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

Karen Holmes - I'm a member of STP and this is how I teach

04 Aug 2023 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

School Name:      Norfolk State University

Type of School:     4-year Public Historically Black College/University (HBCU); NSU offers undergraduate, masters and doctoral degree programs.

School locale (including state and country):  Norfolk, Virginia, USA

How many years have you taught psychology?  I began teaching psychology as a graduate teaching assistant and have been teaching full-time since 2001.

Classes you teach:  Psychology Statistics, Experimental Psychology, Psychology Seminar (Senior Capstone); Quantitative Research Methods; Social Psychology

Specialization (if applicable): Social Psychology

Average class size:  30-35 students each semester

What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  I don’t think my mother would agree that this was necessarily sage advice, but she was speaking from the perspective of a burnt-out public school teacher. She advised me not to become a public school teacher and focus my attention on earning my doctorate with the goal of becoming a university professor. I took her advice.

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

The novel Plum Bun: A novel without a moral, by Jessie Redmon Fauset shaped my work as a psychology instructor because it helped me to develop my psychology courses using a project-based methodology; something that I had always wanted to do. I developed assignments using the text of the novel, to teach social psychological concepts.  Although Plum Bum was written in 1929, Fauset discussed many issues that remain relevant today.  I was able to create lecture discussions and class activities around the novel’s premise specifically, issues related to gender, racial inequality, self-identify, and many other social psychological topics.

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

My favorite course to teach is psychology statistics. I enjoy teaching this course because it was the course that I most dreaded as an undergraduate student.  Working through the anxiety of completing my first statistics course was an important step for me as an undergraduate, and I enjoy sharing my experiences and knowledge with my students.

Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.

I can’t pick just one.  I most enjoy project and problem-based activities that require students to apply the content knowledge that they have learned. Participating in these types of activities fosters the comprehension of the material at a higher cognitive level.

What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

I enjoy teaching using collaborative activities, demonstrations, and storytelling as a way to engage students with the course material.

What’s your work space like?  In addition to being a Professor, I am also the Department Chair; therefore, I have the largest office in the department. My office has a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows and a large desk that has built-in shelves, a bookcase, and file drawers.  It is very nice!

Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Three words that describe my teaching style are student-centered, collaborative, and problem-based.  However, I am a firm believer that no one teaching strategy will reach all students all of the time.  I regularly augment my teaching approach to reach the students that I am teaching at the time.

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?  

Maintaining high standards in a supportive learning environment.

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

Early in my career, I primarily used publisher developed test bank questions to create my exams.  I did just that for my statistics class’s first exam.  I passed out the papers and approximately 5 minutes into the exam, a student came to my desk to inform me that the correct answers for each item were highlighted! The highlighting was faint but noticeable. I was mortified.  I thanked the student for her honesty and quickly notified the class that the exam was over.  I now write my own exams.

What about teaching do you find most enjoyable?

I enjoy seeing students achieve their “light bulb moment” when they finally grasp a concept that they have struggled with for weeks. 

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

My students would be surprised to know that I continued to teach both online and in-person courses while undergoing daily dialysis for 3.5 years.  I also worked the morning of my kidney transplant surgery.

What are you currently reading for pleasure?  I must say that I have not done much pleasure reading as of late. Most of my reading has been work-related.  However, the last book that I read was Wild Rain, an African American historical romance novel written by Beverly Jenkins.  I especially enjoyed reading this book because the subtext of the novel includes (as do many of her novels) aspects of African American history that we are not taught in school.

What tech tool could you not live without?  Zoom.  Although we are post-COVID, I still conduct most of my meetings using this platform.

What is your hallway chatter like?  What do you talk to colleagues about most (Whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?

Office chatter has been pretty much non-existent since COVID. However, if I have to pick one thing that I commiserate with colleagues about it would have to be how to best engage students in learning how to write using proper APA style.   

Has your teaching changed because of the COVID 19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/ or negative changes).

Since COVID, I have had to be more lenient with deadlines.  I have also had to allow more grace and flexibility as it relates to assignment submissions. Often allowing students to resubmit after receiving feedback.





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