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

Meet the GSTA Steering Committee: Part Two of Two!

01 Mar 2023 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Following the February GSTA Corner that introduced our committee’s returning members, this month’s GSTA Corner introduces the four new members of the 2023 GSTA Steering Committee. We are thrilled to welcome Lauren Girouard-Hallam, Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart, William Rayo, and Alexa Sacchi!

Lauren Girouard-Hallam

Lauren N. Girouard-Hallam (she/her) is a doctoral student in Experimental Psychology at the University of Louisville. She holds an M.A. in Drama Therapy (applied psychology) from New York University and an M.S. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Louisville. Under the guidance of Dr. Judith Danovitch, she researches how 4 to 12 year old children think about and learn from technology including Amazon's Alexa, Google searches, and the internet at large. When not conducting her research at the Knowledge in Development (KID) Lab, Lauren can be found serving as a teaching assistant and co-teaching the lab component for her department's graduate level statistics sequence. In addition to her current teaching assistant role, Lauren co-leads a series of professional development workshops on inclusive teaching and active learning for the Graduate School at the University of Louisville, and has co-created a professional development curricula for the undergraduate research interns in the KID Lab.

A favorite concept to teach in psychology: My favorite concept to teach at the moment is logistic regression for binary dependent variables. I really enjoy turning something that we cannot easily interpret (log-odds) into something that is much more interpretable (odds ratios or predicted probabilities), and watching it "click" for students. I use logistic regression frequently in my own work, so I love sharing that part of my graduate student experience with students.

A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I really love generating beautiful, easy to follow assignments in R Markdown. R Markdown is a tool that allows you to put instructional material like text or images right next to statistical code. This allows you, the statistics instructor, to infuse other concepts like chunking or interleaving practice directly into your assignment, which I find to be immeasurably valuable.

A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Talk to your fellow teaching assistants! Your peers in graduate school are your community, and creating a teaching community is no exception. Talk to your peers about their TA experiences so that you can learn from their perspectives. This community is also important if you need help with working a scantron or practicing a guest lecture!

Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart

Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart is a Clinical Psychology graduate student at Missouri State University with a B.S. in Psychology & Biomedical Sciences. She has the pleasure of being a graduate teaching assistant for the introductory psychology courses at Missouri State and is also a student senator representing the College of Health & Human Services for the Graduate Senate. Kelly is interested in working in interdisciplinary medicine, with a particular focus on the wellbeing of patients with cancer & chronic illnesses.

A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I love teaching about neuropsychology and the impacts of stress on the human body. These biological topics can be overwhelming to students, so it is a rewarding challenge to keep students engaged and learning lifelong skills to manage stress. Once they grasp the material, they are usually fascinated with how applicable it can be to their lives in college.

A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: My introductory course adopted the use of Mentimeter, a free alternative to a student response system. I have enjoyed using the several quiz-response questions to gauge student participation and knowledge/retention of concepts. In large class sizes with 150-300 students, it is a valuable tool to maintain student engagement and confidence in the course material.

A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Do not hesitate to add your personality into your teaching abilities and allow room for social positivity in your teaching. Encouraging students to form study groups, welcoming questions regardless of difficulty, and providing your own personality in your teaching makes a class more inviting and open for students to be themselves. It adds identity to a course that makes it a safe learning environment for everyone.

William Rayo

William Rayo is a doctoral student in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Cognition at Oregon State University, with an M.S. in Psychology from Oregon State University and an M.A. in Social Science Education from the University of South Florida. His research currently focuses around two topics: 1) how differences across individuals bilingual experiences help shape neural and cognitive outcomes, 2) science of teaching and learning, with a focus on the effects of individual differences and instructional aids in conceptual development. William has been in education for over 10 years working in a variety of settings and with different groups of students. At Oregon State University William has been a teaching assistant and the instructor of record for General Psychology courses.

A favorite concept to teach in psychology: One of my favorite topics to discuss in Intro is how nature and nurture as well as the interactions between the two help shape who we are. Over the course of our class students relate the material to their lived experiences and through small group and class wide discussions they develop a framework for understanding how these two forces can interact.

A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I've recently started to use some of the responses that students submit to open ended questions in class as prompts for further discussion. I find it valuable to have students reflect on their classmates' responses because it encourages students to engage with their peers' ideas and perspectives, promoting a more dynamic and inclusive classroom environment. Additionally, it can help students to develop their critical thinking skills as they evaluate and respond to their peers' arguments. Finally, reflecting on classmates' responses can help students to broaden their understanding of the topic being discussed by exposing them to a wider range of perspectives and ideas.

A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Teaching is an iterative process. Each time you teach a class you learn what worked and what didn't which lets you tweak the process for the next time, so resist the urge to try and fix everything at once. Teaching is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Alexa Sacchi

Alexa Sacchi (she/they) is a doctoral student in developmental psychology at the University of Toronto – St. George. Their research focuses on the moral and social cognitive development of children ages 4 to 11, investigating topics such as how aspects of the self and others’ moral character can change over time. Alexa has served as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate courses including Intro to Developmental Psychology and Social Psychology. In the summer, Alexa works with high school students interested in majoring in psychology.

A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I enjoy teaching students about infant cognition. Many undergraduates believe babies are born as blank slates when in reality they come into the world understanding various complex concepts such as physics, social groups, and even morality!

A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: For students new to reading scientific articles, I find using the QALMRI method (Question, Alternatives, Logic, Method, Results, Inferences) to be really helpful as a guide. It helps students find connections between the theoretical literature and data by highlighting the questions being asked, the approach used to answer it, and the implications of the answer.

A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: As a new teacher, it’s easy to fall into the extremes of leaving minimal feedback or over-marking assignments down to every little mistake. One of my mentors always reminds us to give kind, specific, and helpful feedback. I try to implement this while grading by identifying 3 main areas to the students: where they did well, where they can improve, and how they can improve.

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