I believe effective teaching is the outcome of a life-long process. Although I have received excellent reviews to date as demonstrated in my teaching portfolio, I remain vigilant in exploring ways to improve my teaching practices. It is my opinion that exemplary teachers continue to enhance their teaching through a process of self-examination that includes constructive feedback from both colleagues and students. Further, I believe incorporating and experimenting with new instructional approaches enriches the learning environment, as does staying current with the latest empirical research. I make attending teaching seminars and conferences a high priority and look forward to the future when empirical data related to my own pedagogy will be shared with the teaching community.
In addition to the importance of my personal growth as a teacher, I outline a common set of course expectations and objectives below.
High standards. I believe students excel in an environment in which expectations of performance are clear and attainable, but sufficiently high to present real challenge. Throughout each course, I push students to acquire the skills and abilities of a research psychologist. This pressure comes in the form of high standards for mastery of content, quality of writing, and quality of reflective judgment in evaluating theories and evidence. Importantly, I complement my high expectations with study aids and frequent opportunities to solicit help via study sessions, online chat reviews, and web discussion forums.
Critical thinking. A high priority in all of my classes is to develop students’ critical thinking skills so they may become conscientious consumers of psychological information. I emphasize the empirical foundation of our discipline using a variety of strategies, including thought experiments that teach students to generate and test alternative explanations. Correspondingly, I arm students with an awareness of our own cognitive biases as part of training students to draw valid inferences. Over the course of the semester, this habit of thinking critically is ingrained by frequently evaluating popular claims in the media as well as findings from peer-reviewed journals.
Enriched learning environment. I believe that effective and enduring learning is achieved by providing students with in-depth and repetitive exposure to the concepts and theories that are essential to the language of our profession. I illustrate fundamental principles, such as those central to research methodology (e.g., why causal relationships cannot be inferred from correlational findings), across several examples to increase the likelihood that a given perspective will resonate with individual students. Using a mixture of teaching strategies and evaluation techniques serves the dual purpose of acknowledging students’ individual talents while strengthening their skills in areas of relative weakness. This also entails appreciating the unique background of each student while disregarding those aspects that are irrelevant to students’ responsibilities in the education process. These include, but are not limited to: (a) gender, (b) age, (c) ethnicity, (d) race, (e) sexual orientation, (f) disability, (g) religious beliefs, and (h) political positions.
To capture student interest and attention, my classroom activities regularly involve an assortment of elements. My extreme organization and preparedness allows me to incorporate techniques that often require a great deal of preparation, such as interactive class demonstrations and Jeopardy-style review sessions. I am also well prepared to utilize the tools offered by web course-management systems (e.g., Blackboard) to extend the learning environment beyond the classroom.
Social support. I foster a conversational atmosphere in which students feel comfortable sharing their comments and questions. As part of a supportive framework, students are encouraged to view one another as colleagues, never as rivals. I would rather students compete against ignorance rather than each other. Further, I believe teachers should provide enough emotional support to give students the courage to pursue their greatest ambitions. In addition to my academic advising duties, I am rewarded by the opportunity to serve as a role model, inspiring students to become confident and hardworking scholars.
I cannot imagine a more fulfilling life than that of a teacher. Transmitting genuine enthusiasm for our discipline comes naturally to me, as does forming a personal connection with my students. Although I am early in my teaching career, I believe this framework represents a set of expectations and objectives that I can achieve and refine as I obtain additional experience. My experience as an Assistant Professor at Birmingham-Southern College, as well as my training at the University of Texas at Austin, has prepared me to teach both introductory and upper-division courses (see CV for an inclusive list of teaching interests). I eagerly await the opportunity to develop my teaching practices across a wide range of psychology-related courses.