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

E-xcellence in Teaching
Editor: Annie S. Ditta

  • 16 Dec 2022 7:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Amanda Cappon & Lynne N. Kennette
    (Durham College, Oshawa, Ontario)

    Every student is unique. They enter our classrooms at varying ages and stages in their life. Students present with differing learning preferences and motivations, and as educators in post-secondary institutions, we are a font-line point of contact, privy to this diversity in our students. Valuing this diversity and further striving to provide inclusive learning spaces in the classroom, we believe that educators of any discipline can benefit from using the biopsychosocial model.

    The following article will first describe the model and its origins, link it to a “whole student” perspective, and then apply it to students’ current learning space and eventual workplace. Finally, it will connect the biopsychosocial model to principles of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

    The Biopsychosocial Model

    Each of us is a product of both nature (our innate genetic make-up and personality) and nurture (our experiences and social-cultural exposures), which interact to create the unique combination that makes us, us. The biopsychosocial model originated in the 1970s through George Engel (see Fava & Sonino, 2017). Engel worked in psychiatry at the time and the biomedical model was considered the gold standard, but Engel saw the medical model as reductionistic, so he sought to expand it to integrate knowledge from the behavioural and social sciences which led to the inception of the biopsychosocial approach (Fava & Sonino, 2017).

    Below is an adapted chart which readers may find useful in understanding the biopsychosocial model as it might relate to the students in their classrooms. We have based our version, which we have adapted for the focus of this paper, on a previous synthesis from the PsychDB psychiatry reference database (PsychDB, n.d.). Please note that this is not intended for educators to pry into the personal lives of their students. Rather, this chart and the model itself, can be used to shift perspective in acknowledging the diversity of our students and the internal and external challenges they may be dealing with while in our classrooms.

    Biopsychosocial Model for Students



    Social and Cultural

    Predisposing Factors

    (What are the longstanding factors in the student’s life that may be affecting their functioning?)

    • Genetics
    • Medical conditions
    • Learning or developmental disorders
    • Interactions with peers
    • Cognitive style
    • Self-esteem
    • Poverty
    • Access to mental health care
    • Exposure to conflicts

    Precipitating Factors

    (Was there an acute event in this student’s past?)

    • Medical illness or injury
    • Use of alcohol or drugs
    • Conflicts around identity (common during transitions such as to post-secondary)
    • Psychological distress/ disorder
    • Changes to relationships
    • Recent immigration
    • Loss of home

    Perpetuating Factors

    (What chronic things are going on which might affect learning?) 

    • Chronic illness 
    • Cognitive deficits, or learning disorder
    • Adjustment of medication
    • Ongoing substance use
    • Beliefs about self/others/the world
    • Self-destructive behaviours
    • Poor coping 
    • Personality traits
    • Loss of social support
    • Ongoing transitions
    • Food insecurity
    • Working too many hours at part-time job
    • Isolation
    • Unsafe environment



    (What is protecting them and allowing them to learn well?) 

    • Overall health
    • Intelligence Abilities
    • Resiliency
    • Popularity
    • Positive sense of self
    • Good coping skills
    •  Self-awareness
    • Positive familial relationships
    • Availability of supportive social network
    • Financial support

    Seeing the Whole Student

    As educators, we can apply the biopsychosocial model in our learning environments through how we engage with and respond to our students. If we engage with our students from a “whole human” perspective, we can not only better manage our personal biases (in an ongoing way), but we can also model this approach for our students to apply in their respective lives.

    As an example of how faculty might apply the biopsychosocial model, consider a fictional student who repeatedly requests evaluation extensions. Understandably, this can be frustrating for the professor. It is likely that the student would have provided us with their “precipitating factors” resulting in their need for an extension, but we may not be privy to the longstanding, predisposing, or perpetuating factors that are impacting the student. While the student is not required to disclose this information, and we, as educators, are not required to grant an extension, we can better support students in their learning if we take a step back to consider these additional factors which could be contributing to our student’s struggles. In this way, we may be better able to support the diverse needs of this and other students while also mitigating our own frustration. Planning our courses a priori with the many factors outlined in the biopsychosocial model can help.

    Similarly, by designing a course which provides all students choices for assessments, which is in line with the recommendations of universal design for learning (CAST, 2018), students may be able to demonstrate the same learning outcomes in a format which takes into account their whole life context. For example, students who don’t have their own computer at home, or who live in a low-income neighbourhood, might prefer to demonstrate their knowledge by writing a test rather than completing a digital project or group assignment. In both of these examples, the idea promoted by the biopsychosocial model is that it may facilitate open dialogue with the student, referral to on campus supports, and a supportive response that promotes genuine student-teacher engagement. In this way, seeing the whole student begins when designing the course and continues throughout the semester.

    Fostering Student Application of the Biopsychosocial Model

    In forty years since its inception, the biopsychosocial model has been thoroughly researched in the healthcare field (see Fava & Sonino, 2017) and has made its way into the classroom. In social science and humanities classrooms, the pedagogical application of this model is a little more obvious because it more easily connects to the content of the course. For example, educating future clinicians to look at the “whole human” (including biological, psychological, social, and cultural aspects) can be taught through various methods of self-reflection, having the student engage with their own biopsychosocial development, or by applying (individually or in groups) this model to an imagined client scenario.

    In other disciplines, the application of the biopsychosocial model may be less obvious but valuable nonetheless, especially since many fields are experiencing a shift toward giving more space and importance to equity, diversity and inclusion practices. For example, Flynn et al. (2022) recently identified a paradigm shift in the field of occupational health and safety toward the biopsychosocial model. This paradigm shift is intended to advance “health equity” because the social determinants of health intersect with other social structures which have ultimately led to exclusionary practices in work environments, research findings, and more (Flynn et al., 2022). Flynn et al. (2022) also highlight the importance of using this model to better understand one’s position within the “complex social web” in which we exist. And, perhaps more prudently, this model can help with our awareness of our own perspective of the world which, if left unattended, can lead to reflexive thoughts and behaviours as well as innate assumptions or judgements of others.

    An example of how this model can be included in the classroom of any discipline would be to create a “case scenario” specific to your course content and have students select one case to analyze (independently, in pairs, or in small groups) from a biopsychosocial perspective. That is, ask students to consider various aspects of the person in the scenario and how those aspects might affect behaviour. For example, would Einstein have come up with the theory of relativity had he not encountered some of the hardships in his life (such as World War II)? Alternatively, students can themselves create the descriptions of people related to their field of study (including all aspects of the model) and exchange with another student to examine. Depending on the specific outcomes for your course, you might consider using a celebrity, criminal, researcher/historical figure in your field, a family member, a client encountered during a co-op placement, or even themselves. Regardless of the figure chosen (or if you provide them with a fictitious description of a person), students should consider the influence or role of various aspects of the biopsychosocial model in determining behaviour. Some aspects that the student might consider could be biological (genetic predisposition, underlying medical issue, certain hereditary mental health disorders), psychological (developmental stage, certain mental health disorders, intelligence, attachment style), social (attitudes, social expectations, education, family values), and/or cultural (religion, economic status, sexual identity, ethnicity/race, trauma/crisis, language). Discussions can be quite engaging, especially as students bring in their own unique and diverse lived experiences. Various disciplines can adapt this activity to meet the needs of their curriculum. For example, in a law course, perhaps describe an accused/known criminal; in a social work course, it could be a client; in a nursing course, a patient; in a business course, an applicant for a job; in a literature course, present a character from a novel; in a math course, it could be a key historical figure. The purpose of the activity is to engage students in considering the “whole human” as it draws on their awareness of barriers, strengths, and struggles from a holistic perspective, and how that can impact various outcomes and behaviours. This type of discussion serves to deepen our awareness of diversity as well as social justice/injustice and can also promote a sense of cohesion in the classroom.

    One of the primary benefits of exposing students to the biopsychosocial model in their courses is that they gain some additional skills (e.g., critical thinking skills) and become more familiar with the struggles of others, developing empathy. Thinking about all the variables that make people behave a certain way makes students less likely to defer to stereotypes for any particular group or to commit the fundamental attribution error (whereby erroneously attributing others’ behaviours to internal attributes). Ultimately, students will be equipped with enhanced interpersonal skills from their exposure to this model during the course of their studies.

    Linking the Model to Students’ Eventual Workplace

    Students attend post-secondary institutions with the goal of earning a credential and gaining employment in their field of study. Their learning journey is the foundation which will allow them to apply the learning outcomes and so-called “soft skills” which they developed during the course of their studies. The biopsychosocial model is about developing a general ability of looking at the “whole human” and the diversity among us which is beneficial regardless of one’s field of study. In business management, for example, an important biopsychosocial application might be equitable hiring practices. In health sciences (e.g., nursing), it may be particularly important to be able to assess and advocate for medical intervention on behalf of a patient, a skill which requires a holistic approach. An employee in the field of data analytics might be working on social science or humanities research projects where it would be advantageous to apply a biopsychosocial perspective in their representation of the research data. In any field, developing the skills and ways of thinking related to principles of diversity, equity and inclusion will place students in a better position to be competitive in the job market and better employees once hired.

    A Connection with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

    Perez et al’s (2019) research revealed an overall lack of engagement and understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) among post-secondary departments, and as a result, among students as well. And yet, these constructs are overwhelmingly relevant for a students’ own identity and ultimate success in their personal and professional lives. Barnett (2020) wrote about “leading with meaning” where he qualitatively reviewed 12 empirical articles on equity, diversity and inclusion among higher education institutions in the U.S. He concluded that, while educating students on constructs of equity, diversity and inclusion is a complicated process which is dependent on the context, it is imperative that post-secondary institutions focus not only on the specific content which is taught, but also on how that content is taught. Overall, engagement at all levels, including administrators, educators, and individual student relationships, is critical to truly infuse the practices of inclusion, promote equity, and maintain awareness of diversity. The biopsychosocial model is not the sole solution, but it can definitely aid in a more inclusive pedagogical practice.


    As educators, we can lay a foundation for EDI by including the biopsychosocial model when designing and delivering courses. As we engage with each diverse learner, we should practice our own awareness of biological, psychological, and social/cultural influences for that learner, continuing to model inclusion by welcoming all student contributions in the classroom. We can help foster EDI in our students by helping them to engage with the biopsychosocial model in our courses to enhance our students’ learning and develop their thinking in a way that will promote EDI both in the classroom and in the workplace.

    The classroom is a powerful space to model skills and foster the application of key concepts, and as educators, we can have a lasting impact on our learners. The biopsychosocial model can be used to help us focus on the diversity of our students, both in our pedagogical practices and in the content and skills we help to develop in them.


    Barnett, R. M. (2020). Leading with meaning: Why diversity, equity and inclusion matters in US higher education. Perspectives in Education, 38(2), 20–35.

    CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. Center for Applied Special Technology.

    Fava, G. A., & Sonino, N. (2017). From the Lesson of George Engel to Current Knowledge: The Biopsychosocial Model 40 Years Later. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 86(5), 257–259.

    Flynn, M. A., Check, P., Steege, A. L., Sivén, J. M., & Syron, L. N. (2022). Health Equity and a Paradigm Shift in Occupational Safety and Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(1), 349–352.

    Perez, R,. J., Robbins, C. K., Harris, L. W., & Montgomery, C. (2020). Exploring Graduate Students’ Socialization to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 13(2), 133–145.

    PsychDB, Psychiatry DataBase (n.d.). Biopsychosocial model and case formulation.

    Quiros, L., Kay, L., & Montijo. A. (2012). Creating Emotional Safety in the Classroom and in the Field. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 18(2), 42–47.

  • 03 Oct 2022 9:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nicole Alea Albada (University of California, Santa Barbara)

    One of the most influential papers that I read in graduate school was one by Alan Baddeley (1988) titled, “But, what the hell is it for?” The title, of course, was brave and bold, but so was the content. Baddeley and other cognitive psychologists at the time (e.g., Neisser, 1978) argued for an ecological approach to the study of memory. They argued that memory researchers needed to move outside of the confined parameters of the lab to study memory in people’s everyday ecologies. Doing so would move researchers beyond questions about how the memory system works (i.e., the mechanics of memory) to questions about memory’s real-world usefulness or function. I followed in this tradition as an autobiographical memory researcher asking questions over the years about the functions of remembering and sharing the personal past with others in a variety of ecologies (e.g., lifephase, cultural, and online contexts). In recent years, I have become interested in the functions of remembering and sharing stories of one’s personal past in the classroom ecosystem. Why? Because I noticed that I do it often so it must be serving a purpose.  

    For example, on the first day of my research methods course, I tell students my life story - that I grew up in Key West, Florida, a small island that is the Southernmost point in the Continental United States; that I come from a family of pharmacists (great-grandfather, dad, sister) but that I took a different path in my academics to study psychology; that I stayed in Florida to earn my PhD at the University of Florida so that I could be close to my extended Cuban family; that I met my husband there and that he and our teenage son are obsessive surfers so I spend most of my free time at the beach; that we lived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago for over ten years where I taught research methods and statistics at the University of the West Indies before coming to teach them at the University of California Santa Barbara.

    I am not the only instructor that seems to share personal stories, like the one above, with their students. It is quite common. For instance, a survey conducted by Houska and colleagues (2015) of 100 university psychology professors found that 91% of teachers reported using stories at least occasionally over the last five years of teaching and, of those, 89% were informal personal stories or brief self-disclosures. Why might personal story sharing be so commonplace? My proposition, from a functional approach, is that it must be serving some purpose in the context of the classroom and instructional ecology. What might these functions be?

    Teaching and Learning Function of Personal Stories

    The scholarship of teaching and learning literature is peppered with many and diverse suggestions about the reasons why instructors share personal stories with students (e.g.,  Brakke & Houska, 2015). Perhaps the most common suggestion, which matches well with the objectives of our profession, is that instructors’ personal stories are shared with students to help them better learn and retain information. For instance, the instructors in the Houska and colleague’s (2015) survey said that they tell stories because it helps the course material “come to life for students” and as such “stories are what students remember” (p. 22). Landrum and colleagues (2019) also home in on the power of stories to help students learn and retain information. They reviewed work which indicates that stories pull students into material for deeper learning because stories are interesting, feel relevant, and are in a form (narrative) that is familiar and easily accessible for students.

    We have found similar evidence for what we have coined as the teaching and learning function of personal stories in our own correlational work (Alea & Osfeld, 2022). We surveyed student’s perceptions of my use of personal stories when teaching research methods for psychology. Students reported that the stories that I shared with them - like those about my husband’s very-distant fourth-place finish in a swim race to demonstrate ordinal scale of measurement, or the time when I was an undergraduate research assistant and caught an older adult writing down a list of vocabulary words that he did not know so that he would get them correct on the next assessment as an example of a (blatant) practice effect - helped them to better understand the material from “quite a bit” to “very much.” Students openly expressed that the stories were helping them learn, with comments like: “She would talk about example[s] related to her son that helped [me] remember experiment designs” and “I liked all the examples [personal stories] because they showed how to apply the topics we were learning in class to real life situations, and it made conceptual topics more concrete and understandable.” Thus, evidence from correlational and anecdotal studies, and from both instructors’ and students’ perspectives seems to suggest that instructor’s personal stories have the power to serve a teaching and learning function.

    Socioemotional Functions of Personal Stories

    Personal stories also seem to have the power to serve other non-academically oriented, but I would argue, equally important functions for students. For example, through the snippet of my life story shared above, I am hoping that students infer that: I come from a small town but made it to a big university; that I value diversity and other cultures, that family is important to me, that it is okay to take your own path and diverge from expectations, and that they should feel confident in me teaching their course because of my experiences. I could have just told my students all of this, but instead I tell them through story, believing that it speaks volumes. Sharing this personal story with my students is not teaching them more about the content of research methods, so it is not serving a teaching and learning function, but is likely serving other socioemotional functions that are relevant to a student’s experience as they navigate courses and university.

    To better understand and systematically delineate what these socioemotional functions of personal stories in the instructional context might be, we have developed the Personal Stories in Teaching (PST) Survey (Alea, Adams, & Mohiuddin, 2022). The items for the survey were constructed by pulling ideas from the teaching and learning (e.g., Brakke & Houska, 2015) and autobiographical memory functions literature (e.g., Bluck & Alea, 2011), as well as by asking expert university instructors why they share personal stories with their students. Factor analysis indicated that in addition to the teaching and learning function of personal stories, instructors were telling students about their personal experiences in order to serve four other specific functions:

          The social bonding function, which involves instructors sharing personal stories with students to create connections, by letting them know more about us and the ways that we may be similar to them, and in doing so creating an overall more positive and communal learning environment.

          The directive function, which involves instructors sharing personal stories with students about accomplishments and missteps that we have had, in an effort to help direct students’ pathways.

          The empathic function, which involves instructors sharing personal stories with students to help them feel better when they have not succeeded at something and to provide reassurance that will help students to grow in emotional ways.

          The identity function, which involves instructors sharing personal stories with students as a way to encourage them to explore other cultures and perspectives as a means to promote further self-exploration and understanding. 

    Incorporating Personal Stories into Instruction

    I would very much like to end this post with strong evidence-based suggestions for how to implement personal stories when teaching so that they are functional for students. I would like to provide suggestions for, for example: How long should the stories be? How personal should they be? When in a lecture, beginning or end, might a personal story best serve a teaching and learning function? Are personal stories always functional? This, after all, seems to be what instructors want. In 2014 - almost a decade ago now - there was a call from the Society for Teaching of Psychology’s Story Task Force to provide evidence about the efficacy of stories as an instructional tool and a set of guidelines for how to best use stories when teaching. The culmination of this call to action was a free edited book, Telling Stories: The Art and Science of Storytelling as an Instructional Strategy (Brakke & Houska, 2015). The book, and work that followed, is full of instructors’ ideas for how they use stories in their own courses and quasi-experimental studies conducted in classes about the efficacy of personal stories for teaching.

    I have been thinking recently, however, that it might be time to bring some of the work exploring the functional outcomes of personal stories in the classroom back into lab-based settings so that variables - like content, timing, and outcomes - can be better controlled. This is hard for me to suggest, given my theoretical foundation in the ecological memory movement. However, I feel compelled to do so because two recent, separate lab-based studies (Alea & Osfeld, 2022; Kromka & Goodboy, 2019), with similar well-controlled methodology, in which lecture content was delivered with and without a personal story, showed little to no improvement for student learning when a personal story was included. The reasons for not finding evidence to support a teaching and learning function of personal stories are many: perhaps the story manipulation was too weak, or in the wrong location in the lecture to be effective, or perhaps a one-time lecture presentation with a single personal story does not mimic well the story sharing experience that occurs in the context of a classroom during the course of an entire term in which socioemotional functions of personal stories are also playing a part in learning. These are all questions that remain to be answered, and a nuanced approach with lab-based and in situ research designs are needed. The end result will give us the full story of the functions of personal stories in instruction. 



    Alea, N., Adams, P., & Mohiuddin, H. (October 2022). The Personal Stories in Teaching (PST) Survey: Exploring why instructors share personal stories with students. Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s 21st Annual Conference on Teaching, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


    Alea, N. & Osfeld, M. (2022). The teaching and learning function of personal stories: Correlational and experimental evidence. Teaching of Psychology, Online first, 1-11.


    Baddeley, A. (1988). But what the hell is it for?. In M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.), Practical aspects of memory: Current research and issues (pp. 3–18). Wiley.


    Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2011). Crafting the TALE: Construction of a measure to assess the functions of autobiographical remembering. Memory, 19(5), 470–486.


    Brakke, K., & Houska, J. A. (2015). Telling stories: The art and science of storytelling as an instructional strategy. Society for the Teaching of Psychology.



    Houska, J. A., Brakke, K., Kinslow, S. L., Zhao, X., Campbell, B., & Clinton, A ( (2015). The use of story among teachers of psychology. In K. Brakke, & J. A. Houska (Eds.), Telling stories: The art and science of storytelling as an instructional strategy (pp. 14–26). Society for the Teaching of Psychology.


    Kromka, S. M., & Goodboy, A. K. (2019). Classroom storytelling: using instructor narratives to increase student recall, affect, and attention, Communication Education, 68(1), 20-43,


    Landrum, R. E., Brakke, K., & McCarthy, M. A. (2019). The pedagogical power of

    storytelling. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 5(3), 247–253.


    Neisser, U. (1978). Memory: What are the important questions? In M. M. Gruneberg, P. Morris, & R. H. Sykes (Eds.), Practical aspects of memory (pp. 3–24). Academic Press.

  • 15 Aug 2022 5:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Emma H. Geller (University of California, San Diego)

    On the first day of my required undergraduate research methods course, I tell students that I think of my role in the classroom as being a “coach.” I ask them: when you go to a practice or a rehearsal, what do you expect to do? What do you expect your coach to do? How is that different from what you might typically expect in a lecture hall? One big difference, I tell them, is that a coach does not simply tell you how to play the game; instead, they provide you lots of opportunities to practice skills in action. Sometimes you will do drills in isolation that you never use during an actual game (like singing scales or dribbling with two hands at once), and sometimes you will have a dress rehearsal or a scrimmage that’s meant to be as similar as possible to the full show or “big game” you are working towards. But you would never expect to sit silently at practice and become the world’s best basketball player or musician or actress. Similarly, you should not expect to be able to sit silently in my classroom and become an expert in research design and critical thinking about research methods: you’ve got to practice those skills to get good at them!

    The primary tool I use to help students practice thinking skills in my class is a technique called Peer Instruction. Peer Instruction is an instructional routine for engaging students with challenging conceptual material by explaining to their peers. This technique was created in the 1990s by Eric Mazur, a physics instructor at Harvard, who noticed that students struggled to understand and apply the concepts he taught in lecture, despite feedback that his teaching was clear and easy to follow. I happened to experience Peer Instruction as an undergraduate in a physics course, and that experience has shaped both my research interests and teaching habits in the nearly two decades since then. In this essay, I’ll share some of the evidence base behind this practice, as well as the specifics of how I have implemented it in my research methods course.

    What is Peer Instruction, and what’s the evidence that it works?

    A typical peer instruction routine follows a structured sequence of lecture and discussion (Crouch & Mazur, 2001). First, the instructor lectures for a short period (10-15 minutes) on a specific concept or topic. This is immediately followed by a challenging multiple-choice question called a ConcepTest, which requires students to apply the concept that has just been taught. ConcepTests should not assess simple memory for presented information; rather they should require application and understanding of a concept. Good questions are ones where incorrect answer choices are plausible and/or based on common misunderstandings. Students respond to this ConcepTest individually first. Next, they are prompted to discuss their reasoning with peers sitting near them. This discussion should focus on why the student chose the answer they did and on resolving disagreement if different students provided different answers. After discussion with peers, students then answer the ConcepTest again. Often, this process includes class wide discussion facilitated by the instructor before revealing the correct answer and addressing any remaining questions or confusions before moving on to the next topic. 

    In the last two decades, much research has suggested that students greatly benefit from this technique. There is strong evidence, for example, that Peer Instruction improves understanding of the specific ConcepTest posed in class (Crouch & Mazur, 2001), as well as performance on isomorphic questions that test the same concept in a new question (Smith et al., 2009). In fact, students learn just as much from peer discussion as they do from instructor explanations, and that the combination of peer discussion followed by instructor explanation is particularly beneficial (Smith et al., 2011). Perhaps most convincingly, this effect holds for both strong and weak students in the same class, and suggests that the strongest students benefit from the peer discussion phase much more than from the instructor explanation phase (Smith et al., 2011). While much of the early research on Peer Instruction comes from courses in physics, more recent work has seen the use of peer instruction expanded to many domains, especially sciences such as biology, chemistry, and psychology.

    Schell and Butler (2018) recently reviewed common modifications to the peer instruction routine and how findings from the science of learning (such as the effectiveness of retrieval, repetition, spacing, and feedback) inform the effectiveness of these modifications. Their recommendations highlight the importance of the peer discussion phase of the cycle as critical to effective learning. In line with this, one recent study found that students did not merely rely on their discussion partners’ confidence, but that peer discussion helped students develop and test more coherent explanations for their answers (Tullis & Goldstone, 2020). This recent evidence suggests that Peer Instruction is both flexible and powerful as a way of engaging students in explanatory processes that promote deeper and longer-lasting learning.

    How I use Peer Instruction in my Research Methods course

    During class, I generally follow the typical peer instruction routine of lecturing on a topic for roughly 10-15 minutes, followed by a related ConcepTest. Each peer instruction question takes roughly 5-8 minutes of class time; students have ~1 minute to respond individually, ~2 minutes to discuss their thinking with a neighbor, and we spend 2-5 minutes discussing all the answer options (and students’ reasoning) as a class. This means that a 50-minute lecture period typically contains 2-4 peer instruction cycles, and an 80-minute lecture period generally contains 3-5 cycles.

    The questions I pose are intended to help students grapple with the most challenging and most frequently misunderstood concepts in class. For example, one of my most consistently effective questions occurs in the lecture when we cover types and scales of measurement. The question describes a researcher who measures memory by asking participants to study a list of words and then write down all of the words they can remember. Students are then asked to decide whether the number of words recalled is a self-report, behavioral, or physiological measure. Without fail, a majority of the class incorrectly believes this is a self-report measure, and we have a lively discussion about the distinction between self-report and behavioral measures, including how we might change the measure to make it a different type and why the differences between types of measures matters for psychological research. Asking students to grapple with this distinction in a concrete way helps them develop a much better grasp of the concept and then apply their understanding to novel questions about measurement types later in the course. Had I simply listed some examples of common behavioral measures, they might have memorized that list but never really understood the concept or why it matters.

    How Peer Instruction fits into my grading scheme

    Students complete peer instruction questions for participation credit, which means they are required to answer the questions, but they are not penalized for choosing wrong answers. In fact, I repeat frequently that the point of Peer Instruction is to discuss wrong answers, and that I am most interested in hearing from students who are unsure of their answer or torn between multiple options. Participation in Peer Instruction accounts for 10% of students’ overall grade in the course, and it is meant to balance an equivalent percentage of their grade that comes from weekly quizzes where the style of question is the same but accuracy counts.

    I have used different systems for tracking Peer Instruction participation over the last 6 years, particularly as remote instruction during Covid reshaped the way students participate in class. In the pre-Covid years, I preferred the use of an in-class response system, much like iClickers, which allowed me to see student responses in real time. Students earned peer instruction credit for each lecture by answering at least half of the questions posed that day. This allowed some flexibility if students arrived late or needed to leave early, but generally resulted in attendance rates around 90% throughout the term.

    During remote instruction, our courses were held over Zoom but we could not require synchronous attendance, so this kind of in-class response system was not feasible. Students who attended class synchronously (either in person or on Zoom) were still able to discuss the peer instruction questions with classmates during class, but any student watching a recording of class would miss out on this part of the cycle. To mitigate the lack of discussion and explanation with peers, I created separate assignments for each lecture in our LMS that prompted all students to write brief explanations of their own reasoning for each question. In these Canvas assignments, each ConcepTest from class was followed by the open ended prompt: “Explain your reasoning for the previous question. How did you pick your answer? Is anything still confusing or unclear about this question or topic?” Using the “graded survey” option in Canvas (a standard option under the Quiz menu), students were awarded students points for submitting the assignment without requiring correct answers. These assignments were graded automatically, and I allowed half credit for late submissions. In the last two years, these deadlines have sometimes been at the end of the week (e.g. all assignments due by Sunday night), by the next class period, or by the end of the class period, depending on the expectations for flexibility and synchronous attendance in any given term.

    How the rest of the course builds on Peer Instruction

    My biggest pitch to students about the value of peer instruction is that it prepares them to succeed at higher-stakes assignments in my course. A specific goal in my course is to help students feel comfortable reading and evaluating published research in psychology. To that end, students are required to read an assigned article each week and take a quiz on the methods described in the paper. The weekly quiz targets the same topics that were addressed in Peer Instruction questions that week. For example, in the week when we discuss the types of measurement question I described above, I warn students: “I will ask you exactly this kind of question about the article you are reading this week. So while you are reading, I want you to pay attention to how the variables are measured and ask yourself what type of measure it is!” These quizzes are cumulative in the sense that concepts from the earliest weeks in the course are repeated on quizzes in later weeks, so that students are revisit the same concepts in new contexts each week. 

    My exams follow the same format as my weekly quizzes and (by extension) the peer instruction assignments. Students read a brief paragraph summarizing a study and then answer a series of questions about the methods of the study. The beauty of this system is that I can ask essentially the same questions over and over – “What is the independent variable? How many levels does it have, and was it manipulated within or between subjects? What is the dependent variable? What type and scale of measurement best describe it?” etc. – and students have already practiced this type of thinking in class. Generating new questions for quizzes and exams is only a matter of choosing new articles to read or writing new scenarios to evaluate! Every new article adds to my bank of scenarios and questions that can be re-used in future terms.

    This ecosystem of questions and assessments helps reinforce the idea that we are developing the skills associated with understanding and evaluating research methods by practicing them over and over again in new contexts. When students answer incorrectly in class or on a quiz, they have the chance to discuss and understand their mistakes before they get to the exam! 

    How students feel about Peer Instruction

    I have been using Peer Instruction in my required, lower-division research methods course for the last 6 years, in class sizes ranging from 20 to 220 students, and I can attest that it is one of the most-appreciated components of my course. In 18 iterations of this course (and over 1,400 students), more than 80% of students reporting that they “liked” or “loved” the peer instruction assignments (a rating of 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale), and over 90% reported that they learned “some” or “a lot” from them (a rating of 3 or 4 on a 1-4 scale). This pattern has held for both in-person and remote versions of the course, in spite of changes (and challenges) to implementing peer instruction online. More than a third of students have spontaneously identified peer instruction as their favorite part of the research methods course.

    It is rare to find an instructional technique that is both well-supported by research evidence and also well-liked by students! Peer Instruction has played a huge role in making my course engaging and effective for the psychology majors at UC San Diego. I would be happy to share thoughts and materials with any instructors looking to do the same for their courses!



    Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics69(9), 970-977.

    Schell, J. A., & Butler, A. C. (2018). Insights from the science of learning can inform evidence-based implementation of peer instruction. Frontiers in Education, 3(33), 1-13.

    Smith, M. K., Wood, W. B., Adams, W. K., Wieman, C., Knight, J. K., Guild, N., & Su, T. T. (2009). Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions. Science, 323 (5910), 122-124.

    Smith, M. K., Wood, W. B., Krauter, K., & Knight, J. K. (2011). Combining peer discussion with instructor explanation increases student learning from in-class concept questions. CBE—Life Sciences Education10(1), 55-63.

    Tullis, J. G., & Goldstone, R. L. (2020). Why does peer instruction benefit student learning? Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications5(1), 1-12.

  • 12 Jul 2022 12:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A Toolbox to Enhance Student Resilience and Success

    Alisa Beyer (Chandler-Gilbert Community College)

    Providing college students with resources in resiliency may play an important role in student success and persistence. Pre-COVID completion rates were less than 30% for 2- year colleges, 62% completion rate for bachelor’s degrees within 6-years from entry (Causey et al, 2022). Going through college can feel like a marathon, yet we strengthen student stamina by building resilience. I wanted to make sure course content builds in not just academic assistance, but holistically helps students get through college and beyond. For this project, I added online modules that target academic resilience and mental health to an introduction to psychology class.

    Before sharing more about the modules, I wanted to highlight factors that go into teaching resilience. Davis (1999) identified seven empirically-based factors correlated with resilience: good health and an easy temperament; basic trust in others; interpersonal competence; emotional and cognitive competence (e.g., emotion regulation, executive functioning), social connections, and finding purpose and meaning including moral regard for others. Similar to Davis, Ginsberg (2011) put together the seven C’s of resilience (e.g., confidence, character, connectedness, coping, and control). Aubrey (2020) created Psychological & Emotional Resilience Training (PERT) and a resilience course for college students which included (1) Self-regulation skills for academic, career, and personal success, (2) Mental flexibility/psychological reframing, (3) Use of positive psychological strengths for success (academic, personal, career), (4) Use of interpersonal connections, (5) Self-directed motivation and goal setting, and (6) Self-care and revitalization.

    One aspect of resilience building is the role of character strengths in coping with challenging situations (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Character strengths, defined as positive, morally valued personality traits, connect an individual's self-perception to core values and are known as Values in Action (VIA) (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Values help foster mental health and well-being and buffer physiological and psychological stress (Schutte & Malouff, 2019; Cresswell et al, 2005). Seligman and colleagues developed 24 values connected to six overarching virtues (e.g., humanity, justice, and wisdom) (Dahlsgaard et al, 2005). Having strong self-resources along with value affirmation reduces the perception of stress (Cresswell et al, 2005; Taylor et al, 2003; Swann et al, 1987). Meta-analysis has shown strength in character values are associated with an increase in happiness, decrease in depression, and life satisfaction (Schutte & Malouff, 2019).

    I also wanted to include self-management resources for stress as practical, everyday skills include being able to effectively function to meet the demands of the environment (college and otherwise). Students may bring additional challenges into the classroom, including anxieties about college and an inability to self-regulate. An important self-management skill includes self-regulation coping skills to deal with stress, problem solving and decision making to face the adversities that may appear. When appraising stress, our mind and bodies react, activating the sympathetic nervous system. Experiencing stress can impact our attention, affect, motivation, and physiology (Crum, Handley-Miner, & Smith, 2021). Having a stress-is-enhancing mindset can decrease anxiety and depression, improve performance, and decrease physiological functions associated with stress appraisal (Crun et al, 2013; Crum et al, 2017). In a recent meta-analysis, psychoeducation was the most effective for interventions for mental health literacy and cognitive skills (ps < 0.001; de Pablo et al, 2020). This portion of the lesson teaches students more about the mind, body, and stress and sharing ways they can regulate.

    Learning Modules

    In building resilience training, I focused on character strengths along with self-management strategies for stress. The modules were intended to build general knowledge and offer students an opportunity for self-discovery. All materials were presented in an asynchronous online modality. I have shared these modules in the Canvas Commons (Beyer, 2022).

    The first intervention was strengths-based training adapted from work of Peterson and Seligman (2004) and Dilbeck et al. (2018). Peterson and Seligman (2004) set out to establish a universal framework to describe and measure the strengths. The result was the VIA (Values-In-Action) classification of strengths, a universally valid classification system devised of 24 character strengths. Students who took the VIA survey received individualized feedback and focused on creating images and explaining their top five strengths. They were then asked to use one of these top strengths when faced with a stressor. The learning objective for the module was to identify their top five values after taking a values survey and then reflect on their values in action during a challenging situation.

    I include value check-ins throughout the semester. I share with students that many values (except humility) correlate with resilience (Matinez-Marti & Ruch, 2017). Values such as prudence and self-regulation help moderate behavior and emotions which may help buffer the body’s stress response, humor can help with adaptive coping and decrease stress, vitality adds energy, and hope gives a positive outlook (Creswell et al., 2005; Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Martinez-Marti et al., 2021; Ruch & Hofmann, 2017).

    Several weeks later, and after learning about the brain and stress, students participated in a mind toolbox. In this module, students learned about resilience, stress and the brain, and then were given three challenges. The lesson included videos on building resilience, controlling behavior and connecting the brain systems, and anxiety and the brain. These videos were from YouTube (e.g., Doris & Masters, 2019). The assignment taught students about recognizing and being aware that you are getting upset or stressed along with some techniques for self-regulation (Keng et al, 2016). Students learned about mindful reappraisal and mindful acceptance adapted from Keng et al. Students were given guidance and an opportunity to try these techniques out.

    As an aside, I attempted to complete comparisons between sections with these modules and those without adding in pre-post measures connected to stress, wellbeing, and resilience. Unfortunately, of the 220 students, many students did not provide enough data to be matched and the final sample size for the pre-test was 80 (intervention = 29) and 61 for the post-test (intervention = 17). For the pre-test, the intervention group was higher for General Well-being, (t(78) = -2.83, [-5.3, -.92], p = .006, d=.66). The General Well-being scores evened out in the post-test with no significant findings. The only significant finding for the post-test was the Brief Resilience Coping Scale with the intervention group having higher scores (t(59) = -2.09, [-3.55, -.07], p = .04, d=.60). I also compared overall GPA and course grades and there were no significant differences between the intervention and control groups.


    I encourage colleagues to adapt more interventions into the psychology curriculum and work with your college for all students to learn and benefit from psychology. You know your students best and can share tools for their “toolbox” that relate to psychology content! I have a Well-being Assignment posted in the Canvas Commons as well that offers students different research-based activities to improve their emotional, physical, or cognitive well-being (Beyer et al, 2021). They are short assignments meant to be week-long or less challenges.

    This tool became utilized with underrepresented groups as value affirmation reaffirms feelings of self-worth when an individual feels threatened or self-confidence is challenged, with the idea that participants self-esteem is raised while reaffirming personal values (Sherman & Cohen, 2006; Steele & Liu, 1983). However, it is important to note that findings are mixed for underrepresented groups. Students who face identity threat may fail to see improvements and this research is complex (Yeager & Walton, 2011).

    You have the flexibility to tie in life skills that connect to course content. Emotional intelligence education and training could be another resilience intervention possibility (Morales, 2000; 2008). Last year, I discovered an excellent resource, the Handbook of Wise Interventions (Walton & Crum, 2021). Some other ideas for successful interventions for students include growth mindset (see Dweck & Yeager, 2021 for activities and review) and self-affirmations (Steele, 1988; Sherman, Lokhande, Muller, & Cohen, 2021). Sherman and colleagues (2021) provide resources for self-affirmation intervention materials in their chapter. Another option could be utility value intervention as reviewed and discussed in Hulleman and Harackiewicz’s chapter (2021).

    Although initially unplanned, having an online intervention has its benefits. For example, students had access to the modules 24/7, provided that they had internet coverage and ability to log into the LMS. Students could also access the LMS from phone, tablet, or computer. Students submitted the assignments to the instructor in a confidential format. With the ability for students to have some selection over activities, this gives them a sense of autonomy as well. Having an online option allows for more access to students and adaptability for different institutional needs. I recently learned about the Mastery Based path in Canvas that allows you to create a quiz about their habits and skills and then provides only content they need based on scoring. Mastery path could be a way for the student to feel that it was individualized for them and their needs. I have ambitions to create this set up filled with information from the course as a wrap up activity for skills they (hopefully) acquired (and if not, they are at least re-introduced to the resources).

    I realize that the skills shared, and many connected to psychology content, benefit all students. You might gather a college-wide opt in that helps all college students strengthen their skills. While this is more of a grassroots effort, there are curriculum-based resilience programs out there like EmpowerU ( and SCoRE (Student Curriculum on Resilience Education ( that are designed to helps students cope with personal, social, and academic challenges. Colleges such as University of Toronto and Florida State University have also adopted college-wide efforts to promote resilience. All of these efforts are designed to increase student self-efficacy and academic performance for student success.


    Aubrey, T. (2020). The Resilient Learner Thriving and Succeeding in College. Human Resources.

    Beyer, A. (2022).CG Sharing Psychology for Student Success. Canvas Commons.

    Beyer, A., Mclaughlin, S., Moore, E. (2021). Maricopa UN SDR#3 Open Well-Being Project. Canvas Commons.

    Causey, J., Pevitz, A., Ryu, M., Scheetz, A., & Shapiro, D. (Feb 2022), Completing College: National and State Report on SixYear Completion Rates for Fall 2015 Beginning Cohort (Signature Report 20), Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

    Creswell, J. D., Welch, W. T., Taylor, S. E., Sherman, D. K., Gruenewald, T. L., & Mann, T. (2005). Affirmation of personal values buffers neuroendocrine and psychological stress responses. Psychological science, 16(11), 846-851.

    Crum, A. J., Akinola, M., Martin, A., & Fath, S. (2017). The role of stress mindset in shaping cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses to challenging and threatening stress. Anxiety, stress, & coping, 30(4), 379-395.

    Crum, A., Salovey, P. & Achor, S. (2013). Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    Dahlsgaard, K., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Shared virtue: The convergence of valued human strengths across culture and history. Review of general psychology, 9(3), 203-213.

    Davis, N.J. (1999). Resilience: Status of research and research‐based programs. Working paper, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Rockville, MD.

    de Pablo, G.S., De Micheli, A., Solmi, M., Oliver, D., Catalan, A., Verdino, V., Di Maggio, L., Bonoldi, I., Radua, J., Baccaredda Boy, O., Provenzani, U., Ruzzi, F., Calorio, F., Nosari, G., Di Marco, B., Famularo, I., Montealegre, I., Signorini, L., Molteni, S., Filosi, E., Mensi, M., Balottin, U., Politi, P., Shin, J., Correll, C., Arango, C., Fusar-Poli, P (2021). Universal and Selective Interventions to Prevent Poor Mental Health Outcomes in Young People: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 29 (3), 196-215 doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000294

    Dilbeck, Reed, Welle, & Ernst (2018). Lesson Plan VIA: Character Strengths Teaching Resources for High School Psychology Teachers on Skills,

    Dorn, K. & Masters, A. (2019). Attend & Manage.

    Dwek, C.S. & Yeager, D. W. (2021).A Growth Mindset about Intelligence. In G.M. Walton & A.J. Crum (Eds.), Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social Psychology Can Help People Change. The Guilford Press.

    Ginsberg, K. (2011). The 7 C’s: The essential building blocks of resilience. Retrieved from

    Hulleman, C.S. & Harackiewicz, J.M. (2021). The Utility-Value Intervention. In G.M. Walton & A.J. Crum (Eds.), Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social Psychology Can Help People Change. The Guilford Press.

    Juszkiewicz, J. (2020). Trends in community college enrollment and completion data, Issue 6. American Association of Community Colleges.

    Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2016). Effects of mindful acceptance and reappraisal training on maladaptive beliefs about rumination. Mindfulness, 7(2), 493-503.

    Martínez-Martí, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2017). Character strengths predict resilience over and above positive affect, self-efficacy, optimism, social support, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(2), 110-119.

    Martínez-Martí, M. L., Theirs, C. I., Pascual, D., & Corradi, G. (2020). Character strengths predict an increase in mental health and subjective well-being over a one-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 2790.

    Mahfouz,J, Levitan, J, Schussler, D., Broderick, T, Dvorakova, K, Argos, M, * Greenberg, M (2018). Ensuring College Student Success Through Mindfulness-Based Classes: Just Breathe. The College Student Affairs Journal, 36(1), 1–16.

    Morales, E. (2000). A contextual understanding of the process of educational resilience. Innovative Higher Education, 25(1) 7-22

    Morales, E. E. (2008). A focus on hope: Toward a more comprehensive theory of academic resiliency among at-risk minority students. The Journal of At-Risk Issues, 14(1), 23-32.

    Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Ruch, W., and Hofmann, J. (2017). “Fostering humor,” in Positive Psychology Interventions in Practice, ed. C. Proctor (New York: Springer), 65–80.

    Schutte, N. S., & Malouff, J. M. (2019). The impact of signature character strengths interventions: A meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(4), 1179-1196.

    Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421. doi:

    Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 279-298). Springer, Dordrecht.

    Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L. (2006). The psychology of self‐defense: Self‐affirmation theory. Advances in experimental social psychology, 38, 183-242.

    Sherman, D.K., Lokhande, M., & Cohen, G.L. (2021). Self-Affirmation Interventions. In G.M. Walton & A.J. Crum (Eds.), Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social Psychology Can Help People Change. The Guilford Press.

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  • 05 Jul 2022 2:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jacquelyn Raftery-Helmer, Kathryn Frazier, Nicole Rosa, Colleen Sullivan (Worcester State University)

    The COVID-19 pandemic presented unrelenting challenges for faculty who, for the past two years, have worked tirelessly to help support their students in the context of their deteriorating academic performance, academic engagement and mental health (World Health Organization, 2020). As many institutions shifted to an online or remote learning format in the spring of 2020, a prominent challenge associated with that transition– and one that has persisted in the wake of prolonged remote learning, hybrid learning and the attempt to “return to normal” on many campuses– was the steep decline in students’ academic engagement and motivation (Gonzalez-Ramirez et al., 2021; Marler et al., 2021; Usher et al., 2021). While engagement and motivation have long been of interest to faculty (Reeve, 2012), the unprecedented external distractions and stressors presented by the pandemic have created new obstacles and challenges for both faculty and students.

    Four instructors at Worcester State University, Kathryn Frazier, Jacquelyn Raftery-Helmer, Nicole Rosa, and Colleen Sullivan, surveyed students during the height of the pandemic to better understand what faculty could do to help students stay intrinsically motivated and engaged, despite the ongoing challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created (Raftery-Helmer et al., 2020).

    The researchers focused on intrinsic motivation---engaging in academic work because it is fun, interesting, enjoyable, and provides inherent satisfaction—because intrinsic motivation is the most robust type of motivation in that it comes from within. Intrinsic motivation has been associated with a range of positive academic outcomes (Ryan & Deci, 2000). For instance, Azila-Gbettor and colleagues (2021) found that students who were intrinsically motivated had lower levels of anxiety, higher perceptions of competence, and greater engagement in learning compared to students not intrinsically motivated. On the other hand, students with low intrinsic motivation have shown less interest in exploration and learning and a decreased commitment to their coursework. The Worcester State researchers found that the single strongest predictor of intrinsic motivation in class was whether or not students felt competent. This is consistent with a plethora of research showing that during times of stress (Grolnick et al., 2018), facilitating competence (Grolnick et al., 2014) is important for helping people feel in control of outcomes when everything else feels out of control, which may have been particularly important during the pandemic when many reported feeling little control over outside forces (Misamer, et al, 2021).

    But how do instructors help students to feel competent in the classroom?

    Here are several specific strategies, informed by this work, that were found to help students feel a sense of control and competence during this unprecedented time.

    1. Set clear and consistent expectations

    When expectations in the classroom are clear and consistently implemented, students have a better understanding of how their behavior is connected to classroom outcomes. Instructors might consider including specific language in their syllabus and course materials regarding their expectations for student participation, late work, and academic honesty. It can also be really helpful to provide students with a detailed course schedule that includes all upcoming readings and assignments. Having very clear policies and deadlines articulated upfront allows students to plan their academic behavior accordingly.

    2. Provide predictable consequences when students don’t meet standards

    It is really important for students to have a very clear sense of how points are earned in a class and under what circumstances they will experience grade deductions. One way of doing this could be to provide thorough rubrics articulating how students can earn (or lose!) assignment points. These rubrics should be as detailed as possible so that there is no guesswork for students trying to figure out how their work will be evaluated.

    3. Provide continuous feedback

    Students benefit from ongoing feedback in their classes. One way of doing this is to create a number of “low-stakes” assignments. These assignments create opportunities for students to examine their own understanding of essential course concepts and receive immediate feedback, without penalizing students for mistakes or errors they may make as part of the learning process. It can also be really helpful for students to have iterative writing assignments with built-in opportunities for specific, constructive, and thoughtful feedback. For instance, one way to do this would be to provide students feedback about their paper topic, prior to conducting a thorough literature review, and then specific (line by line, if needed!) feedback about how students have synthesized the literature before a final draft is due.

    It may not be surprising to learn that many of the pedagogical techniques that worked so well to foster competence, and therefore intrinsic motivation, among students during a COVID-19 semester are those that tap into the principles of trauma-informed teaching. While trauma-informed pedagogy has traditionally been relevant for supporting students who enter college with a trauma history, psychologists and others have discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects as a sort of collective trauma, in reference to its toll on physical and emotional well-being. Trauma-informed pedagogies emphasize a number of principles, several of which mirror the goals of competence-supportive behaviors, including transparency, trustworthiness and empowerment (Harper & Neubauer, 2020).

    Interestingly, Drs. Frazier, Raftery-Helmer, Rosa, and Sullivan found a different pattern of results when looking at student’s intrinsic motivation for college more generally– that is, what led students to associate internal value and enjoyment with their experience of, and intention to persist at, their college. Whether students felt connected to others, specifically faculty and other students in their class, was the only predictor of their general college intrinsic motivation. This finding was particularly meaningful in that it suggests that relationship building in the classroom is not taking away from students’ learning but is an essential ingredient for fostering student’s high-quality motivation. To create more connection in the classroom, instructors may consider doing the following:

    1. Get to know your students

    One of the best ways to help students feel connected is to take a real interest in your students. There are lots of ways to do this but one helpful strategy is to ask students on the first day of class why they enrolled in the course and what they were hoping to learn so that you may be able to incorporate their interests into the class. Brief surveys can provide interesting insight into your students’ lives in and out of the classroom that may help you to form connections throughout the semester. This also helps to send the message early on in the semester that you are interested in who your students are as individuals and see them as more than a name on a roster.

    2. Make yourself available

    While many faculty are required to hold office hours, it can be really helpful to frame for students what these office hours are for and to find creative ways to encourage students to attend. For instance, some faculty have had great success after sending personal “invitations” to office hours. One way to do this might be to reach out to students that appear to be struggling on assignments and ask them whether they would like to review material and discuss what resources they might need to succeed. It can be helpful to hold “themed” office hours. For instance, some instructors have advertised bonus office hours aimed at providing students with additional information about graduate school or employment avenues. Any way that you can connect with students and communicate to them that you are a resource and that you value them will pay dividends for their motivation!

    3. Create opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction

    While connection to faculty is important, so is creating a climate in which students feel connected to and valued by their peers. It’s important for faculty to create space for students to talk about their ideas, share their work, and engage in learning alongside and with others. Classroom activities based in active learning present students with the opportunity to test and apply their understanding of course material while also developing relationships with their classmates. Peer review assignments, structured group work, and other collaborative learning opportunities would also serve this goal well.

    Despite the practical, emotional and physical challenges associated with pandemic learning, the shift to remote instruction, and the rippling consequences on students’ well-being, instructors’ behavior in the classroom remains a powerful catalyst for supporting student motivation. This work, and the pandemic, has highlighted the idea that faculty provide so much more than just content in our courses. Supporting instructors’ pedagogical development in a way that promotes competence support and relationship-building is one powerful way to enhance students’ experience and chance of success in the classroom, as well as their overall commitment to and value of their university.


    Azila-Gbettor, E. M., Mensah, C., Abiemo, M. K., & Bokor, M. (2021). Predicting student engagement from self-efficacy and autonomous motivation: A cross-sectional study. Cogent Education, 8(1), 1942638.

    Gonzalez-Ramirez, J., Mulqueen, K., Zealand, R., Silverstein, S., Reina, C., BuShell, S., & Ladda, S. (2021). Emergency online learning: College students’ perceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. College Student Journal, 55(1), 29–46.

    Grolnick, W. S., Raftery-Helmer, J. N., Marbell, K. N., Flamm, E. S., Cardemil, E. V., & Sanchez, M. (2014). Parental provision of structure: Implementation and correlates in three domains. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1982-), 60(3), 355-384.

    Grolnick, W. S., Schonfeld, D. J., Schreiber, M., Cohen, J., Cole, V., Jaycox, L., Lochman, J., Pfefferbaum, B., Ruggiero, K., Wells, K., Wong, M., & Zatzick, D. (2018). Improving adjustment and resilience in children following a disaster: Addressing research challenges. American Psychologist, 73(3), 215-229.

    Harper, G. W., & Neubauer, L. C. (2021). Teaching during a pandemic: A model for trauma-informed education and administration. Pedagogy in health promotion, 7(1), 14-24.

    Marler, E. K., Bruce, M. J., Abaoud, A., Henrichsen, C., Suksatan, W., Homvisetvongsa, S., & Matsuo, H. (2021). The impact of covid-19 on university students’ academic motivation, social connection, and psychological well-being. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

    Misamer, M., Signerski-Krieger, J., Bartels, C., & Belz, M. (2021). Internal locus of control and sense of coherence decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey of students and professionals in social work. Frontiers in Sociology, 174. 1-10.

    Raftery-Helmer, J. N., Sullivan, C., Frazier, K., & Rosa, N. (2020, October). Online course motivation and engagement: Understanding semester changes. Paper presented at the Teaching in Psychology Annual Conference on Teaching, Virtual Meeting

    Reeve, J. (2012). A self-determination theory perspective on student engagement. In Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 149-172). Springer, Boston, MA.

    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.

    Usher, E. L., Golding, J. M., Han, J., Griffiths, C. S., McGavran, M. B., Brown, C. S., & Sheehan, E. A. (2021). Psychology students’ motivation and learning in response to the shift to remote instruction during COVID-19. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

    World Health Organization. (2020). Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak, 18 March 2020 (No. WHO/2019-nCoV/MentalHealth/2020.1). World Health Organization.

  • 19 May 2022 1:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Amanda Cappon & Lynne N. Kennette (Durham College)

    In 2020, the global pandemic (emphasis on global) hit the world. Here we are in 2022, still dealing with the global pandemic. Two weeks to flatten the curve has become 2+ years of global uncertainty, which has necessarily found its way into our classrooms. The role of teaching has changed for us all and has involved numerous instances of pivoting. But the reality is, people prefer routine and predictability; we find comfort in cycles of repetition and being able to plan for the immediate and more distant future. Yet, the pandemic continues to require that we adapt and modify our ways of doing things, because public health orders and institutional policies are constantly changing (and often without much notice). Operating from an internal locus of control can be helpful for both faculty and students because it means successes and failures are rooted in our own abilities rather than these ever-changing external factors (Corey et al., 2018). But that is only part of the solution.

    This article seeks to highlight some new (and some perhaps not-so-new) strategies you can model to support student learning and wellbeing while teaching online (though many of our suggestions will also apply to in-person learning). Additionally, we will consider how uncertainty can impact teaching and learning.

    Embrace Interruptions

    Can you relate to the following? Your three-year old is home from daycare due to a runny nose. You have a 2-hour live class. You set your kid up with snacks and stream a show that you hope will keep their attention long enough for you to teach your class. But, 15 minutes into class, your kid interjects. “I have to poop!” Loudly.

    While technology provides us with excellent options for managing self-disclosure when teaching and learning online (see Kennette & Lin, 2021), there are still inevitable pitfalls which we may sometimes encounter. Instances of children and furry friends appearing on screen are becoming the new norm. An online search for “bloopers in online teaching” will confirm this. Yet, as educators, messages of “classroom management” and of “maintaining professionalism” or “minimizing self-disclosure” can conflict with this new reality. And so, an uncontrollable situation (such as a child requiring toileting assistance during a live class) can throw us into a spiral of self-doubt with self-effacing emotions and anxiety. If we take an external locus of control perspective where the situation controls us (see Wang, Bowling & Eschleman, 2010), we may find ourselves wondering why this sort of thing always happens to us. But maybe instead, we can reframe this disruption as a teachable moment for our students.

    For example, the toileting scenario above is relevant to the developmental chapter which you may have already taught (or may be teaching soon). After all, toilet training is a complex developmental process (de Carvalho Mrad et al., 2021) whereby the child needs to be attuned to their physiological needs and to be able to communicate that they need help in the bathroom. Similarly, discussing our own physiological response to the stressor (i.e., engaging the sympathetic nervous system) can also relate the at-home interruptions to your course content.

    These interruptions also provide you with an opportunity to model for students how to cope with unpredictable stressors. For example, you can acknowledge your own sympathetic arousal and then try deep, slow breaths to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Ultimately, this demonstrates that we all encounter stress and have to find ways to deal with stressors, but also that we can get through it. Students may even appreciate a quick coffee break while you deal with the interruption from your uninvited side-kick!

    As another example of embracing online interruptions, you may have furry friends at home who tend to demand your attention the moment you sign on to teach your online class. When a pet appears in your live online class (or even your asynchronous recording) without an invitation, instructors could take advantage of this opportunity to review some classical or operant conditioning concepts and terminology (assuming your pet is conditioned to do something easily demonstrated!). Or perhaps you use the opportunity to model some ways to minimize distractions when they occur such as putting on your headset, or getting closer to the computer to focus your field of vision onto the screen. These at-home interruptions are one of the unique differences we are all experiencing in comparison to the traditional pre-pandemic, in-person classroom. We can choose to panic about these scenarios or embrace them as teachable moments and as opportunities for our students to get to know us a little bit better and to build a stronger rapport (which we know is more challenging in a fully online course).

    Include Mindful Moments

    Mindfulness has been trending both as a topic of research and in practice in the last decade or so. And for good reason. The notion of being fully present in the moment and “paying attention on purpose” (Williams et al., 2007, p.54) is practically a health requirement these days. Emails, social media notifications, and learning management (LMS) communications are just a few examples of the daily barrage of electronic information that students (and faculty) constantly receive. On top of this, many of us are emotionally and/or cognitively depleted from ongoing decision-making (and revising those decisions as situations change) and from contending with conflicting views on pandemic-related topics such as masking and vaccination. And so, both faculty and students can benefit from the positive psychological and physiological outcomes associated with mindfulness practices (Chiodelli et al., 2000; Zenner et al., 2014). Many teachers at all levels, including K-12 and higher education (Chiodelli et al., 2000; Zenner et al., 2014) have already incorporated mindfulness into their classrooms. But, when educators are faced with external pressures themselves (such as pivoting to emergency online learning), how do they continue to practice/include mindfulness? And more importantly, how can they encourage their students to engage in this wellness practice? Often, self-care and wellness practices are the first to fall off our to-do lists. Here, we share three types of mindfulness practices which can be applied in any teaching context.


    Dedicating a short, manageable chunk of time (e.g., 1 minute) at the start of your class (face-to-face, live online, or asynchronously) to complete a mindfulness meditation sets the tone for the learning ahead. It models parasympathetic engagement and provides a hands-on experience for students to feel what we mean when we describe the interaction that exists between our biology and our psychology. This is a concrete way for our lessons to become real for students. This practice can also be used in the middle, or at the end of a class to aid in student “digestion” of whatever you are teaching or to break up some heavy material such as a unit on prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination.

    Awareness Through Education

    For some faculty, implementing mindful practice may not seem like a natural fit either for themselves or for their class content (e.g., it may not relate to the content as seamlessly in a statistics course). For others, implementing a mindful practice may only be an initial step in this process, with a supplemental step being the addition of a comprehensive course learning outcome requiring their students to also understand the benefits of the practice. We have found that TedTalks are a great option to connect students to the benefits of mindfulness, even if the practice doesn’t directly connect to your course content. Amishi Jha (2017) has an excellent 18-minute TedTalk on taming your wandering mind where she posits that “I think, therefore I am distracted” which demonstrates the importance of understanding that we are all fallible and therefore the need to integrate empathy for ourselves into our practice of mindfulness. This particular TedTalk is especially appropriate for students of psychology because, as a neuroscientist, Jia explains the benefits of mindfulness from this perspective.

    Mindful Social Media Breaks

    Yup, you read that right- we’re suggesting that you allow breaks so that your students can use social media in the classroom (but in a mindful way). We know that when students- teens and adult learners in particular- are in class, whether online or in person, they are also likely to be logged in to various social media platforms. Since this is the reality, why not roll with it? To embrace the norm of this generation of learners, try the following mindful social media activity. At a point in your lesson when you observe your students to be disconnected from learning, pause whatever you are doing and explain that it’s time for a mindful social media break. Frame this break as a mindful activity, explaining that you have noticed their distraction. In doing this, you’re demonstrating not only your own mindful awareness, but also modeling an appropriate response. Decide on the length of the social media break before you start. Allow students to access their social media platforms, but encourage them to check in with themselves and really focus on their thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they scroll through the posts. Ask them to focus on any physiological sensations (ex. heart rate, breath) that are changing while they scroll through the online content. Students may be able to reflect on (or become aware of) the positive or negative effects that social media has on their physiological or psychological wellbeing. In addition to these benefits, the point of this activity is to demonstrate that mindfulness comes in many forms. Mindfulness really is about purposeful attention. This example helps to integrate purposeful attention into the reality of our students’ lives, rather than trying to compete with or fight against this reality.

    Structure and Consistency

    Because so many areas of life are stressful and unpredictable (and this was true pre-pandemic), providing consistency for both students and for yourself is important. The strategy we suggest here is to try to create a basic flow to your course delivery which can be kept consistent even if (or when) the delivery mode changes. This consistency will provide some stability. This can include using the same slide background and/or a consistent order to the lesson. For example, each class meeting might look something like this: mindful meditation, review of the previous class, overview of the current class, (mini content chunks, break, practice/review pre-break content, more mini content chunks), time for summary of current class, evaluation-related questions, and finally an exit ticket like the muddiest point (on an online board like Padlet or using Google Docs or Google Forms). In this case, the structure can remain consistent regardless of delivery, and students have clear expectations for what will happen during the class.

    With more online teaching and learning occurring, there has been an increase in the promotion of various online tools. Many can add value to your lesson and to student retention or enjoyment of their learning. But, we caution instructors about getting caught up in the excitement of these new tools and to really consider the pedagogical purpose they might serve. It is easy for educators to get carried away in the excitement of using multiple new tools, technologies, and platforms. But for our students, it can feel overwhelming, especially if, in each of their courses, they have to learn multiple new tools/platforms. As instructors, we sometimes feel overwhelmed learning one new tool, so imagine how our students would feel having to become familiar with many simultaneously. To this end, creating a basic structure as we have suggested above and then implementing the consistent use of one or two tech tools, enables flexibility where needed but also provides some much-needed stability in a world which has been full of uncertainty. In this case, simplicity and consistency can be the keys to our students’ success.


    In psychology, our instructional skills and course content lend themselves well to many practices which can benefit students during these stressful and uncertain times. Modeling the use of meditation, consistency, and embracing the instances when life interrupts our practice are all ways in which we can better support our students.


    Chiodelli, R., Mello, L. T. N. D., Jesus, S. N. D., Beneton, E. R., Russel, T., & Andretta, I. (2020). Mindfulness-based interventions in undergraduate students: a systematic review. Journal of American College Health, 1-10.

    Corey, G., Corey, M. S. & Muratori, M. (2018). I never knew I had a choice: Explorations in personal growth. Cengage Learning.

    de Carvalho Mrad, F. C., da Silva, M. E., Lima, E. M., Bessa, A. L., de Bessa Junior, J., Netto, J. M. B., & de Almeida Vasconcelos, M. M. (2021). Toilet training methods in children with normal neuropsychomotor development: A systematic review. Journal of Pediatric Urology, 17(5), 635–643.

    Jha, A. (March, 2017). How to tame your wandering mind [Video] TED Conferences.

    Kennette, L. N., Lin, P. S. (2021). Healthier at home. Association for Psychological Science.

    Wang, Q., Bowling, N. A., & Eschleman, K. J. (2010). A Meta-Analytic Examination of Work and General Locus of Control. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(4), 761-768.

    Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal Z. & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. Guilford Press

    Zenner, C., Hermleben-Kurz, S. & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-20.

  • 05 Apr 2022 3:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Julie Lazzara (Paradise Valley Community College)

    When I began my career as an adjunct professor, I clutched tightly to the first introductory text put in my hands. Like a good professor, I assigned every chapter for the students to read and was committed to reading one chapter ahead throughout the course. I quickly found out that reading these long chapters on top of my full-time job and teaching prep was nearly impossible. I gave up and succumbed to skimming the chapters and reading the summaries. I wondered how many of my students did the same. After talking to colleagues, I found many omitted chapters to make the course more manageable. I was told which chapters to leave out was a matter of preference. Although this was a reasonable solution, it did not sit well with me. This was the beginning of the downfall of my relationship with "the textbook."

    As semesters came and went, I felt that "the textbook" was not pulling its weight. As my teaching and expertise grew, "the textbook" stayed stagnant. Who was running the class, I wondered. Was it me, or was it "the textbook" that was the glue that held the class together? There was so much material to cover that I was unsure what was most important to emphasize to my students. If I was unsure, how could I expect my students to have the foresight to what would be on the test? I would often tell students that it was big themes that I hoped they took away from the class but they still got caught up in the minute details. I gradually decided to be more authentic and intentional with what I teach my introductory students and assess them. For me, this meant migrating away from the traditional textbook.

    APA IPI and Backward Design

    In October 2021, the APA adopted universal learning outcomes for Introductory Psychology for the first time through the Introductory Psychology Initiative (IPI). One of the key recommendations to strengthen your course to meet the new goals is to use Backward Design. Specifically, it is recommended that instructors "design course content and instruction around desired learning outcomes." However, many instructors structure their course around their chosen textbook, and thus the majority of classroom instruction is centered on the textbook (Hilton, 2020). Instructors who want to implement Backward Design may hit a roadblock because of copyright laws if they desire to edit and adapt their current commercial textbook.

    The APA IPI does not recommend a universal text for introductory psychology. This gives instructors the freedom to build their course from the ground up. They do not need to be bound by a textbook already produced and adjust their pedagogy around it. Instead, they can choose to build their course materials by starting with the IPI learning objectives and intentionally choosing the context to support them. If a textbook is not used, what would be the cornerstone of the course? As an alternative, Landrum (2012) proposed that course readings could be used as course materials. Instructors in the past have also built their courses around non-fiction books and journal articles. If we begin to think about course materials instead of textbooks, then there is space to use various materials to generate content for the course.

    OER as Course Materials

    One consideration for course materials is the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). Many assume that OER is only used as a textbook replacement, but open and shared resources can go beyond a traditional textbook (Van Allen & Katz, 2020). Any materials that include a Creative Commons license are free to use without permission as long as proper attribution is given (Kim, 2007). This means that a more robust remixing and editing of the text is encouraged. The text is fully adaptable to meet the instructor's or institution's needs. While there has been a significant amount of coverage of the use of open educational resources as a content delivery system that lowers cost, there needs to be a shift in focus on using open education as a part of a design strategy that supports student learning (Paskevicius & Irvine, 2019). While course materials in college courses traditionally consisted of commercial textbooks, there are many more options today.

    Sure, it’s free, but is it high quality?

    One commonly cited drawback to OER is the question of quality. However, several recent studies have found that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes with OER than traditional textbooks (Hilton, 2019; Clinton & Khan, 2019; Bol et al., 2021). Most faculty may agree that the perfect textbook does not exist. However, there is no standard for judging textbook quality, and it is often interpreted as content accuracy (Martin & Kimmons, 2020). To choose the best textbook lies subjectively in the eye of the beholder.

    If OER is so great, then why doesn’t everyone use it?

    Using a commercial textbook may be the easier option for faculty, but at what cost? Faculty typically do not want students to take the easier route in their learning. Perhaps course materials customized by the instructor show effort and commitment to the course as a model to the students. The extra effort that faculty put in at the beginning of their course in preparing their course materials may have a significant payoff. Vojtech and Grissett (2017) found that undergraduate psychology students rated an instructor who used an open textbook higher on kindness, encouragement, and creativity than an instructor who used a commercial textbook. Davis and Fromuth (2019) found that students reported higher satisfaction with the custom psychology textbook than a traditional text. In another study, faculty reported that in customizing their materials specifically for their courses, there was more engagement and buy-in for the materials from their students (Lantrip & Ray, 2020). When faculty were asked about the impact of adopting OER on their teaching, they reported using a broader range of teaching and learning methods and engaged in more reflective practices (Weller et al., 2015).

    OER in Psychology

    Momentum has increased for OER use in psychology, and studies have measured its impact on students. Multiple studies have shown no statistically significant difference between performance in psychology courses between OER and publisher textbooks (Grissett & Huffman, 2019). Students preferred the OER to traditional textbooks in health psychology and program evaluation courses (Cooney, 2017; Philips et al., 2021). Cuttler (2019) found that the students using OER were twice as likely to report using their textbooks, reported using them more frequently, and perceived more overlap across all materials in comparison to a traditional textbook. Students may use the OER texts more because they are more relevant and contain more information directly impacting their quiz and test scores. Another benefit to the students besides cost is the ability to have less restricted access to course materials (Grissett & Huffman, 2019). Increased student accessibility is one of the APA IPI’s core goals to transform Introductory Psychology (Gurung & Neufeld, 2021).

    Studies have also shown benefits to adopting OER instructors of psychology. Magro and Tabaei (2020) found that faculty directly appreciated adding their content to the OER text. Hardin et al. (2019) discovered that even novice professors could meet course objectives by using OER. This indicates that OER is not reserved for only more experienced professors. Students may even be more likely to enroll in psychology courses that require OER instead of a commercial textbook (Nusbaum & Cuttler 2020). The researchers also posit that instructors who use OER may be evaluated more positively than instructors who do not. These examples highlight the importance of considering the role of the textbook on faculty and how it affects students.

    Build Your Own Introductory Psychology “Textbook” Resources

    The following is a starting place of the most common OER for introductory psychology to build the base of your course materials with OER. Most of these come with instructor resources but look no further than the plethora of resources on the STP website if you need more.
    • 1.      OpenStax Psychology 2e- This edition was published in April 2020, and it continues to be updated if corrections are found. You can use the textbook precisely as it is online, in print, or via a PDF download. They now offer an add-on homework solution program called Openstax Tutor, but there is a small fee for students to enroll. Instructor resources are included.  
      a.     Canvas Cartridge of OpenStax Psychology 2e- If your college uses Canvas as their LMS, you can drop in this free cartridge to load into your course
    • 2.      Noba Project- This free online platform allows you to pick and choose modules you like written by renowned experts. Here is an example of an introductory psychology textbook that I put together for my students. They can access it online with a link you give them and download it for offline use.
    • 3.     Lumen Learning- You can access Lumen courses and materials for free and even link directly to them. Most of their materials are remixed from Openstax and Noba with additional authored content. Students can pay a fee to use their online homework management system.
    • 4.     Pressbooks version of OpenStax Psychology 2e- I took the OpenStax text and put it into Pressbooks, making it easier to edit and make it your own. Anyone can access this version with the link, and there are also several download options.
      a.     Maricopa’s Edition of OpenStax Psychology 2e- As part of a grant project, I modified the Pressbook text previously mentioned and revised it to align with the course objectives for my college district. You can do something similar to make it your own.
      b.     University of Albert’s Version of OpenStax Psychology 2e- Here is an example of another college that remixed the Openstax text to make it their own.
      c. Hardcopy of Curated Text- There are typically a few students a semester who want to buy a hard copy of a text. One option is for them to pay to have the PDF printed, or you can offer a hard copy available to purchase for just the cost of printing.

    Assess the “Textbook” you Created

    After selecting or creating your course materials, you may wonder if it is up to par. Although Gurung and Martin’s (2011) Textbook Assessment and Usage Scale (TAUS) is geared toward students, it can also be adapted for faculty to use. Compare the traditional textbook you typically use to the curated materials you prepared for your course. The beauty is that in the areas that you scored low, you can fix and adapt them to your liking. For example, are the photographs not reflective of the people and places you teach? You can swap them out with open access images or even include your photography.


    The way the world receives information has drastically changed in the last 50 years. This shift directly affects how teachers gather information and share it with their students. Weitien (1988) recognized that selecting a textbook in psychology is a difficult process partly because of the saturation in the market. Today there are even more choices than ever before, along with ever-changing modalities to access the text. The new APA IPI gives psychology instructors more academic freedom to pick the most relevant content to the context of their classroom within the framework of the themes and SLOs. Engler and Shedlosky-Shoemaker (2019) report that content mastery in introductory psychology depends not on whether the course text is commercial or OER. Hardin et al. (2019) found a slight increase in content knowledge in a general psychology OER course. As a department chair or committee often decides on course materials, some instructors may not get the opportunity to choose what text they use for introductory psychology. It is prudent for departments to review their criteria for selecting an introductory text (Altman et al., 2006). When weighing the options of commercial texts, consider alternatives for course materials that may best serve both your students and faculty.


    Altman, W. S., Ericksen, K., & Pena-Shaff, J. B. (2006). An inclusive process for departmental textbook selection. Teaching of Psychology, 33(4), 228-231.

    American Psychological Association. (2020). The APA Introductory Psychology Initiative.

    Bol, L., Esqueda, M. C., Ryan, D., & Kimmel, S. C. (2021). A Comparison of Academic Outcomes in Courses Taught With Open Educational Resources and Publisher Content. Educational Researcher,

    Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of open textbook adoption on learning performance and course withdrawal rates: a meta-analysis. AERA Open, 5(3),

    Cooney, C. (2017). What impacts do OER have on students? Students share their experiences with a health psychology OER at New York City College of Technology. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4), 155-178.

    Davis, T. L., & Fromuth, M. E. (2019). Creating and Evaluating a General Psychology Custom Textbook: A Goal-Oriented Approach. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(3), 305-316.

    Engler, J. N., & Shedlosky-Shoemaker, R. (2019). Facilitating student success: The role of open educational resources in introductory psychology courses. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 36-47.

    Grissett, J. O., & Huffman, C. (2019). An open versus traditional psychology textbook: Student performance, perceptions, and use. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 21-35.

    Gurung, R. A., & Neufeld, G. (2021). Transforming introductory psychology: Expert advice on teacher training, course design, and student success. American Psychological Association.

    Gurung, R. A. R., & Martin, R. C. (2011). Predicting textbook reading: The textbook assessment and usage scale. Teaching of Psychology, 38, 22-28.

    Hardin, E. E., Eschman, B., Spengler, E. S., Grizzell, J. A., Moody, A. T., Ross-Sheehy, S., & Fry, K. M. (2019). What happens when trained graduate student instructors switch to an open textbook? A controlled study of the impact on student learning outcomes. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 48-64.

    Hilton, J. (2020). Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(3), 853-876.

    Landrum, R. E. (2012). Selection of textbooks or readings for your course. In B. M. Schwartz & R. A. R. Gurung (Eds.), Evidence-based teaching for higher education (pp. 117–129). American Psychological Association.

    Kim, M. (2007). The Creative Commons and copyright protection in the digital era: Uses of Creative Commons licenses. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 187-209.

    Martin, T., & Kimmons, R. (2020). Faculty members' lived experiences with choosing open educational resources. Open Praxis, 12(1), 131-144.

    Magro, J., & Tabaei, S. V. (2020). Results from a Psychology OER pilot program: faculty and student perceptions, cost savings, and academic outcomes. Open Praxis, 12(1), 83-99.

    Nusbaum, A. T., & Cuttler, C. (2020). Hidden Impacts of OER: Effects of OER on Instructor Ratings and Course Selection. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 5, p. 72).

    Vojtech, G., & Grissett, J. (2017). Student perceptions of college faculty who use OER. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4), 155-171.

    Weller, M., De Los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Pitt, B., & McAndrew, P. (2015). The impact of OER on teaching and learning practice. Open Praxis, 7(4), 351-361.

  • 03 Mar 2022 10:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    William J.A. Eiler II, Jamie L. Bromley, Ryan A. Rush, and Bob A. Bromley (Franklin College)

    *Note: For the version with figures and additional resources included, please follow this link:

                Neuroscience, as a field, has exploded over the past two decades (Society for Neuroscience, 2021). It seems to be everywhere one looks: Bookstores, popular media, continuing education workshops, etc. While it may be included in many undergraduate psychology curricula (NCES, 2019), smaller schools may still be wondering how to incorporate neuroscience research into their programs. Additionally, some may still be struggling on how to include neuroscience concepts and activities across undergraduate programs. Fortunately, with some ingenuity and creativity, both of these things are doable and affordable for most undergraduate programs, especially smaller schools with probably even smaller budgets. This article will share ideas for neuroscience-based activities to include in psychology courses that are engaging and informative for students. Additionally, ways to involve undergraduates inside and outside of the classroom in community service and neuroscience research will be discussed. Finally, resources for purchasing affordable equipment like EEG and eye tracking and using 3-D printing to create equipment at low cost will be shared.

    Growth of Neuroscience and Career Opportunities

                According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 6,191 Neuroscience degrees conferred in 2017-18 (NCES, 2019). This reflects a 7% increase from the previous year, and a 30% increase from the previous decade (2007-2008). The job outlook for the those in the field of Neuroscience is expected to grow 17% in the next decade (2020-2030), which is much faster than the average (OOH, 2021). The most common areas for employment in the Neuroscience field is research and development, academia, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and physician’s offices (OOH, 2021). While there are many opportunities to pursue Neuroscience in graduate programs, with 52 Master’s programs and 58 Ph.D. programs currently offered in the United States, there are also career opportunities for undergraduate students that have an educational background in Neuroscience. Some of these careers include pharmaceutical sales, equipment technicians, medical and healthcare managers, research assistants, and many more (OOH, 2021). Thus, including Neuroscience across the psychology curriculum will greatly benefit students in numerous ways and can provide additional career opportunities for them.

    Starting Small in General Psychology

                For a basic introduction to Neuroscience in a General Psychology course, students without a background in Biology may be intimidated and not engaged in learning about the brain and nervous system. One activity that is easily incorporated into General Psychology courses would be creating neurons with Play-Doh. We have been doing this activity at Franklin College for the past 12 years, and students have greatly enjoyed this and have performed better on their exams when asked about the structure of neuron. Students are divided into groups and provided with several colors of Play-Doh. They are instructed to build a basic neuron on a blank piece of paper and label the main structures and describe the functions. Each student in the group is assigned one part of the structure to build so that everyone is involved and engaged. Once neurons are complete, students view the different neurons and vote on the best one in terms of accuracy and style. However, they are not allowed to vote for their neuron! We often feature the winners on our social media department pages with the student’s permission, and we often give a small prize to the winning students, like one of our department stress brains (See Figure 1: Play-Doh Neurons).

    As with the Play-Doh neuron activity, we have observed that engaging in hands-on neuroscience activities enhances the student’s retention and their interest in a potentially boring, overly technical topic. Therefore, we created a similarly engaging neuroanatomy laboratory for use in our introductory classes. As human brains are difficult to obtain outside of a medical school setting, we use sheep brains as an alternative for this activity. Various biological sample vendors, such as Carolina Biological ( offer these brains at affordable prices, approximately $15 apiece. Using the sheep brains, we highlight the similarity of neuroanatomical structures with similar, previously discussed structures of the human brain. For our lab, we pre-cut the brains into two hemispheres along the midsagittal line, this not only effectively doubles the number of brains, but it also allows students to observe subcortical structures. These brains, when handled and stored properly, can last across a number of semesters. In addition, if needed, we have found that small cake pans from your local dollar store work just as well as more expensive dissection trays while Amazon is a good source for inexpensive dissection probes. Though this activity could “gross out” some students, most enjoy the ability to interact with real neural tissue and report that this lab is a beneficial learning experience.(See Figure 2).

    Student and Community Involvement

                Two ways to increase student involvement and excitement in Neuroscience would be to create a Neuroscience student group on campus and provide community outreach through public library programs for school-aged children. Before we had a Neuroscience major, our students wanted to create a Neuroscience Club, and they went through the process of developing a new student organization, a constitution and by-laws, and requesting a budget through our Student Involvement division. Neuroscience Club is continuing to grow, and they now have plans for field trips and to visit regional graduate programs in Neuroscience. Other club activities include demonstrations of the Neuroscience equipment, sharing research projects, or bringing in guest speakers. A club is a great way for students to meet others with similar interests and to spread the word of the Neuroscience programming on campus.

    Additionally, the club partnered with our Psi Chi chapter to create Brain Day at our local community library. We reached out to the children’s librarian in charge of programming, and for the past three years, we have offered an educational program on learning about the brain for elementary school students. The college students staff different hands-on stations for the children to learn about reaction times, explore sheep brains, create brain hats or color brain ornaments, and test out the important of cerebrospinal fluid on protecting the brain with an egg experiment (See Figure 3).

    Neuroscience Equipment for Undergraduate Education

    Although there are numerous ways of providing low-cost, engaged learning activities in neuroscience, much of the equipment and materials used in the study of neuroscience are prohibitively expensive and represent a significant hurdle to small schools wishing to offer a neuroscience curriculum. However, we have experimented with a number of ways, such as employing emerging technologies and searching out innovative start-up companies, to overcome these obstacles and provide our students with meaningful opportunities in neuroscience despite our limited budget.

    Recently, we have begun to embrace the utility of 3D printing and the opportunities it can afford in the development and creation of inexpensive equipment. Although the thought of 3D printing may be a bit daunting, the technology is surprisingly accessible with a shallow learning curve backed by innumerable websites and YouTube videos dedicated to the training of the uninitiated. Entry-level printers also have a very reasonable price point. Our department purchased the reliable PRUSA Research i3 MK3S printer ( for $749 USD; however, similarly capable open-source printers such as the Creality Ender-3 V2 ( can be found for around $250 USD. Thus far, we have printed a number of free, pre-existing files found online for use as demonstration models and teaching aids such as a life-size replica of Phineas Gage’s skull, rat skulls for the demonstration of stereotaxic surgery, and models to demonstrate popular optical illusions. You can even find step-by-step tutorials that allow you to covert MRI images into 3D files for printing. Recently we have begun to use design software such as Tinkercad and Fusion 360 (both of which are free for educational institutions) to create our own 3D models. Specifically, we have been working with various students to combine open-source electronics such as Arduino controller boards and Raspberry Pi microcomputers with 3D printed designs to create a modular operant chamber similar to those that typically cost thousands of dollars (See Figure 4). It is our goal to create additional behavioral neuroscience testing equipment such as elevated plus and radial-arm mazes, rotarod, and activity monitors, using 3D printing. 

    Utilizing Innovative Companies

    As mentioned above, providing students with meaningful experiences in neuroscience can be difficult on a small budget so, in addition to employing emerging technologies such as 3D printing and open-source electronics, we have also sought to improve our laboratory capabilities by seeking out smaller innovative companies for equipment rather than larger more well-known suppliers. One example of this is our recent acquisition of electroencephalographic (EEG) equipment through the company OpenBCI ( at a fraction of the cost of such a system through other suppliers (stand-alone bundles start at $1300.00 USD). Although we as faculty are still new to the world of EEG, this equipment was so easy to set up and calibrate we have already been able to use this fully open-source system in the classroom to demonstrate the concept of neurofeedback by allowing students to turn a fan on and off with their mind. We have been working with a group of students to integrate the electroencephalographical and the electromyographical capabilities of this system to control a remote control car, while another student began using the system to conduct sleep study research. In addition to our EEG system, we also recently began working with an eye-tracking system purchased through Gazepoint ( Equipment through this company was much more affordable than similar equipment offered by more well-known companies such as Tobii and offers us the ability to provide research opportunities to our students in emerging fields such as neuromarketing.

    We have also found several other smaller companies that produce various products that are perfect for in-class demonstrations of neuroscience concepts. For example, Backyard Brains ( is a small start-up company that offers affordable equipment for neuroscience demonstrations. My favorites from this company are “RoboRoach” which allows you and your students to control an actual roach through the manipulation of its sensory systems and the “Human-Human” interface that allows one person to control the movement of another person’s arm through the stimulation of motor neurons. These are fun, easy demonstrations that have an appreciable impact on students and are relatively affordable with prices from $159.99 USD or in a bundle with three additional products for $999.98 USD. Our students have also really enjoyed the impairment goggles purchased from Drunk Busters ( These goggles simulate the visual impairment that accompanies the use of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy. There are numerous ways you can use these goggles to demonstrate impairment due to drug use such as cup stacking and mock field sobriety tests, but my personal favorite is having them attempt to drive using a steering wheel controller paired with a driving video game such as Forza.


                As you can see, incorporating innovative and engaging activities is accessible to most undergraduate psychology programs and even for high school teachers, if you are aware of the money-saving opportunities available. We will continue to explore new ways to engage students and the community to learn about Neuroscience and to encourage students to consider careers in this exciting and ever-growing field.


    Chapter XII: SFN at 50 Years: Focus on the Future. Society for Neuroscience. (2020). Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Medical scientists. In Occupational Outlook Handbook.

    U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2019). Digestof Education Statistics.

  • 01 Feb 2022 5:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alexander B. Swan (Eureka College)

    Picture it (pun-intended)—you and your students, all starting intently at the screen as Joy and Sadness, with the help of Bing-Bong, desperately try to get back to Riley’s Headquarters to break her out of the funk she’s feeling after moving across the country to a new place and a new school. Yep, that’s the plot of the Pixar film, Inside Out (2015). But wait, why are you watching an animated movie in your psychology class, taking up precious time for material?

    What if I told you that this is precious material time? It may seem odd if you’re not used to using full class periods for film viewing, but from my experience, it is a fantastic learning and material-delivery tool (e.g., Bluestone, 2000; Mishra, 2018). One discussion that tends to arise when I mention using films in class is the use of documentary films vs. fictional Hollywood film, such as Inside Out. The argument tends to be about using factual information rather than fictionalized information, either based on completely fictional and fantastical plotlines or a fictionalized account of a true story. I hear this argument and find docs to be wonderful teaching tools—and some even have great entertainment and production value. But in this essay, I want to promote the use of fictional films as pedagogical tools that not only entertain, but also promote critical thinking skills. 

    The Ways to Use These Films

    The primary way I use fictional films in my classes is to promote critical thinking skills. Perhaps one of the strongest ways to accomplish this is by having students assess the accuracy of portrayal for the intended psychological concepts (Bluestone, 2000; Fleming et al., 1990; Gregg et al., 1995; Wedding & Niemiec, 2014). For example, in Inside Out, there are several psychological concepts that can be broached, including emotions, memories, or even depression. I use this film in several classes and tend to highlight that the film had noted emotion psychologist Dacher Keltner as a consultant. Students can explore how connected the emotions portrayed (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear) are to the current understanding of emotion research. With respect to memories, students can explore our current spatial models of memory, especially long-term memory, are shown in the new world of a person’s head.

    On the other side of the portrayal coin, bad portrayals of psychological concepts, can also spur critical thinking. One of my top films to explore bad psychological science is Lucy (2014). Students are immediately thrust into a world that has famed scientists believing in the myth that humans only use 10% of their brains. Of course, using more means special powers, right? A better example of exploration of accuracy, however, comes in the form of the film I have used the most in my classes: Memento (2000). In this film, the main character suffers from anterograde amnesia, similar to what is described about H.M. by Scoville and Milner (1957) or the many documentaries on Clive Wearing. There are accurate portrayals of the memory impairment, like how another character is described to have been put under memory tests or how the main character nearly describes recalled memories in general; but then there are inaccurate portrayals, like the length of the main character’s working memory or how he describes it in several ways to other characters. Students have to grapple with the differences presented in the film to the information presented in the material of the course. This nuance is crucially important to build critical thinking skills.

    Another way fictional film pedagogy is useful in the classroom stems from the desire to use varied material to reach students at all stages and backgrounds. While some students might prefer the straight empirical findings of the hottest psychological studies, many others prefer the varied active learning quality that can come with film in the classroom (Gregg et al., 1995). Along with the portrayal argument, the artistic nature of the film can be beneficial to understanding psychological concepts. Boyatzis (1994) explores how students can use a fictional film to discuss emotional and social development. Fleming et al. (1990) discusses usage of psychological disorder films to explore intimately how a character might deal with their disorder, or how others in their lives might deal with the disorders. I’ve explored recently in great deal with colleagues how films like The Hours (2002) portrays three women with depression and bipolar disorder across three distinct time periods, and how the culture of the time periods impacts how these women are treated and how they cope. With fictional films, you can get a glimpse of how these characters directly deal. While this is possible with documentary films, there is a sense of disconnection without the artistic direction of the scene, the camera angles, or even the music. This extra stuff can give students a deeper insight into the struggles of characters and their illnesses. 

    A third way I like using fictional films in my courses is the discussion about the filmmakers’ decisions. These are people with limited knowledge of psychological concepts in general, and thus their perspectives are useful windows for students to explore. Students can approach the content from the perspective of filmmakers and discuss their lay understanding from those that put the spin on the fictionalized material. For example, A Clockwork Orange (1971) clearly portrays the use of aversive conditioning on the main character. And the director, Stanley Kubrick, describes and films the features of the process with relatively accuracy. But if we compare that to M. Night Shyamalan‘s Split (2016) and the portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder, it is clear that he as a writer-director doesn’t necessarily understand the nuance and appearance of the disorder (albeit, the world is somewhat fantastical). 

    How to Assess Learning with Films?

    If you’re interested in incorporating films into your classes, either using class time or assigning the films to view outside of class, there are several ways to assess whether that critical thinking and evaluation of the artistic material is connected to your course learning outcomes and conceptual material.

    The most common assessment appears to be the analysis paper. This is the typical assignment I use with films in my classes. Boyatzis (1994) describes in detail the various prompts you can include to encourage students to evaluate the course material within the context of the films. While the prompts in the paper are geared toward child development, they can be adapted for whatever material your course focuses on, such as memory, psychological disorders, learning, or even sensation and perception (yes, there are few films out there for this niche topic!).

    Gregg et al. (1995) offers additional examples of assessments, such as having students watch a film from a list of options and create a diary of experiences they have had similar to the characters in the film. Another option, specifically for a psychological disorders course, is to have the students evaluate a character’s symptoms using diagnostic criteria from the DSM or the ICD. I do caution the use of the latter, as students should be given a clear disclaimer that films will likely exaggerate symptoms for narrative reasons and may not reflect the reality of the conditions in real life or the appropriateness of the diagnostic categories.

    One additional option of assessment that I tend to use in my introductory psychology course is the use of a short answer question on a test. This is usually a broad open-ended question that doesn’t require too much psychological knowledge—it’s an introductory course after all—or deep viewing practices (e.g., multiple viewings to capture all the nuance).

    One thing to keep in mind when designing these assessments: engage in previewing the films and highlight the concepts that you find to be the most appropriate. There is going to be a lot of subjectivity in the film analysis, especially from younger students toward older films. I tend to keep my rubrics as open as possible, so that students can have the freedom to apply the course concepts to whatever scene they see fit. Sometimes, my students capture things that I do not. For example, when I showed Inside Out to my Psychology in Film course, one student pointed out the interesting gendering of the emotion characters in the minds of Riley vs. the adults in the film. It was clear that this was something I had missed, and I now use this information in all discussions I have about the film.


    Where To Find Appropriate Films?

    As a firm believer that most films are psychologically-based, because as humans, we tend to make art about ourselves, it’s likely you’ll be able to find films everywhere you go. But, if you’re just starting out in this pedagogical practice, I can recommend several places to find great films for various subdisciplines in psychology.

    Of course, trying an internet search for “psychology films” will bring a wealth of information. However, it’s hard to know which results are good and which aren’t so good. Indiana University maintains an excellent repository, which includes ratings (and who among us doesn’t love data?). It’s called the Cognitive Science Movie Index (, and while the name might indicate niche films or films that you couldn’t use in a social psychology class, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! There are several keywords to narrow searches and many films have been tagged to fit multiple concepts and ideas within psychology. As I mentioned, there are three ratings for each film, each on a scale from 1-7: overall film quality (it might be a decent cognitive science movie, but does the film stink?), relevance (it’s tagged with AI, but is it really about artificial intelligence?), and accuracy (how accurate is the portrayal with what we currently know about that topic?). The great news about these ratings is that they are user-generated. So if you pick a film from this Index, you’re invited to add your ratings after viewing. I’ve used this resource several times, as many of my courses are in this realm.

    Gregg et al. (1995) lists several films in different psychological categories, each used by one or more of the authors in their courses. Boyatzis (1994) includes several films related to child development and this list has a bonus: foreign language films, in case that is of interest to you as an instructor or in the case that you give the option to your students to choose, their film interests.


    Give It a Try!

    If you haven’t engaged in film pedagogy before, I hope this essay was a decent help to get your journey started. Again, fictional films are varied and should be used with as much preparation that you give to your other course pedagogy and assessments. It may be simpler to use documentary films, but I definitely suggest broadening those film horizons. You can aid your students’ critical thinking abilities by offering them an artistic exploration of the content, in a funny, thrilling, and entertaining way! I consistently get student evaluation comments, anonymous and otherwise that tell me they appreciated the incorporation of the films in class. You get to have your very own Monty Python moment and exclaim, “And now for something completely different!


    Bluestone, C. (2000). Feature Films as a Teaching Tool. College Teaching, 48(4), 141–146. 

    Boyatzis, C. J. (1994). Using feature films to teach social development. Teaching of Psychology, 21, 99–101.

    Fleming, M. Z., Piedmont, R. L., & Hiam, C. M. (1990). Images of Madness: Feature Films in Teaching Psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 17(3), 185–187.

    Gregg, V. R., Hosley , C. A., Weng, A., & Montemayor, R. (1995). Using feature films to promote active learning in the college classroom. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Washington D.C. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389367).

    Mishra, S. (2018). The World in the Classroom: Using Film as a Pedagogical Tool. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 15(1), 111–116.

    Scoville, W. B., & Milner, B. (1957). Loss of recent memory after bilateral hippocampal lesions. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 20(1), 11–21.

    Wedding, D., & Niemiec, R. M. (2015). Movies & Mental Illness, 4th Edition (Vol. 47, Issue 9, pp. 737–738).
  • 06 Jan 2022 3:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Guy A. Boysen 

    Department of Psychology, McKendree University 

    I knew I was in trouble when the student would not stop emailing me. The emails always came the night before homework was due and felt like one of those classic foot-in-the-door scams that starts with “Do you have time for one question?” and escalates to “How much money would you like to donate?” A typical series of emails went something like this: 

    Student email #1: “The assignment says give an example of harmful dysfunction. What do you want us to say for that?” 

    Student email #2: “So the example is in the reading?”   

    Student email #3: “I’ve read and I can’t find it. Please help me.”  

    Student email #4: “Would mental illness be an example?”    

    Student email #5: “Can you give me a page number? I can’t find it.”  

    With each assignment, I was doing more and more of the student’s work. And with each assignment, I was growing more and more resentful. Then, the student started to criticize my teaching to other professors. I really, really disliked this student.   

    Intense dislike of students is something that teachers do not talk about. Certainly, griping about students is a popular topic of conversation in academia (tied with griping about the administration and griping about parking), but teachers rarely admit that there are some students they seriously dislike. It seems so unprofessional, so petty, so unteacherly. I wanted to do research on this topic for years but always put it off as too distasteful – who wants to be known as “that professor who hates students”?   

    Eventually, I overcame my wariness and surveyed college teachers about their experiences with disliked students (Boysen et al., 2020, 2021). As it turned out, I was not alone in disliking the occasional student. In fact, disliking students was common. Although teachers said dislike had many negative consequences on their teaching, they also provided ideas for how to manage it. I summarize these results in the sections that follow.  

    How Common is Intense Dislike of Students? 

    Have you ever had a student in a class that you intensely disliked? If you said “yes” to this question, you are like a lot of other college teachers. In fact, across two independent surveys, about 50% of college teachers said that they had intensely disliked a student. This not to say that it occurs frequently. About 80% of faculty who had experienced disliked said that it happened, at most, once every couple of years. Nonetheless, it is typical for college teachers to dislike a student at some point in their careers.   

    When asked what caused the dislike, teachers cited reasons ranging from the trivial – “Constant talking/whispering during a large lecture class” – to the terrifying – “He found me multiple times per day to intrusively and anxiously ask me questions about grades or assignments in a somewhat angry way.” Although reasons varied widely, the most common ones will sound familiar.  

    By far, the most common reasons for dislike centered on students’ disrespect for the teacher or the course. For example, one teacher reported dislike for a student who “was rude in class, dismissive of the material, and would challenge everything they got wrong.” Another teacher quoted a student as saying “well, I talked to my biology instructor and he says this class isn't important." Psychology teachers respect themselves and their science, so it is difficult to encounter students who do not share this respect.      

    Other common reasons for student dislike might be broadly characterized as “bad behavior.” Academic irresponsibility was a frequently reported form of bad behavior. One teacher provided a typical list of student laxities including “lack of motivation; not attending class; not completing assignments, but submitting blank documents to try to get points.” Such poor academic behavior can be infuriating to teachers who have a passion for psychology and helping others learn the topic. Being disruptive is another bad behavior. Acting out in class, playing on electronic devices, having side conversations, and hijacking discussion are just some of the disruptions that teachers said led to dislike.     

    Finally, teachers reported that some students simply have unlikable personalities. Narcissism, arrogance, smugness, and neediness are annoying personality traits that lead teachers to dislike students. Entitlement is another trait that riles up a lot of teachers. Some students expect special treatment and become upset when teachers do not meet their demands. One teacher said, “I would not grant a delayed grade for the course given the student had not completed anything all semester. The student then sent an email to the Dean full of lies about my alleged unwillingness to work with her.” Teachers like to feel helpful, not used. Ultimately, the complexities of human relationships make some conflict inevitable, and relationships between teachers and students are no exception.  

    How Does Disliking Students Impact Teachers? 

    In the previous section, I characterized dislike as infrequent because about 80% of teachers experience dislike only every few years or so – this glosses over the 20% of faculty who dislike students every year, hardly an insubstantial number. I hope these folks are alright because disliking a student can be quite stressful. In my own experience with the student who wanted me to do their homework, just seeing their name in my inbox spiked my blood pressure. This is just one example of dislike’s many stressful consequences.        

    Disliking a student can take an emotional and motivational toll on teachers. In my surveys, teachers said that they worried about interactions with the student inside and outside of class. One teacher stated that “I dreaded running into the student elsewhere on campus. When I did, I would get very anxious and tried to avoid them.” Sometimes teachers started to doubt themselves and their teaching ability. Or, if a student’s behavior was threatening, teachers became fearful. For example, one teacher said that fear of a student’s behavior led them to have “my cell phone out at all times in case I needed to call security.” As can be expected, dislike can cause a decrease in motivation: “It made me dread going to teach that particular class.”  

    Dread for a course is not the route to teaching effectiveness, and some teachers reported that dislike made them worse teachers. The problems posed by just one student sometimes hurt the class overall. One teacher said, “It put me in a grumpy mood whenever I was heading off to that class, which directly affected how I taught. It took a toll on me and I know other students could feel it.” Some teachers lost their focus: “I became distracted while teaching due to managing my own emotions.” Another teacher said that “it increased the cognitive load on me as I taught and simultaneously needed to stop their misbehavior.” Teaching is hard enough; the added distraction of a disliked student makes it doubly challenging.   

    Interacting with a disliked student, inside or outside of class, can become a burden. Teachers may hide in their offices, stay off email, and put off interactions with the student. Sometimes, it was too much to take. As one teacher said, “I finally lost it and screamed at the student in a two-minute diatribe that I still regret to this day.” Even in extreme circumstances, teachers should not lose their tempers with students. Thus, it is important to do something about dislike before frustration overcomes pedagogy.   

    What Can Teachers Do About Disliking Students? 

    So, student dislike is common and stressful – that sounds pretty bleak, but there is hope. In my survey, I also asked teachers how they dealt with dislike, and they provided many possible solutions. In general, their responses fell into two categories: managing student behaviors that cause dislike and managing reactions to the student. Starting with managing student behaviors, teachers should consider basic classroom management techniques (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011; Wingert & Molitor, 2009). There are well-established tricks for keeping students’ attention, managing classroom discussions, motivating students to do coursework, dealing with excuses, and prevention of cheating. If something is interfering with teaching or learning in the classroom, do something about it.   

    Teachers do not have to fight classroom-management battles alone. The teachers in my survey asked their colleagues for suggestions. In addition, they occasionally went to administrators for support and intervention when circumstances became dire. Nonetheless, the responsibility for managing students ultimately falls on the teacher, and the most common response to dislike was intentional professionalism. Teachers established rules. They stuck to policy. Hard as it was, they treated disliked students fairly. As one teacher put it, the answer to dislike was “setting clear boundaries, communicating clearly and assertively, [and] not backing down.”         

    Not all reasons for dislike can be eliminated through classroom management techniques. Students can be innovative rule breakers, noxious personalities tend to persist, and interpersonal dynamics can produce unexpected conflict. For all these reasons and more, teachers must also be prepared to manage their reactions to disliked students. Ultimately, the most important skill is to be professional under all circumstances. Keep calm, think before acting, and treat the disliked student with respect – these are tough but essential rules.   

    Keeping things professional on the outside does not prevent internal storms of emotion, so teachers also reported using general stress-reduction techniques to deal with their reactions to disliked students. They sought social support from trusted colleagues. They engaged in self-care such as meditation and counseling. Finally, some teachers said that they employed cognitive shifts. They reframed the situation to emphasize that the problem was about the student, not themselves. Or, they tried to empathize with the student, doing things like imagining the situation from their perspective. Sometimes, getting to know a student just a little better is all that is needed to switch them from an enemy to an ally.   


    So, what happened with the student who kept emailing me for answers to homework? In a professional, constructive way, I explained that my objective was to teach students to read and think critically – as such, I was done giving out answers to homework questions via email. I never let on that I knew about the criticism. The emails stopped. I was less stressed. To be frank, the student still kind of annoyed me. There is no perfect solution to the problem of disliking students. However, teachers should know that it is a common, stressful experience that can be handled professionally. With that knowledge, they can prepare for challenges that lie ahead.  


    Boysen, G. A., Isaacs, R., Chicosky, R. L., & Delmore, E. E. (2020). Intense dislike of students: Frequency, causes, effects, and management among college teachers. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 

    Boysen, G. A., Sampo, B. Axtell, E., & Kishimoto, A. (2021). Dislikable students: The perspective of college teachers. College Teaching. 

    Svinicki, M. D., & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. (13th ed.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 

    Wingert, D., & Molitor, T. (2009). Best practices: Preventing and managing challenging classroom situations. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 1(2), 4–18. 

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