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

Kevin Apple: I'm a member of STP and this is how I teach

21 Oct 2022 1:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School name: James Madison University

Type of school: Public university with 20,0070 undergraduate and 2,096 graduate students.

School locale (including state and country): Harrisonburg, VA USA

How many years have you taught psychology? 26 years

Classes you teach:   Currently, I am teaching two courses:  1) Psychological Statistics and Measurement and 2) Learning Strategies. The Learning Strategies class is designed for students facing academic suspension. Other courses I have taught in the past include General Psychology, Psychological Research Methods, Social Psychology, Senior Seminar on the Psychology of the Holocaust, and a few graduate level classes.

Specialization (if applicable): e.g. clinical, cognitive, teaching, etc. Social Psychology

Average class size: 25

What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?

I am going to share two pieces of advice. First, the best piece of advice is to have fun while teaching. If I enjoy sharing information about a topic; hopefully the students can also enjoy thinking about it.

Second, a faculty mentor once advised me to trust my students. When I started teaching, I was suspicious of my students assuming they would try to take advantage of me. According to my mentor, consistently being suspicious of my students harms the classroom environment. Although I trust my students, I still take steps to reinforce academic integrity.

What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?

Just in Time Teaching:  Blending Active Learning with Web Technology by Novack, Patterson, Gavrin, and Christian. 

Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.

This is a hard question!  Typically, my favorite course is whatever class I am currently teaching. I enjoy making psychology relevant for my students. As a social psychologist, some of my favorite classes focus on how the power of the situation can cause people to behave in unexpected ways.

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

For my statistics students, I enjoy exploring a data set from a published study. I hope the practice of using data from actual studies help students understand the relevance of statistics for the field of psychology.

What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

I use different techniques for different classes. Overall, my main technique is lecture and discussion. My students can contribute to the lecture via in-class discussions, demonstrations, or pre-class questions.

What’s your workspace like? 

My desk is a bit messy!  I have a standing desk, but I rarely use it.   

Three words that best describe your teaching style.

Energetic, Informative, and Empathetic.

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

Motivate my students to engage with course material.

Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation.

I was teaching a General Psychology class to approximately 300 students. As I walked past the podium, my pants brushed across a sharp edge and my pants ripped exposing most of my leg. Thankfully, there was tape in the classroom. I quickly taped up my pants, made a joke, and then continued on with the class.

What about teaching do you find most enjoyable?

This is an easy question!  I like learning from my students. As I get older, it gets harder for me to relate to my students. By hearing about their opinions and experiences, I gain insights into life as a student in today’s society.

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

As a teenager, I was a magician. I used to do magic at children’s birthday parties. I also conducted a few magic workshops at a local library.

What are you currently reading for pleasure?

I just finished Upgrade by Blake Crouch.

What tech tool could you not live without?

My smart phone is probably my most critical tool. It allows me to keep up on emails and helps me stay on track for my various meetings.

Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes)  

Since the pandemic begun, much of our conversations have been focused on how the students are changing. After taking so many online classes, some students appear to have difficulty adjusting to the social and academic aspects of in-person classes.

PSYCHSESSIONS LINK: In this episode Eric interviews Kevin Apple from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. Kevin serves as department chair, and he clearly sees how important the chair is to providing vital services to constituents. The institutional innovation of Assessment Day allows Kevin and the department to leverage assessment in a meaningful way to 'close the loop' and inform changes which lead to measured student outcomes.


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