017 5:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Teresa Ober

    Multi-tasking is the attempt to complete two or more tasks or activities at the same time. Multitasking can appear to result in either one or two outcomes: either the appearance of great productivity, or the consequences that would typically result from being absentminded. In general, when a behavior is learned to the point where it has become habitualized or automated, multi-tasking may be possible. However, when the behavior is not well learned, frequent mental set shifting such as that required when multi-tasking can make completing the task very difficult, especially tasks that are complex. If a task is complex, it is more likely to require a great deal of attention and mental resource, and therefore performing in a multitasking environment is going to be difficult. Even so, despite research findings suggesting that multi-tasking is difficult or inefficient, and potentially even dangerous in some contexts, we create for ourselves “multi-tasking environments” every time we open a cell phone, laptop, or another digital device while trying to complete another task. For example, when attending a class session or lecture.

    According to a recent article published Psychological Science, non-academic use of computers during lecture is common among students who bring their laptops to class. The researchers inventively used a proxy server to log all students’ HTTP requests in an college-level introductory psychology course. Perhaps expectedly, the researchers also found non-academic use of computers during class was inversely related to academic performance (Ravizza, Uitvlugt, & Fenn, 2016). Research on media multitasking indicates that it creates cognitive challenges for adults, young adults as they cannot gauge the extent to which they switch between multiple forms of media that is present. A laboratory experiment recorded both younger and older individuals as they used a computer and television at the same time. Results showed that individuals were more likely to attend to the computer during media multitasking. The participants in this study also switched between media at very high rate, averaging more than 4 switches per min and 120 switches over the nearly 30-minute study. Interestingly, participants had little insight into their switching activity and recalled their switching behavior at an average of only 12 percent its actual rate. Younger adults in the study also switched more often than older individuals (Brasel & Gips, 2011).

    Yet, research suggests that digital distractions are prevalent in the classroom (Froese, Carpenter, Inman, et al., 2012; Campbell, 2006; Wei, Wang, & Klausner, 2012), with even the mere presence of a cell phone (that is not even turned on) having been shown to reduce performance on tasks that require attention (Thornton, Faires, Robbins, & Rollins, 201). Is this a potential problem for our students? How can we strive to ensure that students are learning from and with their devices and not simply being distracted by them? Even though we might immediately recognize the danger in a driver picking up a mobile device while on the road, we are not so keen to see a problem with a student responding to a device during class.

    Regardless of whether one recognizes the danger of a supposed “multi-tasking digital learning environment,” it is difficult or near impossible to deny the prevalence of personal mobile technologies within the classroom. In a 2013 survey conducted with 777 college students in the US, respondents answered a short 15-item online survey that asked questions about their classroom use of digital devices for non-instructional purposes (McCoy, 2013). Some of the responses from the students indicated that their instructors had been active in establishing policies to reduce the potential for distraction. Of those who responded, 70% expressed that their instructors had a policy in place regarding the use of digital devices in the classroom. And of those who responded, just over half expressed that there should be a classroom policy against digital distractions. When asked if digital devices should be banned in the classrooms, about 91%, however said “no.” McCoy (2016) later conducted a follow-up 2015 survey of American college students which included another 675 respondents in 26 states. The results of this follow-up study indicated that respondents spent an average of 20.9% of class time using a digital device for non-class purposes. In addition, for this second survey, the average respondent reportedly used a digital device slightly more often than those who reported it in 2013. These findings from a few years ago suggest that students acknowledge that their instructors may view their use of digital devices as a barrier to learning, and that they largely acknowledge their use in the classroom, and further, that as it trend, the usage may be continuing to increase in coming years. We may want to consider whether this also true of our own classrooms. In addition, the use of technology for non-instructional purposes may be viewed as a form of incivility. Not only is the use of computers a potential distraction to students, in turn affecting their learning, but it can also appear rude to instructors, thus affecting their teaching and attitudes towards students.


    Brasel, S. A., & Gips, J. (2011). Media multitasking behavior: Concurrent television and computer usage. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking14(9), 527-534.

    Campbell, S. (2006). Perceptions of mobile phone in college classrooms: Ringing, cheating, and classroom policies. Communication Education, 55(3), 280-294.

    Froese, A. D., Carpenter, C. N., Inman, D. A., Schooley, J. R., Barnes, R. B., Brecht, P. W., & Chacon, J. D. (2012). Effects of classroom cell phone use on expected and actual learning. College Student Journal, 46(2), 323-332.

    McCoy, B. (2013). Digital distractions in the classroom: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Faculty Publications, College of Journalism & Mass Communications, Paper 71. Retrieved from .

    McCoy, B. (2016). Digital distractions in the classroom phase II: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 7(1), 5-32.

    Ravizza, S. M., Uitvlugt, M. G., & Fenn, K. M. (2017). Logged In and Zoned Out: How Laptop Internet Use Relates to Classroom Learning. Psychological Science, 28(2), 1-10.

    Thornton, B., Faires, A., Robbins, M., & Rollins, E. (2014). The mere presence of a cell phone may be distracting. Social Psychology, 45(6), 479-488.

    Wei, F. F. & Wang, Y. K., & Klausner, M. (2012). Rethinking college students' self-regulation and sustained attention: Does text messaging during class influence cognitive learning?, Communication Education, 61(3), 185-204.

  • 18 Oct 2016 10:22 AM | Anonymous member

    By Gary Lewandowski Jr., Ph.D., Monmouth University

    If you’re anything like me when I was a graduate student, the thought of teaching a research methods course is a bit intimidating.  Regardless, if you only teach one course as a graduate student, make it research methods. 

    Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “what doesn't kill you makes you stronger” or “graduate school is supposed to be hard” types of argument. Rather, I think there are several highly pragmatic reasons why teaching research methods courses:

    1) Supply and Demand

    Nearly every psychology department offers a research methods course, with 99% of psychology departments reporting its inclusion in their curriculum (Stoloff et al., 2010).  Someone needs to cover those courses, so if you’re interested in teaching research methods, supply and demand works in your favor.  If you can demonstrate that you’re an especially good methods teacher, your chances of getting a job are likely even greater. 

    2) Students Don’t Like It

    I realize that heading sounds like a reason NOT to teach research methods, but hear me out.  Research suggests that students enter methods courses with unfavorable attitudes (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009). Why is this good?  Well, it means students harbor really low expectations about the methods course.  If you do a better than average job teaching methods and are able to engage them, the students will likely rejoice.  Contrast this with courses where student expectations are likely higher (e.g., Intro, Abnormal, or Social Psychology).  There, you may have to be considerably better than average to earn positive evaluations and you can be sure that positive teaching evaluations are an asset when hitting the job market.

    3) The Times They Are a Changin’

    To change students’ attitudes about research methods, you need to change up the way the course is typically taught. First, a little bad news. Despite positive gains in understanding methods course content, students’ attitudes toward their methods course were worse at the end of the course compared to their (already not so sunny) attitudes from the start of the semester (Sizemore & Lewandowski, 2009).

    Importantly, those data were in the context of a traditional methods course that was dominated by memorizing terms and reviewing content, delivered in a primarily lecture format.  My colleagues and I all successfully learned methods this way, so simply gave way to tradition and were repeating the pattern. But given this data, we also knew we needed to do something different so we decided to completely overhaul the course, essentially moving away from the traditional lecture style toward a more modern approach.  We lecture less, students do more hands-on designing studies, thinking through design issues, and problem-solving.  Not surprisingly students like methods a whole lot more and see methods as more useful, while still learning the same amount of material (Ciarocco, Lewandowski, Jr., & Van Volkom, 2013).  A hidden bonus: the course is MUCH more enjoyable to teach.  

    4) It Is Easier Than You Think

    When you’re earlier in your teaching career you’re naturally more flexible and not overly influenced by the inertia of how you’ve taught a course the past 10 years. If you are ever going to teach research methods in a new and dynamic way, it will never be easier to do that than right now. Because you’re newer, you don’t have bad habits to break or old methods notes to rewrite.  Plus, there are lots of resources to help. I spent last summer creating the Instructor Resources Manual for our new methods textbook, Discovering the Scientist Within, and was amazed at all of the great resources that I found. Whether it is an interesting article that you have students reach to exemplify a design, a class demonstration of internal validity, lab activities, videos, or popular press articles that exemplify concepts, there is a wealth of resources out there (There are many freely available resources for methods and statistics curated on 

    5) Brush Up on Your Skills 

    It is often said that you don’t truly know if you understand something until you try to explain it to someone else. That was certainly my experience. As a graduate student I was doing a ton of research and reading more studies than you can imagine. I thought I was an expert. But it wasn’t until I taught methods myself as a graduate student that I really understood methods.  Breaking it down for others forces you to know it on a deeper level and to learn designs and techniques that your subfield may not use as frequently.

    6) Foster Students’ Skills

    My textbook coauthors Natalie Ciarocco, Dave Strohmetz, and I often refer to our methods course at Monmouth as an “Employers’ Dream Course.” The National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014) lists the top 5 skills employers want college graduates to have as: critical thinking/problem solving, teamwork, professionalism/work ethic, oral/written communication, and information technology application. Our approach to teaching methods, which includes lots of collaborative group work designing mini-studies, analyzing them, writing up a report, and presenting to the class, all in short periods of time, hits on every skill employers want. We realize that most of our students are not destined to be full time researchers so helping them cultivate employable skills in the context of their methods course not only makes the course more valuable, but helps them see additional value.

    But the best reason you should teach research methods as a graduate student is that, done well, the course is a lot of fun. There also is nothing more gratifying than expanding students’ view of psychology and getting the chance to introduce students to the joy of science.



    Ciarocco, N. J., Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., & Van Volkom, M. (2013). The impact of a multifaceted approach to teaching research methods on students' attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 40, 20-25. doi:10.1177/0098628312465859

    National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014). The skills/qualities employers want in new college graduate hires. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org

    Sizemore, O.J., & Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2009). Learning might not equal liking: Research methods course changes knowledge but not attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 90-95. doi:10.1080/00986280902739727

    Stoloff, M., McCarthy, M., Keller, L., Varfolomeeva, V., Lynch, J., Makara, K., & ... Smiley, W. (2010). The undergraduate psychology major: An examination of structure and sequence. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 4-15. doi:10.1080/00986280903426274


  • 05 Oct 2016 7:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A big thank you to Svetlana Jovic for developing and sharing this assignment.

    Are you teaching an introductory course and looking for a fun, dynamic assignment that inspires your students to take a creative journey into the history of psychology? Svetlana Jovic has shared a great approach to getting your students to think about the historical context of psychology along with how it relates to our world today.

    This modular assignment asks students to create a “Year In Review” around the time of a key date in the history of psychology that helps explain the historical context of that key event. The “Year In Review” assignment can be used beyond intro courses and even beyond psychology coursework by modifying some of the specifics in order to fit whatever subject you’re teaching.

    Some tips for helping students get creative with the assignment:

    • On the day the assignment is due, have students bring in their newspapers and create a showcase in the classroom.
    • Put up big signs with dates and put them in chronological order around the room.
    • Each group presents their assigned era.
    • Prompt the first few groups to think about the connection between a particular event in psychology and what was happening in the world at that time.
    • After asking a similar question a few times, the rest of the groups start addressing it on their own.
    • Finally, you can invite the rest of the class to ask questions and add to what the presenting group has already said. It gives everybody opportunity to show off their history and pop culture knowledge for that matter :)

    Below you can see some examples from her previous classes and her instructions. Enjoy the news! 

    “Year In Review”: The Newspaper Assignment, Svetlana Jovic

    This assignment is designed to give you some insight into the historical context surrounding famous events in psychology’s history. Working in groups of three, you should create a 3-4 page long “Year-in Review” newspaper that chronicles the important events in a year of importance to psychology. The newspaper must contain a minimum of three stories that have something to do with psychology; the remaining stories deal with other historical events during that year (political, economic, cultural, etc.). Each newspaper will be dated December 31 of the year chosen and will be structured as a special edition featuring the “Year in Review.” You can choose a year from the Key Dates list you can find below.

    The goal of this assignment is for you, working in a three-person group, to produce a “newspaper” that chronicles the events during one of psychology’s “Key Dates.” The newspaper will include such topics as news features relating to events in psychology, book review, ads, obituaries, and anything else that emerges from the group’s collective creativity. A reader of your newspaper should learn something about what happened of importance to psychology in a particular year, and should also learn something about the historical context in which these events occurred.

    There are no limitations in terms of the format of this assignment – you can create a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, or something else. Just like any newspaper, it should have the substantial narrative in it, but feel free to also include photos, graphs, cartoons or anything else that will make the newspaper more effective.

    Off you go now and have some fun with it! I very much look forward to reading your newspapers.


    1900   Interpretation of Dreams

    Sigmund Freud introduces his theory of psychoanalysis in The Interpretation of Dreams, the first of 24 books he would write exploring such topics as the unconscious, techniques of free association, and sexuality as a driving force in human psychology.

    1913   Behaviorism

    John B. Watson publishes "Psychology as Behavior," launching behaviorism. In contrast to psychoanalysis, behaviorism focuses on observable and measurable behavior.

    1935   Alcoholics Anonymous

    Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is founded by Bob Smith of Akron, Ohio. AA's group meetings format and 12-step program become the model for many other mutual-support therapeutic groups.

    Gestalt psychology

    Kurt Koffka, a founder of the movement, publishes Principles of Gestalt Psychology in 1935. Gestalt (German for "whole" or "essence") psychology asserts that psychological phenomena must be viewed not as individual elements but as a coherent whole.

    1946   The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children

    Anna Freud publishes The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children, introducing basic concepts in the theory and practice of child psychoanalysis.

    National Mental Health Act Passed

    U.S. President Harry Truman signs the National Mental Health Act, providing generous funding for psychiatric education and research for the first time in U.S. history. This act leads to the creation in 1949 of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

    1954   The Nature of Prejudice

    Social Psychologist Gordon Allport publishes The Nature of Prejudice, which draws on various approaches in psychology to examine prejudice through different lenses. It is widely read by the general public and influential in establishing psychology's usefulness in understanding social issues.

    1973   Homosexuality removed from DSM

    After intense debate, the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The widely used reference manual is revised to state that sexual orientation "does not necessarily constitute a psychiatric disorder."

    1976   Evolutionary psychology

    Richard Dawkins publishes The Selfish Gene, a work which shifts focus from the individual animal as the unit of evolution to individual genes themselves. The text popularizes the field of evolutionary psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are applied in research on human brain structure.

    1979   Standardized IQ tests found discriminatory

    The U.S. District Court finds the use of standardized IQ tests in California public schools illegal. The decision in the case, Larry P. v. Wilson Riles, upholds the plaintiff's position that the tests discriminate against African American students.

    1990   Cultural psychology

    In Acts of Meaning, Four Lectures on Mind and Culture, Jerome Bruner helps formulate cultural psychology, an approach drawing on philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. Refined and expanded by Hazel Markus and other researchers, cultural psychology focuses on the influences and relationship among mind, cultural community and behavior.

     2000  Sequencing of the Human Genome

    Sixteen public research institutions around the world complete a "working draft" mapping of the human genetic code, providing a research basis for a new understanding of human development and disease. A similar, privately funded, project is currently underway.

  • 31 Aug 2016 1:59 PM | Anonymous member

    By Jeremy Sawyer

    Students at the City University of New York (CUNY) have extremely busy lives. Numerous students work long hours while attending school full or part time. So instead of “working for the weekend” (a la Chris Farley), many students work all week so that they can attend classes in the only time they have left: on the weekend! Yes, CUNY runs classes on both Saturdays and Sundays, and these sections are quite popular. My last class (max of 50 students) at 9am on Sunday was completely packed and had students on a wait list. Students greatly appreciate these weekend classes, and I’m going to make the case that instructors should as well.

    I began teaching on weekends while attending graduate school mostly out of convenience (like my students my weeks were busy), but I have since come to greatly enjoy this end-of-the-week educational niche. As I’ve discovered, weekend students are fervently dedicated to their education. Students in my classes intend to pursue fields like psychology, nursing, medicine, “the therapies” (physical, occupational, and speech therapy), and are often zealously collecting prerequisites. They drag themselves out of bed in the wee hours of New York winters to discuss Human Development, and they manage to look lively while doing so. Some of my students work overnight shifts the night before class, and yet are unfailingly present (physically and intellectually) the next morning, with only the aid of coffee. Other students hustle directly from religious services to midday weekend classes.

    One thing I love about the weekend crew is that they are more diverse in age than typical weekday students. They tend to be somewhat older, and have more work and life experience under their belts. They are often returning to school or are intellectually exploring. I’ve had several middle-aged students, and even a retired professor in my classes. Having students spread further across the lifespan enhances classroom discussion of lifespan development. Many students are parents, and are able to discuss child development in terms of their own childhood as well as raising a child. Older students discuss the development of their grandchildren, and compare their children’s parenting styles to their own. I’ve gained valuable insights from the rich experiences and viewpoints of my students, who are also diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socioeconomically.

    Weekend classes have the added bonus that they’re held only once per week, in a tranquil building without the crowded weekday rush. Of course, that also means that the classes are longer. While a 3-hour long class seemed daunting to me initially, I’ve found that engaging students in a variety of active learning methods (and avoiding deadly 3-hour lectures) is the way to go. If you structure the time with a mix of activities, demonstrations, group work, and discussions (plus a short break in the middle of class), the time will actually fly. Having students introduce chapters or articles that they read for homework, pose questions and lead small discussion groups, and frequently pair into dyads and triads to discuss class material or video clips will help you keep bodies and minds moving across the longer class period.

    There is also more time between weekend classes to content with, and it is key to keep students engaged during this time. If you are assigning longer written papers (in addition to frequent low-stakes writing assignments), you can align paper due dates with weeks after there is no class due to holidays, so that students engage in more in-depth writing over the two-week break. Finally, I’ve found that having students work in groups to create and deliver oral presentations keeps students engaged with each other outside of class, and allows students to follow their intellectual/research interests across the semester. Because of their deeper experience in education and the world, weekend students often have particular professional and intellectual questions that they are passionate about delving into more deeply if given the opportunity.

    For all of these reasons, I encourage you to take the plunge. Become a weekend warrior, and your students will thank you for it. You can still have a social life. And if you play your cards right, you can get out of class just in time to catch the football (or fútbol) games.  

  • 06 Apr 2016 3:39 PM | Anonymous member

    By Anna Schwartz

    It has gotten to the point where I cannot remember things without referring to a list. Even when complaining about my workload, I cannot name all the projects I need to keep track of. I have tried a whole host of list-making software and techniques, but as the tasks build up faster than I can eliminate them, I quickly give up looking at them. I even stopped taking attendance in class last semester because of the 20 minutes it would take to enter it after class (in a 90 hour work week, 40 extra minutes matter). But my number of urgent tasks has ballooned up, not down, and the average urgency has changed from “that is a nice idea, someday” to “deadline: tomorrow.”

    Finally I started using a life-hack type of solution. I would use my google calendar, already indispensable, to plot out how much I can accomplish in a day. I had seen a colleague do this in excel. The extra advantage with google calendar is I could use the service to set up alerts for important due dates. This has been a great improvement in my life, but without careful naming protocols, I found it hard to search through the deadlines or organize and visualize my tasks by project. This was working for me, but then a few apps came across my door which have actually made significant improvements on the google-cal life-hack solution.

    I wish they would pay me for this advertising, but I still feel like I should share what I have learned.

    Here are the winners:

    GradeBook Pro

    Last semester when I was observed teaching, my observer told me she uses an app to record attendance. After investigating a lot of free options, I decided it was worth investing 20 bucks for lifetime access to an extra 40 minutes of sleep a week. This app not only allows me to record attendance but to note whether it was excused or unexcused, mark late, keep track of who has done assignments etc.  I can check summaries of a student's performance from my phone when they email me, and make an informed, rather than gut, decision about their requests and complaints (and do so from my phone, making my transit time more productive). But the coolest thing about this is I can take a picture of each student with the app and study their names with picture next to them. Not only did I cut down on paperwork, but improved teacher-student rapport (using the app inadvertently helped me to learn all of their names and look more responsible in general).

    DOWNSIDE: May only be available on iphones.


    At the APA convention last summer, McMinn (2015) gave me this tip: keep track of every minute you spend, especially on unpaid, unscheduled work that supports others in your department.  All of those minutes you spend on reading a peer's paper, helping someone run stats, or proofing a survey. You weren't playing candy crush, and you should track that, so when your advisor comes to you and says "here's some more work" you can break it down with a graph on the spot. Not that anyone has asked yet, but the point of the advice is that when you are in a tenure track position, your chair may come to you and say: why haven't you gotten more grants or published more papers? You need to be able to show them all the good work you do that hasn’t quite turned into a line on your CV. The special benefit here for teaching is that I can actually log all the time I spend on my classes. I sit down to respond to student emails and I hit "start clock" and then "stop clock" when I finish. Tracking the time helps me spend enough time but not too much time on my students and my own work, and to make that decision based on numbers rather than emotions.

    DOWNSIDE: May only be available for iphones.


    Remember the life-hack of using my calendar to block out how much time I need for all my tasks and therefore to help me decide when to accept new projects or not? Google Calendar is great, but the app is not strong enough on a phone, AND I cannot integrate all my school emails into it. I have 9 email accounts I need to keep track of and Sunrise can link to them all. It is cross-platform, so you can use it on your computer, your iphone, your android, whatever. It allows you to access your calendar while writing a text message, click times you are available, and allow someone else to “accept” one of those times, which ends up directly in your calendar as a scheduled event. The real strength of this app is this: when looking at my calendar ON MY PHONE, it can pull from outlook, from google calendar, and can rapidly toggle between week view and a combination of month/daily detail view. You can access all of the normal features directly from the app on your phone, like reminders, notifications, sharing events etc.  This app has the least direct impact on my teaching, apart from the ease with which I can schedule office hours appointments with students, but it is helpful for maintaining general work-life balance.

    DOWNSIDE: None yet.


    This one is the absolutely best of the bunch. A technophile friend has been pushing me to use it for months and I finally caved. I took two hours to learn how to use it, and I have become a fanatical convert. There are MANY todo list apps, and I have tried LOTS of them. This one goes beyond a task list, beyond even an intuitive organizational app. It is on every platform. It has plugins so you can click a button in gmail to send a task to your list. It syncs with your calendars. You can set repeating due dates with notifications, you can drag and drop to rearrange projects or tasks. You can email notifications to others, and assign tasks to teammates.  You can sort your tasks and projects by due date, but also by "filters" and "labels" so it can accommodate different organizational styles. Best of all, you can set your "Karma" to give you reinforcing feedback as you proceed on your tasks and can measure your productivity on any given day. Once I adjusted my settings nice and low I got all the positive feedback I could desire. You can also just turn it off. While this helps my research a lot, it also helps me to keep track of the things I promise to do on the fly in class. I can also set reminders, deadlines, and even link a document to a task or assign it to a TA by inviting them to the project (named after my class).

    DOWNSIDES: No automatic built in visualization of your calendar, although you can import/export from your calendar.

    ​I understand that some of you will say I am app-happy, but I am actually quite picky.  While I was an early-adopter of dropbox, and a big advocate of it, I am only enthusiastic about great products. I also admit I invested a few dollars in the pro versions of some of these (the only times I have ever done so). I have never regretted a penny. These are life savers that are an absolute bargain for the amount of benefit I have gotten out of them.

    Looking forward to hearing everyone else's tips!

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