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

Chelsea Robertson: I'm a member of STP and this is how I teach

16 Nov 2022 9:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School name: West Liberty University 


Type of school: Public 4-year university with about 2,000 students


School locale (including state and country): West Liberty, West Virginia, United States


How many years have you taught psychology? I began teaching one credit hour statistics labs as a graduate student in 2018, I’ve been teaching full time since Fall 2021.  


Classes you teach: I mostly teach research methods, statistics, intro psychology, and various developmental psychology courses.


Specialization (if applicable): e.g. clinical, cognitive, teaching, etc. My educational background is in translational experimental psychology with a focus on developmental psychology. Within the past few years my focus has expanded to include the scholarship of teaching and learning. 


Average class size: About 15-20 students.


What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? There will always be things that need to get done. You cannot do everything all at once all the time. You need to be a human, too! 


What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? I read “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto” by Kevin Gannon a few years ago and one quote has stuck with me since: “Teaching is a radical act of hope. It is an assertion of faith in a better future in an increasingly uncertain and fraught present.” In this profession I think it is easy to get hung up on the hundreds of tasks we have to balance every day. On more challenging days I sometimes have to remind myself why I’m doing this and what is truly important. I teach because I have hope for a better future and I know my students will go on to do great things. 


Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  This question is always a challenge! I think I have a tie. I recently got to create and teach a special topics course titled Early Adversity and Resilience, which is one of my primary research interests. Both semesters I taught it, students engaged in such thoughtful discussion. They were able to make connections to many other courses they have taken and how they can use the course information in their post-graduation lives. I also love teaching statistics. Students usually have a lot of anxiety about taking the course and I enjoy seeing students’ confidence grow once they realize that they can become “math people” too. 


Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  This semester I’m working with my statistics students on semester-long research projects where they will design a study, obtain IRB approval, analyze data, and present it to the faculty and students in the psychology department. This is the first time I’ve done this assignment, but I think it will become a favorite!  


What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I try to build in a lot of scaffolding into my classes and that seems to fit my teaching style well. I like to ask my students lots of questions to guide their thinking. In skill-focused classes, like statistics, I use a lot of the gradual release of responsibility framework (“I do, we do, you do”) in my lectures. 


What’s your workspace like? My office is small, but I love it. Fluorescent lights aren’t my favorite, so I usually rely on natural sunlight and a lamp for lighting. I’m a pretty organized person, but I usually have a lot of notes, to-do lists, books, and a dozen other things on my desk by the end of the day. 


Three words that best describe your teaching style. Reflective, empathetic, and authentic.


What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Your students have to know you care.


Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. About one week into my first semester being a “real professor”, I was giving my first lecture in an intro psychology course. We were discussing how psychology has a lot of myths, including that we only use 10% of our brains and how very intelligent people, like Albert Einstein, are thought to use more of theirs. I explained that one theory regarding Einstein’s intelligence was that he had structural differences in his brain, like having more melanin. I meant myelin, of course, but didn’t realize my mistake until I had said it a couple of times and my students had very confused looks on their faces. I laughed it off and said something to the effect of, “Well, that’s definitely not what I meant. Let’s try that again!” It wasn’t the most embarrassing thing that could have happened, and think I recovered well, but I felt like hiding under a rock the rest of the day!


What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? I love being able to get to know my students and see them grow over the course of a semester, both academically and personally. I am lucky in my current position to have many of our students over multiple semesters, so I get to know them pretty well by the time they graduate. 


What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I think my students would be most surprised to learn I dreaded taking intro psychology as an early undergraduate student. I was an English major and didn’t see how that course would benefit me. Two months into the class I changed my major to psychology!


What are you currently reading for pleasure? I just started reading Lunatic: The Rise and Fall of an American Asylum by Edward S. Gleason. 


What tech tool could you not live without? I love using the program JASP in my statistics courses. It’s open source and so user friendly. 


What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Our department is small and our offices are close together, so we’re always talking to each other! We go to each other for advice and encouragement or just to talk about how our classes are going, how our families are doing, or our weekend plans.


Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes) I admittedly did not have much teaching experience prior to the height of the pandemic, but I have noticed some changes in my teaching. I find myself thinking more about my students’ wellbeing and what things they face outside of the classroom, both good and bad. I also intentionally build in more opportunities for my students to interact with each other. I missed being a part of those interactions as a teacher, but I think, in general, my students crave the social aspect of learning. I am also more aware of how important it is to be flexible! 

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