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.

  • 06 Jun 2020 8:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Alison Jane Martingano, M.Phil, M.A., New School for Social Research

    Students learn by getting their hands dirty. But while we all strive to keep our hands clean during COVID-19, it’s important to ensure that our teaching does not become sterile. Here, I share some of my favorite classroom activities and how I have translated them into an online format.


    As teachers, we tend to have a favorite icebreaker that we use at the beginning of every semester. Perhaps you ask your students to turn around and introduce themselves to the people next to them. Or maybe you ask them to get up and find someone in the classroom who shares their taste in music. These sorts of activities help students familiarize themselves with their peers and set the tone for classroom discussions.

    My Favorite Activity: I like to begin with an icebreaker that prompts students to think about how they would test difficult psychological questions. I present a list of provoking statements such as “video games cause violence” and “democrats and republicans have different morals.” These statements are tailored to each class and also give a preview of the course content. I ask students to decide if they agree or disagree with each statement and find someone in the classroom who holds an opposing viewpoint. Students then sit with their new partners and I give them some time to get acquainted. I then ask the pairs to discuss what empirical evidence would speak to (if not resolve) the statement they disagree on.

    Putting It Online: To recreate the feeling of getting up and walking around the classroom, I recommend using Online Town. This is a free website that allows students to control an avatar in a 2-D virtual classroom. When students “stand” their avatar near another person’s, the audio and video from their webcams will automatically sync, allowing them to talk to each other in pairs or small groups. When they have finished their conversation, they can simply “walk” away and talk to another group.


    Group activities in the classroom help students consolidate the information they’ve been learning. This might involve pondering a discussion question about the topic or completing a worksheet together. Hearing other students rephrase and use information not only helps students who may not have understood it the first time, but also challenges able students to explain their thinking.

    My Favorite Activity: I like to assign students to small groups and give each group member a different section of a longer reading. I ask my students to complete their sections of the reading, then share what they have read with their group members. Students then answer a set of questions. These questions are written in such a manner that they cannot be answered without sharing what each student knows.

    Putting It Online: Breakout rooms in Zoom are invaluable for group activities. You can allow Zoom to automatically assign students to breakout rooms or choose who is in each group. As the host of the session, you can jump from one breakout room to another to see how your students are doing. Breakout groups can be disorienting for students because they suddenly have limited contact with you, so make sure you set a clear goal for their activity. I like to ask students to work together to answer questions in a Google document, which helps to give them focus during their discussion.


    There’s nothing quite like seeing a live demonstration in class. Students are far more likely to remember the time their professor showed them something rather than simply told them about it.

    My Favorite Activity: I demonstrate classical conditioning using lemonade powder. I instruct students to place a little lemonade powder onto their tongues each time I ring the bell. The lemonade powder makes a small fizzing sensation on their tongue prompting salivation. In my experience, about 80% of students successfully condition themselves to salivate at the sound of the bell. Over time the conditioning wears off, demonstrating extinction. I can also demonstrate spontaneous recovery and use different tones and buzzers to demonstrate stimulus discrimination and stimulus generalization.

    Putting It Online: Choose demonstrations that can be achieved by using household objects and be flexible with what is possible. No lemonade powder? Try a different food or drink or have students condition themselves by slapping their own thigh. For a variety of demonstrations, Zoom polls are a useful resource. You can ask students, “Did you feel a fizzing sensation when the bell rang?” Zoom will then calculate what percentage of students answer “yes.” Responding to polls keeps students engaged. Polls are one of the few things that are better online – no more counting how many hands are raised! In Zoom, polls need to be programmed in advance. To reduce your workload, you can reuse a poll with answers A, B, C, & D, and then write what each answer corresponds to on your PowerPoint slide or virtual whiteboard.  


    With so much psychological research now being conducted online, there are many online resources that can be integrated into your class to give students a taste of the research process.

    My Favorite Activity: In a class on implicit bias, I ask students to take an online Implicit Association Test. After taking the test, we discuss their thoughts about the pros and cons of measuring implicit bias in this way. The test is available for free here

    Putting It Online: Does your institution offer students the opportunity to take part in online research? If not, you can simulate the experience using public online resources: an online public goods game, poverty simulation, and questionnaire measures of the five factors of personality and morals. Make sure you give students the opportunity to share their experiences after completing online research studies.


    With 24-hour news and social media, your students may be locked inside, but they are not cut-off from the world. Just as you do in the classroom, applying psychological theory to real-world examples is critical. None of us can be aware of every new development, so take advantage of the fact that a wealth of information is at your students’ fingertips and have them search for examples online.

    My Favorite Activity: When teaching about shooter bias, there are all too many recent examples of unarmed black men being shot by police in the USA. I ask students to think of their own examples and devote time to discussing the extent to which shooter bias may have been relevant in any particular case. It is important to help students understand the complexities of real-world examples and not to use them simply to illustrate a definition without expansion.

    Putting It Online: In an online class, you can give students 5 minutes to find an example online and then share these links with the class using the chat function in Zoom. You might ask them to find examples of conformity, obedience, dehumanization, etc. One of the perks of teaching online is that every student can submit a response via chat rather than only the most eager students who raise their hands. As the instructor, you can share your screen and click on a few of the students’ links while asking them to describe what they found. In this way you can make sure that every student is involved.


    Despite your best efforts, there may be some classroom activities that simply do not translate well online. For these activities, consider assigning them as homework for students to complete with family or friends.

    My Favorite Activity: After teaching about police interview techniques, I ask students to question a willing friend or family member to try to establish if they are lying. Students generally fail miserably at this task, leading to a discussion about the validity of such techniques.

    Putting It Online: Many practical homework assignments can be submitted as videos rather than written assignments. I ask students to record their interview and post the video online. Alongside the video, they submit a short description about why they concluded their friend was lying or telling the truth, and whether they were correct. Students seem to enjoy this activity and it helps to bring the online classes into their households which helps strengthen their interest and commitment to completing the course. Students can also record themselves giving presentations using screen share on Zoom.

    As online learning becomes more commonplace, there are many solutions to ensure the dynamic classroom experience is not lost. Classroom activities are a great way of keeping students engaged and break-up extensive lecture material. Just like you wouldn’t lecture for hours in a classroom without stopping for questions, debate or demonstration, make sure you add variety online too!

    Preparation and planning online activities takes time. But it will be worth it when you hear a student explain the meaning of a psychological concept by saying: “Do you remember when we did….?”

    Alison Jane Martingano is a Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department of the New School for Social Research. She specializes in social and personality psychology, with a particular interest in empathetic processes. Alison Jane holds an M.Phil. and M.A. in psychology from the New School for Social Research and a B.Sc. (hons) from the University of York. She is passionate about teaching and holds positions as an adjunct lecturer, teaching fellow, and guest faculty member at various higher education institutions.

  • 03 Jun 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Robin Hailstorks, Ph.D., American Psychological Association

    The American Psychological Association (APA) has several resources for supporting quality teaching at all levels of the educational pipeline. I will focus primarily on resources for teaching at the undergraduate level. I will share several of these resources for your current and future use. There are two types of teaching aids that I will discuss in this blog post: policy documents and an assessment tool for enhancing teaching.

    Perhaps the most important policy document I would like for you to be familiar with is the APA Guidelines for Undergraduate Psychology Majors: Version 2.0. (2013), herein Guidelines 2.0. This document presents five learning goals and outcomes for undergraduate psychology majors to achieve at both the foundational and bachelor’s levels. Although this policy document is aspirational, psychology teachers have the architecture to assist them with curriculum planning, teaching, and program review. As graduate students, this document is like a physician’s desk reference. Please be sure to have it readily available when planning to teach an existing or new course. Guidelines 2.0 outlines learning outcomes in a developmental framework that helps you think about appropriate teaching strategies to use in the classroom.

    The APA Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology (2011), herein Principles, is in its second iteration but and continues to be used as an important resource for teaching.  Although the Principles address the roles of academic administrators and policy makers in making certain that quality teaching is at the forefront of undergraduate education, I would like to call your attention to Principle 2 in particular, which states, “Faculty strive to become scientist-educators who are knowledgeable about and use the science of learning.” This principle includes eight recommendations that are presented to ensure quality teaching.

    Project Assessment is an online repository of assessments that are aligned with each of the five learning goals in Guidelines 2.0. This resource allows psychology teachers to access, evaluate, and contribute to a database of resources that are dynamic and evolving. I am encouraging you to log in to Project Assessment to preview this site and to use one or two of these assessment tools in your classroom when you can do so. I am also encouraging you to contribute to this site by evaluating an assessment tool that you have used in your class so we can learn about your experience with this tool. Ultimately, this resource will include evaluations of every assessment in this repository!

    Collectively, these policy documents and teaching resources will help you prepare for a successful teaching career at the undergraduate level. However, I believe they also will assist you with your professional career regardless of whether you teach full-time or not. For example, if you aspire to become an academic administrator, Principle 4 provides recommendations for quality teaching and learning. If you decide to become a policy maker, Principle 5 will assist you in understanding the importance of psychological literacy for improving lives. Regardless of your career goals, I hope you find this post useful.


    American Psychological Association. (2011). Principles for quality undergraduate education in psychology. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

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

    Dr. Robin Hailstorks is Director of Precollege and Undergraduate Education, Education Directorate, American Psychological Association.

  • 30 May 2020 8:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Stephanie Richman, Ph.D., Baldwin Wallace University

    One of my absolute favorite hobbies, and the reason my fiancé and I got together, is playing board games. I love to combine my passions, so of course I looked for a way to use board games in my teaching.

    I created a first year seminar called "How to Spot a Liar," largely because I was interested in exploring the idea of using social deduction games in the classroom. Social deduction board games, defined by game designer and author Ted Alspach, are those "where the goal is dependent on figuring out information that isn't readily apparent and that involves discussion among players as one of the mechanics."

    The content of "How to Spot a Liar" includes learning about why people lie and, importantly, how to spot when they are doing it. We learn about lie-detection methods from books written by CIA agents and articles written by psychologists or other behavioral experts. Then, students put the methods into practice through the games.

    We started with a game called Werewolf, in which some players are Wolves, trying to eat the Villagers, and other players are Villagers, using their lie-spotting skills to hunt the Wolves. While there is an "official" board game, you don’t actually need any materials. It can be played with a deck of cards or just a moderator (i.e., the instructor). This is the simplest of the social deduction games and worked well to introduce students to this type of game. While some students were quiet at first, they quickly became engaged and interested in the game.

    Next, we moved on to a game called Spyfall, in which one Spy tries to guess a location which all other players know (determined by the game mechanics), and the others, aware of the location, try to guess the Spy. Everyone asks and answers questions, trying to be specific enough to clear their name but not so specific that they will give the location away to the Spy. While this also has an "official" board game, there is an easy-to-use phone app, which all my students downloaded and used to play in class. I scheduled the class to begin playing this game just after learning about the verbal cues of lying, which fit very well with the game’s mechanics.

    We also played Avalon and Two Rooms and a Boom, slightly more complex social deduction games, as students learned more about how to spot a liar.

    I was always excited to hear claims of "That’s an exclusion qualifier!" or "Non-specific denial!" as students played, utilizing the skills they learned in the content part of the class. Course evaluation feedback for the four times I have taught this course has been positive, especially in regards to the games. Students report that, "The games actually helped in teaching us more about the class and the content." They also mentioned that the most effective learning activity in the course was "Werewolf," "Playing games," or "Playing deceptive board games with the entire class in groups."

    However, you don’t have to teach a class based around board games in order to use them for teaching in your classroom! Many of the social deduction games mentioned (especially Werewolf and Spyfall) would be very effective for classes on body language, acting, or communication.

    Further, social deduction games are not the only type of board games that are useful for classroom instruction. In fact, there are quite a lot of different genres and games that can be used. For example, in my Social Cognition course, an upper level psychology course about how people mentally represent social information, I use a game called Codenames to represent a challenging concept called Parallel Distributive Processing (PDP). PDP is a model of memory in which units (such as words or concepts like "mom" or "dove" or "house") are connected with facilitative and inhibitory links to each other. It is a challenging concept, but one I thought would be made simpler by using a board game.

    In Codenames, two team leaders try to get their respective team members to guess words on a board based on a single word clue. The best clues can get people to associate multiple words together. However, to be successful at this game, you need to be aware of which words people will associate with other words or concepts – just like how they are arranged in your memory according to PDP.

    Many of you may also be wondering if these games can be played remotely, given the temporary move to remote learning due to coronavirus (or because you regularly teach remotely). Good news – many board games are able to be played remotely and it is not much harder than doing so in person. Werewolf has a specific website that you can use to play over Video Chat. Spyfall can be done on a phone app, also usable over the internet. I would also direct you to this excellent Distance Gaming Guide, which includes all of the other games mentioned in this article, as well as many more.

    Ultimately, I highly encourage you to use these games while teaching in your classroom or to try finding board games that work with your material. As far as I know, there aren’t any teaching-specific websites related to board games, but Board Game Geek is an excellent website to look up board games. I’m also happy to answer any questions you may have about using board games in your class. Good luck!

    Dr. Stephanie B. Richman is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Baldwin Wallace University. She teaches courses in Social Psychology, Research Methods, Close Relationships, How to Spot a Liar, and more. Her research focuses on rejection, self-expansion, and close relationships. She is currently combining her personal and research interests to conduct research on self-expansion in tabletop and live action gaming. In addition to gaming, she is passionate about inspiring others through her teaching and writing, which she explores in her blog.

  • 27 May 2020 7:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Stephanie Baumann, MS, MA, Georgia State University

    We’re often taught to think there are two kinds of students sitting in our classrooms: ones that need special learning accommodations, and ones that don’t. What this dichotomy fails to take into account is that we all have different ways of connecting with, remembering, and engaging with material – accommodations or not. You and I could sit in the same lecture, and undoubtedly our notes would look different, the details we remembered would be different, and the way that we connect the material to our own experiences would be different.

    So how, then, are we as instructors supposed to teach students who all learn like individuals?

    Thankfully, there is a framework for that!

    The Universal Design for Learning (UDL), created by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), is a teaching framework to help improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn (CAST, 2008). Essentially, it breaks down teaching and learning into three main components, Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression:

    The CAST website provides an interactive walkthrough, complete with targeted research, of the UDL guidelines that instructors can use as to include multiple forms of Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression into all aspects of your course.

    Because wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get our students to be purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed learners?

    While the UDL Guidelines are amazing, I will also admit that they can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re new to the idea of UDL. What I want to suggest here are just a few examples of ways that you could make small, but impactful, changes to your class that would not require a major course overhaul. You do not need to make all of these changes, or even make more than one at a time, but I would encourage you to think through at least 3 small changes that you could make to your own course.


    Lectures – the backbone of most courses. Yet despite their importance, we often don’t spend enough time thinking through how our students might connect with those extremely important words on a slide. While there are many ways you could make your lectures more in line with UDL principles, here are a few small ideas that would not require much effort but could make a great impact to students.

    Engagement – Pare down your lecture slides to include minimal text information or irrelevant distractions (like busy themes), and instead use visuals, color coding, or highlighting to draw students’ attention to key information.

    Representation – Use visual cues (e.g., page numbers, logos) to help students visually connect content to topics, and use a variety of methods for presenting information, such as text, images, videos, websites, etc.

    Action & Expression – Provide students with different ways to answer questions regarding your lecture content to demonstrate what they know (e.g., polls, think-pair-share, discussions, one word response, one test question). This is also a great opportunity to utilize technology in your classroom.


    Many times instructors feel as though they are boxed into to a standard list of assignment options: papers, discussions, and presentations. While I would argue that there are many more options than this, there are ways that you can make small changes to even these three assignment options in the prompts, the formats, and the interaction that will benefit students.

    Engagement – Give students the opportunity to make the content relevant to them. Consider giving them a choice in their topic areas or article selection, or provide questions or assignments that are open-ended enough that students can make their own links. Also consider opportunities for self-reflection where students can forge their own connections to the material.

    Representation – Do you always use essay assignments in your class? Consider swapping it out for, or even using it in addition to, other formats such as presentations, discussions, or different paper styles. Do you frequently use discussions? Could you turn one into a debate or an online forum? If you require presentations, consider whether students could have more choice in the style or format of how they present.

    Action & Expression – Providing a variety of different assignments also gives students different ways to show what they know. You may find that some students are better able to articulate what they know in visual formats over written formats, or are shy in discussions but are willing to share their knowledge in a discussion board or small-group project.  


    We often think of exams only as ways that students show us whether or not they’ve learned the material. But consider that the standard multiple choice exam only gives students one single way to make connections to the content and share what they know.

    I challenge you to consider ways that you could use multiple types of questions on your exams; for example, add in some matching definitions that rely on memorization of key terms with multiple choice questions and/or fill-in-the-blank choices that encourage students to draw on what they know. Could you also include some short answer or essay questions (even better if you offer a choice of questions) that allows students to synthesize multiple concepts or apply what they’ve learned?

    Providing an exam with multiple question formats connects with all areas of the UDL framework.

    These are just a few of the many ways that you could make small changes to your class that could make a universal impact to your students. While it may still feel overwhelming, I encourage you to choose just one or two and start incorporating them into your courses, and see how students respond. I am confident that you will find that students, especially those who are benefitting from those small changes, will notice a difference! 

    References and Resources

    CAST Website and UDL Guidelines:

    UDL Exchange – UDL Course Builder:

    UDL Curriculum Toolkit:

    CAST Website for Research:

    SETOP 2020 conference Presentation: Making Small but Impactful Teaching Changes using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Framework:

    Stephanie Baumann, M.S., M.A., is a PhD candidate in Developmental Psychology at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, GA. She has experience as an instructor of record for both intro-level and upper-level undergraduate courses, including Introduction to Human Development and Multicultural Issues in Psychology, as well as experience as a graduate teaching assistant for research methods labs. She has also presented information about Universal Design for Learning at teaching conferences and disability conferences, including the Southeastern Teaching of Psychology (SETOP) in 2020. She also has an assistantship with the Center for Leadership in Disability at GSU and is a former Georgia Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) trainee. Stephanie’s primary research focuses on early verbal and nonverbal language development in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and ways that parents, teachers, and interventionists can use different formats, such as cartoons and virtual media, to enhance learning for all children.

  • 20 May 2020 3:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Richard J. Harnish, Ph.D., Penn State University, New Kensington Campus

    Beginning in the 1970s with the use of televisions in the classroom to the video teleconferencing of today (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams), computer technologies have impacted how students learn and how instructors teach. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the widespread use of computer technologies to deliver instruction is unprecedented. Thus, the purpose of this blog post is to briefly discuss various challenges associated with using computer technologies to deliver course instruction.

    Although there are different ways of thinking about and classifying the challenges instructors face when using computer technologies to deliver course instruction, I find it useful to classify them into three broad categories: physical, environmental, and psychological. Physical challenges are issues related to the learner’s physical and learning disabilities that may impede the use of technology. Environmental challenges are those pertaining to the richness of resources available to the learner. Psychological challenges are those issues associated with the learner’s attitudes and motivation to use such technology. Each of these challenges are discussed briefly below.

    Physical Challenges: Physical and Learning Disabilities

    According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2017), approximately 19% of undergraduate students reported having a physical or learning disability. Physical disabilities affect a student’s motor control (e.g., Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis). Given that discussion boards are frequently used to engage students in online course material, students with physical disabilities will require more time to post comments and may post less often or have shorter posts due to the fatigue experienced while typing. Other students with physical disabilities may not be physically able to type, and may dictate into a voice-recognition program. If the voice-recognition program is not compatible with the learning platform, comments will not be posted (Knopf et al., 2018).

    Students with vision impairment or loss may use a screen reader to access the text that is displayed on a computer screen. This is done by various computer programs that convert text into speech (using a speech synthesizer) or into braille. Some screen readers are free (e.g., NVDA, Serotek System Access, Apple VoiceOver), while other screen readers charge a licensing fee (e.g., JAWS). Those with less severe vision impairment may use magnifiers, or digital screen protection glasses to reduce digital eye strain. Regardless of the tool used, it will take longer for students with vision impairment or vision loss to access, read, and respond to course material.

    Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may have found the transition from resident instruction to online instruction to be particularly challenging because many deaf or hard of hearing students rely on an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to understand speech and to communicate with others in the class. Online lectures can be especially challenging if the lecture format is an instructor’s preferred method of transferring knowledge (i.e., “sage on stage”). Providing key points to lectures or lecture notes prior to class is a simple accommodation that instructors can make. Although some students may use hearing aid compatible, computer-assisted note taking, all media used in the course should be closed captioned. 

    Students who have learning disabilities (e.g., Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia) may have difficulty comprehending concepts explained in lectures and applied in assignments. Providing instruction in a multi-modal way (e.g., providing printed text, visual aids with lecture, videos, simulations) may meet the needs of these learners. Instructors should be flexible in their method of assessment by offering alternatives (e.g., performance, project, application) to traditional multiple choice or essay exams. Additionally, instructors should permit the use of assistive technologies like speech recognition, offer extended time for exams, and provide an alternative exam location that is monitored, quiet, and distraction-free (Orr & Bachman Hamming, 2009). Finally, the instructor should ensure that the course is highly structured and organized (Knopf et al., 2018).

    Environmental Challenges: Low Resource Environments

    The COVID-19 pandemic has made the digital divide more pronounced as instruction has moved online. The digital divide, however, is not a single gap which divides a society (Gorski, 2005); rather the divide is comprised of multiple gaps ranging from computer ownership, lower-quality connections (narrowband vs. broadband), disparity in cost for connections, difficulty of obtaining technical assistance, and lower access to subscription-based contents. Essentially, if students do not have Internet access, they are cutoff from course instruction and content. Universities have acknowledged as much when they set up free Wi-Fi “hot spots” in parking lots and garages to allow students to practice social distancing while accessing the Internet. However, this approach assumes that students own or have access to a car.

    One potential solution to gaining Internet access is through the use of mobile technology. The Pew Research Center (2019) reported that 37% of Americans access the Internet using a smartphone because they do not have broadband access at home. Indeed, college-age students, as compared to other age groups, were more likely to report using their smartphones to access the Internet. However, the use of smartphones to access course materials has its own challenges. Some of these challenges involve the ease of navigating the university’s learning management system (LMS), the ease of reading text or accessing media via the smartphone, and the ease to which students can submit assignments, post on discussion boards, or complete exams (Christopherson, 2018).

    Psychological Challenges: The Learner’s Attitudes and Motivation

    Even in resident instruction courses, students fail to engage with course materials; some do not read the textbook, do not take notes, skip lectures, or fail to complete assignments. Engaging in course content can be more challenging in online courses where personal attention can be difficult for students to obtain and for instructors to provide. Many LMSs can provide students with immediate feedback through the use of low-stakes quizzes or practice quizzes. Instructors also can facilitate engagement with course content by providing students multiple attempts on assignments (Miller, 2014).

    Discussion boards are a popular method for engaging students. However, research has shown that students can become bored, inattentive, frustrated, or feel isolated when discussion boards are used (Du & Xu, 2010). Perhaps as a result, their posts tend to contain basic facts rather than insight (Morrison et al., 2012). To engage students in discussion boards, one alternative to text-based replies is for students to reply using video. Students need to understand that their posts and replies are expected to be substantive and, at all times, they use good netiquette. Instructors can make their presence known by making weekly announcements (these can be videotaped as well as provided in text form), provide commentaries on class performance, and monitor student participation.

    I hope the challenges and potential solutions I have identified and discussed will be helpful to your teaching. For a more detailed discussion of these topics, please see the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s eBook, The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning.


    Christopherson, K. M. (2018). Going mobile in the college classroom. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning. Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

    Du, J., & Xu, J. (2010). The quality of online discussion reported by graduate students. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(1), 13-24.

    Gorski, P. (2005). Education Equity and the Digital Divide. AACE Journal, 13(1), 3-45.

    Knopf, A. H., Knopf, E. K., Anderson, S. G., & Waranka, W. J. (2018). Designing inclusive online environments for students with disabilities. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning. Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

    Miller, M. D. (2014). Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Morrison, J. R., Watson, G. S., & Morrison, G. R. (2012). Comparison of restricted and traditional discussion boards on student critical thinking. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(3), 167-176.

    National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Digest of education statistics: 2017. Chapter 3: Postsecondary education.

    Orr, A. C., & Bachman Hamming, S. (2009). Inclusive postsecondary strategies for teaching students with learning disabilities: A review of the literature. Learning Disability Quarterly, 32, 181-196.

    Pew Research Center (2019, June 13). Mobile technology and home broadband 2019.

    Author Bio:

    Richard J. Harnish is Professor of Psychology at Penn State University, New Kensington Campus, where he has taught since 2003. His scholarship includes research on maladaptive purchasing behavior, volunteerism and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is a Fellow of the Eastern Psychological Association and is the special issues editor for Psychology & Marketing. He was an associate editor for The Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s eBook series and serves as a reviewer for The Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Project Syllabus. Prior to joining Penn State, he worked in marketing and advertising for 13 years with his last position being director of research for a large advertising agency with offices in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC.

  • 11 May 2020 3:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Paul Schnur, EPA Executive Officer, Jef Lamoureaux, EPA Program Director, Amy Learmonth, EPA President, and the EPA Board of Directors

    This year’s scheduled meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association and the celebration of EPA’s 125 year history could not go on as scheduled in Boston in March.  Although we were disappointed to have to cancel our meeting, we would like to invite everyone to attend our meeting in cyberspace. The EPA Board of Directors is pleased to announce the dates of the EPA 2020 Virtual Meeting as June 17-18, 2020. The meeting will be accessible from our website:

    The meeting will be very similar, in terms of content and organization, to the March 12-14 meeting that was canceled due to COVID-19. You will even have an opportunity to ask questions during the virtual meeting via live chat.  In addition, following the virtual meeting, you will be able to access the meeting On-Demand for 90 days.  That means you will not have to choose among presentations that occur at the same time, as you would at a physical conference.  You may attend any presentation you missed virtually by attending On-Demand at your leisure.   

    Our exhibitors also will be present virtually and On-Demand.  Have a question about a book title, professional service, or graduate program?  You can ask our exhibitors during the virtual conference ‘live chat’ or by leaving your questions and your contact information for follow-up.  

    Finally, the virtual meeting will enable more attendees from around the country and world to attend, including those who have traditionally found it challenging to participate in the meeting. If you have already paid your membership for this year, you will have access to the virtual meeting. If you were not planning to attend the Boston meeting, but would like to attend the virtual conference, all you need to do is join or renew your EPA membership. As always, there is no additional fee for the conference.

    Although we are not accepting new submissions for this year’s conference, we have a fabulous program ready to go, and we welcome you to attend the conference as 2020 members or associates. We are excited to offer you this opportunity to participate in EPA’s 2020 conference. We hope you share our excitement, and we look forward to seeing you online.  Please mark your calendars.

    Bio: Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) was founded in 1896 and is the oldest of the regional Psychological Associations in the United States. Its sole purpose is to advance the science and profession through the dissemination of professional information about the field of Psychology. EPA achieves this goal by conducting its annual meeting where the members of EPA present the latest advances in professional and scientific work to their colleagues. EPA welcomes psychologists from all fields across the discipline.

  • 27 Apr 2020 2:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Donald A. Saucier, Ph.D., Kansas State University

    As teachers, we strive to create positive learning experiences for our students. We try to collect tips, tricks, and techniques to improve our teaching craft so that our students will learn more. Our goal is to promote their learning and their success, and we devote a lot of time and energy to finding ways to achieve this goal.

    Engagement is the key to our students’ learning. Engagement is a complete investment in your experience, at cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and even physiological levels. Our data show that when students are engaged, they see their classes as more interesting and valuable, they look forward to class and pay better attention, they see the content as more valuable and relevant, and they even look forward to demonstrating their learning on exams and other assignments. Promoting engagement, then, should be the priority in our teaching.

    In thinking about my own experiences as a student, I realized that I engaged the most, and consequently learned the best, when my teachers were also engaged in the course content and in the experience of teaching it. This led me to develop my “Trickle-Down Engagement Model” that simply states that teacher engagement impacts student engagement which, in turn, impacts student learning. Trickle-Down Engagement (TDE) is founded in positive psychology theories and research, self-determination theory, intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, optimal experience, and emotional contagion, and our data support these links between teacher engagement, student engagement, and student learning.

    Many teachers have heard of the “Sage on the Stage” teaching model in which teachers stand in front of a class and lecture profoundly to their passive student audience. Some teachers have adapted the “Sage on the Side” teaching model in which teachers act as guides while their students engage in active learning, such as in a flipped classroom. We use the term “Engage the Sage” to extend beyond these teaching models to emphasize the importance of teacher engagement in whatever teaching model they employ. When “Engaging the Sage”, you focus on your engagement first. Rather than taking the students’ perspectives initially, you focus on your own. We believe, and our data show, that if you lead with engagement, then your students will follow with engagement, and, consequently, will learn more successfully. For this to work, you will need to demonstrate your engagement to your students while you are teaching. Below, I list some recommendations for doing that.

    First, prepare to make your engagement, your passion, excitement, and interest in your material palpable. This will need to be authentic! The information we teach should be important to learn (or we should not be teaching it). Tell your students why it is important.  Use “cue statements” by which you share with your students your “favorite” studies, “fascinating” findings, “thoughtful” methods, etc. The concepts we teach are often the products of someone’s years of work. Genuinely acknowledge your respect for their work.

    Second, make your content relevant and valuable for both yourself and your students.  Contextualize the content in common experiences. Use relevant and current examples. Explicitly frame the content to fit your objectives for the course as well as your students’ goals for taking it. It is easier to engage when the content matters.

    Third, show your engagement in teaching. Genuinely thank your students for choosing to take the class, for coming to class, for their attention, and for offering their thoughts. Collaborate with them in learning the content and ask them why it matters to them. Let their engagement further inspire your engagement. Actively promote your students’ success and tell them often that you want them to succeed. This does not mean that you will not have standards and rigor in your class – instead, explain that you challenge them to promote their learning. Let your students know you love three things – your content, your students, and teaching.

    Finally, treat the classroom, and the time you have with your students, as an oasis away from all the other personal and professional responsibilities and distractions you are facing. Right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am writing this article while my spouse (also a professor) and I are trying to handle all of our teaching and research responsibilities from home, while also taking care of, and trying to keep the education going for, our 8-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. The time that I have for my students has always been sacred to me, and I regularly have made a point to thank them for temporarily taking me away from cranky kids and grumpy reviewers. But now more than ever, I value the (now virtual) connection they provide to me as we learn together. I love that I have this opportunity to teach my students, and I lean into that.  Teaching is the best thing we do. I am engaged when I teach because I prioritize my engagement. By “Engaging the Sage”, I can optimize the teaching and learning experience both for me and my students.

    For more information:

    Saucier, D. A., Miller, S. S., Jones, T. L., & Martens, A. L. (under review). Trickle Down Engagement: Effects of Perceived Teacher and Student Engagement on Learning Outcomes. Manuscript available upon request from the first author.

    Saucier, D. A. (2019a, September 19). “Having the time of my life”: The trickle-down model of self and student engagement. ACUE Community.

    Saucier, D. A. (2019b). Bringing PEACE to the classroom. Faculty Focus: Effective Teaching Strategies, Philosophy of Teaching.

    Author Bio:

    Donald A. Saucier, Ph.D. (2001, University of Vermont) is a Professor of Psychological Sciences and Faculty Associate Director of the Teaching & Learning Center at Kansas State University.  His research examines expressions of prosocial and antisocial behavior, as well as teacher and student engagement.  He is a Fellow of the Societies for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), Experimental Social Psychology (SESP), and the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA).  His teaching awards include the Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars and Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  He discusses teaching philosophies and practices on the “Engage the Sage” YouTube channel.

  • 20 Apr 2020 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    GSTA Blog co-editors Raoul Roberts and Sarah Frantz recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Kenneth Carter, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology at Oxford College of Emory University, about his 2020 NITOP Conference session titled Psychology in Context: The Psychology of Thrill-Seeking. Dr. Carter also discussed his instructional approach and shared his insights on how teaching psychology in the undergraduate classroom compares to disseminating the same knowledge in a public forum like TED or NPR.

    What were some of the highlights for you at NITOP?  

    NITOP  is probably one of my favorite annual conferences to go to, and I try to get there every time I can. I had such an amazing time. I was excited to get the invitation to do a talk at NITOP because getting people who teach psychology together to talk about teaching is one of the most amazing things. I was even more excited when I was asked to be on the organizing committee of NITOP, so I'll start working on that this year. People who have never been to NITOP should go; it is a wonderful experience. You meet many dynamic people and learn new techniques which you can incorporate into your teaching instantly.

    According to Rate My Professors, 100% of your students would take your class again. You have taught Intro Psych – how do you incorporate the psychology of sensation seeking into that course? 

    So, I teach a lot of Introductory Psychology and a lot of times Introductory Psychology feels like a stream of different kinds of topics that are really disconnected for students. It just feels like, "Okay, today we're going to talk about this and today we're talking about this." And there's not really a way to connect them together. So, one of the things I've been doing for a while is to group strands of ideas together into central stream. A central stream can either be four different lectures, or a week, or a whole section of a course. One of the ways to organize a central stream is to find a topic that students find interesting, and you can link the topics that you're normally going to talk about to that theme, thereby giving the students something to which they can hang those ideas. So, in my class, since I've been researching thrill seeking, I talk about thrill-seeking in terms of research design, in terms of personality theories, in terms of four or five different topics that I connect together to answer the question, "why do people do these kinds of things?" It provides a great way to talk about personality theories in a way that we don't normally talk about them.

    Do you adapt sensation-seeking-related activities for use in your classroom? If so, can you describe one such activity and the typical responses you get from students? 

    I would show students a video of a thrill seeker – somebody on a slackline or someone jumping off a cliff doing wingsuit flying. Then I would ask the question, "So, why do you think this person does this?" I did this at NITOP with a lot of psychology faculty there, and they raised all these different ideas and theories of personality that we teach. So, rather than just march through the theories of personality in a decontextualized way, the thrill-seeker video provides context for the lesson. We come up with theories in order to solve a problem, so the idea is to give the students a problem to solve. Why would a person jump off a cliff in a squirrel suit? Why would a person walk across a slackline in high heels? First, stimulate their imagination and their curiosity, then use psychology for what it's for, which is to solve problems.

    Are you a sensation seeker?

    I am not. I'm the opposite. So, Zuckerman's sensation seeking questionnaire  goes from zero to 40 with higher numbers meaning higher sensation seeking. And when I took it, I scored an eight out of 40, so I am low on the scale. I stumbled across it when I was thinking about writing a book about people who are called chaos junkies. There are people out there that are chaotic and I  wasn't sure why they were being chaotic, so I was going to write a book about helping people be more organized and less chaotic. Then I came across this research – there have been four or five academic books about sensation seeking and 50-70 different research articles; however, before my book , nobody had written an easy-to-understand book about what I think is a very fascinating psychological concept.

    Is there something special about sensation seekers that impacts their learning and development as college students? Say, you have college students who are high on the Zuckerman's scale, what about that student makes them more engaged in this otherwise dry topic?

    Yeah, I think part of it is that people want to understand themselves. A lot of high sensation seekers say they feel really misunderstood because the number one thing that people ask is, do they have a death wish? Do they want to kill themselves by doing these things? But one of the challenges can be that some sensation seekers, one of the scales looks at their boredom susceptibility and that some of them can get bored relatively easily. So, you want to find ways to make sure to keep them engaged. In fact, I think one of the things that's tough about our society in general is that we don't necessarily have to be bored that often, because we have access to all of the information that we could possibly absorb right in our hands a lot of the time. And so, keeping students engaged, keeping them connected, can be a challenge sometimes. Some faculty want to do that by making sure they're as entertaining as possible. Part of what I do is try to pique their curiosity, you know? And so, I feel like if they're engaged in terms of being curious about getting to the bottom of the answer, they're going to want the tools that they need to get to the answer. And so sometimes it's packing that normally dry stuff in a bigger question. And I tell my students that research is a tool and it's the tool to find out those big answers that we're all looking for. That people don't build houses because they like using hammers, they build houses because they want the house. And so, what is your house? What do you want to know about? What do you want to build? And so, I try to pique their curiosity by giving them big questions and that goes back to the idea of those central themes that I try to build into courses, so it doesn't feel so disconnected from their actual lives.

    Can you tell us about some of your past work and about any current research on which you are working?

    I have this idea that there’s all of this amazing research that's been done that, for the average everyday person, is sort of trapped in academic books and journals. And so, I really like writing these translation pieces to help people understand the cool stuff that we do as psychologists. And I feel like that's part of our job as psychologists. There are people out there that are doing original research, which is amazing, but there are also people that can be the storytellers, to connect that research to the everyday person.  I’ve talked about the psychology of thrill seeking on NPR and so it's really a great way to be able to connect people with the real science of psychology. And right now I'm working on two textbooks—a Psychopathology textbook and an Introductory Psychology textbook. And it's the same sort of thing. It's translation work, making sure that students understand the concepts in a broad way. I have an idea for another book that I'm thinking about once I wrap these things up. But a lot of my work is trying to find those connections in the things that other people have done, but really telling the story of their work in a broader way. It's been exciting for me and I think it really shines a different kind of light on the scholarship that other people have done. And I just hope I'm getting it right when I tell their stories.

    You have purposely sought out forums like TED, NPR, and the South by Southwest festival to reach the broader public. Is this something that you were just drawn into by chance or was this part of your mandate going into psychology?

    A little bit of both. I feel like I do a lot of training in my main job at Oxford College of Emory. I teach a lot of undergraduates and so I feel like you learn about the concept that people call edutainment, right? How to make somewhat dull things kind of interesting. But I also conduct a lot of training for clinical psychologists: I teach them how to understand medications, and that can also be kind of dry. I realized that there's a way that I can teach to a class of students, but there are other people that might really like to understand these concepts, and that they are fascinated by thrill seekers, they're fascinated by psychology, they want to read the books that I want to read—books about why people do the things they do. So, I've been delighted that people invite me to speak to them about these concepts. It's been a fun experience.

    Dr. Kenneth Carter is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology at Oxford College of Emory University. He has published in both academic and lay publications, translating psychology research into engaging everyday language. His articles have been published in magazines such as Psychology Today and Women’s Health, and he has appeared on news programs such as NPR’s ShortWave and NBC’s Today show. The psychology of thrill-seeking is the current focus of Dr. Carter’s research. He has delivered a TEDx talk on thrill-seekers. His most recent book is Buzz!: Inside the Minds of Thrill-Seekers, Daredevils, and Adrenaline Junkies (Cambridge University Press). When not teaching, speaking, or writing, Dr. Carter prefers reading and relaxing on the beach to wingsuit flying or BASE jumping.

  • 21 Mar 2020 10:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D., Oregon State University

    Note: Teaching during the next few months will not be business as usual for anyone. While preparing in the best of times takes effort and energy, remote teaching in Spring 2020 calls for extra resilience. Faculty and GTAs in particular need to not push themselves too hard. Keeping students' best interests in mind and respecting educational outcomes may still cause for modifications and changes. In some classes we may not be able to do all we would have normally. And that should be OK. 

    Although some faculty and graduate students may see having to teach as a chore, the opportunity to teach undergraduates provides manifold benefits and arguably can do more to advance psychological science than getting a research article published. While these are fighting words, when you consider the millions of students who take psychology classes and the ability to apply psychology to life, the previous claim may not be too far off from the truth (and an empirical question I am tempted to try and answer). That said, teaching is hard work. In this short piece I provide some advice to graduate student instructors teaching undergraduates. I have taught for over 20 years, supervised over a hundred undergraduate teaching assistants, and am director of a general psychology program where I teach a course on teaching and the psychological science of teaching and learning. In my graduate courses, I prepare graduate students to teach (both online and in face-to-face classes). I have also had the good fortune to work with hundreds of teachers. Here are some key pieces of advice I share when I get the chance:

    Get the fundamentals down. Teaching is not an impromptu act. There is an art and a science to it. The good news is that the critical elements are well known (Richmond, Boysen, & Gurung, 2016). Even if you do not have the opportunity to take a course in teaching, the basic elements to aim for include clearly defining your course goals and student learning outcomes (check what the department expects of the course), designing assessments to measure if the outcomes are met (e.g., exams, assignments), and planning how you will deliver the content and plan each class to engage students. The go-to resources to help you get these teaching fundamentals down include Tools for Teaching (Davis, 2009) and Teaching Tips (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2012).

    Unshackle yourself from content delivery. One of the biggest challenges for the novice instructor is covering content. Here is something freeing: Don’t. Yes, the average instructor tries to shoehorn more content in a term or semester than is needed. Especially in introductory classes, the tendency is to teach all the chapters. The reality is that even APA guidelines do not suggest teaching all chapters in a book. There is sufficient justification to cut down on content (APA, 2014; Gurung et al., 2016). Cut down on content so you have more time to give students different ways to interact with the content.

    Borrow unabashedly. It is completely acceptable to use material to teach from other sources. You may be given a syllabus and access to lecture slides. Your program may even set up the shells of your online classes and give you exams to use, essentially everything you need to teach. Even if they do not, there are great resources available. The Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) website is packed with sample syllabi, assignments, and exercises. In particular see the complete guides to teaching introductory psychology published by the STP Early Career Psychology group (Leder-Elder, Good, Afful, Keeley, & Stiegler-Balfour, 2015) and from NOBAPsychology (

    Start strong and end stronger. The first day of class is critical (Henslee, Burgess, & Buskist, 2006). Students form an impression of you quickly and the tone you set in the first minutes can go a long way to set how the class will go. Have fun. Take time to talk about the exciting, counter-intuitive, provocative elements of the course. Keep the syllabus discussion for the end. Script out your entire first day and try to pack it with diverse activities and opportunities for students to participate. You get them talking on day one, they are likely to keep talking. Make sure you also spend time on the last day. Go beyond just finishing content. Plan a summary of the course with the highlights.

    Remember you have a chance to reset. Even if one day does not go well, or worse, the entire class seems to have gone sour, remember that you get another chance. If Tuesday did not go well, rebook, reset, and hit Thursday out of the park. It is alright to tell students you were not happy with how a class went. They appreciate it and it serves in your favor.

    Keep the student perspective in mind. Novice instructors are often so focused on establishing their credibility that they forget to take the student perspective. Remember that students are taking many classes and may work, together with having the same stressors that we do. Take the time to build rapport with them. When students see you as human and empathetic, they are likely to work harder and with you.

    Ditch the Imposter syndrome. It is easy to feel like you do not belong in the classroom (or even in graduate school). We faculty work hard to select graduate students and instructors. We have checks and balances. If we gave you the job/position, you deserve it! Now get beyond that. Even if you went to graduate school right after your undergraduate degree, if you are selected to teach, you still know more than the students in your class. More importantly, students in your class think you know a LOT more than them.

    Find a teaching mentor. Not all faculty are passionate about teaching. Some are downright antagonistic and see it as a distraction from research. If a graduate advisor does not see the benefits of teaching, it is easy to be disillusioned or see it as a chore. First remember that teaching can actually make you a better researcher – the Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman famously said “I DON'T believe I can really do without teaching. The reason is, I have to have something so that when I don't have any ideas and I'm not getting anywhere I can say to myself, "At least I'm living; at least I'm doing something; I'm making some contribution"—it's just psychological” (Feynman, 1985, pp. 165-166). There are many passionate teachers out there. Find one. Get coffee with them. Your whole take on teaching can change.

    Consider yourself lucky that you get to interact with undergraduates and share psychology. I hope the list above makes it more enjoyable, effective, and efficient.



    American Psychological Association. (2014). Strengthening the common core of the introductory psychology course. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, Board of Educational Affairs. Retrieved from

    Feynman, R. (1985). Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a curious character). Norton.

    Gurung, R. A. R., Hackathorn, J., Enns, C., Frantz, S., Cacioppo, J. T., Loop, T., & Freeman, J. (2016). Strengthening introductory psychology: A new model for teaching intro psych. American Psychologist, 71(2), 112-124. doi:10.1037/a0040012

    Henslee, A.M., Burgess, D.R., & Buskist, W. (2006) Student preferences for First Day class activities. Teaching of Psychology, 33, 189-191.

    Leder-Elder, S., Good, J. J., Afful, S., Keeley, J. & Stiegler-Balfour, J. J. (2015). Introductory Psychology Teaching Primer: A Guide for New Teachers of Psych 101. 2nd Ed.

    McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2006). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (12th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Richmond, A. S., Boysen, G., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2016). An evidence-based guide to college and university teaching: Developing the model teacher. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Regan A. R. Gurung is Professor of Psychological Sciences at Oregon State University, where he is also Director of the General Psychology Program, and Interim Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.

  • 10 Mar 2020 8:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Jennifer L. W. Thompson, Ph.D., University of Maryland Global Campus

    The original title for this post was Online Teaching: Quest for the Magic Bullet. This title has several benefits, not the least of which is that it has a colon which makes it instantly more valid. In addition, administrators are increasingly looking to online classes as the panacea for rising costs and lowering enrollments. However, the most important thing about this title is that it implies that we are looking for the best formula, the right formula for teaching our students. Is there a right way to teach online? No. There is no one right way, there is no best way, but there are many things that teachers can do to make the online experience more effective and engaging for students.

    As with any teaching, preparation is the key. Successful online teaching is not as simple as taking what you do in a face to face class and “moving it online.” Rather there are other things to think about such as, good design principles, online etiquette, content delivery mechanisms, etc. It also requires that you start thinking about the classroom as a learner centered environment rather than one that is focused on the instructor. Teaching online requires even more planning and preparation which starts by designing the course and the classroom.

    Keep in mind that it is often the case in online teaching that you need to be a little extra. Go further, be bolder, have extra enthusiasm.

    Welcome your students to the class. This can be through a first day announcement, or sending students an email, or do both. The messaging can give students an overview of what they will learn throughout the semester and generate enthusiasm, and it can give students a good first impression of the classroom and of you as the faculty member. It is a great way to introduce students to yourself, your teaching philosophy and your personality. Do not be afraid to let your sense of humor shine through. Students, likewise, should introduce themselves to you and to one another within the classroom. You should welcome each student to class individually as they introduce themselves, which is a good way to begin building rapport and mutual respect. It can also help you to learn about the background experiences that students are bringing to the classroom, which can, in turn, inform how you present certain topics, or how you frame discussion questions to tap into their previous knowledge and experience.

    In this Welcome message be sure to communicate your expectations for the students and the classroom, including things like due dates, frequency and substance of contributions, and codes of conduct for the classroom. Often faculty will share their expectations for students and tell them what they can expect of them as well, again fostering a sense of rapport, respect, and community. Something like, I expect you to do your reading and preparation in a timely manner, I expect you to show interest and courtesy and to ask challenging questions, I expect you to meet deadlines and communicate with me if you have any difficulties.  In return, you can expect me to be professional, motivational, fair, and responsive, and to provide timely and constructive feedback.

    Also, as part of your introductory remarks to students, tell them how to navigate the classroom-the more organized it is the easier this will be. Consider your audience when doing this. Are these new students to your program, new students to online learning? --If so, they may need links to tutorials for using the Learning Management System (such as how to post assignments or responses to discussion board questions. For instance, should they post as replies or as a new thread) or links to support services. If your audience is more experienced students in a research or capstone course, they may need reminders about support services and you may need to tell them about any assessments or software tools that you are using that they may not have encountered previously.

    During the course, be present. Just because the class is taking place in a virtual space where you cannot go does not mean that you should be an “absentee professor.” Check into the classroom often, but more than that let the students know you are there by posting announcements and reminders at least one a week, by answering student questions within the classroom, by responding to emails in a timely manner, and by posting comments or new information within the discussion boards at least every other day or so. Encourage students to engage with you, the material and one another.

    In terms of content, it is not so much deciding what to include, but rather thinking about the mechanism for delivery.  However, I would encourage teachers to really consider whether they need to include all 16 chapters of a textbook or if they can be more selective with the content needed to meet the learning outcomes in the course. Not only can students read about a topic, but they can also listen to a lecture or podcast or watch a video or slide presentation. They can then actively interact with the content.  We know that students learn by transferring their learning to new situations, problems and contexts and that student learning is largely dependent on practice. Provide a variety of occasions and contexts in which students can use and practice their knowledge. 

    Get feedback throughout the course and reflect on your teaching at the end of the course. Feel free to ask students whether they need clarification on an assignment or on your expectations or the layout of the classroom. At the end of the class think about how the class went, are there areas for improvement? Are there things that worked well that can be incorporated further? Review and update the content for the course. Make slight alterations to your assessments and discussion topics to make them timely and unique from the previous semester.

    When it comes to teaching online, just remember what you already know about good teaching. Students perform better when they are given opportunities to engage with faculty and with each other, when they are given tasks that require active learning, are encouraged to spend “time on task”, and when they are given prompt feedback and high expectations (Chickering and Gamson, 1987). Each of these principles can be introduced, promoted and perfected in the online classroom.


    Chickering, A. W., Gamson, Z. F., & American Association for Higher Education, W. D. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin, 3–7.

    Dr. Jennifer Thompson has been teaching online for over 14 years and is currently Program Director and Collegiate Professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Maryland Global Campus.  Jennifer is past co-chair of APA’s Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education and is on the Program Committee for the Eastern Psychological Association.  Jennifer received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from American University­­­. She served on the Steering Committee for APA’s Summit for the National Assessment of Psychology (SNAP), is co-editor of Project Assessment, and is on the Steering Committee for APA’s Introductory Psychology Initiative.

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