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


Welcome to the GSTA blog! 

In an effort to keep the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) blog current, we regularly welcome submissions from graduate students as well as full-time faculty. As a blog team, we advocate for and promote inclusion, equity, and anti-racism in pedagogy (see updated GSTA Position Statement from the Steering Committee). At this critical juncture in history, we have declared our solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and are motivated to use this platform to feature voices for change in the following areas as outlined by the GSTA:

  • Suggestions relating to decolonizing syllabi by including the work of scholars and psychologists from diverse identities and backgrounds.

  • Tips on adopting anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching and assessment practices.

  • Recommendations on creating inclusive learning environments that celebrate diversity and do not tolerate discrimination.

  • Strategies on discussing how discrimination and inequity have shaped the field of psychology and the world around us  with students and colleagues.

  • Tips on engaging with students and colleagues across disciplines in activism to create change in classrooms, institutions, and communities.

  • Input on being compassionate and supportive to students, colleagues, and ourselves during these times.

We are also still committed to diversifying blog content to include submissions ranging from new research in the area of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), public interest topics related to teaching and psychology, occasional book reviews, as well as continuing our traditional aim by including posts about teaching tips. Example topic areas include:

  • Highlights of your current SoTL research

  • Issues related to teaching and psychology in the public interest

  • Reviews of recent books related to teaching and psychology

  • Teaching tips and best practices for today's classroom

  • Advice for successfully navigating research and teaching demands of graduate school

  • We would especially like activities that align with APA 2.0 Guidelines!

The blog posts are typically short, ranging from about 500-1000 words, not including references. As it is an online medium, in-text hyperlinks, graphics, and even links to videos are strongly encouraged!

As we focus the spotlight on inclusion and non-discrimination, we will continue to provide  graduate students and faculty an outlet to share their experiences, ideas, and opinions regarding graduate students’ teaching practices.

If you would like for any questions to be addressed, you can send them to and we will post them as a comment on your behalf. If you are interested in submitting a post, please email us at 

Thanks for checking us out,

The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Hallie Jordan, Sarah Frantz, Maya Rose, Raoul RobertsTashiya Hunter, Laura Mason and Megan Nadzan

Follow us on twitter @gradsteachpsych or join our Facebook Group.

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • 26 Oct 2020 10:32 AM | Anonymous

    By: Terrill O. Taylor and Maaly Younis, on behalf of the GSTA Steering Committee

    At the beginning of June, the GSTA expressed its solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and with our fellow Black and brown graduate students in our position statement and call to action for graduate student teaching assistants and instructors of psychology. In our statement, we identified six actions that graduate student instructors and teaching assistants can take to make our instruction more inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist. In this series of posts for the GSTA Blog, members of the GSTA Steering Committee will be expanding on each of these action items and including resources that may be useful for other instructors and teaching assistants in psychology courses. We recognize that these are just a few of the many amazing resources available and encourage you to share resources that you have found helpful with us through Facebook (, Twitter (@gradsteachpsych), email (, or the GSTA listserv.

    For our third and final blog post of this series, we discuss issues related to racism, discrimination, and inequity that plague institutional settings. In addition, we provide resources for two more action items that focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion to amplify the voices and experiences of historically underrepresented/marginalized college students and professional colleagues:

    • Create inclusive learning environments that celebrate diversity, do not tolerate discrimination, and embrace all voices and opinions.
    • Adopt anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching and assessment practices.

    In recent years, many public and private postsecondary education institutions have begun to adopt or have adapted their strategic plans to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The purpose behind these objectives is, first and foremost, to provide students with an exceptional educational experience, while being inclusive of individuals from diverse multicultural backgrounds and lived experiences (Williams, 2005). Diversity issues have long been neglected or under-addressed; hence, there is a great need for these advances. This may be due, in part, to the historical experiences that have long silenced professionals in educational settings. Often, individuals’ voices go unheard due to fears of repercussion if they were to speak out against systems that, intentionally or unintentionally, influence and support forms of discrimination, marginalization, and oppression. Silencing voices and not supporting individuals’ telling of their experiences is a form of oppression that has existed in the social hierarchy of educational institutions for far too long and must be addressed. Additionally, as some may question whether institutions are equipped and fully committed to effectively addressing these issues proactively, the duties of social justice-related agendas far too often lay on the shoulders of individuals of color, as well as racial-justice advocates most passionate about this area of work.

    To successfully embody diversity in educational settings, inclusive policies should be present in each of the following parts of the organizational structure of education. It is critical that such policies: address access to learning resources for all students; use curriculum and teaching and learning practices that promote diverse perspectives and viewpoints; assess for an inclusive campus climate; and realign the priorities, procedures, and resources of the institution to ensure that that policies that promote, foster, and support diversity and inclusion are embodied throughout all facets of the institution. It is our belief that psychology graduate student instructors can play an active role in dismantling oppressive systems and work to address ineffective policies throughout all domains of educational structures, even those extending beyond the classroom. As discussed in Blog #2, this level of advocacy and activism may go a long way to producing long-term change.

    At this very moment, educators, including graduate-level instructors, can use their positions to impact the lives of diverse students in educational classrooms. With respect to diversity, we encourage all graduate educators to embrace and encourage differences in social identities of students, including identity characteristics such as age, ability/disability status, race or ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, military status, and other social representations that make the classroom community unique. Further, we encourage all educators to consider how they can adjust their teaching practices and lend their voices to ensure that all students can participate in activities free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. This includes individual educators speaking out against educational structures and individuals who contribute to these forms of historical oppression.

    Following the media coverage of race-related incidents that have occurred over the past few months, it is important to recognize and acknowledge that our everyday lives are impacted in one way or another by race and racism. We encourage our fellow graduate instructors to find creative ways to connect these issues to their course subjects in both direct and indirect ways, as well as provide students with opportunities to explore how prejudice impacts their own personal experiences.  This work is necessary as all students need to develop a critical appreciation of Whiteness and historical discourses of exclusion (Hollinrake et al., 2019).

    As some may be naïve to the experiences and disparities faced by students of color, we highlight below a few critical references that help uncover these realities:

    • In their research on racial and ethnic minorities, Hollinrake et al. (2019) discuss how to shape the learning environment to be conducive to the development and support of students. It is stated that Black and minority ethnic students in education at all levels and across disciplines, do less well in the outcomes of their studies. This grappling injustice must be corrected.
    • Existing research also suggests that students of color perceive a more unwelcoming campus climate and report having observed discrimination at their educational institution at higher levels than their White counterparts (Navarro et al., 2009; Worthington, et al., 2008).
    • We also highlight an article by Isik et al. (2018) examining Factors Influencing Academic Motivation of Ethnic Minority Students: A Review (maybe just say “the factors influencing academic motivation of ethnic minority students,” and cite the hyperlink there?). This systematic review reveals the importance of taking the students ethnic identity into consideration when developing and planning academic interventions especially to minority students.

    To help combat these critical issues, we also encourage fellow graduate teaching assistants and educators to implement anti-racist activities and adopt a more culturally responsive teaching framework. This framework can be used to engage students in proactive conversations that examine the role of racial and ethnic identities in shaping relationships and power dynamics to support and amplify racial and ethnic minority student voices:

    This work may also be done through the implementation of campus climate surveys. These surveys are commonly used to characterize the attitudes, perceptions, behaviors, and experiences of students, faculty, staff, and administrators concerning the safety and inclusivity of the campus environment (Worthington et al., 2008). Typically administered to students, faculty/staff, and administrators, they help institutions better understand the experiences of those within the educational system, while also capturing what individuals may need to feel more welcomed and supported. We encourage graduate instructors to find out whether climate surveys are already available at the departmental level, or to consider how one might be able to assess the climate of their specific course classrooms (in-person or virtually).

    Further, engaging students who serve as college campus leaders in your courses is an additional step that can be taken. This may serve to build relationships and foster connections that help students feel welcomed and appreciated. Inviting students to lead classroom conversations about diversity and inclusion and including students as stakeholders in the educational learning experience can go a long way. These efforts of inclusion provide opportunities for students to share their experiences and highlight the unique perspectives they have to offer in the learning processes of others.

    Another critical component includes educators being active in correcting students' behaviors when students recite information that is offensive, oppressive, invalidating, and counter-productive to the issue at hand. Structural forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality will persist if educators remain silent on these issues and do not correct these actions, including calling out microaggressions (see link for examples of Microaggressions as discussed by Dr. Derald Wing Sue). Taken from the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Let’s make a choice to not be the oppressor. Indeed, it is those fighting against the systems to which have historically oppressed them that require our protection.

    We thus encourage graduate student educators to consider how they might engage in anti-oppressive practices, combat anti-racism, and develop cultural competence in their teaching practices. We offer below an additional resource that highlights both the need for this work, and effective strategies to incorporate in your teaching practices:

    To end, we urge our readers to call out forms of oppression when witnessed, and at the same time work with individuals in ways that mitigate its impact and promote social justice. This must be viewed as an issue of human rights and dignity. And from a social justice perspective, it requires our devoted attention. We thank you for your reading and engagement with this blog series.


    Gay, G. (2013). Teaching to and through cultural diversity. Curriculum inquiry, 43(1), 48-70.

    Harbin, M. B., Thurber, A., & Bandy, J. (2019). Teaching Race, Racism, and Racial Justice: Pedagogical Principles and Classroom Strategies for Course Instructors. Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice, 4(1), 1.

    Hollinrake, S., Hunt, G., Dix, H., & Wagner, A. (2019). Do we practice (or teach) what we preach? Developing a more inclusive learning environment to better prepare social work students for practice through improving the exploration of their different ethnicities within teaching, learning and assessment opportunities. Social Work Education, 38(5), 582-603. https://doi-org./10.1080/02615479.2019.1593355

    Isik, U., Tahir, O. E., Meeter, M., Heymans, M. W., Jansma, E. P., Croiset, G., & Kusurkar, R. A.  (2018). Factors influencing academic motivation of ethnic minority students: A review. SAGE Open. 

    Navarro, R. L., Worthington, R. L., Hart, J., & Khairallah, T. (2009). Liberal and conservative political ideology, experiences of harassment, and perceptions of campus climate. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2(2), 78-90.

    Williams, D. A., Berger, J. B., & McClendon, S. A. (2005). Toward a model of inclusive excellence and change in postsecondary institutions. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

    Worthington, R. L., Navarro, R. L., Loewy, M., & Hart, J. (2008). Color-blind racial attitudes, social dominance orientation, racial-ethnic group membership and college students’ perceptions of campus climate. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 1(1), 8-19.

  • 11 Sep 2020 2:41 PM | Deleted user

    By: D. Alan Bensley, Ph.D., Frostburg State University

    The young people we teach are said to be the hope of the future. But if after our instruction, they tend to make bad decisions, draw faulty conclusions, commit thinking errors, and reason from incorrect information, then the future they create may not be better.  Jolley and Douglas (2014) found that when people believe the false conspiracy theory that global warming is a hoax. they may fail to respond to this existential crisis. If our former students continue to believe that an ineffective, pseudoscientific practice, such as Facilitated Communication, is effective for treating autism spectrum disorders, they may forego use of more effective treatments for autism in their own children or clients (Lilienfeld, Lynn, & Lohr, 2015).  When our students endorse psychological misconceptions, such as the mistaken idea that people should use more than 10% of the brain at once to improve their performance, they may find it difficult to acquire correct knowledge of the brain (Bensley & Lilienfeld, 2017).

    It is safe to say that most psychology teachers hope that after taking their courses, students would critically examine and reject unsubstantiated claims, such as psychological misconceptions, pseudoscientific and poorly-supported practices, false conspiracy theories, and paranormal claims that contradict well-established psychological science. However, our own research suggests that standard psychology instruction does not produce substantial increases in critical thinking skills or in rejection of unfounded beliefs. For example, as discussed next, we have found that psychological misconceptions are reduced little after traditional instruction when instructors do not directly guide students to critically analyze and refute their false beliefs.  

    Rather than using a traditional, ‘inexplicit’ approach, teachers should use explicit critical thinking instruction to improve critical thinking skills and the ability to reject unsubstantiated claims. The form of explicit critical thinking instruction we use is called “direct infusion”.  It involves directly teaching students how to distinguish arguments from non-arguments, find assumptions, evaluate the quality of evidence, and draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence while avoiding thinking errors.  Students are provided guided practice in how to apply rules for reasoning in thinking about psychology and everyday life, completing practice exercises, quizzes, and other formative assessments for which they receive feedback.  In this way, critical thinking concepts and practices are infused into psychology content instruction as part of my 2018 critical thinking textbook,between%20science%20and%20non%2Dscience.   

    We have conducted multiple studies demonstrating the effectiveness of direct infusion. In a study of cognitive psychology students, we found that one class receiving explicit critical thinking instruction in how to engage in argument analysis and critical reading showed significantly greater gains on an argument analysis test and on a critical reading test than cognitive psychology classes receiving either a focus on improving memory or on acquiring knowledge of cognitive psychology (Bensley & Spero, 2014). Using examples from cognitive psychology, students in the critical thinking-instructed class were taught how to distinguish arguments from nonarguments, evaluate the quality of different kinds of evidence used in literature reviews discussing, for example, the accuracy of perception and flashbulb memories, and how to draw well-reasoned conclusions from the evidence. Students in all three groups took the same tests and quizzes except that students in the critical thinking group also received critical thinking questions, students in the directly infused memory improvement group also received questions on memory improvement, and students in the traditional, knowledge-focused group received more basic knowledge questions. The argument analysis and  critical reading tests that students took before and after instruction were well aligned with the skills that the critical thinking group were taught. These results replicated those from an earlier study in which research methods students who received explicit argument analysis instruction as part of their course performed significantly better than research methods students in other classes not receiving the explicit critical thinking instruction (Bensley et al., 2010).

    In more recent studies, we have focused on the relationship between critical thinking and the rejection of unsubstantiated claims.  In one study of psychology students at different levels, we found that students who rejected more psychological misconceptions tended to have better critical thinking skills as measured by their performance on an argument analysis test (Bensley, Lilienfeld, & Powell, 2014).  In this same study, we found students who endorsed more misconceptions also tended to accept more paranormal claims and more pseudoscientific and poorly-supported practices. Students were also more inclined to take an intuitive approach to thinking about questions and less inclined to take an active, open-minded interest in psychology and value a rational-scientific approach to psychology. 

    Recently, we replicated and extended these findings of individual differences in the tendency to generally accept unsubstantiated claims.  We again found that scores on measures of conspiracy theory belief, psychological misconceptions, and paranormal belief, and belief in pseudoscience and poorly-supported practices were all positively intercorrelated (Bensley et al., 2019).  Following up on these results, we found that endorsement of psychological misconceptions, paranormal beliefs, and conspiracy theory beliefs were positively intercorrelated in two new samples. Moreover, we found that a more intuitive thinking style in those students significantly predicted endorsement of more psychological misconceptions and paranormal belief in all three of these samples and significantly predicted more belief in false and fictitious conspiracy theories in the first two samples.  Taken together, these results suggest that when students accept one type of unfounded knowledge claim they tend to accept other types as well and those who accept such claims more tend to have a more intuitive thinking style.

    In two other studies, we report on how we were able to improve both critical thinking skills and reduce psychological misconceptions. In the first study, students in an introductory critical thinking course received four weeks of explicit, critical thinking instruction and were taught to recognize psychological misconceptions (Bensley et al., 2015). Although students in the introductory critical thinking course improved their argument analysis skills and reduced their endorsement of misconceptions significantly more than students in another beginning course not receiving the explicit instruction, their gains were not substantial.  Consequently, we decided to test whether a longer and more intense focus on explicitly teaching critical thinking would produce more substantial gains (Bensley, Masciocchi, & Rowan, in press).  Supporting direct infusion, students in both classes showed significant and substantial gains in recognizing both thinking errors and psychological misconceptions, whether their focus was on recognizing thinking errors or more on recognition of psychological misconceptions.  However, even after showing gains in recognizing misconceptions, students remained overconfident of their knowledge of psychology.

    In many of the studies just described, we have used measures that we constructed to assess critical thinking and unfounded beliefs that are available along with my textbook (Bensley, 2018); but instructors are also encouraged to design their own measures.  In a recent article, Scott Lilienfeld and I describe how instructors can develop their own measures (Bensley & Lilienfeld, in press). An important part of this procedure is to identify common beliefs (often misconceptions) that are clearly contradicted by the bulk of high-quality psychological research.  The evidence-based idea or practice contradicting it can then be pitted against the misconception or unfounded belief to construct a forced-choice type of item.  A good source for such items is the book by Lilienfeld, Lynn, Lohr, Ruscio, and Beyerstein (2010) which describes numerous psychological misconceptions and presents the evidence from psychology that refutes them. Two advantages of instructors creating their own items are that they can include those items in their measures that best correspond to the content of their courses and as they research and construct items, they will learn to avoid some of the misconceptions sometimes endorsed by instructors.

    In conclusion, our research has important implications for teaching and assessing psychology students.  One is that instructors should take an explicit, critical thinking instructional approach in order to produce substantial increases in critical thinking skills and reductions in psychological misconceptions. Another is that instructors should assess students before and after instruction on measures that are well-aligned with the skills and knowledge targeted for instruction to evaluate the value added by their instruction (Bensley & Murtagh, 2012). Assessment can also help instructors to identify the unsubstantiated beliefs most frequently endorsed which, in turn, can help them decide which ones to target in instruction. Moreover, instructors should be aware that the more students endorse one type of unsubstantiated belief, the more they will likely endorse others. Those who endorse more misconceptions are likely to rely more on intuition and be more overconfident of their knowledge (Bensley et al., 2015).  In this regard, encouraging students to question what they have heard and what they think they already know about psychology, while presenting them with evidence-based alternatives to their faulty beliefs, may help them reduce their overconfidence and correct those beliefs. For more information on critical thinking and how to help students reject unsubstantiated claims, see Bensley (2020).


    Bensley, D. A. (2018).  Critical thinking in psychology and everyday life: A guide to effective thinking. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

    Bensley, D. A.  (2020).  Critical thinking and the rejection of unsubstantiated claims. In R. J. Sternberg & D. F. Halpern (Eds.). Critical thinking in psychology. (Vol. 2). pp. 68-102. New York: Cambridge University Press. http://doi:10.1017/9781108684354

    Bensley, D. A & Lilienfeld, S. O.  (2017).  Psychological misconceptions: Recent scientific advances and unresolved issues, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27, 377-382. http://doi.10.1177/0963721417699026

    Bensley, D. A & Lilienfeld, S. O.  (in press).  Assessing belief in unsubstantiated claims. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

    Bensley, D., Lilienfeld, S. O., & Powell, L. A.  (2014).  A new measure of psychological misconceptions: Relations with academic background, critical thinking, and acceptance of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.  Learning and Individual Differences, 36, 9-18. http://doi.10.1016/j.lindif.2014.07.009

    Bensley, D. A., Lilienfeld, S. O., Rowan, K. A., Masciocchi, C. M., & Grain, F. (2019). The generality of belief in unsubstantiated claims. Applied Cognitive Psychology. http://doi.10.1002/acp3581

    Bensley, D. A., Masciocchi, C. M., & Rowan, K.A., (in press). Comprehensive instruction and assessment of critical thinking skills, dispositions, metacognition, and knowledge. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.  

    Bensley, D. A. & Murtagh, M. P.  (2012).  Guidelines for a scientific approach to critical thinking assessment.  Teaching of Psychology, 39, 5-16. 

    Bensley, D. A., Rainey, C., Lilienfeld, S. O., & Kuehne, S.  (2015).  What do psychology students know about what they know in psychology?  Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1, 283-297. http://doi.10.1037/stl0000035

    Bensley, D. A. & Spero, R. A.  (2014).  Improving critical thinking and metacognitive monitoring through direct infusion.  Thinking Skills and Creativity, 12, 55-68. http://doi.10.1016/j.tsc.2014.02.001

    Bensley, D. A., Watkins, C., Lilienfeld, S. O., Masciocchi, C. M., & Rowan, K. A. (2020). The generality of dispositional predictors of belief in unsubstantiated claims.  Manuscript. Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J. & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great myths of popular psychology.Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • 02 Sep 2020 5:37 PM | Anonymous

    By: Nicole Alea, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara

    There is a story that I share in my research methods class to teach students about the ordinal measurement scale. The story goes something like this:

    “So, my husband has been a competitive swimmer since he was young. He now swims with the Masters, which means he’s over 40. He’s still a really, really good swimmer! I remember this one race that he used to do every year around a small island called Gasparee off the coast of Trinidad where we used to live. I was on the beach waiting with our son for him to come out of the water. I remember my husband coming out of the water looking really proud, with a big smile on his face, as if he had just won the entire race. He knew that he did well, and it turned out that he came in 5th place overall, which was really great! So, it was hard when I had to tell him that although he was 5th overall, which is great, he was also about 5 minutes behind the first four finishers. Five minutes is a long time in swimming. I made him feel better by letting him know that the first four finishers were all in their twenties and came in from the race within mere seconds of one another. So, he was first in his age group!”

    As a class, we will then go on to discuss how the placement of the swimmers is rank ordered, so that someone is first, second, etc., but that the intervals between the ranks or the race finishers are not equal. My husband was somewhat far behind those first four finishers, thus an ordinal scale.

    I could, of course, teach this concept with a simple definition of ordinal scale, a generic example, or I could even make up a story, but I always share this personal story with my students. I am not alone in my affinity for sharing personal stories in the classroom. A survey of 100 psychology instructors found that 91% reported using stories in classes, and that most of these stories were about personal life experiences (Housaka, Brakke, Kinslow, Zhao, Campbell, & Clinton, 2015). Why are we doing this as instructors, sharing the personal experiences of our life with students?

    We know why people do this in everyday life, outside of the classroom. There is a pretty clear consensus that people reflect on and share experiences about their personal past for self, social, and directive reasons, or what are called the functions of autobiographical memory (Bluck & Alea, 2011). Reflecting on personal experiences allows us to better understand who we are and how we have changed or remained the same over time (self function; e.g., Bluck, Alea, & Demiray, 2009). Personal stories are shared to initiate and develop relationships, to elicit empathy from or provide empathy to others, and to help teach or inform someone (social function; Alea & Bluck, 2003). Reflecting on personal experiences also helps people to make current decisions and to guide future behaviors (direction function; e.g., Pillemer, 2003). Do these everyday functions of personal stories translate to a classroom setting?

    The importance of stories as a pedagogical tool has not gone unnoticed (e.g., Brakke & Houska, 2015), and empirical support about their functions is accumulating. Miller and Wozniak (2015), for example, found that students in an introductory psychology course were more likely to get exam questions correct when the content of a question had been taught using a story versus a non-story format (e.g., definitions). This performance difference was particularly salient for personal stories, thus demonstrating the utility of personal stories in serving a teaching and learning function. We found similar results in my research methods course (Alea & Osfeld, 2020). Students self-reported that personal stories, like the one that I shared above, helped them to not only better understand course material, but also served socioemotional functions. Students reported that the personal stories were a source of enjoyment in the learning process and helped to create a positive classroom atmosphere.

    It also seems that personal stories do not have to be shared by an instructor, or even in person, to be functional. In Spring 2020, I had to quickly transition my usual in-person Adult Development and Aging course into an online course. As part of the course requirements, students made weekly posts in an online discussion forum to specific prompts. The initial purpose of the forum was to help students learn the course material via application (for example: linking age-related changes in attention to driving regulations for older adults). However, after reading the posts each week, it became clear that these forums were doing something more.

    Students were spontaneously sharing personal stories in the online discussion forums and their stories seemed to be serving particular functions for themselves and other students. For example, when covering diversity and aging, one student shared the following personal story:

    “I wanted to share a story myself to see if anyone else can relate as well! I feel like there is a huge lack of resources for our minority groups, especially for those who are elderly. My grandmother always needs my siblings or I to go with her to any doctor's appointment/checkups because most of the physicians are white and do not speak her native language thus a translator is needed. The language barrier is something that I don't hear talked about often, and I feel that this is something that this generation can fix for the future.”

    The student’s story did an excellent job of demonstrating the minority experience of aging. She taught other students, and me, something via her story. It will probably become a vicarious story (Thomsen & Pillemer, 2017) that I use to teach students in the future. The student was also clearly asking if others could relate or empathize with her situation. It turns out that they did. Another student’s response to the post clearly served an empathic function. The student posted:

    “Thank you for sharing this story about your grandmother. It is crazy to think that on top of all of this added stress regarding COVID, the most vulnerable populations like the elderly are also having to worry about language and cultural barriers (things I so easily take for a granted as a white & English speaker). Many hospitals/clinics are currently not allowing visitors, so I can't even imagine what it must feel like for someone in your grandmother's position.”

    These two excerpts are only anecdotal evidence, but the snippets demonstrate the potential of personal stories as a pedagogical tool that can serve multiple functions. Personal stories in the classroom or in a remote learning environment, shared by the teacher or by peers, whether it is my story or someone else’s story, do more than teach and inform. Personal stories seem to function to make learning more enjoyable, create a positive classroom atmosphere, and have the potential to foster empathy among our students. With the incredible challenges our students are currently facing with the pandemic, racial injustices, and natural disasters, I encourage all of us to humanize our courses by infusing them with personal stories that have the capacity to serve self, social, and directive functions.


    Alea, N., & Bluck, S. (2003). Why are you telling me that? A conceptual model of the social function of autobiographical memory. Memory11, 165-178.

    Alea, N., & Osfeld, M. J. (2020).  Teach me your story: the function of autobiographical stories as a pedagogical tool. Poster presented at the APS Virtual Poster Showcase (June 2020 – September 2020).

    Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2008). Remembering being me: The self-continuity function of autobiographical memory in younger and older adults. In F. Sani (Ed.) Self-continuity: Individual and collective perspectives (pp. 55-70). New York: Psychology Press.

    Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2011). Crafting the TALE: Construction of a measure to assess the functions of autobiographical remembering. Memory, 19, 470-486.

    Brakke, K., & Houska, J. A. (2015). Telling stories: The art and science of storytelling as an instructional strategy. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site:

    Houska, J. A., Brakke, K., Kinslow, S. L., Zhao, X., Campbell, B., & Clinton, A. (2015). The use of story among teachers of psychology. In K. Brakke & J. A. Houska (Eds.). Telling stories: The art and science of storytelling as an instructional strategy. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site:

    Landrum, R. E., Brakke, K., & McCarthy, M. A. (2019). The pedagogical power of storytelling. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 5, 247–253.

    Miller, R. L., & Wozniak, W. J. (2015). Weaving yarns into good psychological science education. In K. Brakke & J. A. Houska (Eds.). Telling stories: The art and science of storytelling as an instructional strategy. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site:

    Pillemer, D. (2003). Directive functions of autobiographical memory: The guiding power of the specific episode. Memory, 11, 193-202.

    Thomsen, D. K., & Pillemer, D. B. (2017). I know my story and I know your story: Developing a conceptual framework for vicarious life stories. Journal of Personality, 85, 464-480.

    Dr. Nicole Alea (Albada) is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California Santa Barbara. She teaches undergraduate courses on research methods, statistics, and a course on adult development and aging. She is the director of the TALE - Thinking About Life Experiences - Lab, and has been conducting research on the functions and content of autobiographical memory in everyday life across adulthood and cultures for 20 years. Her research interests have recently broadened to focus on understanding the functions of personal stories as a pedagogical tool. 

  • 21 Aug 2020 11:30 AM | Anonymous

    By: Amy K. Maslowski and Laura T. Simon, on behalf of the GSTA Steering Committee

    At the beginning of June, the GSTA expressed its solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and with our fellow Black and brown graduate students in our position statement and call to action for graduate student teaching assistants and instructors of psychology. In our statement, we identified six actions that graduate student instructors and teaching assistants can take to make our instruction more inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist. In this series of posts for the GSTA Blog, members of the GSTA Steering Committee will be expanding on each of these action items and including resources that may be useful for other instructors and teaching assistants in psychology courses. We recognize that these are just a few of the many amazing resources available and encourage you to share resources that you have found helpful with us through Facebook (, Twitter (@gradsteachpsych), email (, or the GSTA listserv.

    For our second blog post, we provide background and resources for two more action items that focus on activism and supporting our students and colleagues:

    • Engage with students and colleagues across disciplines in activism to create change in your classrooms, institutions, and communities.
    • Above all, be compassionate and supportive to your students, your colleagues, and yourself during these times.

    These unprecedented and uncertain times necessitate the promotion of compassion for everyone, as well as support and information for our students, colleagues, and ourselves. Due to COVID-19, our world has undergone dramatic changes that were not anticipated. The abrupt shift to online/distance learning made instructors think about their teaching and students in a different way than they did before. This change in instructional format, while perhaps not expected or desired, provides the opportunity that may be necessary to “shake up” some of our old ways of teaching and assumptions about our students, as well as what teaching and learning should look like. 

    For example, we are now reflecting on our classroom experiences, teaching in new ways, and considering challenges we may encounter, such as (Lederman, 2020):

    • Reasons class participation and/or enrollment may be decreased. 
    • Technological inequities.
    • Students’ and our colleagues’ uncertainties regarding returning to campus.
    • Alternating course instructional format based on the needs of our students and ourselves.

    Furthermore, the renewed calls for racial equality are promoting differentiated instructional methods and preparation. With this reminder to emphasize equality, it is important to take this opportunity of instructional formatting changes necessitated by COVID-19. In addition, we should aim to revamp the way we teach to be as inclusive and equitable as possible. As the leader of your classroom, there are many ways to incorporate social justice in your curricula.

    Schmidt (2009) outlines why social justice should be a pillar in all classrooms in a journal article designed for educators to assist students in starting the process of activism. The article illustrates how the process of becoming an advocate can happen naturally or instructor-driven, past examples of social action projects, and the skills students learn by becoming student activists. 

    Once you have decided to incorporate social justice into your classroom, there may be various unexpected benefits or barriers to pursuing equality in academia. Rose (2017) addresses benefits and challenges she has faced in the pursuit of social justice, as well as strategies to prevent and circumnavigate obstacles to academic activism. This review demonstrated feedback accusing the author as having a “political agenda” when engaging in social justice activities, the lack of transparency and accountability associated with bias on committees, and recommended strategies to address these barriers on a personal and university level.

    Teachers and educators may find the following resources useful to engage with students and colleagues in creating, encouraging, and facilitating activism:

    • Student Activism in School - How to Get Your Voice Heard - Guide on how to become a student activist.
    • Pushing the Edge - Podcasts for educators about how to engage in social justice activism.  Includes content about creating safe schools, being an ally, navigating being an advocate while not “pushing an agenda”, etc.
    • SPARQ Toolkit - Toolkit with videos on how to develop students’ and colleagues’ racial literacy through identifying actions that are (perhaps unintentionally) racist and to promote racial equity.
    • Lesson Plans - Free lesson plans, student texts, and teaching strategies for K - 12 grade students, which still may be relevant for college students.
    • Additionally, please see blog posts 1 and 3 (forthcoming) for additional resources on decolonizing your syllabus, increasing representation in academia, and structuring discussions with students.

    In addition, we are aware of the impact current times have had on us as instructors and graduate teaching assistants. Self-care and being compassionate are important. There are many resources for embedding compassion and self-care into our work on campus, including:

    Part of self-care, however, is also stepping back and taking off our academic “hats” to focus on ourselves. COVID-19 means that self-care may have to look a bit differently, yet it is even more strongly encouraged during these times (Geisinger, 2020). Possible strategies involve:

    • Setting aside time that is only for you. Pick an activity you enjoy (e.g., reading, knitting, art, yoga) to help unwind.
    • Maintain physical activity.
    • Ensure that you stick to a routine/schedule. 
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Eat regular and nutritious meals.
    • Remind yourself “why?” Why are you social distancing/in quarantine? Why does it matter?

    Additionally, encourage your students and colleagues to also take time for themselves and implement self-care into their schedules.

    Overall, be forgiving and understanding. This applies to your students, colleagues, and, importantly, yourselves. We are all navigating this time in different ways, and more likely than not, others are feeling the same way as you. Take time to engage and collaborate with others, and take each moment day-by-day.


    Curan, G. (2020). Social justice resources. Pushing the Edge.

    Geisinger. (2020). Make time for self-care during a quarantine.

    Lederman, D. (2020). Will shift to remote teaching be boon or bane for online learning? Inside HigherEd.

    Rose, B. (2017). Moving from chasm to convergence: Benefits and barriers to academic activism for social justice and equity. Brock Education Journal, 27(1), 67-78.

    Schmidt, L. (2009). Stirring up justice. Teaching Social Responsibility, Educational Leadership, 66(8), 32-37. 

    Stanford (n.d.). RaceWorks toolkit. SPARQtools. 

    Thompson, E. (2019). Student activism in school: Getting your voice heard. Accredited Schools Online.

  • 18 Aug 2020 7:17 PM | Deleted user

    By: Nathan Foster, Ph.D., The College of Wooster

    Professors, educators, and graduate students just beginning their teaching careers are familiar with this scene: A student comes to office hours a day before an exam asking for help and clarification on topics that were introduced weeks prior. The meeting reveals the student is just now starting to study and learn the content. Why is the student electing to learn all the content at the last minute? Furthermore, the student is organizing their studying by reviewing material of similar topics and mastering this material in a block before moving to a new topic, despite research showing the opposite behavior, interleaving different topics, is most likely better for learning (Dunlosky et al., 2013). Do students intentionally select poor study strategies knowing these strategies are ineffective, or do they simply not understand that their strategies of choice lead to poor learning outcomes?

    The extent to which students misunderstand the consequences of their study behaviors may come from the disconnect between what students know and what they think they know. For example, we found that students were overconfident in their performance when asked to predict their success on an upcoming exam (Foster et al., 2016). Upon receiving immediate feedback on the exam, these students persisted in their overconfidence by aiming high on a prediction for their next exam. Surprisingly, this pattern of blind overconfidence continued across thirteen weekly exams during the semester—students could not boost their scores to meet their aspirations, nor would they lower their aspirations to be consistent with their scores.

    In addition to overconfidence, students may be unaware of the benefits of certain study strategies. Overwhelming evidence has demonstrated the benefits of spaced practice over mass practice on memory (see Cepeda et al., 2006, for a review). Similarly, in what is known as the interleaving effect, mixing retrieval of different volume formulas, compared to retrieving formulas in blocks, produced better memory for these formulas later on (Rohrer & Taylor, 2007). When given a choice in a laboratory learning experiment, participants decided to mass their study of items judged as more difficult when they should have engaged in spaced practice of these items (Son, 2004). Furthermore, Yan, Bjork, and Bjork (2016) had participants study paintings from different artists and later asked them to imagine they were art teachers and to recommend a study schedule to their students of either blocked practice (where example paintings from each artist were studied separately in blocks) or interleaved practice (where example paintings from different artists were studied together). Results indicated that participants were more likely to recommend blocked practice than interleaved practice. Even when interleaved practice had benefited their own performance, participants were hesitant to recommend interleaved practice and instead split their recommendations for the two strategies approximately 50/50. People don’t seem to know what study strategies are best for learning even when they themselves have benefited from these strategies.

    One possibility for why students may be reluctant to adopt study strategies like spacing and interleaved practice may come from the ambiguity of these strategies. For example, interleaved practice itself may boost learning because problems from different categories are studied back-to-back, forcing the learner to contrast the concepts. Here, the defining characteristic of a concept is more likely to be highlighted when that concept is contrasted with a similar concept (e.g. ABABAB) compared to when the concepts are blocked (e.g., AAABBB). Alternatively, interleaving can benefit learning compared to blocking simply because concepts are spaced in an interleaved practice schedule. According to this view, learning concept A will benefit equally when A is interleaved with concept B (e.g., ABABAB) and when A is interleaved with an unrelated concept, X (e.g., AXAXAX). In both examples, A receives the same “amount” of spaced practice, and learning is benefitted because of this spacing, not because of any conceptual enhancement gained from contrasting A to B, versus contrasting A to X.

    Fortunately, recent research evaluated whether the contrast mechanism or the spacing mechanism is what produces benefits in interleaved practice. Foster et al. (2019) had participants study four volume formulas, borrowed from Rohrer and Taylor (2007) (see Figure 1). Participants practiced according to an interleaved or a blocked schedule. Interleaving involved successively practicing a single wedge, spheroid, spherical cone, and half cone problem, and then repeating that interleaved sequence three more times. By contrast, blocking involved practicing four wedge problems successively, followed by four spheroid problems, etc. Importantly, two additional “remote” practice groups were included. In remote-interleaving, wedge problems were interleaved with non-volume problems like adding fractions and dividing exponents. In remote-blocking, four wedge problems were practiced in a block before practicing the other non-volume problems. Results indicated that wedge performance on a week-delayed final test of formula retrieval was better for interleaved than blocked practice. But, critically, an equivalent boost in learning was observed for remote-interleaving compared to remote-blocking (see Figure 2). These results support the notion that interleaving helps because of spacing, not contrast. However, to the extent that interleaving benefits learning because of contrast may be highly dependent on what is being learned (e.g., contrasting may benefit highly confusable concepts like bird species or artists’ paintings more than math formulas).

    If students understood that managing their study time to allow for spaced practice is the critical ingredient for learning, they may be more inclined to adopt spaced practice as a study behavior. Indeed, interleaved practice necessarily spaces out target content, but it does this while simultaneously swapping in practice of other materials, which students may perceive as an unappealing strategy. Future efforts to understand student learning should focus on both the metacognitive beliefs about study behaviors and techniques as well as the underlying mechanisms of the strategies themselves.

    Figure 1. Materials from Rohrer & Taylor (2007)

    Figure 2. Experiment 2 Results from Foster, Mueller, Was, Rawson, & Dunlosky, (2019)


    Cepeda, N., J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., Rohrer, D. (2008). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 354-380.

    Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 4-59.

    Foster, N. L., Mueller, M. L., Was, C. A., Rawson, K. A., Dunlosky, J. (2019). Why does interleaving improve math learning? The contributions of discriminative contrast and distributed practice. Memory & Cognition, 47, 188-1101.

    Foster, N. L., & Was, C. A., Dunlosky, J., & Isaacson, R. M. (2016). Even after thirteen exams, students are still overconfident: The role of memory for past exam performance in student predictions. Metacognition and Learning, 12, 1-19.

    Rohrer, D., & Taylor, K. (2007). The shuffling of mathematics problems improves learning. Instructional Science, 35, 481-498.                                  

    Son, L. K. (2004). Spacing one’s study: Evidence for a metacognitive control strategy.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 601-604.

    Yan, V. X., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2016). On the difficulty of mending metacognitive illusions: A priori theories, fluency effects, and misattributions of the interleaving benefit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 918-933.

    Author's Bio

    Nathan Foster is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at The College of Wooster. He teaches courses on memory, cognition, and statistics in psychology. His research program investigates the cognitive processes of human memory with a focus on metacognition, concept learning, and the intentional forgetting of unwanted information.

  • 14 Aug 2020 9:29 AM | Anonymous

    By: Jessica E. Brodsky and Adam Green, on behalf of the GSTA Steering Committee

    At the beginning of June, the GSTA expressed its solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and with our fellow Black and brown graduate students in our position statement and call to action for graduate student teaching assistants and instructors of psychology. In our statement, we identified six actions that graduate student instructors and teaching assistants can take to make our instruction more inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist. In this series of posts for the GSTA Blog, members of the GSTA Steering Committee will be expanding on each of these action items and including resources that may be useful for other instructors and teaching assistants in psychology courses. We recognize that these are just a few of the many amazing resources available and encourage you to share resources that you have found helpful with us through Facebook (, Twitter (@gradsteachpsych), email (, or the GSTA listserv (

    For our first blog post, we provide background and resources for two of the action items that focus explicitly on what we teach in our psychology courses:

    • Decolonize your syllabi by including the work of scholars and psychologists from diverse identities and backgrounds
    • Discuss with students and colleagues how discrimination and inequity have shaped the field of psychology and the world around us

    As part of decolonizing their pedagogy, instructors rethink their instruction in a way that “highlights, examines, and discusses transforming the mutually reinforcing systems of neocolonial and capitalist domination and exploitation in the United States” (Tejeda, Espinoza, Guttierrez, 2002, p. 31). Transforming your syllabus to intentionally highlight the works and perspectives of scholars outside the traditional canon is one starting point for beginning to decolonize your pedagogy. However, decolonizing efforts extend far beyond our choice of texts to include all aspects of students’ learning, ranging from the course design to assessment and evaluation practices (Biermann, 2011; Tejeda et al., 2002). For more information about decolonizing pedagogy, as well as resources for decolonizing your syllabus and other aspects of your course, see Franklin-Phipps’ (2020) materials from their workshop on Decolonizing Pedagogy.

    Increasing representation of diverse scholars in the psychology curriculum also provides an opportunity for undergraduates to see themselves in the curriculum. Black and brown psychology majors are deeply aware of the lack of diversity in the psychology curriculum and faculty. A study of psychology majors in the United States (N = 1,867) conducted in 2005 found that, as compared to European American students, Black, LatinX, Asian American, and mixed ethnicity students were more likely to perceive their racial / ethnic group as being represented stereotypically, unfairly, inaccurately, or not at all (Lott & Rogers, 2011). These students were also more likely to identify the goal of increasing diversity in both the psychology faculty and curriculum as ways to improve the field (Lott & Rogers, 2011). Increasing the diversity of our curriculum is especially important given that today’s undergraduate students are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before, while the majority of college instructors and psychology professionals continue to be White (Davis & Fry, 2019; Lin et al., 2018).

    This mismatch between faculty and students poses a problem for students from diverse backgrounds. Seeing mostly White faculty and White figures highlighted in the field of psychology can give students the impression that academia is not a viable option for non-White students. While we, as graduate student teaching assistants and instructors, do not have immediate influence over faculty hiring practices, we can highlight the contributions of diverse psychologists by including them in our syllabi and discussing their lives and their work in class. If you are set to teach in the coming year, we highly recommend taking the time to go through the resources below to identify and foreground diverse psychologists in your syllabus.

    Instructors may find the following websites useful as they identify psychologists to include in their syllabi:

    Highlighting the works of diverse scholars offers an opportunity for students to think critically about issues of diversity and racism throughout the field of psychology, including what research questions are asked and whose work is published. As Gone (2011) notes, “the history of psychological science, as it has intersected with ethnoracial, cultural, and other marginalized domains of group difference, is replete with disinterest, dismissal, or denigration of these diverse forms of psychological experience” (p. 234). Since the 1970s, research articles published in top-tier cognitive, developmental, and social psychology journals have rarely focused on race, despite the importance of racialized experiences in shaping human psychology (Roberts et al., 2020). Furthermore, articles that do study race are primarily written and edited by White scholars, highlighting systemic inequality in academic publishing and offering just one of many examples of inequity in academia (see O’Meara, 2014).

    Students should be asked to thoroughly question choices around who is recruited as a participant and which research methodologies are used, as well as the implications of failing to examine the roles of culture and context in the study of psychology. For example, instructors can ask students to consider how recruiting primarily WEIRD participants (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic; Henrich et al., 2010), and the dominance of the distance perspective (i.e., disinterestedness in the sample and avoidance of “insider bias”) affect the generalizability of research findings, while alienating both participants and researchers from marginalized groups (Nzinga et al., 2018). Engaging students in thinking critically about these issues can help students understand the urgency of considering sociocultural factors as part of their own scientific inquiry (APA Goal 2.5, APA; 2013). As Nzinga et al. (2018) argue: “systematic, empirical science that is responsive to communities, policies, cultures, and contexts is ‘just good research’” (p. 11439).

    Instructors may find the following resources helpful for structuring their discussions with students:

    To wrap up, we want to note that, in 2019, the APA published Guidelines on Race and Ethnicity in Psychology, which provide fundamental guidelines on promoting racial and ethnocultural responsiveness and equity in the field, as well as specific guidelines for psychology education and training, research, and practice. Each guideline describes concrete ways that psychologists can apply that guideline. We encourage you to take a look at this excellent resource.


    American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major: Version 2.0. Retrieved from

    Biermann, S. (2011). Knowledge, power and decolonization: Implication for non-indigenous scholars, researchers and educators. Counterpoints, 379, 386-398.

    Davis, L. & Fry, R. (2019). College faculty have become more racially and ethnically diverse but remain far less so than students. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

    Gone, J. P. (2011). Is psychological science a-cultural? Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(3), 234–242.

    Henrich, J., Heine, S. & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature 466, 29.

    Lin, L., Stamm, K., & Christidis, P. (2018, February). How diverse is the psychology workforce? Monitor on Psychology, 49(2).

    Lott, B., & Rogers, M. R. (2011) Ethnicity matters for undergraduate majors in challenges, experiences, and perception of psychology. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17, 204–210.   

    Nzinga, K., Rapp, D. N., Leatherwood, C., Easterday, M., Rogers, L. O., Gallagher, N., & Medin, D. L. (2018). Should social scientists be distanced from or engaged with the people they study? PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11435–11441.

    O’Meara, K., (2014, January 13). Change the tenure system. Inside HigherEd.

    Roberts, S. O., Bareket-Shavit, C., Dollins, F. A., Goldie, P. D., & Mortenson, E. (2020). Racial Inequality in Psychological Research: Trends of the Past and Recommendations for the Future. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

    Tejeda, C., Espinoza, M., Guttierrez, K. (2002). Toward a decolonizing pedagogy: Social justice reconsidered. In P. P. Trifonas (Ed.), Pedagogies of difference: Rethinking education for social justice (pp. 9 - 38). Taylor & Francis Group.

  • 04 Aug 2020 11:02 AM | Anonymous

    By: Amy S. Hunter

    I've written in this space before about Project Syllabus (PS), the compilation of peer-reviewed syllabi for psychology courses supported by Division 2 (Teaching of Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. In this follow-up post, I'll describe three quick and easy changes you can make to your syllabus to make it consistent with some of the principles of the rubric.

    Before I do so, though, I’m going to provide two empirically based reasons why using the PS rubric to guide the construction of your syllabus is good practice. First, college student participants given a learner-centered syllabus rated a hypothetical professor more highly on master teacher behaviors including enthusiasm, receptivity, and levels of student engagement as compared to participants given a teacher-centered syllabus (Richmond, Slattery, Mitchell, Morgan, & Becknell, 2016). Additionally, syllabi posted on PS were found to be “disproportionately learner-centered on almost all of the factors assessed” (Richmond, Morgan, Slattery, Mitchell, & Cooper, 2019, page 6). Taken together, these results indicate that students have more positive perceptions of faculty who use learner-centered syllabi and that following the PS rubric leads to such syllabi.

    The rubric itself is long and detailed, but some components are easier to implement than others. In this blog post I’ll discuss three simple changes you can make to enhance your syllabus and your course. I’ll also include examples from my own syllabi to show how you can modify your syllabus to make it more learner-centered and consistent with the PS rubric.

    The first of those components is inclusion of faculty roles and responsibilities. In general, faculty are good at describing student responsibilities: you’ll write 4 papers, you should put your phone away before class starts, etc. However, we’re typically not as clear in describing our own responsibilities and what students can expect of us. For example, how quickly will you respond to student e-mails? How soon should students expect to receive graded work? Some syllabi incorporate this information throughout the document, such as:

    Others include this in its own section:

    Regardless of how it is incorporated, inclusion of explicit faculty responsibilities helps students to understand their faculty members and provides additional information about what they can expect from the professor and the course. I’ll admit that I resisted some of this at first, particularly providing turnaround time for graded work. However, it’s turned out to be beneficial for me too, by giving me a deadline that I feel compelled to meet. If I have a deadline for students to submit their work to me, why shouldn’t I have one for returning it to them?

    The second component is to provide an explicit rationale for your pedagogical choices. If you’re taking time out of your day to read this blog post, you likely care about teaching and are thoughtful and deliberate in your course design. Instead of keeping that thought process to yourself, share it with your students; explain the rationale for your choices to them.

    For example, here’s the section in my syllabus on the use of electronics/technology (which is based on Marianne Fallon’s Research Methods syllabus, posted on PS):

    I also provide a rationale for course requirements, as  this explanation for writing assignments demonstrates:

    Finally, consider the overall tone of your syllabus. If a student’s first exposure to you is your syllabus, how would that student perceive you? We often start our syllabi with the standard description of the course from the university course catalogue, which tends to be dry and boring. However, here’s your chance to tell students why they should be excited about and interested in your course! Most of us would agree that teaching is a perk of our jobs: we get paid to talk to a captive audience about things we find interesting. Share that excitement with your students!

    Tone can be expressed throughout the syllabus:

    I’ve always had a “policies and procedures” section in my syllabi, and earlier in my teaching career they were very teacher-centered and read like a list of commandments: Don’t be late. Don’t ask me for my slides. Don’t submit late work. Over the years I’ve modified this section to reflect a more friendly, student-centered tone while still conveying the same information. Note that this section still includes my expectations of students regarding attendance and etiquette – for example, students are responsible for all material covered in class whether they’re in attendance or not, and I won’t stop lecturing so latecomers can catch up – but the message is conveyed very differently.

    When I first heard about the concept of designing a course in a learner-centered fashion, my initial assumption was that “learner-centered” was essentially a synonym for “less rigorous”. However, after implementing these changes I’ve found that’s not true at all! My course isn’t any easier than it was before; crafting a syllabus in a more learner-centered fashion reminds me to be more respectful and to think about the class from the student perspective, not just my own.

    While these modifications only encompass a small portion of the rubric and there are other changes you can make to increase the degree to which your syllabus – and entire course – are learner-centered, these relatively easy changes will undoubtedly get you on the right track. If you’re interested in learning more, please consider attending my synchronous virtual workshop at the Annual Conference on Teaching in October 2020, where I’ll provide more suggestions and provide ample time for attendees to ask questions and make changes to their own syllabi. Hope to see you there!


    Richmond, A.S., Slattery, J.M., Mitchell, N., Morgan, R.K. & Becknell, J. (2016). Can a learner-centered syllabus change students’ perceptions of student-professor rapport and master teacher behaviors? Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2(3), 159-168.

    Richmond, A.S., Morgan, R.K., Slattery, J.M., Mitchell, N., & Cooper, A.G. (2019). Project Syllabus: An exploratory study of learner-centered syllabi. Teaching of Psychology, 46(1), 6-15.

    Dr. Amy Silvestri Hunter is Associate Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Seton Hall University. She teaches courses such as Orientation to the Psychology Major, Research Methods, Biological Psychology, Neuropsychology of Religious Experience, and Psychopharmacology. Dr. Hunter’s research, conducted with extensive student involvement, investigates the relationship between REM sleep and memory. She was the recipient of Seton Hall’s College of Arts & Sciences Teacher of the Year award in 2014 and 2017 and Researcher of the Year in 2019. She has been the editor of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Project Syllabus, a compendium of peer-reviewed psychology syllabi, since 2015.

  • 28 Jul 2020 4:48 PM | Anonymous

    By: GSTA Editorial Team members Teresa M. Ober, Elizabeth S. Che, Jessica E. Brodsky, Charles Raffaele, and Patricia J. Brooks

    The Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA), led for six years by graduate students in Psychology and Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), recently compiled and edited a *free* electronic handbook (eBook) for new college teachers. How We Teach Now: The GSTA Guide to Transformative Teaching which is now available for download on the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website. 

    In editing the eBook, we were frequently asked what is transformative teaching? In our view, it involves teaching with the ultimate goal of changing students’ lives for the better. Transformative teachers make a difference by seeing the potential in their students, setting up appropriate challenges, and providing encouragement and support for their students to push boundaries and adapt quickly to shifting environments. We have come to view transformative teaching as instruction and course design that promotes student engagement, fosters personal growth and agency, and connects psychological science in relevant ways to issues of global and local concern.

    As graduate students and early career college teachers, we recognize it can be challenging to figure out where to start in becoming more transformative teachers. How We Teach Now: The GSTA Guide to Transformative Teaching provides practical guidance for teachers at all levels of experience and is particularly written specifically for current and future graduate students. Our hope is that the volume will serve as a valuable resource for new instructors as they embark on careers as teachers of psychology.

    In editing the eBook, we have had the unique privilege of interfacing with experienced and novice instructors of psychology, and have observed the development of our own professional identities in the process. Many of the contributors have been instrumental in helping to shape not just our perspectives, but also broader discussions around the teaching of psychology. We are deeply grateful to the contributing authors for taking the time to share their insights and experiences here. 

    Acknowledging the remarkable work that has been done to promote better college teaching in the field of psychology, we also recognize that the institutions and general context in which our students are taught is far from perfect. Indeed, at no point in recent history does there appear as desperate a need to transform students' lives for the better, both now and in the foreseeable future. College classes throughout the U.S. are increasingly taught by adjunct and graduate student instructors with limited experience and who work burdened with the expectation of efficient time management in order to balance other demanding professional and scholarly obligations, including research and coursework. On top of this, educators and students alike are now simultaneously coping with, adjusting to, and further preparing for the repercussions of a global pandemic that within a matter of a few months swiftly upended routines taken for granted. In our daily lives, the ability to simply leave our homes and venture into the world has become less of a viable option. In our lives as teachers, replacing in-class instruction with online learning has become a necessity or a likely future possibility. The current situation would seem to be rife for instructional, professional, and personal chaos, yet many teachers have acted as silent heroes, handling the situation with earnest concern for students and others. 

    Though it is too soon to know the long-term consequences that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on K-16 education throughout the world, we are confident that there will remain a need for transformative teachers who are capable of providing opportunities for students to learn new knowledge and skills while also educating them to become more compassionate and justice-oriented. To that end, we hope this eBook may provide a foundation for new, experienced, and future instructors to develop transformative practices and further instill a sense of these values through transformative teaching.


    How We Teach Now (Volume 2): The GSTA Guide to Transformative Teaching

    Click here for a list of the chapters contents, and to download your own copy.

    This blog post originally appeared in the blog for the Program in Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY and has been republished with permission.

    Teresa M. Ober, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame working in the Learning Analytics and Measurement in Behavioral Sciences (LAMBS) Lab. While completing a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with a certificate in Instructional Technology and Pedagogy from the Graduate Center CUNY, Teresa served as the GSTA Chair (2017-2018). Teresa’s current work focuses on the science of learning, particularly the use of learning analytics, online and educational technologies to support learning, as well as literacy development, and statistics education. 

    Elizabeth S. Che is a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research interests include the use of Wikipedia editing to develop students’ writing and other teaching practices that foster the development of workforce relevant skills. She served as the GSTA Deputy Chair from 2017-2018 and GSTA Chair from 2019-May 2020.

    Jessica E. Brodsky is a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research interests include media literacy assessment and instruction, and development of online resources for teaching scientific and quantitative literacies. She served as the GSTA Deputy Chair from January 2018 - May 2019 and is currently the GSTA Chair.

    Charles Raffaele is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Psychology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. His research interests include multimedia-based and game-based second language learning. He is a member of the Child Interactive Learning and Development (CHILD) Lab and the Studying and Self-Regulated Learning SIG of the American Educational Research association. He has served in various capacities of the GSTA since 2015.

    Patricia J. Brooks, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research interests are in three broad areas: 1) individual differences in first- and second-language learning; 2) the impact of digital media on learning and development; 3) development of effective pedagogy to support diverse learners. Dr. Brooks served as the Faculty Advisor to the GSTA from 2014-2019.
  • 24 Jul 2020 3:31 AM | Anonymous

    By: Manpreet Rai, Ph.D., D'Youville College

    Many of you have undoubtedly taken a quick laugh break through This is my shameless plug for the comic that got me through grad school. There is no shortage of comics relating to sleep or lack thereof in this collection of comics. As with many comics, these have a hint of truth to them. It is no surprise, as the research shows, that grad students don’t get enough sleep (Alan et al., 2020; Oswalt & Wyatt, 2015). Not only is the quantity of sleep impacted, but so is the quality as grad students juggle several responsibilities: their own classes, research, families, and teaching, to name a few. In the midst of a pandemic, these sleep problems can be further exacerbated as stress and anxiety increase (Altena et al., 2020; Sher, 2020). Given these intertwining issues, the purpose of this post is to help two-fold:

    1. How to sleep better as busy students.
    2. How to incorporate sleep activities/concepts to any psychology class you’re teaching.

    (Part 1) Let’s start with a checklist to sleep better.

    Sleep Hygiene (health and environmental factors)

    • Keep regular sleep hours
      • An erratic sleep schedule messes up your circadian rhythm and can make getting a full night’s sleep more difficult
      • Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning (even on weekends and vacations)
      • Avoid oversleeping or lying in bed for prolonged periods of time after your sleep is completed
    • Maintain a regular physical activity routine
      • 20-30 minutes daily. This doesn’t have to be rigorous. A simple walk in your neighborhood counts.
      • Physical activity helps with stress and with sleep quality, especially N-REM Stage 3.
    • Don’t forget your diet
      • Finish dinner at least 2 hours before sleeping
      • Avoid eating large meals before bed or too much junk food
      • Do not go to bed hungry or full
      • Take care to eat appropriately during the working/waking time (that means don’t forget breakfast or skip lunch!)
      • Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least 4 hours before bed
      • Avoid over the counter medications that cause sleep problems
    • Establish regular routine and sleeping environment
      • Brush teeth, change clothes, comfortable sleep wear, use the bathroom
      • Relaxing Routine
      • Warm bath/shower
      • Quiet activities
      • Lower lights
      • Limit technology and remove technology from sleeping environment (no television or phone 30 minutes before bed)
      • Use room-darkening curtains
      • Ensure a dark, quiet, cool environment (temperature between 60-72 °F or 20-22 °C)

    Stress Management (techniques to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety)

    • Try stress management strategies that work for you: mindfulness, yoga, relaxation, breathing exercises. (CALM app) warm bath; herbal tea; dim light; reading; music
    • Establish regular routine
    • Limit news intake, especially before bed (especially when we’re overwhelmed with so many different stories, making it hard to distinguish real from fake)
    • Talk about and share dreams you’ve had with others. This self-disclosure builds empathy and relationships, both which actually help sleep.
    • Don’t ruminate
    • Focus on what you can control, and don’t worry about what you can’t
    • Work on emotion regulation. You can actually rehearse what you want to dream, impacting a "dream simulation" in a positive way.
    • Spend time during the day outside in sunlight
    • Ensure your home and work environment lets lots of daylight in 
    • Keep connected to others (live games on Zoom/Skype; check in with others; write a gratitude journal; faith and social clubs)
    • Engage in hobbies (art, music, puzzles etc.)
    • Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles (Create three columns to write out initial concern, why that creates a perceived fear, and finally a reasonable solution for it).
    • Have hope! We’re in this together!

    (Part 2) Incorporating sleep concepts in your classes

    From the above list of how you can help your own sleep, perhaps you have noticed several themes throughout that relate to different topics within psychology. Sleep education programs exist to help students sleep better (Brown et al, 2002; Blunden, & Rigney, 2015; Tanaka et. al, 2016), but they will not actually learn about the intricacies of sleep itself. Deficiencies in sleep quality and quantity can impact student performance at the academic and social/extracurricular levels (Gilbert & Weaver, 2010; Hershner & O’Brien, 2018; Lowry et al., 2015). However, there are few - if any - explicit ways in which students have devoted time to address their own sleep and understanding of sleep itself. Hence the need for a “Psychology of Sleep” class is as important as ever. From my anecdotal interaction with students, sleep is a topic that comes up a lot in various classes, and even in meetings in general.

    As such, in general psychology classes, you can have students complete a sleep journal using validated sleep scales (i.e., from the national sleep foundation, RUSH sleep scale, or the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (Johns, 1991) to name a few). Further, students who have fitness trackers can track their waking and sleeping activities that speak to how sleep was impacted across several days or weeks. The whole class can do a sleep challenge where you as the instructor or GTA can participate as well.

    In classes where time does not allow for a full self-sleep study with accompanying assignment throughout the semester, you can incorporate this topic into lectures. For example: how sleep impacts memory, learning, consciousness, lifespan development, cognition in general, emotion and motivation, work (I/O psychology), sensation and perception, clinical psychology, health psychology, biological/neuropsychology, drugs and behavior, physiological psychology, forensic psychology, consumer behavior, personality, social psychology and more. As psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes, sleep can speak to all of these processes via the biopsychosocial model in general. As such, it could be a theme throughout any course for the entire semester.

    The moral of the story is that sleep is important for all, including graduate students, to be used both personally and professionally. As the comic below says…let’s all be human!


    Allen, H. K., Barrall, A. L., Vincent, K. B., & Arria, A. M. (2020). Stress and Burnout Among Graduate Students: Moderation by Sleep Duration and Quality. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 1-8.

    Altena, E., Baglioni, C., Espie, C. A., Ellis, J., Gavriloff, D., Holzinger, B., ... & Riemann, D. (2020). Dealing with sleep problems during home confinement due to the COVID‐19 outbreak: Practical recommendations from a task force of the European CBT‐I Academy. Journal of Sleep Research, e13052.

    Blunden, S., & Rigney, G. (2015). Lessons learned from sleep education in schools: a review of dos and don'ts. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 11(06), 671-680. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.4782

    Brown, F. C., & Buboltz, W. C., Jr. (2002). Applying sleep research to university students: Recommendations for developing a student sleep education program. Journal of College Student Development, 43(3), 411–416

    Gilbert, S. P., & Weaver, C. C. (2010). Sleep quality and academic performance in university students: A wake-up call for college psychologists. Journal of college student psychotherapy, 24(4), 295-306.

    Hershner, S., & O'Brien, L. M. (2018). The impact of a randomized sleep education intervention for college students. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 14(03), 337-347 doi:/10.5664/jcsm.6974

    Johns, M. W. (1991). A new method for measuring daytime sleepiness: the Epworth sleepiness scale. Sleep, 14(6), 540-545.

    Lowry, M., Dean, K., & Manders, K. (2010). The link between sleep quantity and academic performance for the college student. Sentience, 3(2), 16-9.

    National Sleep Foundation (n.d.) National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary.

    Oswalt, S. B., & Wyatt, T. J. (2015). Who Needs More Sleep? Comparing Undergraduate and Graduate Students' Sleep Habits in a National US Sample. International Journal of Higher Education, 4(1), 77-85.

    Sher L. (2020). COVID-19, anxiety, sleep disturbances and suicide. Sleep medicine, 70, 124. 

    Tanaka, H., & Tamura, N. (2016). Sleep education with self-help treatment and sleep health promotion for mental and physical wellness in Japan. Sleep and biological rhythms, 14(1), 89-99 doi: 0.1007/s41105-015-0018-6

    TED talks about sleep:

    Dr. Manpreet Rai is an assistant professor in Psychology at D’Youville College Buffalo, NY. Her research interests are in cognitive psychology, namely working memory and language processing. Additionally, she is interested in sleep. Other research interests are in Teaching and Learning within the scholarship of teaching and learning. She loves working with and teaching for overall student success.

  • 22 Jul 2020 1:30 PM | Deleted user

    By: Susan A. Nolan, Ph.D., MaryClare Colombo, Seton Hall University

    Does COVID-19-related science have your mind reeling? Don’t wear masks! Wait, please do! You’re at higher risk if your blood is Type A! Not so fast!

    Since the global pandemic altered just about every aspect of our lives, more people than ever are active consumers of science, and are noticing, in real time, the twisting turns of knowledge as it is created. In the past, the general public mostly read journalists’ interpretations of peer-reviewed articles, but now, we’re eager to see the results of every new study. Preprints, the drafts of research papers posted online before peer review, are now read by the public, sometimes without full realization that the paper has not been vetted (except perhaps on Twitter). Nonscientists are suddenly using the lingo of science, asking about samples and replications and even, although maybe not quite with this vocabulary, effect sizes. The open science movement, with its push toward increasing transparency, is making its mainstream debut!

    The pandemic is a (devastatingly) perfect example of how current events, directly related to all of our lives, might drive student interest in understanding the previously murky scientific processes, and the clearer processes engendered by the open-science movement. Indeed, Grahe and colleagues (2019) argue that exposure to open science is not just a good idea, but one that fosters inclusion, helping all students feel connected to the scientific process. We can harness pandemic-related discussions about preprints and replications in the media, and use this as an opening toward discussing the full range of psychological science. And we can impart these lessons across the curriculum (see Morling & Calin-Jageman, 2020). Here, we outline ways to talk about open science in any course, including introductory psychology, and then introduce more advanced ideas suitable for a research or capstone course. This integration of open science can enhance students’ ability to think critically about science from all kinds of sources.  

    Across the curriculum: An open science approach. Open science need not use the “scary” language of statistics. For instruction in lower-level courses, replication is at the center. At its core, the question is whether other researchers can repeat a study’s findings, especially one with an unexpected outcome. Indeed, Chopik and colleagues (2018) reported the benefits of instruction on replication, even at the introductory psychology level, including a better understanding of research generally and open science specifically.

    Based on that premise, we’ll offer some examples of how instructors can embed open-science lessons into all of their courses in ways that encourage critical thinking.

    • Initiate discussions related to behavioral observations from everyday life. What leads people to comply with public health directives such as mask-wearing, for example? How could we study this? If a study comes out, why is it important to wait for a replication?
    • Initiate discussions related to news articles. Share news articles about psychology research, and ask what students can determine about the study, including the sample, from the news report. Explore with them how to dig deeper, including to find out whether this finding has repeated.
    • Introduce crowdsourcing, with all of its pros and cons. When a study appears to be based on crowdsourced data, such as a community sample recruited through a platform like Amazon Mechanical Turk (, encourage students to consider why that sample might be better than an introductory psychology participant pool, why the self-selected nature of such a sample might be problematic, and how such methods might be unethical (e.g., extremely low pay).
    • Introduce the open-science-badge initiative from the Center for Open Science ( Show your students how to find out if a study they read in the news has any badges by looking at the peer-reviewed journal article. Ask students what they can learn from each of the badges, and why it’s important to have this kind of transparency.

    Upper-level courses: Preregistration. For upper-level courses—whether research methods or laboratory courses—we can teach students about open science via the online preregistration process, such as the one on the Open Science Foundation’s website ( Here, we’ll talk about a Seton Hall University course, Laboratory Research Experience (LRE), in which students attend a once-a-week class to learn practical research skills while also working in a faculty member’s laboratory gaining hands-on experience. Courses such as LRE teach students research basics such as finding and reading scientific sources, the steps in the research process, and how to present and write about research (Joh, 2019). Students can jump into the process at any point, charged with the typical tasks of a research assistant. In the lab, students can use open-science tools—particularly preregistration—as simple, yet powerful, classroom-to-laboratory bridges, while increasing critical thinking skills.

    Students can understand two important concepts through preregistration—HARKing, or hypothesizing after the results are known, and p-hacking, manipulation of data and analyses to achieve statistical significance. Preregistration reduces these sketchy practices by detailing hypotheses, methodology, materials, and planned analyses in a time-stamped online log before data collection (Nosek et al., 2018). Students can complete a preregistration as a course project by using information from an Institutional Research Board application and asking questions of lab supervisors. In one study of a senior-level research course, students first reported unfamiliarity with preregistration, but later reported that completing a preregistration increased connections between methodology and statistics, prevented later changes in statistical decisions, and improved time and careful thought spent on research design (Blincoe & Buchert, 2020). In our own LRE course, undergraduate students took charge of the preregistration process, overseen by us (a professor and a graduate student), for an actual study; after completing this detailed assignment, they exhibited deep knowledge of the research process.

    Preregistration could also be used as a classroom exercise to teach about ethical research considerations. Students could design a replication study and work through a preregistration assignment in groups. (The assignments in this case would not ultimately be uploaded to OSF.) Due to the precision required for preregistration, students must consider how study components fit together, why certain decisions are made, and what implications and restrictions arise. A discussion following the activity should highlight the importance of preregistration as it relates to research ethics and ask what students perceive as the benefit of completing the preregistration.

    In summary, many aspects of open science are accessible to students at all levels of the undergraduate psychology curriculum. As the messy nature of the research process is increasingly visible to the general public, an understanding of open science can help our students to develop the critical mindset necessary to navigate the world.


    Blincoe, S., & Buchert, S. (2020). Research preregistration as a teaching and learning tool in undergraduate psychology courses. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 19(1), 107-115.

    Chopik, W. J., Bremner, R. H., Defever, A. M., & Keller, V. N. (2018). How (and whether) to teach undergraduates about the replication crisis in psychological science. Teaching of psychology, 45(2), 158-163.

    Grahe, J. E., Cuccolo, K., Leighton, D. C., & Cramblet Alvarez, L. D. (2020). Open science promotes diverse, just, and sustainable research and educational outcomes. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 19(1), 5-20. /10.1177/1475725719869164

    Joh, A. (2019). PSYC 2315/2316: Laboratory research experience [Syllabus]. Department of Psychology, Seton Hall University.

    Morling, B., & Calin-Jageman, R. J. (2020). What psychology teachers should know about open science and the new statistics. Teaching of Psychology, 47(2), 169-179.

    Nosek, B. A., Ebersole, C. R., DeHaven, A. C., & Mellor, D. T. (2018). The preregistration revolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(11), 2600-2606.

    Authors' Bios

    Susan A. Nolan, Ph.D. is a professor at Seton Hall University, an author of statistics and introductory psychology textbooks, and President Elect of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. Susan is co-editor of a new book on assessment of undergraduate psychology ( and is on Twitter @Susan_A_Nolan.

    MaryClare Colombo is a Master’s student in Experimental Psychology at Seton Hall University, where she is also pursuing a certificate in Data Analytics. She has several blossoming research interests including mental illness stigma and engagement in learning.

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software