By Regan A.R. Gurung, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
Pick a book. Look at someone else’s syllabus. Modify the latter to fit the former. You are now teaching!!
I have come a long (long long) way from the way I designed my first class. I did not take a ‘how to teach’ course. I will admit that in graduate school I felt pressured to work on being a stellar researcher above all else. I worked on publications and not on the craft of teaching. Little did I realize that the same skills I took to doing research could, can, and should, be applied to being an excellent teacher as well. Teaching needs to be examined in the same way as we examine research.
When I started, I did not have the advantage of the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) resources and the area of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), while around, was not as developed as it is now. Times are different now. There is now a variety of resources on how to teach well (see Gurung, Richmond, & Boysen, in press for a review and summary) and subjecting your teaching and your students’ learning to the same scrutiny as you do your research question is now easier to do. You can browse through an empirically based guide to being a model teacher (Richmond, Boysen, & Gurung, 2016) or even develop your own SoTL skills (Gurung & Wilson, 2013). Most importantly, there is a now a virtual home to bring together those interested in advancing teaching and learning.
If you are interested in questions such as ‘What is the best way to teach psychology?’ and ‘How should students study to learn?’, there is now a resource to help share answers and facilitate the search for solutions to common pedagogical problems. If you are a graduate student teaching your first class, you may believe that the challenges you face are unique. You may attribute the issues to newly venturing into the classroom or newly taking on the mantel of instructor. While both these attributions are valid, nearly every graduate student and many novice instructors and faculty face the same questions. To date there has been no coordinated effort to examine these questions. Whereas a large body of pedagogical research on teaching and learning exists, I have found that the absolute majority of research is conducted within individual classes at different institutions. Furthermore, few studies test theoretically-derived questions and not enough classroom research sufficiently translates and tests lab findings.
The reasons for these shortcomings are clear. Relevant research is published in diverse areas. Whereas many readers should have read articles from Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, Teaching of Psychology, and Psychology of Learning and Teaching, that is only the beginning of a long list of journals that cover material related to teaching. As a graduate student you may not have the time to prepare your next class, let alone read the literature on teaching. Then there is the pressure, both real and imagined, to get your dissertation done and publish enough to make you a good job candidate. Even most faculty do not have the time to fully explore the rich literature on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Interested faculty often lack the time, network, design expertise, or experience to conduct classroom research. The time to alleviate these problems is here.
Thanks to support from APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science, I have been able to design a new online resource to serve those interested in evidence-based practices in the classroom. The site helps coordinate scholarship on teaching and learning with a variety of tools and resources. It can also foster collaborations between researchers investigating the science of teaching and learning to catalyze further research on these topics. Do you feel isolated as a graduate student who is passionate about teaching? Great news. There are many similar individuals who also feel the same and who have put their names together.
If you want to invigorate your teaching and lay the groundwork for a satisfying professor of psychology, start early. Connect with the Hub for Introductory Psychology and Pedagogical Research (HIPPR). If you get HIPPR (pronounced hipper) now, you will find the answer to many teaching challenges and have the support network for your pedagogical explorations.
- Literature Central: A central clearinghouse for research on teaching Introduction to Psychology and pedagogy in general, providing research summaries from multiple disciplines to aid future research.
- Collaborator Finder: Instructors can find collaborators, faculty who have similar pedagogical questions, or instructors willing to volunteer their classes/students for testing of pedagogical interventions.
- Scales-n-More: A collection of questionnaires and surveys commonly used in pedagogical inquiry that are ready for use. A particularly handy resource for novice pedagogical researchers, these measures will also help ensure comparisons across samples.
Future innovations will include a Data Repository (data sets for secondary analyses) and a Virtual File-Drawer (brief reports of unpublished studies which may prove helpful in the design of additional work).
You can learn more about HIPPR and the tools it offers at HIPPR.UWGB.ORG.
Get started now. Perhaps you will find collaborators for a study or pools to test your own pedagogical innovations. In either case, I hope the resource will fuel your passion for teaching.
Gurung, R. A. R., Richmond, A., & Boysen, G. A. (in press). Studying excellence in teaching: The story so far. In B. Buskist & J. Keeley (Eds.) New Directions in Teaching and Learning.
Gurung, R. A. R., & Wilson, J. H. (Eds.). (2013). Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning: Measuring systematic changes to teaching and improvements in learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Richmond, A., Boysen, G., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2016). An evidence-based guide to college and university teaching: Model teaching competencies. New York: Routledge.
Regan is the Ben J. and Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Human Development and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Born and raised in Bombay, India, he received a B.A. in psychology at Carleton College (MN), his Masters and Ph.D. in social and personality psychology at the University of Washington (WA), and then spent three years at UCLA as a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research fellow. His Health Psychology: Well Being in a Diverse World (Sage) is now in its 4th edition and he is also the co-author/co-editor of 15 other books and over 150 articles and book chapters. A dedicated teacher, he is a recipient of the APF Charles L. Brewer Award for Distinguished Career in Teaching Psychology, The CASE Wisconsin Professor of the Year, and the UW System Regents Teaching Award, amongst others. He is also the founding Co-Editor of APA's journal SoTL in Psychology. MORE: ReganGurung.com