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

"This is How I Teach" Blog

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Teaching shouldn't be a private activity, but often it turns out that way. We don't get to see inside each others' classrooms, even though we'd probably benefit if only we could! In order to help Make Teaching Visible, we've introduced this blog, called "This is How I Teach." We will be featuring the voices of STP members twice a month. Psychology teachers will tell us about how they teach and what kinds of people they are -- both inside and outside the classroom. 

Are you interested in sharing your secret teaching life with STP?

We’d love to hear from you!  To get started, send your name, institution, and answers to the questions below to the following email:  

  1. Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
  2. What are three words that best describe your teaching style?
  3. What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

"This is How I Teach" edited by: Mindy J. Erchull, Editor (University of Mary Washington); Jill M. Swirsky, Associate Editor (Holy Family University); Victoria Symons Cross, Associate Editor (University of California, Davis); and Lora L. Erickson, Associate Editor (The Chicago School)

  • Emeritus Editors: Rob McEntarffer
  • Emeritus Associate Editors: Virginia Wickline
  • 21 Jun 2020 12:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Avila University

    Type of school: Small, private liberal-arts university

    School locale: Kansas City, MO

    Classes you teach: Research Methods & Statistics, Cognitive Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, and Senior Seminar, along with my research lab. I’ve also taught special topics courses on scientific thinking and metascience in psychology.

    Average class size: 15

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  Probably the best advice I’ve received in my entire life: “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the possible.” My PhD advisor taught me this and it’s so true – especially right now -- having to adapt to a new format and trying to fight the urge for everything to go perfectly. First, perfect is not a thing that exists in education, and second, the desire to approach perfection can keep you from taking risks and trying new things.

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire. I am re-reading it right now with our current situation; even though it was first published in the 1970s, the concepts have never been more timely.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  My favorite lecture topic *right now* is experimental methodology. With all the questions around possible treatments for COVID-19 (including “remedies” being promoted by folks like Jim Bakker), understanding the benefits of randomized controlled trials – as well as why we have to wait for them to be completed and potential dangers if we don’t -- is so important. The story of Thalidomide’s failure to be approved by the FDA to treat morning sickness is a very good cautionary tale here.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  Right now, my favorite thing to do is include a question on EVERY assignment for a couple of points of extra credit that just asks students to tell me how they’re doing. If they don’t want to answer, they can say “pass” and still get the credit. It’s allowed me to connect folks to resources and also extend some grace on assignments without them having to ask.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? Now that I’m at home, working my cats into my lectures has been essential… Especially since the cats leave me little choice.

    What’s your workspace like? Normally, my office is small, and clearly defined with things like doors and windows. Right now, my workspace is a hypothetical construct that is impossible to measure even indirectly.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  My “Pandemic response”: Flexible, encouraging, and understanding.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? My COVID-19 teaching philosophy is “Make it work”. Thanks Tim Gunn!

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I embrace embarrassment and bounce back pretty easily. See:

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? That I pretended to be hypnotized by The Amazing Kreskin on New Year’s Eve in Times Square in 2007 and it aired on Fox News. There are multiple pieces here that are orthogonal to so many of my values.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez and about five other books that I’ve started and haven’t decided if I’m going to finish. I’m also reading this super cheesy YA sci fi novel but honestly I can’t remember the title OR the author and it’s all the way on the other side of my house so you’ll just have to live in suspense.

    What tech tool could you not live without? Instacart. But you probably meant about teaching, so let’s say … nope, still Instacart.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? The hallways are pretty empty right now, but we’ve pretty good about texting each other general encouragement and funny memes. When school’s in-person, we talk about pretty much everything. The area between my office and my two colleagues across the hall has been affectionately nicknamed “the vortex” because if the three of us are in, you WILL be sucked into a conversation about… something.

  • 05 Jun 2020 3:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Eureka College

    Type of school: Small liberal arts college (undergrad only)

    School locale: Eureka, Illinois

    Classes you teach: Oh, I teach a ton: General/Intro Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Human Memory, Sensation & Perception, Learning Psychology, Social Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Research Methods, Health Psychology, Biological Psychology, & History of Psychology

    Average class size: about 25 (range is usually 15-35)

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

    I think the best advice I have received is something along the lines of being yourself and being enthusiastic about the topic. The reason I teach so many courses is because I am really into each of those topics, and so my enthusiasm is a part of my approach, which is me being me. This carries over to my students, who are quite a bit more engaged when I’m animated and goofy. This is helping me a ton during the distance education/COVID pandemic, because I can just geek/nerd out on some of my favorite topics and still keep folks engaged hundreds of miles away.

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

    I don’t think there is a book or article. I think my answer to this question is the Society itself. Being a part of STP has shaped my teaching considerably in the past several years. The brilliance and dedication of so many awesome teachers in this group makes me want to be a better one.

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

    My favorite course to teach is Cognitive Psychology, as it is my specialization. Every class I get to share with students how their minds work, and importantly apply it to their daily lives. Why do we miss little details in our environments? We don’t have the capacity for such nuance if it doesn’t impact our survival! Little things like this are crucial for explaining the black box of cognition has relevance to everyone and their daily experiences.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    In General Psych, I play a variation of Let’s Make a Deal with my students. I ask them to wear costumes per the original idea of the game, and we go through the Monty Hall problem several times. I use this class activity to illustrate event probabilities are usually connected, but also there’s no sense in sticking to your first gut intuition if it’s going to be wrong! 

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I generally use a combination of lecture and active learning strategies. Each class I try to have some direct action performed by students, whether it be a demo (just yesterday I tried to get my distance students to try an echo location task and said they should put it on social media), or a scale, or a group chat.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My current distance learning workspace is my basement office. I have a long desk/table that fits two monitors. Behind me is a large piece of carboard with a green screen sheet draped over it. My mic for livestream classes is a Blue Yeti connected to a shock mount and boom arm (this was mainly created for my podcast).

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Jokes, trivia, animated

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Trust me, psychology is a fun science!

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

    To apply this to our current online education struggles during a pandemic, I was embarrassed the other day when online trolls found my public stream on Twitch and began to harass me and my class in the chat. I had to pause mid-discussion to deal with a minutes-long onslaught, using my moderation tools to ban them. I was able to learn from this event, though. Twitch features followers-only chat, so that helps mitigate the threat. The stream is public, but chat requires a few extra steps. It is similar to the stories I hear about Zoombombing—I wish my friends and colleagues the best of luck in their online teaching endeavors!

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

    That I didn’t start out as a psychology major in college. I tell this to some students if they ask about my academic journey, but most students don’t actually know this.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I currently can’t read for pleasure. I watch things for pleasure. Lots of TV, movies, and YouTube.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Adobe CC. It fuels my hobby, podcasting, and it is currently my online teaching lifeline (e.g., Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Audition).

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

    Mostly random things; family/home life; vacation plans; search committees and progress.

  • 27 May 2020 9:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Oregon State University

    Type of school: 4-year university

    School locale: Corvallis, Oregon

    Classes you teach: Quantitative Methods in Psychological Science, Research Methods, Intro Psych

    Average class size: 25 (online), 50 (in-person)

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? In my first ever workshop about teaching college, the facilitator said “What would it mean for a student to get a C in your course”. My naïve reply was that it would mean the student came to class every day. The facilitator challenged me to really think about what I wanted the students to experience in my class and how they would demonstrate their learning. That has always stuck with me when creating my courses or planning class periods.  

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? I’m currently reading “Radical Hope” by Dr. Kevin Gannon. I’m only two chapters in, but he has very eloquently captured my every emotion regarding teaching. I highly recommend it to folks.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  I’ve taught an incredible range of courses – I was a community college professor before I came back to school for my PhD. But truly the one I’ve enjoyed the most is online stats. The course is usually full of non-traditional students who have previously struggled with statistics. Connecting meaningfully with them and helping ease their anxiety and increase their mastery of the subject is incredibly fulfilling.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  My favorite approach to in-person or hybrid teaching is Interteaching. In this class format, students complete a “Preparation Guide” for their homework, which asks them to apply what they learn in the course readings to real-world situations. Then, in class, they spend most of the time co-teaching in small groups. Only 1/3 of each class period is dedicated to lecture, during which the instructor covers only what is requested by the students. This format has allowed me to engage more meaningfully with students and motivates their learning to a greater degree than other formats I’ve tried.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I’m a big fan of any strategies that engage students with the material, make it relevant to them, and encourage them to ask a lot of questions. I love to see them make connections between the material and their own lives or have an a-ha! moment where they’re able to achieve something they didn’t think was possible. 

    What’s your workspace like?  As a graduate student, my “work” desk is in a shared office space of 13 cubicles. Luckily, my desk is alone under a window and next to the coffee pot. My home office is complete chaos – a laptop connected to an extra monitor and books and papers everywhere. It’s a wonder I can even get any work done.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Flexible, compassionate, engaging

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? A pedagogy of “radical hope”: life-affirming and inclusive. (Credit to Kevin Gannon)

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. When I first started as an Assistant Professor at a community college in Florida, I was trying to embrace the “flipped classroom”. As part of this, students were required to come to class with their notes prepared and I would take attendance by visiting each student at the start of class. One day, some students arrived late and so I didn’t grade them (per the class policy). The student interrupted me during lecture some time later to ask why, I explained the class policy, and he stood up and yelled a bunch of profanities at me and left the classroom. I was stunned. I actually excused myself to go cry in my office for about 10 minutes. Then I returned to class and kept teaching. I think about that experience a lot.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? My students would probably be surprised to learn I quit my first PhD program. I went straight out of undergrad and it was a terrible fit for me. I left after 4 years to pursue teaching.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I am part of a book club with some of my friends. We just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow”. It took me 125 pages to get into, but it turned out to be an absolutely delightful story with a few good life lessons peppered in.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My “Happy Light”! Probably not the type of answer you were looking for but the PNW gets a bit dreary and I’m originally from Florida. My happy light helps keep me sane (plus my Vitamin D supplements) during the winters and soggy springs in Oregon.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Hallway chatter usually involves me trying to convince all the other graduate students how important teaching is and why they should love it as much as I do!

    PSYCHSESSIONS UPDATE: Listen to Raechel talk with Eric about starting her dissertation and her love of teaching during this great PsychSessions podcast!


  • 08 May 2020 9:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Central Missouri

    Type of school: Public four-year university with Master’s programs

    School locale: Warrensburg, MO, about 50 miles southeast of Kansas City metro area

    Classes you teach: General Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Advanced Statistics (graduate)

    Average class size: This is a case where reporting the mean would be misleading due to variability! General Psychology 30-60, Cognitive Psychology about 25, Advanced Statistics 8-12.

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

    During my first year of full-time teaching, a couple of colleagues invited me to go to a workshop led by the author of our Intro textbook, a guy named Doug Bernstein. Doug suggested something that has stuck with me for the ensuing 30 years. He advised us to do something fun in every class meeting. He shared a number of activities as examples, some of which I have used, but the important thing to me was to make teaching a fun experience. I think about Doug’s advice every time I’m planning a class, whether face to face or online.

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

    I can’t point to one particular book or article. I run across numerous cool ideas in journals such as Teaching of Psychology. Instead of one particular book, I’m going to say that Steven Pinker’s writing has been a big influence on me. Books including The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works made me think about how the topics in our discipline cut across textbook chapters. He presents ideas in an interesting, thoughtful, and sometimes provocative way. I’m no Steven Pinker, but the way he communicates makes me think that we can engage students and get them excited about our field.

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

    My favorite course to teach is General Psychology (Intro Psych). I enjoy introducing students to the field. It’s fun to be able to pick a few interesting concepts from different areas and help students appreciate the relevance to their lives. I like the opportunity to change how students perceive the world.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    For online courses, I like to use SoftChalk Lessons. I think about what I want students to learn, then I create pages in SoftChalk that are a combination of text, video clips, links, and review or reflection questions. These lessons are available asynchronously. I give students multiple opportunities so that they can get more points if they don’t get them all the first time through. I want all students to have the opportunity to be successful…if they are willing to put in the effort.

    My favorite FTF activity is a demonstration of a neural circuit. It involves three rows of students, who simulate the neurons, and some running around by me.  The neural circuit is something I learned about from one of my graduate school professors, Dennis McFadden, who was an excellent teacher. It’s a circuit that localizes the direction of a sound, so the activity is appropriate for either for the Bio or Sensation & Perception chapters. I have run across examples of really cool activities in which students act out the process of neurons sending messages. But I want students to understand that neurons working together can actually do things, the kinds of things that we’re interested in understanding. If a circuit of 30 neurons can localize a sound, what can billions of them do? If anyone is interested, there’s an article in Teaching of Psychology about this activity.

    Kreiner, D.S. (2012). An activity for demonstrating the concept of a neural circuit. Teaching of Psychology, 39, 209-212.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    This semester, after unexpectedly taking on a section of General Psychology, I decided to try something a little different. Instead of organizing the class by content area (basically chapter subheadings), I organized each class meeting around interesting phenomena and then connected to whatever concepts (for that chapter) were relevant. For example: let’s look at this illusion; now, what concepts about sensation and perception does that help us understand?

    With the transition to all-online teaching due to the COVID-19 situation, I am using the same organizational style with online lessons. I had already been using SoftChalk for my online Cognitive Psychology course. So, for the last week or two I have been creating SoftChalk lessons for General Psychology, organizing them the same way I did for face to face meetings. It makes me enthusiastic about approaching each lesson. I hope that enthusiasm will come across to my newly online students.

    I like to use face to face class time for activities and group work. Any of these types of activities could be done online. For Sensation & Perception, I moved to using class time mainly for small group activities followed by discussion. Students read and take a quiz before class so that they are prepared to apply what they learn. I later found out this was called a flipped classroom.

    I did something similar when I started teaching our capstone course, History of Psychology. I didn’t want to validate the mistaken idea that history is boring, so I had students work together to apply what they had learned in various Psychology courses in the context of historical issues. For example: after watching video of the Little Albert study, apply your knowledge of Developmental Psychology to evaluate Albert’s behavior.  Sadly, I haven’t been teaching History of Psychology or Sensation & Perception in recent years due to my administrative duties.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    My situation is a bit unusual as I am chair of an academic unit (called a School) that includes several disciplines and is geographically separated across two campus buildings. I have an office in each building. Each office is set up with a monitor and docking station. I use electronic documents as much as possible to reduce the clutter. As I write this, I am now working from home due to the COVID-19 situation. My reliance on electronic documents has made this transition a little easier. I do not have a home office as I normally leave work at the office as much as possible.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    I can hear my young son watching Dr. Seuss videos and as a result the three words that immediately come to mind are: “stink, stank, stunk.” I hope those are not the right ones.

    These three words are more aspirational: focused, flexible, fun.

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    It’s all about what the students learn.

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

    In the early days of using PowerPoint, when our classrooms did not yet have digital projectors, we had a cart set up with a projector and laptop. It was so cutting edge! I was all prepared for the first day of a summer statistics course. I rolled the cart into the classroom and plugged it in. Then it started smoking. I unplugged it and had a moment of panic about how I would teach. As the smoke cleared, I remembered that I had taught statistics for years without using a projector at all. It was a good reminder not to be too reliant on slides or any particular technology.

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

    That there is a ton of stuff I don’t know. I think there is a perception that I know how to do a lot of things. But that is an error of attribution. When I’m able to solve a problem or answer a question, it’s almost always because other people are helping me. I am not at all ashamed of that, as I think it’s just as good to know who to ask for help as it is to know how to do it myself.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I recently read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. I like stories about people, which is the same reason I was happy to teach History of Psychology. I just started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. I also read an essay every now and then from David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. It’s a nice stress reliever. I am not one of those people who is constantly reading something, but lately I am doing more leisure reading as a coping method for being cooped up at home.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Dropbox changed my life. I know pretty much everyone uses a cloud service now, but when I started using Dropbox everything changed for me in terms of what I could access and where. It doesn’t have to be Dropbox specifically, but if the cloud “evaporated,” it would be a big problem for me.

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

    As we were leading up to the change to working remotely, much of the hallway talk (from six feet away) was speculation about what would happen and how we would deal with the changes.

    Generally, I find that the type of conversation differs across different colleagues. It may be following up on something, such as asking how something turned out or whether we resolved a problem. Often, it’s mutual support and humor. It will be interesting to observe how informal communication changes now that we are handling everything remotely.

    Psychsessions Update: Listen to Eric's interview with David about his path toward teaching psychology and his current leadership roles (Chair of the School of Nutrition, Kinesiology, and Psychological Science!)


  • 24 Apr 2020 12:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Centre College

    Type of school: SLAC (small liberal arts college)

    School locale: Danville, KY

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience, Sensation & Perception, Human Neuropsychology

    Average class size: 15

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?  Take 15 min. after each class (or as soon as possible) to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to change for the next time you teach the class. Keeping a “pedagogy log” or teaching notes has been a lifesaver!

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? Oh, so many! Make it Stick by Mark McDaniel & Peter Brown has had a lasting impact on my teaching. I started giving low-stakes pre-class quizzes over the reading, and my classes suddenly went from mostly lecturing to dynamic, interactive discussions. The students were more prepared, aware of what topics they needed more information on, and curious about other issues that had piqued their interest. I’m now trying mastery-based grading, where the students have the option to re-do assignments to demonstrate their mastery of a topic. I hope this method will alleviate the frustration that comes from giving an exam and discovering that the students haven’t learned what you wanted to, and with no way to go back and correct their mistakes. Allowing them to correct their errors has been a lot more satisfying than having just to accept that they don’t know something and go on.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. Hands down, my favorite course to teach is Sensation and Perception. I tell my students that if they don’t leave class every day with their mind, just a little bit blown, then I haven’t done my job. It’s so much fun to reveal to students that what they perceive is only that which their sensory systems can provide. There are so many fun illusions and demonstrations to do in that class. Inevitably, students start sending me examples of illusions that they’ve discovered on their own. Often they are things I’ve not seen before, so I add them to my arsenal of “Stuff to blow your mind” examples. I teach it with a lab where they collect data on themselves, so they also learn more about statistics and data analysis. My course evaluations generally indicate that although they had learned about data analysis and statistics in their research methods class, they learned more from applying it in my class. That’s also very satisfying.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  I do a one-eye dark adaptation activity in my sensation & perception class that I absolutely LOVE. The students cover one eye with sterile bandages (no conjunctivitis vectors!) and keep it covered for a ½ hour while they do depth perception related activities (tossing a ball back and forth, navigating a maze, etc.). I hand out a sheet of paper (face down) that has color photos and a couple of paragraphs written in colored text. It’s on heavy paper so they can’t see what’s on it. Then I turn off all of the lights (there is a slight amount of illumination from a window in the door) and ask them what they can see. Most can see the outline of the paper, so I have them turn it over and tell me what they see. Some say it has pictures and words, but don’t know what the images are of or the words are. Many say they can’t see anything. Then they take the patches off, and the whole room erupts in various exclamations of surprise, confusion, or disbelief. I ask them again what they can see, and walk them through the differences between scotopic and photopic vision in all it’s glory. It’s worth noting that I do warn them ahead of time that many students find this activity unsettling, and some even get nauseated because their brain can’t reconcile what is happening in their visual system. I’ve done this for over ten years now, and it never disappoints! Best day of the year every year!    

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? As noted earlier, I have found repeated low-stakes quizzing before the class meeting time has raised the quality of the in-class discussions considerably. I also use a lot of spontaneous think-pair-share, especially when I get the impression the students are getting confused or struggling with the material. This slows things down a bit, but I’ve learned to value quality over quantity. I’ve shifted my focus from teaching content, to teaching students how to be independent learners. The content then ends up being a byproduct of that method. I also used to think that every class period had to be a neat, complete unit. But one year, I got off by about 1/3 of a lecture and kept ending the class meeting period in the middle of a topic where the students were still struggling to understand the material or didn’t have the complete story. I was frustrated and upset with myself for leaving them hanging. But over a few class periods, I discovered this was actually an effective technique. It ended up, that because the students were frustrated and confused, they continued to reflect on the topic they were stuck on, and continued to think about it to try to figure it out between class meetings. Many students would go back and study the topic again between classes and come back with a better understanding next time. We would start class with their questions and work on clarifying what they were still struggling to understand. What I discovered was that when the lecture was neatly tied up with a bow a the end, they basically closed the book on it, assumed they understood everything and didn’t reflect at all between classes. But when they left the class feeling a little frustrated and confused, they remained more engaged with the topic and worked to understand the material better. I now understand that confusion and frustration, in moderate and controlled doses, are very effective teaching methods!

    What’s your workspace like?  I LOVE where I work. My colleagues are amazingly collegial, supportive, and kind. We are very fortunate not to have a lot of the typical political and hierarchical struggles that many campuses have. It’s a very small college, so we pretty much have to get along. The students are also generally very high achieving. Most of them were in the top 10% of their high school classes, so they come to Centre with the expectation that the courses will be rigorous and challenging. Many first-year faculty discover that they have to raise the bar considerably in their classes to meet the expectations of the students. But it keeps us all on our toes and at the top of our game. You really can’t slack, but most of us earned our PhDs because we too want to be challenged, so I often feel that my students are more like collaborators than students. 

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Spontaneous, Improvisational and Socratic

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Make it personal and make it real.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I’d have to say this moment in time is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. I’m rolling with it like everyone else is. I am trying to keep everything as much the same as possible, keeping as much of my class housed in our CMS software (that I already used a lot) and not asking my students to learn new platforms or add new things to their repertoire. I’m cutting back on workload and just trying to make due as opposed to make well.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? This is tough to answer because I’m very open with my students. I tend to use a lot of personal stories to create relatable examples in class, so things students might find surprising (like the fact that I had a concussion in my 20’s and lost six months’ worth of memory) come up in class. So I’m drawing a blank on this one!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I’m re-reading James Clear’s “Atomic Habits.” It’s been a game-changer for me.

    What tech tool could you not live without? My computer and the internet. Even though I (usually) teach face to face, I use our course management software for quizzes, exams, assignments (every essay is typed! No more deciphering handwriting!), and I use a lot of videos and animations to make the material come alive.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? We are a very teaching-focused institution, so our whole world revolves around teaching and students. Yes, we sometimes talk about specific students, but usually, we’re bouncing ideas off of our colleagues about how to do things better, or if they think a certain idea would work, or how they’re doing something we also want to do.  Sometimes we talk about research or family, but usually, it’s just “how are you holding up today?” Of course, right now we have to “chat” via zoom or text message. There aren’t many opportunities for hallway chats these days… but hopefully, we’ll continue to find ways to connect.

    One additional thought: Before pursuing a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, I spent the first ½ of my life as a horse trainer. I started in my teens and trained professionally (competing at the national level) up into my 30’s, so this is my 2nd career.

    I firmly believe that everything I ever needed to know about being a college professor I learned from training horses. The horse training part was easy. Teaching their owners how to ride them that is hard. Being a riding instructor requires you to be able to communicate to someone else, how to communicate with yet another creature who not only doesn’t speak your language but also has an entirely different agenda and communication style. The only way you can tell if your “student” is doing it right, is by observing the horse they are riding to see if it’s receiving the messages effectively. Sometimes the horse is doing their own thing regardless of what the rider is doing, and vise versa.

    It was in this context that I received the best lesson in “how to teach.” It is a well-known fact that you should never give a family member lessons in anything. But, I was a successful trainer, and one of my older sisters wanted to ride. I found her a very well trained horse to ride with the goal of getting her into the show-ring quickly. One day, while I was giving her a riding lesson, the horse’s performance just kept getting worse and worse. Her reins were un-even and her position was all wrong. She was frustrated and getting angry, the horse was frustrated and getting angry, the instructor (me) was frustrated and getting angry. The horse was to the point that it was going to express its frustrations (do something bad), so I told her to just STOP what she was doing, and do it RIGHT instead. She did stop (the horse), threw down the reins and looked dead at me and said: “I’m doing what you are telling me to, so if I’m doing it WRONG, then you must not be explaining it RIGHT.”

    I was rather taken aback, but she also had a good point. I realized that the reason the horse was getting worse was because of how she was interpreting what I was saying. She was earnestly trying to do what she thought  I was saying. I realized that if she wasn’t doing it right, I needed to change what I was saying or how I was saying it. It’s really the same as training a horse. If you are trying to get the horse to do one thing, and they do the opposite, you have to stop and figure out how to communicate with the horse in a way that they understand what you want (not the other way around).

    This personal experience has shaped everything I do as a teacher. Granted, I can’t be responsible for every students’ learning. Sometimes there are things that are outside of my control that I just can’t accommodate or anticipate (like our current events!). But if several students aren’t “doing it right,” then I need to step back and think about how I’m communicating what I want from them. What am I doing that’s creating this result? It’s not always my fault, but taking that moment to reflect often reveals things that I can do better the next time.


  • 10 Apr 2020 12:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Valley City State University

    Type of school: 4-year public regional state institution

    School locale: Valley City, North Dakota

    Classes you teach: Introduction to Psychology, Cognition and Brain Science, Developmental Psychology, Psychology of Learning, Social Psychology, Health Psychology, Understanding Statistics, and Intimate Partner Violence

    Average class size: 10-20

    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? “You’re here to educate, not entertain.” And, “You should feel (a little) nervous – it means you care!”

    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? McKeachie’s Teaching Tips

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I love so many courses, but I would have to say my favorite topic is teaching operant conditioning. It’s so dicey for some, but I have been told I teach it really well and get students involved in creating tons of examples. I start by explaining the importance of freewill. Then, I move to defining and discussing reinforcement and punishment. Finally, I tell students to think mathematically about + (plus) and – (minus) when describing positive and negative. All that’s left is to determine whether we’re adding or removing something desired (appetitive stimulus) or something undesired (aversive stimulus). We discuss many examples, and I end by showing a clip from The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon actually mistakenly refers to “negative reinforcement” when describing positive punishment, and students catch it! Such a great lecture. 

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  I love creative submissions from students. In all my courses, I have students create a presentation about a topic of their choice related to the content we’ve discussed that semester. I’ve had students relate martial arts, running, and hunting to psychology and inform the class about rare disorders and how they connect to the field. Students also comment on each other’s presentations. This has worked quite well as either an in-class discussion throughout the semester or online recorded submissions at the end of the semester.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I’ve been told I teach very “conversationally.” I have an open dialogue with the students, eliciting answers and examples from them routinely. My most successful moments in the classroom come from creative activities that require students to think critically and apply new concepts to everyday situations.

    What’s your workspace like?  I enjoy my double-monitor setup that allows me to easily have a Word document open at the same time as a web browser or other application on the other screen. One unique element of my office is a futon. I can’t take credit for that – it was my brother’s idea to have a nice place for students to sit when they visit me. I face outward so I can always smile and wave at everyone walking by. I also have a mini-fridge and microwave because I try to bring my lunch as often as possible. I couldn’t live without my desk calendar and sticky-notes that are right in the center of my desk. Books are behind me on the shelves unless I’m actively teaching that course, in which case they’re on my desk for easy access.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Conversational, enthusiastic, animated 

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Students learn best from everyone in the room.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I once had a student approach me after class about a distinction I’d made in class between concepts the student had learned were the same. After a lengthy discussion, the student left having learned a lot about the difference and the importance of research, so I considered that a success.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I am an accidental psychologist. I found psychology when I learned being an English major was going to be a lot of reading books I didn’t particularly want to read (rather than grammar). Psychology fit into my schedule when nothing else did, and I fell in love with it. They might also be surprised to learn that I love board games.

    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I’m a psych nerd so even my reading is most often psychology related. I checked out Gender, Global Health, and Violence from our campus library right before spring break along with The Voices of #MeToo.

    What tech tool could you not live without? I am really enjoying Yuja for screen-capture right now.

    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? We talk about everything from family to pets to what we’re watching on Netflix. I love a department that allows us to be the true humans we are.


  • 27 Mar 2020 9:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Utah State University

    Type of school: R2

    Location: Rural Northern Utah

    Classes you teach: (Exclusively Online) Intro, Methods, Counseling & Interviewing, Advanced Behavioral Interventions, Pseudoscience

    Average class size: 25

    What’s the best advice about online teaching you’ve ever received? There are multiple challenges from working from home, and people who choose this type of learning do so generally because they have competing resources – account for those competitions in creating a course structure and assignments. This will allow people to get an education, and stay the course, who might not otherwise be able to do so. 

    What book or article has shaped your work as an online psychology teacher?  Bawa, P. (2016). Retention in online courses: Exploring issues and solutions—A literature review. Sage Open, 6(1), 2158244015621777.

    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.  I really love teaching pseudoscience. I enjoy pressing students to think critically, and to make this part of their routine. Their weekly assignment for the class is to bring in something that they have seen or heard of as a falsifiable fact, and to look up a credible source to fact check it. The idea is to ensure that they are neither immediately discrediting or crediting anything they hear, but checking it out for themselves, and making that just part of their routine – attempting to avoid confirmation bias as well as disconfirmation bias. Students regularly contact me after the course to let me know that this has changed how they engage with facts from friends, family and social media after the class has ended, and that alone makes it my favorite course to teach – plus I personally love reading about this topic and discussing it with students.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or online activity.  My favorite activity I already described, but an activity that I do in all of my courses that I think is really useful is a form of scavenger hunt to make the online lectures more engaging. Before the lecture, there is a PDF to download of different questions for which that the student can look for the answers throughout the lecture. I try to make these questions things that I especially want to draw attention to, like concepts that might be hard to understand but that I go over in some detail in the lecture. Then, when the person is going over the lecture (or the set of multiple shorter lectures) they are rewarded for attention by listening for those answers, because at the end of the lecture there will be a “scavenger hunt quiz” or “attention quiz.” On that quiz will be the answers to the questions that they were meant to seek out through the lecture. If you are particularly worried about cheating, you could leave out the PDF in advance and do a larger test bank at the end, however to me this is all about respecting the students and trusting them and their time – I give these a low percentage value in their overall grade, but it feels good to the students to know that listening and attending to the lectures was worth something tangible.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I’m not sure that it works best, but one thing that I think works well is to bring elements of social media engagement into the online discussion forums. My first rule for myself of required discussions is to ensure that they have a meaningful purpose – that discussions are not there just for the sake of being there. But for the classes for which that is true, then I like to make it feel more like a space that is already rewarding, a space like twitter. To do that, each discussion has a topic, and then it has basically an “answer menu.” The menu is a set of hashtags, each of which are defined, and each one has a separate sort of rubric for how it would be graded. So it could be #understand, in which case the student would be asking a question about a specific aspect related to the topic at hand that shows an attempt of looking it up oneself before asking (#understandresponse is a separate menu item, where another student would respond to an #understand). It could be #example, which could be describing an anecdote to help other students remember the concept which is being described in the topic. For each response, it has to have the tag, which is how it alerts me to what rubric it will be graded off of, and none of the menu items include something that would give any points for “OMG, I agree,” regardless of what tag they add to the end. And the last part I like to do here is add one point of extra credit for the original post with the most ‘likes,’ where I ask students to give out one ‘like’ per week to the post that was most useful and well thought-out.

    What’s your workspace like?  My disability is such that I have chronic pain that intensifies when my foot is not elevated. As such, I have a ‘work bed’ with a monitor that swings above my head (or away when I get up), and it’s in my home office, separate from my sleeping bed. I am very careful about the stimulus control of this workspace, to keep it only for work. I do have a desk space that is structured primarily for how it looks in zoom meetings, as these are the main time that I am not working from bed.  When I get sleepy or have trouble focusing, I do sometimes choose pain anyway, and switch to the desk for a few hours of grading or writing.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Thoughtful, Connected, Respectful

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Students are adults, and education and grades matter.

    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I had a student in my pseudoscience class argue in a discussion that science had “proven” the existence of God, and before I got back to the message board there were already three sort of increasingly heated responses with another student arguing angrily that science has “proven” that God does not exist. I responded both on the discussion board, and to the two students individually who were arguing. I live in Utah, so while this is a delicate issue anywhere, this feels especially disastrous here, with both sides feeling particularly strong in this state. My response was that the very cool thing about “knowing” was that there is more than one “way of knowing,” something that we had already learned in the class, but not applied to this situation. That faith is not related to science in terms of ways of knowing, and that these are simply “different hats.” There wouldn’t be a way to know faith through science, just like there wouldn’t be a way to know if you are attracted to someone through a science experiment, or knowing if a joke is funny to you. Those are not scientific questions; those are questions of a different kind. And whether there are or are not artifacts related to the life of figures in the bible is not something I’m an expert in, but again that just isn’t a faith question, that’s a history question – and both people could see those same facts if they existed and have opposite faith conclusions, which is how you can tell that it is a different way of knowing. Then I reminded them that this was a science question, so while these were really interesting philosophical or faith questions, they weren’t really appropriate for the ways of knowing we could contact here, and to please stick to the scientific way of knowing for the remainder of the class They were both were surprisingly happy with that answer.

    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I actually don’t think they’d be too surprised to learn anything about me! One thing that I think the online engagement literature seems to say consistently is that retention and engagement does best if there is a lot of “you” in your classes – and I take that to heart. So my students really know me, or I try my best to let them know me, through anecdotal stories in lectures, through emails and announcements, through discussion responses, and especially through giving feedback on assignments. I try to really have a genuine voice in my courses whenever there is an opportunity. I once had a student taking my fourth class, and she emailed me to let me know that her husband walked in to say, “Is that Crissa talking about her dogs again? What is she using them to teach today?” So, while I’m sure there are things many of them don’t know about me, I honestly can’t think of what they would be!

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I am just starting Helter Skelter. I am a part of a fantastic true crime book club, and that was their most recent choice. We just finished Under the Banner of Heaven.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    All of them? I think Audacity is the tool that I would be most desperate without. It’s a free software for audio editing, and it’s how I record and edit all of my lectures. I really like it better than all of the other options because of the specificity it has – you can really see the separation of lines better there for editing. And when the audio is great, it doesn’t really matter what you use for video I think. That said, I also really love this newer tool called Descript. You can upload an audio or video into Descript, and it will transcribe it for you, and spit it into a text version. Then you can cut, or cut and paste, the text portions, and the software will modify the video or audio for you based on what you do to the transcript. It’s not cheap, but it really is a time-saver for A/V editing.

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

    Since I work from home for all but one or two days a month traditionally, my chatter involves texting colleagues or bothering my spouse when he is working from home, who is also a faculty member in my department. For my closest colleague, with whom I co-mentor a distance-only research lab for undergraduates, we generally chat about functional things like how to move forward with a project, with a hint of co-ruminating about how far behind we are on grading or similar things. When it’s my spouse or other colleagues in the department, a significant majority of the time it’s something related to cooking or food!

  • 09 Oct 2019 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Texas State University 

    School locale: San Marcos, Texas: Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, sitting atop a hill, a spring-fed, crystal clear river runs through campus.

    Classes you teach: All undergraduate courses, I teach both online and face-to-face sections of Psychology of Adulthood and Aging. In addition, I teach several sections of an 8-week hybrid course, Professional Seminar: Careers in Psychology.

    Average class size:

    • Online format of Adulthood and Aging- 25 students
    • Regular section of Adulthood and Aging- 100 students
    • Professional Seminar: Careers in Psychology- 30 students

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

    I’m deeply grateful to have an ongoing, 20-year mentoring relationship with my undergraduate professor turned master’s research chair, Dr. Sam Mathews. There’s been many salient conversations over the years around crucial academic and professional decisions and turning points in my career. What should I highlight? Well, we chatted on the phone to reminisce, laugh and converse about this very question.

    On teaching advice, he spoke about fostering the ability to teach and run discussions with a class of 50, one student at a time. The technique he used to make these individual connections is intentional eye contact, systematically making eye contact one student at a time in a class of 50. Also, asking open-ended, reflective questions while pausing and giving students time to think and interact. Naturally, I have modeled my teaching style after his.

    He also offered insight around professional identity. Sam described how one’s professional identity is incorporated into your own, and how one informs the other. From one developmental psychologist to another, his wisdom resonated- your career path and style of teaching is a part of you and your identity. Don’t lose yourself; rather, incorporate your professional self into who you know yourself to already be.

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

    These are not resources on teaching, but the conceptual framework for each of these books are running in the background of my mind while teaching various developmental psychology courses over the years:

    Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York, NY, US: W Norton & Co.

    Ford, D. H., & Lerner, R. M. (1992). Developmental systems theory: An integrative approach. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.

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

    Did you know that humans are genetically predisposed to live upwards to 110-120 years?

    I present to you the topic of genetic limits, one theory of primary aging that reads like the opening to a science-fiction short-story; yet, the theory is a reoccurring theme discussed in my Aging course. Genetic limits is embedded in the bio-ecological, developmental context of culture, lifestyle choices, telomeres and the notion of personal control as mechanisms of influence for aging.

    The students find the theory fascinating and I so enjoy hearing their opinions on why there is still a substantial gap between the present-day average lifespan and our genetically preset potential for longevity.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    In my Careers in Psychology hybrid course, students work in groups of 2-3 based on similar career interests in various psychology subfields. Students are given discussion prompts to work through together such as:

    • Identify the type of degree you need to earn, and in what type of program you would earn the degree.
    • As a group, discuss anticipated challenges (e.g., academic record, performance on previous standardized tests, and financial resources) for attaining a degree and working in one of these professions

    Students leave the class with more clarity and realistic expectations around the requirements and obstacles to achieving career goals in a range of subfields within the psychology profession. The group activity commonly spurs additional career-related questions that lead to important and meaningful one-on-one conversations with students outside of class.


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    I try to communicate with students in a way that keeps them thinking. I ask open-ended questions, solicit opinions on contradicting research findings, and request anecdotal stories of how concepts play out in real life. Typically, I have students approach me after class or in office hours sharing their opinions or stories based on class discussion. My goal is to keep them thinking long after the class meeting or semester ends. While I keep a conversational tone, I expect students to rise to the occasion and engage their intellect.

    Also, there’s an abundance of social media relevant to aging; I’ll follow up a class meeting with an article or video that I post to my Twitter feed augmenting the concepts discussed in class. Again, engaging students in an alternative way that keeps them thinking.


    What’s your workspace like?

    I prefer natural light in my office. And there’s some uniformity in how I scatter my papers that makes sense to me. I have a small collection of seashells from various beach trips that are special to me, and I dote on my plants when I need a quiet moment to reflect and be with my thoughts.

    Also, I have several of my graduate texts and almost every course notebook from my master’s and doctoral classes. I have this romantic, nostalgic notion about someday sitting down and reviewing old course notes.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  

    Socratic, reflective, story-driven


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?

    Adapt studies and concepts to real world examples.


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

    When I was a first-year doctoral student administering my first test, there was one remaining student completing the test long after the class wrapped up. She was worried about her pending test grade, so I offered to grade it right then. Well, I had to tell her she failed miserably, and spent the next few minutes trying to calm down an inconsolable student- bordering hysterical. I made a mental note to never repeat that mistake again.


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

    When I began my doctorate, I was fully focused and invested in furthering my research, and carving out a research-based career in developmental psychology. My graduate assistantship package included teaching my own undergraduate class, Developmental Psychology. It quickly transformed from a work obligation to the highlight of my doctoral-training experience. Although I miss the mental stimulation that comes from science writing, I still get giddy introducing students to Erkison’s psychosocial theory, longitudinal research designs, and genetic limits!

    Also, I teach Aging at 8am sharp; I think my students would be surprised to learn that I'm not a morning person.


    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    I reread Gone with the Wind prior to the start of the semester.

    Currently skimming Thanks: How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, and a dozen or so journal articles on positive psychology and/or aging.


    What tech tool could you not live without?

    Twitter, power point and my university’s LMS via mobile app.


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

    “…that smells delicious…” and “…I have an idea to run by you for an upcoming…”

  • 03 Sep 2019 4:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    Type of school: Public R1 university

    School locale: Small city (Lincoln, Nebraska)

    Classes you teach: Introductory psychology, honors introductory psychology, social psychology, advanced social psychology, motivation and emotion, and career planning for psychology majors (co-taught with advising staff).  Most are undergraduate classes, but advanced social psychology and motivation and emotion are cross-listed for both undergrads and graduate students.

    Average class size: As large as 440 for introductory psychology, to about 40 students for senior-level classes, to about 15 for honors and learning community classes.

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

    Do less.  I have a bad habit of getting overwhelmed and burned out because I tackle too much at a time—major structural changes to several classes at once, changing the textbook and the assignments and the structure of a class simultaneously, or saying yes to too many service activities on top of a full teaching load.  I try to fight day-by-day burnout by adopting the 1-3-30 rule suggested by a colleague when revising slides: write 1 note for next time, revise no more than 3 slides, and spend no more than 30 minutes revising.  Beyond that, I’m mostly just nitpicking.  And I try to fight long-term burnout by giving myself permission to make just one mid-sized change to each course each semester.

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

    The very first teaching book I was introduced to, during my first semester of graduate school, was McKeachie’s Teaching Tips.  I still come back to it for succinct recommendations backed up with evidence.  More recently, I enjoyed Small Teaching by James Lang, which is a great reminder that small changes in my teaching practices can have a big impact on my students.

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

    My favorite course is Advanced Social Psychology.  It’s comprised mainly of junior and senior psychology majors, with a few sophomores and first-year graduate students thrown in.  The course is structured around a series of yes/no controversial questions such as, “Is there a replicability crisis in social psychology?”  I begin each unit with an interactive lecture to provide students with a refresher of the basic content from social psychology and some relevant extensions and updates from recent research.  Then students get into discussion groups of about 12 and spend 50-60 minutes in peer-led discussion, delving deeply into the empirical research on both sides of the question and real-world implications of either possible answer.  Although students get panicky at the beginning of the semester when they hear they will be responsible for leading an hour-long discussion, I give them plenty of support, encouragement, and feedback along the way—and the peers they initially feared in their discussion group often become close friends.  Their term paper involves an in-depth analysis of empirical work on a yes/no question of their choice, and with the weekly practice they get building their critical thinking and analysis skills in response papers and discussion, students produce some very impressive final papers.  At the end of the semester, students look back with pride at having accomplished tasks that felt overwhelming just a few months earlier.

    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  

    For the past several years, I’ve presented Stephen Chew’s depth-of-processing demonstration in my introductory psychology class.  The class is split into quadrants, which are asked to process a word list shallowly or deeply, and with or without being forewarned of a quiz.  They score their recall on the word list, then I have the whole class stand up.  I ask them to sit down when I call out the number of words they got correct.  It becomes apparent very quickly that those who processed shallowly performed worse than those who processed deeply, regardless of whether they knew they would be quizzed.  I finish up with a brief presentation on evidence-based learning strategies, including how they can use deep processing while reading, in class, and while studying.  The demo works every time, and is a great way to introduce aspects of research methodology and memory, or just to improve study habits.

    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?

    My techniques vary widely from class to class.  My 440-student Introductory Psychology class meets in a performing arts center without aisles, fold-out desks, or movable seating, so I generally use interactive lecturing (Bernstein, 2018) with clicker questions, think-pair-shares, small group work, videos, etc.  In my smaller senior-level classes, I love using student-led discussions and small homework groups.  In these classes, I assign groups carefully based on self-report surveys and observations in the first week of the semester, then keep the groups consistent throughout the semester so they really get to know each other.  It’s so rewarding for students and for me to see how the groups negotiate differences, incorporate diverse peers, and accomplish things together that they couldn’t do alone.

    What’s your workspace like? 

    It starts organized and gradually descends into organized chaos, with piles growing in number and volume throughout the semester, until that glorious post-semester purge.

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Supportive, evidence-based, challenging

    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?  Improve scientific reasoning and application through evidence-based practices.

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

    Midway through the semester in my 400+ student section of introductory psychology, I was having problems with students using their laptops inappropriately and excessively in class, to the extent that peers were complaining about the level of distraction.  In response, I introduced students to empirical evidence on the harmful effects of multitasking and digital distraction, showed them why it’s better to take notes by hand than on a computer, and gave them strategies for managing and reducing distractions.  I then required that students wanting to use a laptop in class had to be “pre-approved” by showing me they had been taking notes appropriately and by displaying a tag on the front of their laptop so I could tell who had been pre-approved.  I thought it was a reasonable request, but a small (and vocal) group of students did not.  They deeply resented the new restriction on their freedoms, and complained both in class and online.  The frustration (both mine and students’) spiraled, and after three weeks of increasing tension, poor participation, and distraction from students holding frequent side conversations, I gave up and just let them be the victims of their own distraction.  (I also encouraged others to switch seats if they were being distracted.)  I wish I had a fairytale ending to this story, but nope—I just had to tough it out to the end of the semester.  This is my own hard-learned example of how it’s better to start with restrictions and then loosen them, than to start lenient and try to introduce restrictions.

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

    I have been in zero gravity.  (Protip: It’s not for people with a weak stomach.)

    What are you currently reading for pleasure?

    The best book I’ve read in the last year is The Humans by Matt Haig, which tells the story of an alien who comes to Earth to kill a mathematics professor who is about to solve a major mathematical proof that will give humans the ability to travel through interstellar space, but while carrying out his mission, the alien begins to fall in love with humanity.  It’s like a mash-up of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Notebook.  Hard to explain, but amazing.

    What tech tool could you not live without?

    I have two nominees: (1) to let students arrange their own appointments during my office hours, and (2) Canvas to make an entirely paperless class with easy-to-use rubrics, student-friendly gradebook, and easy tracking of student group work.

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

    Teaching ideas, campus news, and what we’re currently reading/watching.  I’m particularly passionate about non-tenure-track faculty rights and academic freedom, and as a member of my institution’s faculty senate I try to keep my colleagues updated about relevant happenings.

  • 01 Aug 2019 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School name: Temple University


    Type of school: Large 4-year school in the heart of Philadelphia


    School locale: Philadelphia, PA


    Classes you teach: Conducting Psychological Research, Learning and Behavior Analysis, TA for Honors Psychology


    Average class size: 10-20


    What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? Right before I began teaching my first course, I told my advisor that I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to answer their questions or explain the material adequately. He told me that when in doubt, act like you know it all. Don’t make up an answer, but always answer with confidence – even if it’s just to say that you’re not sure and you need to look it up and get back to them.


    What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? I can’t say there was a specific book or article that really influenced me. However, as a graduate student I worked as a TA with the same professor for three years and she greatly influenced my teaching style. This professor was so engaging, dynamic, and passionate about what she did that it was a true privilege to learn from her. Additionally, she went to bat for her students in a way that was deeply inspiring and showed me the type of teacher I want to be.


    Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I really enjoy letting students design their own research projects. When I teach Conducting Psychological Research, we move through the sections of a research paper one at a time. I lecture on the topic, and then we spend some time discussing each students’ individual project as a group: challenges, things they’re struggling with, etc. I love seeing each student‘s project develop over the course of the semester, and the interactive nature of them helping each other brainstorm ideas and troubleshoot problems.


    Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity.  Learning and Behavior Analysis is a tough sell in my department – most students are taking it as a gen ed course rather than from a genuine interest in Behavior Analysis. Although I am in a Developmental Psychology program now, I trained as a Behavior Analyst and am very familiar with the science and research methodology of the field. However, most of the students indicate a desire for clinical psychology, which is VERY different from the goals and ideals of Behavior Analysis. At the end of the semester I always do Behavior Analysis Jeopardy which is a great way to review the topics from the course as students prepare to submit their final papers. The students get really into it and I give a few extra credit points to the winning team as additional incentive


    What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? I very strongly believe in a student-centered approach to both teaching and learning. Each student comes to the classroom with individual strengths and weaknesses, so a one-size-fits-all model is really not effective. I always make an effort to humanize myself through sharing stories and experiences from my own life, while making it clear to them that I see them as humans too. For example, I do my best to get to know each student, their post-undergraduate goals, etc., which shows them that I genuinely care about them and helps them to buy into me as an educator.


    What’s your workspace like?  I am an extremely organized and detail-oriented person – and my workspace reflects that. The first thing I do when I get into the office is clean off my desk of any outstanding tasks, then clear out my e-mail. I can’t work in a messy space! I also believe in fun and whimsy, so I keep lots of pictures and colorful magnets etc. in my office. My (and my students’) favorite is one of those notebooks with the sequins that you can swipe back and forth to reveal different colors. It has a rainbow unicorn on it and when students come in stressed I have them play with it for a minute to chill out. Works every time – even for me when I’m stressed!

    Three words that best describe your teaching style.  Student-centered, proactive, human


    What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Students are individuals, treat them as such


    Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. I’m not sure this is a disaster or embarrassment per se, but it was certainly a challenging situation. I had a student completely stop engaging in my 6-week online summer class after the first week, so I e-mailed her to see if she was still planning to participate in my course. No response. About 2 weeks before the end of the semester, she reached out to me with a sob story asking if she could catch up on all the missed work and still be able to pass my class. I was willing to work with her and agreed to let her rejoin the class and make up the missed work for a penalty. She tried her hardest but was not able to finish everything by the end of the semester. Given that she’d worked extremely hard, I agreed to let her take an incomplete in my course and finish the work before the beginning of the fall semester. It was my first time giving an incomplete… so I had no idea there was protocol to be followed. I got an e-mail from Academic Advising asking for her incomplete contract, so after I figured out what the heck that was, I completed and submitted it. Then I received an e-mail from another academic advisor saying that this student was on academic probation and was not allowed to receive incompletes. I had no idea! Fortunately, the advisor was willing to be flexible and the student ended up passing my course but it was a learning experience all around!


    What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? For my 21st birthday, my parents and I went skydiving. That’s right – I jumped out of a plane. Fun experience, crossed something off my bucket list… but I don’t think I’d do it again!


    What are you currently reading for pleasure? I love YA fantasy novels – they are a great way to disconnect and relax. I’m currently reading a book called “The Glass Spare” by Lauren DeStefano


    What tech tool could you not live without? I don’t rely a whole lot on technology in the classroom…. So the best I’ve got here is youtube! I often use videos to illustrate my points, and to break up the monotony of lectures.


    What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? My colleagues are the other graduate students in my program, so we are all friendly. We often chat about experiences with students, whine about grading, and discuss our personal lives (relationships, family, etc.)


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