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

Lisa Cravens-Brown: I'm a member of STP, and This is How I Teach

12 Oct 2015 2:06 PM | Anonymous

School: The Ohio State University

 Type of college/university: 4-year, land-grant, large university

School locale: City – Columbus is the capital city of Ohio (about 822,000 people)

Classes you teach
Human Sexuality, Adolescent Sexuality, Abnormal Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics/Data Analysis, Delinquency, Psychology of Gender, occasionally Health Psychology – most of my classes have 80-120 people enrolled, so
these are generally LARGE classes

What's the best advice about teaching you've ever received?
Hmmm…I didn’t really get a lot of teaching mentorship as I developed.  I mostly tried to emulate the most influential instructors I had.  One important thing I learned from watching them was to be passionate about the content of the course and teaching.  A good teacher’s passion for the subject can overcome any reticence a student has about taking the course.

What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
I simply love every edition of the Teaching of Psychology journal.  I learn so much about what others are doing around the world in their classrooms & I get so many ideas that I want to try in my own.

Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Oh, goodness, I love all my courses.  I love to teach data analysis because it is a subject that most students dread taking and I like the challenge of getting them to see that it can be a really enjoyable, interesting class.  I also really like seeing students in that course think they can’t do it at first, but then find out that they can & have these great success experiences.

 The human sexuality course is definitely the most fun and “easy” course for me to teach.  Though it is a very personal and difficult topic for many people to talk about, my method of coping with difficult emotions is to use humor, so that class is full of fun and laughter.  It is also an elective course, so students are taking it because they want to and not because they have to. 


What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? (quizzes? homework? take home exams?)
I’m really working on “hybridizing” most of my courses.  I would like to move away from lecturing “at” them for every class meeting and having a real combination of discussion, activities, and lecture.  In most of my advanced classes, I have them take their quiz/test on the reading material before we ever discuss it & then I give them 5 or so minutes at the beginning of class to re-acquaint themselves with the reading, so that we can have a good discussion, rather than only 3 or 4 people out of the 80-100 present participating.  Starting this term, OSU has site-licensed a classroom response software package that’s making it possible for everyone to participate in discussions and polls, which I think is helping with the discussion aspect.

What's your workspace like?
Ha!  My desk is always a mess.  I clean it every single term as soon as I finish sending the last of my grades to the registrar – it is a ritual of mine.  Every single term, I say that the next term will be the one where I keep my desk clean all the time, but that has yet to happen!

My office is decorated to the hilt – I spend the majority of my awake hours in that space, so I want it to be a reflection of me and the things that are important to me.  I have a lot of OSU Buckeye paraphernalia and pictures around the office, many pictures of my family, posters from theatrical productions of which I’ve been a part, and a lot of plants in the window (including orchids and African violets which are often blooming).  The top shelf of my desk is decorated with Thank You cards from students – there must be 200 up there now.  I keep meaning to go through them and make more room up there, but every time I take one down and read it, I remember the student who wrote it & I’m unwilling to part with it.  Maybe I need a bigger shelf!

Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Enthusiastic, Engaged , Entertaining

What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

Hook them with what I love about psychology.

Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you've had.
I haven’t really had any major disasters, but I tend to have a lot of technical hitches – I am very dramatic in my presentation, so I’ll give this big hype on how fantastic this next video clip will be & then we all have to wait around for 5 minutes because I can’t get my link to work, or the computer has timed out, or some other snafu.  I also teach my honors data analysis class in computer lab with a Smart Board and I have started telling my students at the beginning of the term that the room and I have a love-hate relationship because I can only get that thing to work for me about 50% of the time.

Also, I have a strong fear of turning around to write on the board in classes because I am paranoid that my pants will have split open without my knowing, or I will have chalk all over my derrière and I will be the only one who doesn’t know about it.  None of this has ever happened yet, but it is still on my mind every time I write on the board – thank goodness for Power Point saving me from doing that very often!

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m actually a bit socially anxious and I am not quite as strongly extroverted as I appear.  I get really nervous going into new social situations and I also need a lot of quiet recharge time to be as energetic as I am in classes and with students.

What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I’m just finishing The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty and I’ve decided once I finish that, I’m going to re-read the Harry Potter series.  It’s been a few years and I miss that magical world.

What tech tool could you not live without?
For teaching – powerpoint, my remote clicker/laser pointer, YouTube

Personally – I am attached to my smart phone in a very enmeshed fashion – I absolutely love it & really like that I can Google anything I want no matter where I am

What's your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
It depends on the season – my next door office neighbor is also a big football fan, so we talk football in autumn – but she is also really interested in women’s studies and gender/sexuality issues, so we talk about politics, feminism, and other things in that arena year-round.

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