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

GSTA Corner

This blog contains submissions from STP's Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) to the GSTA Corner column in STP News from January 2020 to the present.  The GSTA Corner first appeared in the April 2016 issue of the newsletter, which was then called ToPNEWS-Online.  You can read GSTA Corner columns from April 2016 through December 2019 in past issues of ToPNEWS-Online here.

For regular updates on GSTA activities, follow us on Twitter (@gradsteachpsych) and Facebook (groups/theGSTA), join the GSTA Listserv, check out our Blog and past entries for the GSTA Corner, or write to us at

  • 10 May 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Amid our last bits of grading, the last thing we’re probably thinking about is our next semester. The time to review our courses and prepare for our next classes will be here before we know it! Here are some ideas to make this process less daunting and spark a little inspiration.

    Backward Design

    When a student is done with your course, what should they be taking with them? What goals did you set for yourself and your students? Were those goals met, and how do you know if they were or weren’t?

    Backward design helps us answer these questions. This process involves reviewing our goals, identifying evidence of us meeting our goals, and designing our course accordingly. Start with your course objectives and student outcomes. How did those go? Perhaps those are set by your department or college, but if you can change them, what would you do? Then, think about what you’d want to see from your students to show they are meeting these goals. Should they be able to write up results? Do they need to know APA formatting like the back of their hand? Putting a language to those expectations can help you select what activities go into your course. From the examples above, a paper would be a beneficial assignment for the course. These then give assignments and activities a purpose and meaning that can help both you and your students through the slow (or terribly fast) parts of the semester

    No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

    Lean on your colleagues and mentors. They can be a goldmine of great ideas and seasoned advice. You don’t have to develop the latest and greatest in learning technology in one summer. Collaborate and collect materials that have worked well before (and pass them to the next generation!)

    Incorporate Feedback

    Deep breath. Get a good meal. Get a good night’s sleep. Then, open up the student feedback from the last term. We care a lot about teaching and often dread hearing that something didn’t work well or otherwise reading grievances. That said, there are likely good ideas in those comments and/or validation that things are going generally well.

    Rest and Restore

    We’ll state the obvious. Things have been hard. Burnout is rampant, and connection on campus is not like it used to be. Find ways to re-ignite that spark that put you in the classroom in the first place. Since you’ve looked through feedback to incorporate into your course (!), you hopefully found a couple of comments that were beneficial. Copy them into a document. Look back at emails of someone saying you helped them out a lot or that a class really inspired them. Copy that into a document. In all, curate a place where you can hold space for the good things about being a psychology teacher. Students pick up on that spark, and (from the feedback I’ve gotten!) it’s meaningful for them.

    The Half-Life Rule

    A good rule of thumb to follow, though not exclusive to teaching and course preparation, is the Half-life rule. The rule goes as follows: When you think you’ll be done with something, you will only be halfway finished. I know some graduate student instructors may not be as fortunate to have months for course preparation, but the half-life rule can be applied just as easily on smaller scales. If you keep in mind that preparation takes longer than one might anticipate, you can better manage your time and not be in a position of creating slides the night before each lecture.

    The Final Exam: The Possibility of Selection

    When designing a course, it is important to consider providing students with the power of choice when it comes to assessments. Granted, this avenue will not be viable for everyone; however, designing a course that allows for students to select the ways in which they are assessed is a factor that should be given consideration. Whether you present the option for a term paper, a presentation, or an exam featuring multiple-choice and short answer questions, consider allowing your students to choose the way in which they are assessed. This will ultimately allow students to gravitate toward their strengths.

  • 10 Apr 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Q&A with 2022 GSTA Leadership

    Submitted by: Skyler Mendes and Jackson Pelzner

    During these first few months of this new year, the GSTA Corner will be featuring brief interviews with all six members of our committee. This month, we are featuring two of this year’s committee members.

    Type of doctoral program, year, & expected graduation:

    Skyler: I am in my fourth year in the Developmental Psychology doctoral program at Arizona State University, planning to graduate in 2023.

    Jackson: I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and on track to graduate in Spring 2024.

    Classes you have taught and/or been a GTA for (undergraduate or graduate):

    Skyler: I am currently teaching two sections of a Research Methods lab course. In the past, I have taught Prevention Organization and Community Change online in a graduate certificate program, Success in HigherEd Learning Environments, Planning for Academic Success, and supervised for-credit independent study, honors thesis work, and internships. As a teaching assistant, I have worked with 2-8 sections each of Introduction to Psychology, Personality, Abnormal Psychology, and Abnormal Child Psychology. Most of these experiences were at Arizona State, but some at University of Rhode Island and Providence College.

    Jackson: I am currently the instructor of record for our web-based sections of Introduction to Psychology. Coming into teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to understand and improve upon methods of teaching for remote and distance learning.

    Experiences you have been able to participate in because of being a part of GSTA:

    Skyler: I am the newest member on the GSTA steering committee, so I look forward to the experiences ahead. Thus far, GSTA has provided a unique opportunity to meet graduate colleagues across the country who are similarly interested in the science and practice of teaching, so I appreciate the element of community that it provides.

    Jackson: I do not have many experiences yet, as I am new to the association. My time as a member of GSTA so far has given me the chance to work with other graduate students and faculty to provide resources for graduate student instructors.

    Benefits of GSTA on your professional development and future as an academic:

    Skyler: GSTA’s resources (e.g., How We Teach Now) have been helpful to my own professional development particularly because, as opposed to other more general resources, they are frequently contextualized within our field. Since graduate students are often put in front of a classroom with little-to-no teaching experience or training, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the GSTA team to continue to support rising graduate students in their development as instructors. I appreciate these opportunities to not only stretch my own teaching but to also dig into how to support others in theirs.

    Jackson: Networking is an important component of navigating graduate school, which is why I feel so fortunate to be a member of the association. The outreach goals outlined by the committee for this upcoming year will put us in contact with a range of outstanding academics and professionals and I cannot wait to collaborate with them all.

    Impact of GSTA on you personally:

    Skyler: I am looking forward to making personal connections with the other members of GSTA and Division 2 more broadly. While there is always official network growth in professional organizations, I have found the connections are often deeper and more personal with people who are passionate about similar aspects of psychology, such as its teaching.

    Jackson: GSTA has been a great opportunity so far to connect with other graduate students. I think it is important that more students reach out to their local organizations and associations to build a stronger community. I hope GSTA can be a support system for other graduate students who either need resources from outside their department or simply advice and guidance as graduate student instructors.

    Advice (teaching and/or research tips) for other graduate students:

    Skyler: Some of the most broadly valuable things I’d like to share aren’t so much quick tips but really the “bigger picture” perspectives I’ve developed on teaching. I’ve learned from excellent colleagues (and continually re-teach myself) that while I might enter the classroom with the vision to teach a specific set of content, it has been crucial to remember what I really teach, regardless of subject matter, is students. Students come to the classroom with all kinds of intersecting identities, interests, and experiences, and to the extent you can get to know them and empower them as active participants in their learning, it improves the experience on both ends of teaching and learning. The second thing that has helped me is reflecting on my teaching values. Who do you want to be as an instructor and what do you want students to be able to say about their experience in your class when it’s done? For me, I want students to walk away from the semester feeling like I genuinely cared about them and their learning. This guides all of my actions, from how I give assignment feedback to how I celebrate their successes, and even how I use a developmental lens to approach conversations about tough issues like academic integrity.

    Jackson: The best advice I can give to graduate student instructors is “optimization and efficiency.” For example, each semester I have students asking roughly the same questions when it comes to class structure and setting up their online platform. To me, this indicated either poor communication on my part or that students have a harder time with ambiguities than anticipated. What I decided to do was create a Frequently Asked Questions page for students as a reference and a way to avoid answering redundant emails. Prior to this, I could lose up to 3 or more hours each week just answering emails alone. This is one method to free up some time so that you can focus on what is most important: teaching and research.

  • 10 Mar 2022 12:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Morgan Franklin and Christopher Kleva 

    During these first few months of this new year, the GSTA Corner will be featuring brief interviews with all six members of our committee. This month, we are featuring two of this year’s new committee members. 

    Type of doctoral program, year, & expected graduation:

    Morgan: I am a fourth year in the Clinical Psychology - Adult Track doctoral program at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale. I am on track to complete and graduate by Spring 2024.

    Chris: I am a third-year Clinical Psychology doctoral student in the Behavioral Health concentration at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am on track to complete the program in Spring 2025!

    Classes you have taught and/or been a GTA for (undergraduate or graduate):

    Morgan: I have been both a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), as well as an Instructor of Record for Introduction to Psychology. I have also taught as Instructor of Record for Effects of Recreational Drugs, Abnormal Psychology, and Psychology of Crime. 

    Chris: I have had the pleasure of serving as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) and/or primary instructor for several undergraduate-level courses including Introduction to Psychology and Research Methods. I am excited for the opportunity to teach undergraduate Psychopathology this coming summer.

    Experiences you have been able to participate in because of being a part of GSTA:

    Morgan: I am new to the association, and I am excited to work with others who are involved in teaching and who share a passion for teaching to discuss actionable ways to improve the academic experience of students. 

    Chris: I am most appreciative of participating in the GSTA because it allows me to collaborate with other graduate students and professors who share a common passion for improving teaching.

    Benefits of GSTA on your professional development and future as an academic:

    Morgan: I think that being a part of GSTA will allow me to work and collaborate with like-minded individuals so that I may grow as an instructor and use my current role as an instructor, and any academic roles I may hold in the future, to be an effective instructor for students. 

    Chris: Being a part of the GSTA leadership team provides a unique service opportunity to have a seat at the table so I may collaborate with academics across institutions and make an impact for the better!

    Impact of GSTA on you personally:

    Morgan: Personally, I am hoping that GSTA may help me consider creative and unique ways to be accessible to students, foster a positive learning experience, and create an environment for students that provides adequate and appropriate resources and communicates transparency in academia.

    Chris: Being a GSTA member provides a sense of community, which arguably we all need to strive and are lacking now, especially since COVID has caused us to be virtual and feel isolated. Each GSTA meeting is another opportunity to share experiences/ideas and receive/provide support.

    Advice (teaching and/or research tips) for other graduate students:

    Morgan: I have found flexibility, both for myself and for my students, to be paramount in teaching (especially during COVID). I also find open and transparent communication with my students important in being able to meet students where they are at. Regarding research, reminding myself of what and why I enjoy and value the process is helpful. Research is a marathon, not a sprint. Reminding myself of why I value it helps to keep me grounded, focused, and enjoying the process.

    Chris: With respect to teaching tips, the priority should always be to create a safe and supportive learning environment for our students and I think the best way of doing this is emphasizing communication. Additionally, teaching should be conceptualized as a growing art, in which you consistently elicit feedback from your students and use them to further improve your teaching for the next cohort of students.

  • 03 Feb 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: William Ridgway (Chair) and Madeline Bruce (Associate Chair)

    During these first few months of this new year, the GSTA Corner will be featuring brief interviews with all six members of our committee. This month, we are featuring this year’s Chair and Associate Chair. 

    Type of doctoral program, year, & expected graduation:

    William: I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences PhD program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and on track to graduate in Summer 2023.

    Mads: I am a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Saint Louis University on track to graduate in the Summer of 2023. 

    Classes you have taught and/or been a GTA for (undergraduate or graduate):

    William: I have been the instructor of record for Introduction to Psychology. Since Fall 2022, I have been the instructor of record for Forensic Psychology.

    Mads: I have been the instructor of record for Abnormal Psychology and a GTA for General, Clinical and Abnormal, Pediatric, and Trauma Psychology. 

    Experiences you have been able to participate in because of being a part of GSTA:

    William: Since joining the GSTA, I have been able to actively provide graduate students with essential resources and best practices for teaching. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from extraordinary individuals.

    While still relatively new, I’ve been provided tremendous opportunities to develop supportive relationships with fellow graduate students. We’ve been able to provide resources and support for the next generation of teachers, and there’s only more to come! 

    Benefits of GSTA on your professional development and future as an academic:

    William: My experiences with GSTA have allowed me to become more involved in discussing important issues in academia. For example, last year, I thoroughly enjoyed being on a panel with Dr. Molly Metz and other GSTA committee members for a symposium addressing how to approach tough topics in the classroom.

    Mads: There is a collaborative climate that helps us share perspectives and scholarship of teaching and learning with each other. There is also a supportive group that helps students find their personal style. 

    Impact of GSTA on you personally:

    William: I constantly find myself exposed to a myriad of perspectives which have allowed me to grow as an individual, allowing me to become a more effective colleague and instructor. There are so many ways in which a subject can be approached, so having individuals you can discuss various ideas with is essential. The process and feedback allow for an additional level of confidence in how you choose to approach any topic.

    Mads: It’s been very meaningful to meet fellow graduate students with a passion for teaching and learning. There are times when graduate school can feel heavy on other roles psychologists take on, and to have a space where discussions of teaching can flourish is really great. 

    Advice (teaching and/or research tips) for other graduate students:

    William: My advice to any instructor would be to acknowledge the role you play – or could play – in the academic journey of your students. Additionally, when you do not know the answer to a question, never hesitate to admit it.

    Mads: My advice is likely influenced on becoming an instructor during Fall 2020 (i.e., right in the middle of the pandemic) and my clinical side: take time to foster relationships. The best learning comes from collaboration and support. Students’ time in your classroom could be quite meaningful if they knew they could try, maybe not get it, then try again, knowing their teacher was there. 

  • 04 Jan 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: William Ridgway, Chair, GSTA

    Happy 2022!

    We are excited to announce four new committee members will join the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) for 2022! Additionally, two of our previous members will be moving into their new roles as Chair and Associate Chair! We are grateful to our outgoing members and look forward to working with our new team. The GSTA will be meeting later in January to discuss the budget, ways to increase engagement with graduate students, and how to maintain the visibility of Division 2 and the GSTA. We look forward to another engaging year! Over the next few months, we will feature each of the GSTA members in more depth by asking them to share about their teaching and research experiences. Be on the lookout for these interviews to come!

    Chair: William Ridgway

    William Ridgway is a doctoral student in Psychological and Brain Sciences at University of Nevada, Las Vegas with master’s degrees in Experimental and Forensic Psychology. His academic research focuses on the application of psychological theories to criminal justice issues. William has been the instructor of record for Introduction to Psychology and Forensic Psychology.

    Associate Chair: Madeline Bruce

    Madeline (Mads) J. Bruce is a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at Saint Louis University. Her research currently focuses on posttraumatic adjustment, identity, and growth. Interested in evidence-based practice in her clinical work, research, and teaching, her work on trigger warnings was some of the first to subject this controversial topic to empirical scrutiny. In her free time, she enjoys ultra swimming, running, and eating.

    Steering Committee Members

    Jackson Pelzner

    Jackson Pelzner is a doctoral student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a master’s degree in Applied Psychological Science. His research touches on topics in mental model construction, visual language learning, deep fakes and deception, and melody recognition. He currently teaches remote learning sections of Introductory Psychology.

    Morgan Franklin

    Morgan Franklin, M.A. is a 4th-year clinical psychology doctoral student at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Her research interests include treatment outcomes, technology-enhanced interventions, and examining processes of change proposed in the ACT framework. Morgan has 4 years of experience teaching several courses in multiple instructional modalities.

    Madeleine Pownall

    Madeleine Pownall is a Lecturer in Psychology and PhD researcher at the University of Leeds, UK. She was the 2021 recipient of the STP Wilbert J, McKeachie Teaching Excellence award. Madeleine is passionate about supporting early career educators, embedding open science into undergraduate training, and equality and inclusion in teaching.

    Christopher Kleva

    Christopher Kleva is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration on Behavioral Medicine. Broadly, his research interests involve the classification of psychopathology and clinician cognition. Chris has assisted in teaching Introduction to Psychology and has led multiple lab sections of Research Methods.

  • 10 Dec 2021 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Kelly Cuccolo, Laura Simon, William Ridgway, and Maaly Younis

    In this month’s corner our focus is on the importance of maintaining consistency in our role as instructors throughout the semester. Similar to students approaching the end of the semester, we as instructors can also decline in motivation or performance. The purpose of the corner is to identify the importance of maintaining student rapport and the ways in which we seek to do so consistently throughout the semester. Specifically, how we allow for an immersive and enthusiastic classroom environment throughout the semester

    Kelly: As we progress to the end of the academic term, students and instructors alike are feeling burned out and in need of a break. Given that rapport plays an important role in positive student outcomes, such as perceptions of learning (e.g., Demir et al., 2019) it is important for instructors to maintain those interpersonal relationships. Gratitude may be one simple way to promote student engagement and strengthen interpersonal relationships (Algoe et al., 2008; Flinchbaugh et al., 2012). In my classes, I work our mental health chapters into the end of the course given that this is a high-stress time for many students (and instructors). I express gratitude to my students for their hard work thus far in the course and acknowledge feelings of stress and burn out. This not only helps me remember all the effort and quality work I’ve gotten during the semester but also helps students’ feel acknowledged and visible. I also have students write letters to people who have been helpful in their personal/academic journeys, but whom they haven’t formally thanked. Many students get emotional during this exercise but feel re-energized and focused afterwards.

    Laura: As primarily an Introduction to Psychology teacher, it is easier for me to be consistent as the semester gets tiring because the content, I enjoy teaching tends to coincide with the end of the semester. So, as it becomes harder to maintain energy and classroom dynamics, I get energy from the subjects I teach. Like with all jobs, some days are harder than others to be a positive and energetic force in the classroom, but I try to give myself grace on those days. I have also found that being transparent with students has been beneficial because they feel the fatigue throughout the semester and they may not realize that other people feel it too, making them feel understood or possibly less alone. Being transparent about semester fatigue is also a good opportunity to discuss coping skills and other healthy habits that I try to incorporate throughout my content as well, such as good sleep hygiene during Consciousness, study habits during Memory, etc.

    William: Throughout the academic term, students’ engagement and motivation to learn can become compromised. To maintain engagement, motivation, and excitement, instructors – who can also decline in motivation or performance – can employ various strategies to combat potential disinterest and reluctance, especially as the term ends and impaired mood, fatigue, and sleep become more likely. First, instructors should always be a role model for student interest and get to know their students. This foundation allows for transparent conversations to take place that can address challenges students face collectively. Second, instructors should attempt to create assignments (e.g., term papers) that are both varied and novel (Patrick et al., 2000), and that provide a sense of control and choice over their learning (Patall et al., 2010). For example, consider a class like Forensic Psychology in which a term paper can focus on one of a multitude of well-known psychology and law cases, each focusing on a different area (e.g., eyewitness misidentification, repressed memories, false confessions, insanity defense, competency to stand trial). Such assignments allow for students to apply their interests, allowing for an enthusiastic approach. Last, instructors can combat potential disinterest and reluctance by engaging students in group discussions and assignments in which they are able to get to know one another and as a result, support one another. The collective pursuit of accomplishment can lessen feelings of overload. Overall, it is important for instructors to remain cognizant of the fact that student performance can become compromised – especially toward the end of the academic term – and implement strategies to assist with combating that moment.

    Maaly: The end of semester burnout is real, and it hits both of us, teachers and students. As graduate teaching assistants, we experience it both ways as teachers and students as well given our unique positions. I tend to think of the ways that I would like to be supported as a student. As such, I encourage my students to take mental health days. I also talk to them about how managing stress is a big factor to end the semester peacefully and successfully. I tend to incorporate graded activities such as self-care, acts of kindness to help the students engage with themselves and others as well to stay motivated to learn and complete their final products. I also tend to incorporate fun extra credit activities to increase their motivation to complete school assignments. Students repeatedly reported on their evolution that these activities make them feel they are cared for as both humans and learners. I found that the key during this time of the semester is to demonstrate compassion and understanding along with providing the students with tools to combat the burnout.


    Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8(3), 425–429.

    Demir, M., Burton, S., & Dunbar, N. (2019). Professor–student rapport and perceived autonomy support as predictors of course and student outcomes. Teaching of Psychology, 46(1), 22-33.

    Flinchbaugh, C. L., Moore, E. W. G., Chang, Y. K., & May, D. R. (2012). Student well-being interventions: The effects of stress management techniques and gratitude journaling in the management education classroom. Journal of Management Education, 36(2), 191-219.

    Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Wynn, S. R. (2010). The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(4), 896-915.

    Patrick, B. C., Hisley, J., & Kempler, T. (2000). “What's everybody so excited about?”: The effects of teacher enthusiasm on student intrinsic motivation and vitality. The Journal of Experimental Education, 68(3), 217-236.

    Schriver, J. L., & Harr Kulynych, R. (2021). Do professor–student rapport and mattering predict college student outcomes? Teaching of Psychology.

  • 10 Nov 2021 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Maaly Younis and Kelly Cuccolo

    Mental health concerns can impede academic achievement, well-being, and quality of life. Mental health in higher education seems to be a topic of conversation, especially in the face of the disruptions and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, educators may be seeking ways to protect, or enhance the well-being of students, and even feelings of connectedness.  Gratitude may be one way that educators can achieve these aims. Gratitude involves bringing mindful attention to the positive aspects in one’s life (Emmons & Stern, 2013) cited in Biber (2020). Biber (2020) further discusses the benefits of implementing gratitude practices as part of the classroom environment as it serves different purposes such as increasing prosocial behavior, increasing positive social interactions between the students and raises the students’ cognitive and emotional awareness. Gratitude exercises have also been found to reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress and improve connectedness and engagement with others and school in general. Furthermore, gratitude is associated with students’ satisfaction with school and trust in their teachers (Biber, 2020).

    Teachers can implement gratitude exercises to help promote emotional regulation with their students, hone concentration, and emphasize social–emotional learning. Teachers can use the creation of a gratitude wall to instill gratitude in their students and promote emotional and social well-being. For example, expressions of gratitude from college professors have been positively associated with student engagement (e.g., attendance), connectedness, and well-being (e.g., happiness; Howell, 2014). Indeed, gratitude seems to be a relatively simple way to increase student engagement (Flinchbaugh et al., 2012). For instance, Flinchbaugh et al., (2012) had students complete a gratitude journal (listing up to five things students were thankful for in their lives) weekly before the start of the first class of the week. Zakrzewski (2013) provides a plethora of examples and activities for those looking to implement gratitude into their courses.

    *Adapted from Difficult Dialogues (Vanderbilt University). Other useful resources are available at Carleton College and Learning for Justice


    Biber, D. (2020). Social Emotional Learning for a College Classroom. College Teaching68(1), 49-52.

    Flinchbaugh, C. L., Moore, E. W. G., Chang, Y. K., & May, D. R. (2012). Student well-being interventions: The effects of stress management techniques and gratitude journaling in the management education classroom. Journal of Management Education, 36(2), 191-219.

    Howells, K. (2014). An exploration of the role of gratitude in enhancing teacher–student relationships. Teaching and Teacher Education, 42, 58-67.

    Zakrzewski, V. (2013). Gratitude Activities for the Classroom. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from

  • 04 Oct 2021 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by William Ridgeway, Laura Simon, and Kelly Cuccolo

    Teaching certain types of content, particularly content that might be personally meaningful to students, may spark unexpectedly difficult and personal questions and conversations. The conversations may be focused around race, gender, sexuality, or any element of a students’ personal identity. As such, it is important that before you even step into the classroom, you consider how these topics might resonate with your students and how these conversations will move you closer towards accomplishing your course learning goals.

    If having challenging and brave conversations is an important part of how you will accomplish your goals for the course, consider trying to make this clear in the syllabus and setting the tone appropriately on the first day of class - this might look like community building through icebreakers where students get to know each other, and having students taken ownership of what they want discussions to look like.

    It may also be beneficial to understand where students might be “coming from” with questions, insensitive comments, or becoming defensive/argumentative. For many, college is a new experience where their previously held beliefs are challenged or turned upside-down for the first time in their life, possibly creating cognitive dissonance. Other students simply may not understand that what they said or did was inappropriate. This is an opportunity for you as the instructor to help scaffold the way they reflect on what was said or done. Not everyone in your classes will be prepared or have the skills to navigate uncomfortable experiences, so it may be your job to help create a space where learning and growth is prioritized (because everyone is human and makes mistakes).

    In the moment, when conversations become charged, you might remind students to take a breath and a moment to attempt to understand the other person’s perspective before responding. Another strategy is to have students take a moment to journal or do a quick write about their feelings before continuing with the discussion. For additional strategies, please visit the September GSTA Corner,

    Despite the best possible preparation, you could ever do as an instructor, there will always be unexpected moments, questions, or events that were unavoidable or unanticipated. These events are not a poor reflection of your preparedness, but the very nature of teaching. In the moments where something unexpected happens, take a moment to collect yourself or formulate a response, utilize your training, and proceed with the knowledge you have gained throughout your education. It may be beneficial to reflect following the question or event on what went well or what could have been improved. At the very least, you will get an interesting story out of the experience and it will help you be more prepared in the future.

    *All information adapted from:

    Some great resources:

  • 03 Sep 2021 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Laura Simon, William Ridgway, Madeline Bruce, and Adam Green

    Classroom Discussion and Attention Seekers

    In The College Classroom: Conflict, Change, and Learning, Mann et al. (1970) discuss eight student classifications: compliant, anxious-dependent, discouraged worker, independent, hero, silent student, sniper, and attention seeker. Various needs underlie each classification, resulting in different approaches when it comes to classroom management. For example, consider the attention seeker — an individual who will continually try to be noticed, suggesting a cooperative orientation. When it comes to classroom discussion, attention seekers are appreciated for their ability to help keep the discussion going; however, the role of attention seekers can stand in the way of other students’ chances to participate in the discussion. In approaching such a dilemma, Svinicki and McKeachie (2014) recommend conveying to the class the importance associated with each student’s unique perspective. Instructors can also ensure that each student has had the chance to speak when calling on different individuals raising their hand to participate. In cases where the instructor is still experiencing an issue, a conversation can occur outside the classroom. While these conversations can be approached using different methods, certain comments can be beneficial in allowing for the instructor and attention seeker to be viewed as collaborators, such as “The other students are starting to depend on you to do all the work, so let’s make them speak up more” (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2014, p. 178).

    Prevention is Key!

         Ground rules: syllabus and first day. Firm but fair. Transparency and clear expectations

         Awareness of your environment: classroom sizes influencing how an instructor responds (structure of the course - sizes of classes and discussion; knowing exits for emergency)

         Creating a space

         Be aware of department and university policies

         Have a mentor: try to learn from their experiences, address the groundwork that is being laid before a problem arises.

         Heterodox Academy provides a sample syllabus statement to establish ground rules for difficult conversations

         To create a classroom environment that supports respectful, critical inquiry through the free exchange of ideas, the following principles will guide interactions among all of us in this class:

         Treat every member of the class with respect, even if you disagree with their opinion

         Reasonable minds can differ on any number of perspectives, opinions, and conclusions

         Know that constructive disagreement sharpens thinking and deepens understanding

         You will not be graded on whether your instructor or peers agree with your opinions

         You will be graded on the evidence and reasoning that leads to those opinions

         These principles guide the following expectations:

         Sharing diverse perspectives, informed by critical thought and presented with compassion for others, is highly encouraged.

         Respecting those who are sharing information and ideas. This includes actively listening to what others are saying and supporting each other by contributing to discussions.”

    In the Moment

    At some point in the semester, there will be a situation that you were not able to prevent or anticipate. Having situations is normal, how you react to it is what is important.

         Use your resources

         Do not hesitate to call your university’s classroom assistance, maintenance, IT, etc. as soon as possible.

         While being true to yourself and your communication style, you can appropriately use humor or exert an authoritative presence.

         Moderate the discussion

         Remind students of ground rules.

         Remain calm and model appropriate behavior.

         Allowing all students the opportunity to have a voice.

         Validate students’ emotions.

         Reframe or de-escalate to the best of your abilities.

         Being the authority in the room may be a new role for you but take comfort in knowing you can step up to the challenge.

         You are probably going to get uncomfortable questions at some point (whether it is about the content or classroom expectations, etc.). It is okay to say you do not know, research the question, and come back with information. This models a humility and tenacity that will help our students.

         If necessary, address the issue, whether that is directly or indirectly. "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" -Elie Wiesel.

    After the Fact

         Address the problem with your supervisor as soon as possible.

         Be sure to make incident documentation if appropriate. Depending on the situation, it can be very important to create a paper trail with a detailed report of what happened.

         Re-state ground rules and review expectations the next day.

         Take care of yourself! Classroom management can be stressful, be sure to use your support systems and coping skills.


    Mann, R. D., Arnold, S. M., Binder, J. L., Cytrynbaum, S., Newman, B. M., Ringwald, B. E., Ringwald, J. W., & Rosenwein, R. (1970). The college classroom: Conflict, change, and learning. Wiley.

    Svinicki, M., & McKeachie, W. (2014). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Cengage.

    GSTA News

    Congratulations to GSTA Steering Committee member Madeline Bruce for proposing her dissertation with distinction this summer.

  • 10 Aug 2021 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Adam Green & Maaly Younis

    Teaching a course is a great responsibility. You have the privilege of introducing your students to a part of psychology for the first time. They depend on you as a source of accurate, complete, and clearly presented knowledge. Designing a course is no small task and can even seem overwhelming at times. We recommend starting with broad goals, which you can use to build your course around. The way you design your course and its syllabus should help you accomplish your goals. For example, the way you assign points to tests versus activities reflects on the goals you prioritize (i.e.assessment of knowledge gained versus student engagement).

    What should you include in a course?

         Take the viewpoint of a student: what type of activities are useful and stimulating to you? Which simply seems to be busy work? (e.g., applying social psychological concepts to commercials versus comprehension quizzes on book chapters.)

         From a teacher’s perspective, can you use these stimulating activities to evaluate their learning? If yes, fit as many into your course as possible! If no, still include them, just also include enough other ways to measure their learning.

         The goal of education is to induce learning. Learning is best accomplished through engagement with relevant material, preferably presented in an interesting way.

         Completeness versus thoroughness: we have a limited number of weeks (usually about 10 or 15) to teach an entire field within psychology. We can neither teach every topic within our field, nor can we be perfectly exhaustive when discussing any given concept. What we can do instead is to provide sufficient information and motivation for students to begin their own exploration of the field, both during and after your course.

         To aid you, select a textbook (should you use one) which presents a full breadth of information in ways which engage students by providing applicable examples of concepts in the real world. Keep the cost of the book in mind as well!

    What does a good syllabus contain?

         Within your syllabus, clearly state your expectations for the course. Your syllabus is your vision for the class, and should be treated as your promise to the students (barring unexpected occurrences, which seem to be so common these days!).

         Your syllabus is a resource for your students. A large majority of questions which may come up during the course of a class should be clearly answered in the syllabus, which you can kindly direct your students to when they inevitably ask them, anyway.

         Include information on your contact information, the textbook, office location/hours, grading policy, student learning outcomes, behavioral expectations (including academic honesty), a timeline of the course, along with mandated important material such as disability policy.

    Beyond the Syllabus:

         You, as the instructor, are the leader of a class. This means you have a great deal of power in determining the tone of the class. Be positive, supportive, and engaging. Your students are likely to follow suit!

         As is intuitive for anyone who has been a student (i.e., all of us!), the enthusiasm the instructor shows for the subject matter is key in engaging students.

         If you can add to this by encouraging students to get involved with the material through experiencing engaging activities in class, participating in research through a research lab, or just exploring on their own for curiosity’s sake, you have succeeded as an educator by enabling both present and future intellectual development.

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