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145 Posts authored by: Sue Frantz

Several years ago, back when I was still giving in-class exams, I was convinced by Roddy Roediger to give a comprehensive final exam. By asking students to review the course material one more time by studying for the final, this increased the chances students would remember more of the course content some time later. You’ll recognize the use of the spacing effect.

 

When I completely revamped my courses, going all-in with my variation on interteaching (see this blog post), I eliminated my in-class exams. With no comprehensive final, what could I do insteaad that would encourage students to go back through the course content one more time? Since what I really want to know is what my students got out of the course, I decided to just ask them.

 

Final Course Review:

 

Looking back over the course, identify the 10 most important things you learned in this course. Rank order them so the most important is number 1, the second most important is number 2, and so on.

 

For each of those important things, explain what the concept is, and explain why it is important to you. 

An "important thing" could be a concept -- think bold-faced term -- or a research finding. Please do not list entire chapters. 

 

Those are all of the instructions. I purposefully leave it wide open to what “things” students couldn’t identify. And I leave “important” undefined. Most often students interpret it as things that are important to them personally, but some interpret this as things important for anyone to know, or even things that are important functions of being human.

 

When I assign this in a face-to-face class, we meet during our scheduled final time. Each student submits their list to the course management system before class, and they also bring them to class–or access them on a device. I ask a volunteer to share their number 1 item and why they chose it. I write the concept on the board, then briefly summarize the concept, maybe even referring back to something I covered in lecture or was covered in the textbook to help students with retrieval. Next, I ask if anyone else had that item on their top ten list. If so, I ask each to share why it made their lists. From that group of students, I ask one to share their number one item. We repeat until everyone has had an opportunity to share their number one most important item.

 

Because I want students to not only review the course content when they are creating their lists, but to also review the course content in class when we go through the lists, my scoring of this assignment is a little creative. The assignment is worth 30 points. Each of the 10 items is worth 3 points: identify something from the course, correctly explain what it is, and discuss why it is important. If a student is in class for this final review, students earn 5 points extra credit. If they are absent, they lose 15 points.

 

For my online courses, the instructions for the Final Course Review are the same, but I assign it as a discussion. I want students to not only have reviewed the course content to create their own lists, I want students to read the lists of other students. I ask students to respond to read the lists of two of their discussion groupmates, and reply with at least two of these types of comments:

 

A compliment, e.g., "I like how... because...," I like that... because..."

A comment, e.g., "I agree that... because...," "I disagree that... because..."

A connection, e.g., "I have also read that...," "I have also thought that...," "That reminds me of..."

A question, e.g., "I wonder why...," "I wonder how..." 

 

Reading what students submit for the Final Course Review is an important reminder to me that there is much value in the content covered by Intro Psych. I love ending the course with this assignment not only because it gives students an opportunity to review the course content one more time, but it also allows me to see what students are taking with them as they leave my classroom (or my virtual classroom) for the last time. It’s what they’ve written that I take with me into the next term as I consider the course content I want to keep, I want to eliminate, and I want to add.

The American Psychological Association’s Board of Educational Affairs, at the behest of the Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education, convened a working group under the title Introductory Psychology Initiative (IPI). The working group was tasked with sorting out four major areas related to the Intro Psych course. First, can we, as a discipline, please agree on a set of student learning outcomes? And while we’re at it, can we have some sample assessments for measuring those outcomes? Second, what are some different ways the course can be structured? Third, what sort of training should there be for Intro Psych instructors, and how can we deliver that training? And fourth, how can what students learn in Intro Psych help them succeed in their courses, in their careers, and in their lives?

 

The IPI working group will be rolling out recommendations over the coming months. First up are the student learning outcomes.

 

By the end of the introductory psychology course, students should be able to:

 

- Identify basic concepts and research findings, and give examples of psychology's integrative themes.

 

Psychological science relies on empirical evidence adapting as new data develop.

 

Psychology explains general principles that govern behavior, while recognizing individual differences.

 

Psychological, biological, social, and cultural factors influence mental processes and behavior.

 

Our perceptions filter experience of the world through an imperfect personal lens.

 

Applying psychological principles can change our lives in positive ways.

 

- Apply psychological principles to everyday life.

 

- Draw appropriate, logical, and objective conclusions about behavior and mental processes from empirical evidence.

 

- Evaluate misconceptions or erroneous behavioral claims based on evidence from psychological science.

 

- Design, conduct, or evaluate basic psychological research. 

 

- Describe ethical principles that guide psychologists in research and therapy.

 

For a seasoned Intro Psych instructor, there is probably nothing in here that is too shocking. As you read through the themes, the content you currently cover in your course likely already fits these themes. What we’re asking is that the themes be made explicit to students. While students may not remember years later much specific content, such as Piaget’s third stage of development, we would love students to remember these larger themes.

 

In the psychological research student learning outcome, we recognize that different instructors working with different class sizes and student populations, such as honors courses, will decide to do different things. Perhaps you want students to design a basic study, correctly applying independent variables and dependent variables. Or perhaps you want your students to conduct a basic study, inside or outside the class. Or perhaps you would like your students to read a summary of a less-than-well-designed study and identify some of the flaws. In all cases, students will gain an appreciation for what is involved in doing psychological science.

 

Where I expect most Intro Psych instructors to say, “Oooo, I haven’t been teaching that,” is the ethical principles that guide therapists. A lot of Intro Psych textbooks cover the ethics of research, but not the ethics of therapy. Intro Psych students will likely encounter a therapist sometime in their lives—whether it be for themselves, a family member, a friend, or a co-worker/employee. Intro Psych students should know what ethical guidelines therapists are expected to follow and to know when those ethical guidelines have been breached. For myself, I will take it one step beyond the listed student learning outcome and ask my students to identify some next steps they can take if they believe a therapist has acted unethically—once I figure out what those are myself.

 

This is the first time the discipline of psychology has a set of student learning outcomes for Intro Psych. Try them out. Let us know what you think.

In an article I had written on interteaching (2015), I wrote,

 

I was working harder on the course than they appeared to be. I was reading the textbook; my students were not. I was trying to find good examples of concepts covered in the textbook; my students were not. I was scoring perfectly on the exams; my students were not.

 

The basic premise of interteaching is that students answer instructor-prepared questions before they come to class, discuss in pairs or small groups while in class, tell the instructor where they’d like some clarification, and then the instructor only lectures on that material. The students are doing the work of learning. The instructor is there to help the students.

 

I moved to this model in 2014, modified it to fit my pedagogical goals, and now I can’t imagine teaching any other way.

 

Setting the context

 

I teach primarily Intro Psych at a community college near Seattle with a student population approaching 80% ethnic minority. Many of my students are immigrants and refugees. Many of my U.S.-born students have had a lifetime of struggle.

 

My face-to-face classes cap at 38 and meet twice a week in 2.5-hour blocks. The interteaching format has also been used successfully in 50-minute class sessions. With the right resources, it could be used in larger classes. I use this same format in my online courses; the primary difference is that the discussions are more prescribed.

 

We are on the quarter system, so students are expected to spend 15 hours each week working on a typical course. The coursework is designed with that time commitment in mind. (Calculate how much work is in your course.) I am explicit with students about this expectation.

 

How I do it

 

By Sunday night, in preparation for a week of class starting on Monday, students answer 12 to 15 essay/short answer questions. The questions encourage students to apply what they have learned in the chapter to new situations. Responses are submitted via the course management system.

 

When students come to class, I assign them to small groups or no more than four per group. Students spend 40 minutes or so in their groups discussing their responses to the questions. Some students bring printed copies of their answers. Other students access digital versions. During this time, students are sorting out what content they know and what content they don’t know. What they don’t know, their fellow group members may be able to explain it to them. If they can’t, or if no one in the group knows either, the students in the group make a note of it. When the group is done discussing, a volunteer from their group goes to the board and writes down the content—not just the question number—that they would like me to cover in lecture.

 

Following discussion, we take a 10-minute break. During that time, I read what each group would like me to cover and formulate a plan.

 

You may be wondering, “You don’t know what you’re going to cover?!” Sort of. Remember, I’m the one who chose the questions in the first place. I am prepared to cover all of them with relevant and illustrative demonstrations at the ready. If you are teaching in 50-minute sessions, you could do discussion one day, then give a short lecture at the beginning of the next class session.

 

Students earn five points per class session for completing an “exit ticket.” The half sheet submitted at the end of each class session asks students for the most interesting thing they learned in class and for what questions they still have.

The next class session later that week, students get into their same groups for a short discussion. Were there things that were still unclear after the last class? Is there content that they decided I didn’t need to cover but have since changed their minds? In this class lecture, I address those concerns as well as cover whatever I didn’t get to last class session.

Using what they learned in class that week, students have until the following Sunday night to revise any or all of their assignment responses. I do not read drafts and provide feedback. Students are responsible for comparing their written responses with what others in their group are saying and with the lecture. At the end of the week, if students have any lingering questions, they are encouraged to ask me.

 

At the same time students are working on their revisions, they are preparing their initial draft responses to the next set of questions.

 

The questions

 

I change at least one question in each write-to-learn assignment each term. While a rare occurrence, I have had students submit assignments written by other students in previous terms. Students who handed over their files are often shocked to learn that their work was used in this way. It is an important lesson for them to learn. Changing one question doesn’t stop this kind of cheating, but it does make it easier for me to detect since the person submitting the file doesn’t bother to make sure that all of the questions are the same. By seeing the wrong question in the submitted file, I can narrow down the term based on when that question was used. And then it’s just a matter of flipping through the submissions for that assignment.

 

Here are some examples of assignment questions. Again, there are 12 to 15 of these for each week’s assignment.

 

Research methods

 

Hypothesis: If people are frequently interrupted by messages on their cell phones while studying, then they will do worse on a test. Design an experiment that would test this hypothesis. In your description, identify the independent variable (including the experimental and control conditions) and the dependent variable. Be sure to include operational definitions of both the independent and dependent variables. 

 

Consciousness

 

A friend says that she keeps falling asleep during the day. She wonders if she has a sleep disorder. What questions would you ask your friend to sort out if she might have insomnia, narcolepsy, or sleep apnea? Explain how each question would point toward a particular disorder or eliminate a particular disorder.

 

Sensation and perception

You and your friend Abdul are standing side by side. When you start to hear a low hum, you ask Abdul, "Did you hear that?" Abdul says, "No." As you hear the sound getting louder, Abdul says, "Now I hear it!" As the hum stays at a steady volume, neither of you can hear it any more. 

First, explain the difference between absolute threshold and difference threshold. Next, explain how absolute threshold, difference threshold, and sensory adaptation apply to this example.

Learning

Every time Cato talks to the woman he has recently fallen in love with, Julita, he feels all warm and fuzzy. He just created a ring tone just for her calls, an excerpt from Sam Smith's song Stay with Me. It won't take very many phone calls for that song to be enough to make him feel warm and fuzzy. 

  1. In this example, identify the unconditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, conditioned stimulus, and conditioned response. 
  2. Use this example to explain generalization and discrimination.
  3. What would need to happen in order to bring about extinction? What would spontaneous recovery look like?

Memory

It's been a week since you last saw your chemistry textbook. The last place you remember having it was in class the day you learned that got a perfect score on your biology exam. How could you use what is known about context-dependent memory and state-dependent memory to help you find it?

Social

Read this article. Describe the different groups represented in this article. What superordinate goal has brought them together? Explain. 

 

Grading

 

Assignments are worth 60 points each and are not scored until the final revision is submitted.

 

I look at the first draft, and award up to twenty points for effort. To “exceed expectations” (20/20) students need to make a good faith effort to answer all parts of all questions. The responses do not need to be correct. Remember, students wrote this first draft using the assigned readings, including the textbook chapter, and any additional research students chose to do. At this point, we haven’t yet covered this content in class. To “meet expectations” (15/20) most of the questions need to be addressed. For a 10-point “needs improvement” score, students answered about half of the questions. Answering at least one question but less than half yields a 5-point “inadequate” score. Not submitting the assignment by the deadline results in a zero for the effort score. I take deadlines very seriously. Students need to have completed the initial draft to be active group participants who provide useful feedback to their group members and useful information to me on what content I need to cover.

 

Next, I choose two questions to score for correctness, each worth twenty points. I create a rubric specific to those two questions. No, students do not know what questions I am going to choose. In fact, I don’t know which two questions I am going to score until after the final revision deadline has passed, and I am ready to grade. Students are expected to have solid answers to each question, and there is no reason they can’t.

 

Some students struggle with the idea that they have written all of this stuff, but only two questions will be graded. I explain in the first week of class that this course is structured not unlike some work environments.

 

You have a task. To complete that task, you have at your disposable the resources I’ve given you, the assistance of your fellow workers (classmates), your ready-to-answer-any-questions boss (me), and whatever else you’d like to use, including phone-a-friend and the Internet. As your boss, I am going to spot-check your work. I am not going to listen in on every interaction you have with customers. I am not going to review each database entry you input. As your instructor, I am not going to score everything you write. In fact, in-class exams work the same way. You study everything in the assigned chapters, but only some of what you studied will be on the exam. The difference is that I’m telling you exactly what will be on the exam, and I’m giving you a couple weeks to work on it.

 

While you may choose to skip a question because it feels too difficult to figure out, the danger is that question may be one of the ones chosen. In this course, with everything that you have at your disposal, the expectation is that you can understand and apply all of what you are learning.

 

What about exams?

 

I no longer have exams. If that makes you nervous, you can call these assignments take home exams. When I moved to this format, I still gave in-class multiple-choice/short answer exams. Students who did well on the assignments, did well on the exams. The students who didn’t, didn’t. The in-class exams weren’t adding anything, so I removed them. We now have more in-class time to spend learning course content, and students can spend their time practicing important job and life skills, like reading, discussing, and writing, and less time working on their multiple-choice test-taking skills.

 

Not even a final exam?

 

Not even a final exam. Instead, I ask students to identify and rank order the ten most important things they learned in the course, describe what each thing is, and why each made their top ten list. “Important things” is intentionally ambiguous. A thing could be a particular concept, like operant conditioning. It could be a big content-related take-away, like the importance of sleep. Or it could be a more general lesson learned in the course, like “I learned how much I can get done when my phone is off.” In these examples, "important" was interpreted to mean what was important to this student personally. Some students interpret “important” to mean what is good for humanity to know, like “Everyone should know about false memories.”

 

During our final exam time, I ask a volunteer to share their number 1 thing learned and why they chose it. I write the item on the board, and then I ask if anyone else had it on their list. If so, I ask why they chose it. Then I pick another person to share their number one, and so on. This provides a wonderfully fascinating review of the entire course.

 

Why I like it

 

This course format turns the responsibility for learning back to the students. Students are working with the assigned readings, figuring out what they know and don’t know. They learn from their group members, and what they don’t get there, I am ready to support them. Our class time is spent focused on where students are struggling, and not on course content they understand.

 

Students are working with the course content and applying it to new situations. By writing the questions, I am directing students to the content that I think is most useful for them to know. This format makes it easy to bring in current events. Questions can direct students to read, say, a New York Times article, and then apply relevant course concepts to what they’ve read.

 

For the students who take the time to reflect on where they missed points and why, their writing improves. I recommend a reflections assignment such as an assignment wrapper. (Here I describe the one I use.) I explain to students that writing skills are ridiculously important. In whatever job they go into, if they write well, they will stand out, and that can lead to opportunities that can lead to promotions.

 

 

 

Reference

Frantz, S. (2015). Shifting responsibility. Psychology Teacher Network, 25(1).

When I was in school, the first thing I did when I got a graded assignment or exam back was look at what I missed and why. I assumed that was what everyone did. False consensus effect, anyone?

 

In a webinar a number of years ago, Roddy Roediger pointed out that that is what the better students do—which probably describes a hefty percentage of people working in academia. Better students look at their exam/assignment mistakes, and they learn from them. Less-than-stellar students, Roediger said, generally do not do that. Because they found the exam/assignment so aversive the first time, the last thing they want to do is look at it again. The least painful thing to do is throw the exam in the trash. And ignore the instructor’s feedback on the assignment. Unfortunately, students who do not revisit the exam/assignment are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and miss the opportunity to clear up any lingering misconceptions about the course content.

 

The post-exam everything-available group exam

 

When I gave in-class multiple-choice exams, I wanted students to figure out what they missed and why as soon as possible. I did not want to give any missed multiple-choice questions an opportunity to solidify as facts in students’ memories.

 

After students had taken the exam solo and had turned in their answer sheets, students would take the exam again using a brand new answer sheet. This time, students could use their notes, their book, the Internet, phone-a-friend, and other students in the class to answer the questions. Some students worked alone. Other students worked in pairs or small groups, but would shout across the room to consult with a different group as debate raged about a particular question. I had the occasional class who chose to do the open exam as an entire class with one student taking the lead. In those cases, I would leave the room. I did not want my presence to stifle discussion. Consensus was not required. Each student had their own answer sheet.

 

The solo exam was 50 questions worth one point each. The open exam was counted as a separate exam with each question worth 1/5 of a point for a total of 10 points.

 

My face-to-face classes met in 2.5 hour blocks, so it was easy to have the solo exam in the first half of class and the open exam in the second half of class. It would, however, work to give the open exam during the next class session.

 

I no longer give in-class multiple-choice exams, but I held onto them for quite a while because the discussions students had about the exam questions was so valuable. Students could see how other students thought through the questions and the answer options, and then used the textbook, their notes, or the Internet to support or refute each answer option.

 

At the end of the class period, some students would stick around until all of the answer sheets were turned in to ask, “Okay, question 6. We had a lot of debate on this one between A and C. What is the answer?!” Then we would talk about it.

 

During the open exam, I noticed some students not engaging. Some students just bubbled in the same answers they put on their solo exam, turn it in, and leave. Other students just bubbled in the answers the group majority had. These students probably found the solo exam painfully aversive, and the open exam just prolonged their agony. It was all a reminder of how college was not for them. Well, that is most-decidedly not the message I want students to hear.

 

If I gave in-class multiple-choice exams, I would still do the open-exam, but I would add in an exam wrapper.

 

A common instructor frustration

 

“I spent hours writing comprehensive feedback on my students’ assignments, but they keep making the same mistakes. I don’t think they’re reading my comments.”

 

Some of your students may not be reading your comments. They are probably the ones who found the assignment so aversive, they are just happy it is over.  

 

One instructor self-preservation strategy is to use two-tiered grading. In the first round of grading, use a comprehensive rubric and type minimal comments. Invite your students to tell you if they would like a second round of grading with more detailed comments. Here, the instructor does not change the score but gives the student more explanation about their score. The instructor’s time goes to the students who will actually read their feedback. A solid rubric, though, can provide a lot of really good information on its own.  

 

Exam and assignment wrappers: The idea

 

Wrappers encourage students to look at the past, and then strategize for the future. Following an exam or an assignment, students are asked about how they prepared, what do they think worked well for them, and what do they think they need to do differently next time. Here are some exam wrapper examples from Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation. The idea is to help students further develop their metacognitive skills, use what they learned, and improve on the next exam or assignment.

 

The research conducted on exam wrappers to date, however tells us not to expect too much in the way of impact on exam grades or metacognitive skills (Gezer-Templeton, Mayhew, Korte, & Schmidt, 2017; Pate, Lafitte, Ramachandran, & Caldwell, 2019; Soicher & Gurung, 2017).

 

It is probably not reasonable to expect a short reflection to improve student grades or metacognitive skills. Too many students have too many other responsibilities. Even if students know what they should do differently, it does not mean that they have the time, the energy, or the motivation to make those changes. A student who is working two jobs while taking care of two young children and an elderly family member may be happy just to pass your class.

 

I want to know, however, that students know what they need to do, even if they may not be able to.

 

Assignment wrappers: My implementation and my goals

 

In my courses, students respond to 12 to 15 essay questions each week. After students receive their graded assignments, I ask students in a separate 5-point assignment to answer five questions:

 

1. Submit a screenshot of the rubric. I want to make sure that students can find the rubric in our course management system and that they have seen it. 

 

2. Approximately how many hours did you spend working on this assignment? I expect students to put about 10 hours into this assignment. If the student did not do well on the assignment and reports spending less than 10 hours on the assignment, I can reiterate those expectations.

 

3. Estimate the number of points you lost due to:

Trouble with definitions

Missing or not enough explanation of the concepts

Missing or not enough application to the examples in the questions

Didn't answer one or more questions

Didn't leave enough time to complete the assignment

Other (give a brief explanation of what you're thinking about here)

 

This question helps students think about where they missed points, so they can pay particular attention to that area on the next assignment.

 

4. What are you planning to do differently as you work on your next assignment? Students have control over their grades. There are changes they can make. Most students have some solid ideas on what they can do differently. Being able to make those changes can be hard, though. If students report on future wrappers that they are having a hard time doing what they think they need to do, I will recommend some basic behavioral change strategies. 

 

5. What worked well that you are planning to do again? This is a reminder to students that they are indeed doing some things well. These are strengths to build on.

 

My assignment wrappers ensure that students are looking at my feedback, even if they do not really want to. The reflection helps students see that they have agency—that there are things that they are doing that work and there are changes that they can make. Finally, the wrappers give me a space to be a cheerleader and offer support.

 

“You have the right strategies. Just give yourself more time to do the assignments. Block off some time in your calendar each day, and defend that time as yours.”

 

“The changes you are planning on making are excellent.”

 

“It can be hard to study with all of those distractions at home you talked about. Can you go to the college library, the public library, or a coffee shop? Even for a little bit?”

 

“It sounds like you might be able to use some financial support. Did you know that our college has emergency funds and a food pantry?”

 

For example

 

I had one student who reported that he left the assignment until the last day. He ran out of time and his grade reflected that. He vowed to devote a couple hours every day on the course. On the next wrapper, he reported that he was much less stressed. Not only did he finish the assignment with plenty of time to spare, he also had time to review and fine-tune his assignment before submitting it. He then added that he thought having his phone next to him while he worked was too much of a distraction, and that he would leave it in a different room while working on his next assignment. On the next wrapper, he reported that without his phone, he finished his work even faster. Yes, his changes were rewarded in his much-improved assignment scores.

 

This student may have made these observations and made these changes without the wrapper. But, with the wrapper, he stated his goals to me, and I was able to encourage him in his efforts. Now I can say to students, “I had a student who had the same struggles you are having. This is what he did that worked for him. Want to give it a try?”

 

 

References

 

Gezer-Templeton, P. G., Mayhew, E. J., Korte, D. S., & Schmidt, S. J. (2017). Use of exam wrappers to enhance students’ metacognitive skills in a large introductory food science and human nutrition course. Journal of Food Science Education, 16(1), 28–36. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4329.12103

 

Pate, A., Lafitte, E. M., Ramachandran, S., & Caldwell, D. J. (2019). The use of exam wrappers to promote metacognition. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 11(5), 492–498. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cptl.2019.02.008

 

Soicher, R. N., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2017). Do exam wrappers increase metacognition and performance? A single course intervention. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 16(1).

While I am still not close to retirement, I am certainly closer to retirement than I am to my first year of teaching. This August will be the 30th anniversary of when I stepped in front of a classroom as a person of authority. I was a graduate student leading discussion sections once a week for a social psych course. The following fall, I taught my own course for the first time. This anniversary has put me in a reflective mood. 

 

Here is what I know now that I wish I had known then.

 

Develop a teaching persona

 

Teaching is a performance. When you step in front of a class, you must consider who your students are and how you can best help those students understand your course material. In doesn’t matter how far over you are on the Big Five trait of introversion. You have a role to play. 

 

Do not take cheating personally

 

Some of your students will cheat. And some of those who cheat, you will catch. It will feel like a personal affront, but student cheating is not about you. When feeling overwhelmed—sometimes brought on by procrastination, but not always—students will go to what has worked for them, or their friends, before. They put their hands into their bag of shortcuts and hope that what they pull out works. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it does not. Make sure there are consequences for cheating. However, again, do not take it personally, because it is not about you.

 

Students earn grades

 

Instructors do not give grades. Instructors document the grades students earn.

 

Someday, a student will come to you begging for a few more points because if they do not get X grade in your course, they will lose their scholarship, financial aid, or something else important to them. If a student is in that position, your course alone was not enough to do that. A string of courses that came before brought the student to this point. Your course is just the latest one in the series.

 

Stick to your policies

 

Whatever policies you have identified in your syllabus, do not make exceptions to them—unless your policy says that you will make exceptions. If you are going to make exceptions, think very carefully about how you will decide who gets an exception.

 

If you have a clear no-late-assignment-with-no-exceptions policy, a student asks you to make an exception, and you do, that is unfair to all of the students who read the policy in your syllabus, took you at your word, and did not ask for an exception.

 

Do not obsess over that one negative comment in your course evaluations

 

What is especially frustrating about course evaluations is that the course is over leaving you unable to address your students’ comments. There is no closure.

 

Early in my teaching career, I had a student who wrote, “She should write more than just the outline on the board, because when it came time to study for the test, all I had was the outline.” In a 15-week semester, this student never figured out that they could write more than what I wrote. I had no way to tell the student.

 

When reading your course evaluations, remember that these are student perceptions. Find the patterns first. What are most students saying? What should you keep doing next term? What changes should you make? In some cases, for example, you do not need to change what you do, but, instead, make the rationale for what you do clearer.

 

Now you can look at the comments that did not fit into the patterns you found. If one student, for example, reports that you did not turn graded work back in a timely manner, but everyone else reports that you did, you can safely ignore this outlier. This student may have a different definition of “timely manner.” In fact, the student may have even thought that “timely manner” means you turned work back after a lot of time had passed. The only thing you know is that this comment is the polar opposite of what everyone else in your course said. Treat it as the outlier it is.

 

In anonymous course evaluations, student biases—both implicit and explicit—can affect how students rate their instructors. If you are young, female, or a person of color, you should be particularly cautious in interpreting your evaluations. More so if you are all three.

 

Students are responsible for their own learning

Just because you say it, does not mean that students will remember it. What is teaching? Teaching is not talking. Teaching is not “covering” content. Teaching is not flipping through presentation slides. Teaching is helping students do the hard work of learning.  

You are using a good textbook. Trust the authors to deliver the content. Your job is to help students with the content they are struggling with. Find out what they are struggling with and focus on that -- you can ask via your course management system before class, use a classroom response system, or just ask them in class (pairs or small group discussions for just a few minutes, then have each group report out).

 

I tell my students that the textbook is their first source of information. I am there to help the textbook.

 

It is okay to use your textbook in class

 

If a student asks a question about core content that you are still fuzzy about yourself, like the difference between positive and negative reinforcement, it is okay to say, "Let's walk through it together." Pull out the book, open to those pages, and put it under your document camera. Modeling the process of thinking through a question is just as valuable as having an answer at the ready. 

 

It is okay to guess, as long as you say that you are guessing

 

For something that is outside the book's core content, it is okay to take a guess—as long as you tell students you are guessing. Walk students through your thought process; pull in concepts you have covered before and introduce students to new concepts. And, no, after class you do not have to look up an answer and report back what you found at the next class session. If you want to know, look it up. If you think it will be of wide enough interest, post it to your course management system. 

Even after 30 years in the classroom, students still ask questions I have never heard before. You cannot anticipate them all.

 

Grading tips

 

As it may have been hard for your students to get started doing this assignment, it may be just as hard for you to grade them. To help you get started, remove barriers between you and your grading. Get everything out that you need.

Open your course management system to the right place. You may not be ready to grade, but you have set up everything so that when you are, you do not have to do anything except start.

 

Grade in spurts. Grade five student assignments, stand up and stretch. Grade another five. The last assignment you grade deserves the same attention as the first one.

 

Use a solid rubric and consider two-tiered grading. In the first round, you grade using just the rubric with minimal comments. Invite students who would like more feedback to ask for it. For those students who do, go back into their assignments, and write more detailed comments.

 

Finally, take care of yourself

 

Teaching takes a lot of energy. Sleep. Exercise. Eat well. Have fun.

As instructors, almost all of us are public speakers. We pay a lot of attention to our content, but how much do we pay attention to how we are presenting our content?

 

Um, if we, um, had as many ums in our written work as we sometimes, um, have in our speech, our writing would, um, be difficult to read. The occasional um is not a problem. In fact, the occasional um works as an attention-getting signal telling us something important is coming. Having ums sprinkled throughout can improve memory for your content (Fraundorf & Watson, 2011). Having too many ums, though, is like highlighting every word in written text. If everything is signaled as important, then nothing is. Frequent ums can be distracting. You don’t want your listeners to start focusing on your ums and stop focusing on your message.

 

Reduce the ums through behavioral change

 

Record your next lecture, or maybe just the first 10 minutes of it. An audio recording using your phone will work. On playback, listen for your ums. How many are there? If there are just a few in that 10-minute recording, you probably don’t need to do anything differently.

 

If you’re hearing dozens, you may decide it's time to work on um-reduction.

 

When are your ums most likely to occur? At the beginning of sentences? As you switch from one topic to another? When responding to student questions? Now that you know when you are most likely to utter an um, you’ll be more likely, during your next lecture, to recognize that an um may be coming on. Your goal at this point is to pause—stop cold. Pausing will interrupt the automatic um. Savor the silence; skip the um. Then speak.

 

If you struggle with the silence, increasing the number of hand gestures you use also may help you decrease your ums (Christenfeld, Schachter, & Bilous, 1991). Don’t get too carried away though. Rapid, random, hand flapping would probably be just as distracting.

 

References

 

Christenfeld, N., Schachter, S., & Bilous, F. (1991). Filled pauses and gestures: It’s not coincidence. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 20(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01076916

 

Fraundorf, S. H., & Watson, D. G. (2011). The disfluent discourse: Effects of filled pauses on recall. Journal of Memory and Language, 65(2), 161–175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2011.03.004

Do you teach Intro Psych? If so, I am personally inviting you to join me at the Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology Reading in Tampa next year (June 10-16, 2020; apply here). Choosing to attend the Reading was – hands down – the best move I ever made in my professional career. And I don’t say that lightly.

 

For doing the AP Reading, you are paid $1,639 (as of 2019), provided a free flight (or reimbursed miles if you’re close enough to drive), free room (with a roommate), and free meals (at the Convention Center).

 

I don’t remember when or where I first heard about the AP Reading. It was probably from Jane Halonen at NITOP. I do know that my first year was 2006. The Reading was in Daytona Beach that year. Since then, we’ve read in Louisville and Kansas City. For the last three years, the AP Psych Reading has been in Tampa.

 

What is the AP Psychology Reading?

 

A few hundred thousand high school students enroll in Advanced Placement Psychology courses each year. In May, many of those students take the AP Psych exam with the goal of scoring high enough to earn college credit at one of 1,999 colleges or universities students end up attending (see the full list here). In addition to 100 multiple-choice questions worth 2/3 of the exam grade, students also answer two essay questions – “free response questions” (FRQs) in AP parlance – worth 1/3 of the exam grade. (Read more about the exam.) Somebody has to read and score those free responses.

 

In 2019, about 600 college and high school psychology instructors met for a week to score a little more than 300,000 exams. If you’ve been reading carefully, you caught that that is about 600,000 essays.

 

No one does the Reading because they like grading

 

If there is someone who does the Reading because they like grading, I have yet to meet them. Unlike your own grading, however, at the Reading, you are given the rubric. Most questions have seven points, and for each one, you apply the rubric making a yes/no decision. If what the student has written reaches the bar for point one, score it. If not, don’t. Move on to the second point. At the end of the student’s essay, tally the number of yesses and bubble that number on a scoresheet. Move on to the next essay. Repeat for seven days.

 

Once you know the rubric – have become one with the rubric – the experience is very Zen-like. At the Reading, between 8am and 5pm – minus morning break, lunch, and afternoon break – nothing else matters. Some who do the reading talk about flow and about enjoying a break from the more complicated daily decisions they commonly need to make. At the Reading, everything is reduced to one simple decision: point/no point.

 

Why do college faculty do the Reading?

 

I asked several college faculty why they first decided to do the Reading. There were two primary reasons. First, someone they respected told them to do it – and, frankly, that’s the motivation I’m going for in this blog post. Second, most of them cited the extra money – also a legitimate motivator. Some faculty put the money into a dedicated hobby fund, others put it into a dedicated travel expense fund, and still others put it into their general household expense fund.

When I asked college faculty why they continue to do the Reading, almost everyone immediately said they come back because of the people.

 

The people

 

At the end of the workday–where every day is casual Friday–it’s time to hang out with old friends and make new ones. It’s very different than being at a conference. At conferences, everyone’s pulled in so many different directions with myriad obligations. At the Reading, we are all done at 5pm. The next four to six hours are spent just hanging out with friends.

 

I can’t imagine being where I am in my career without the people I have gotten to know at the Reading. I am a better teacher because of them. This is the largest gathering of the absolute best psychology instructors in the country, both high school and college/university.

 

I first met Charles Brewer (Furman University) at the Reading – the highest award in the teaching of psychology is named in his honor: Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award.

 

Since 2000, 14 out of 21 presidents for the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) have participated in the AP Reading. I’m not sure it would have ever occurred to me to run for STP president without the encouragement of a lengthy list of mentors – most of whom I met through the Reading.

 

I have been invited to speak at colleges/universities and at local/regional/national conferences by people I’ve met at the Reading.

 

Rubrics

 

Getting 300,000 students to interpret an essay question the same way so their written responses can all be scored reliably is no easy task. Any, yet, those who write the questions pull this off time and time again. The challenge in creating the rubric is in identifying what a reader must see in a student’s response to be certain that the student knew the concept, and then to write the rubric in such a way that every reader will score every student response the same way.

 

Since I started attending the Reading in 2006, my essay question writing and my rubric writing has gotten immeasurably better. It’s these improved skills that allowed me to move from a standard lecture-based teaching model to interteaching where my students learn through writing.

 

Join me next year!

 

The Nebraska Tourism Commission recently announced their new slogan: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” That’s true for the Reading, too! It’s not for everyone, but you won’t know it’s not for you unless you try it.

 

If it’s for you, who you will meet and what you will learn will take you places and provide you with opportunities you could never imagine.

 

Have questions?

 

If you’re thinking about applying to join next year’s AP Psychology Reading but you have questions, you are welcome to email me at sfrantz@highline.edu. I am not an official representative of either ETS or the College Board, but I would be happy to give you this reader’s perspective.

After covering experiments and correlations in Intro Psych or as a research methods booster in the Stress & Health chapter, ask your students if they have heard that you should walk 10,000 steps a day. Do they know where that recommendation comes from? Did anyone guess that it seems to come from a 1964 Japanese marketing campaign for a pedometer (“Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit?,” 2015)?

 

Recent correlational research with almost 17,000 women aged 62-101 (average age 72) found that those who took about 4,400 steps per day were 41% less likely to die during the study (mean study length: 4.3 years) than those who took 2,700 per day. The more steps walked per day, the lower the mortality. Benefits maxed out at 7,500 steps; walking more than that did not reduce mortality rates. Annually, researchers asked participants for “sociodemographic characteristics, health habits, and personal and family medical history,” as well as at the start of the study, “a 131-item food frequency questionnaire.” All things being equal, those who walked more (up to 7,500 steps per day), lived longer (Lee et al., 2019). When you have this many participants who are in that age range, you can use mortality as your primary dependent measure.

 

Experimental research using other dependent measures such as blood pressure (Moreau et al., 2001) and cholesterol (Dasgupta et al., 2017; Sugiura et al., 2002) have found benefits to increasing number of steps walked per day.

 

With students working in small groups, ask students to design an experiment to test the effects of walking on a dependent measure of their choosing. How many levels of the independent variable would they use? How would they ensure the number of steps walked by their participants? What dependent measures would they choose? How long would they run the study? What population would they choose as participants?

 

Visit the groups answering any questions they may have. After the groups have finished their discussion, ask each group to report their independent variable and dependent variables. Complete this activity by explaining to students the importance of understanding the theory behind the research (on what dependent measures can we expect a benefit of exercise?), the importance of reading research articles on what has already been done (what have others found and how may that inform our study?), and the importance of doing research in many different ways (such as using different operational definitions).

 

 

References

 

Dasgupta, K., Rosenberg, E., Joseph, L., Cooke, A. B., Trudeau, L., Bacon, S., … Smarter Trial Group. (2017). Physician step prescription and monitoring to improve ARTERial health (SMARTER): A randomized controlled trial in patients with type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, 19(5), 685–704. https://doi.org/10.1111/dom.12874

 

Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit? (2015, June 17). BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33154510

 

Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Kamada, M., Bassett, D. R., Matthews, C. E., & Buring, J. E. (2019). Association of step volume and intensity with all-cause mortality in older women. JAMA Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899

 

Moreau, K. L., Degamo, R., Langley, J., McMahon, C., Howley, E. T., Bassett Jr, D. R., & Thompson, D. L. (2001). Increasing daily walking lowers blood pressure in postmenopausal women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(11), 1825–1831.

 

Sugiura, H., Suguira, H., Kajima, K., Mirbod, S. M., Iwata, H., & Matsuoka, T. (2002). Effects of long-term moderate exercise and increase in number of daily steps on serum lipids in women: Randomised controlled trial. BMC Women’s Health, 2(1).

One of the perennial challenges in teaching Intro Psych is helping students understand that knowing that two variables are, say, positively correlated does not tell us anything about what causes that relationship. Discussion of this study would work during your coverage of correlations or during your coverage of circadian rhythms as an opportunity to revisit correlations.

 

The 6.5-year study of 433,268 British adults (Knutson & von Schantz, 2018) provides us with an illustrative example. The researchers asked each person “Do you consider yourself to be definitely a morning person [27%], more a morning than evening person [35%], more an evening than morning person [28%], definitely an evening person [9%].” “Increased eveningness, particularly definite evening type, was associated with increased prevalence of a wide variety of diseases or disorders, including dia- betes, psychological, neurological, respiratory and gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders.”

If your Intro Psych students are like most people, they want to jump to the conclusion that being a night owl will cause a number of health problems that will eventually lead to an early death.

 

The lead author of this study, Kristen Knutson, thinks the root of the problem is really that of a mismatch. Many of our societies are geared toward the morning chronotype. If you have an evening chronotype but are trying to work, say, 9am to 5pm, you’re fighting against your own internal clock (Khan, 2018).  

 

Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to generate a list of factors that are associated with good health. Perhaps their list includes things like exercising, getting good sleep, eating well, and developing and maintaining strong social ties. Now ask students to consider why these things may be more difficult for night owls than morning larks. For example, how many recreational sports teams compete at 11pm? How many spin or yoga classes are offered at midnight? How easy is it to find a restaurant with healthy fare at 10:30pm? How hard is it to get enough sleep when you don’t get sleepy until 2am but have to be up at 7am to be a work by 9am? Maintaining social ties is difficult for night owls who want to hang out at 10pm when most of their friends are headed to bed (Clark, 2019).

 

The cause of the correlation between chronotype and health may be due to this whole host of third factors. What if night owls were allowed to be night owls? Would a night owl yoga instructor, for example, teaching at 11pm have night owl students? Would night owls get more sleep if they worked, say, 2pm to 10pm?

 

If time allows, ask volunteers to share their chronotypes and how they’ve adjusted their schedules to fit that chronotype. Or, if their schedules don’t fit, to share why that’s a struggle.

 

In closing this activity, reiterate that knowing that there is a relationship between two variables tells us nothing about why two variables are related. 

 

 

References

 

Clark, B. (2019, May 23). No, night owls aren’t doomed to die early. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/smarter-living/no-night-owls-arent-doomed-to-die-early.html

 

Khan, A. (2018, April 11). Bad news for night owls. Their risk of early death is 10% higher than for early risers, study finds. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-night-owl-death-20180412-story.html

 

Knutson, K. L., & von Schantz, M. (2018). Associations between chronotype, morbidity and mortality in the UK Biobank cohort. Chronobiology International, 35(8), 1045–1053. https://doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2018.1454458

 

 

 

As of this writing, Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer has won 24 games for a total of $1,867,142.00. A lot of people are wondering how he has done it.

 

The next time you cover memory in Intro, ask your students to work in pairs or small groups to use what they learned in the memory chapter to guess at some strategies Holzhauer has used to remember such a vast amount of information and to be able to recall it. Did your students come up with self-testing? Spaced practice? Elaboration? Interleaving? Dual coding? Ask your students how they would use these techniques to prepare for their own Jeopardy! run.

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer wanted to know how James Holzhauer has done, so they asked Penn psychology professor Michael J. Kahana and Utah ed psych professor Michael Gardner—and James Holzhauer (Avril, 2019).

 

First, Holzhauer has learned a lot of content in different contexts. In addition to whatever knowledge he acquired through general reading or through school was learned again through his reading of children’s books—books that can cover a lot of ground in an easy-to-digest way. If Holzhauer learned about Napoleon in high school, for example, and then learned about Napoleon in a children’s book, he has that many more retrieval cues to recall what he knows about Napoleon—information that was learned at different times and different places. And, of course, since the task in playing Jeopardy! is retrieving information, it’s important to practice that retrieval through self-testing. Holzhauer confirms that he has indeed self-tested.

 

Holzhauer uses priming to his advantage, both in unexpected and expected ways. If Final Jeopardy is a finite category, he mentally flips through possible answers. As an example, he cites the category “European Capitals.” By thinking about Budapest, Rome, Warsaw, Paris, Oslo, Brussels, he is firing up the neurons in his “European Capital” neural network, making it easier to retrieve the correct answer when the question finally comes. Outside of Final Jeopardy, Holzhauer says the game moves too fast to do this. When contestants choose all the questions from the same category one right after the other, though, everyone gets to stay within the same neural network. That’s not Holzhauer’s strategy, though. He jumps from category to category selecting all of the $500 answers first—to amass a good chunk of money that he can wager on a Daily Double. While he doesn’t have time to think through a list of possible answers, but since he knows which category he is going to select before he voices it, his brain does have a few seconds lead time over his competitors in accessing the right neural network. Interestingly, younger people can more quickly retrieve content from a new category than those of us who are older. That jumping from category to category likely gives him an advantage over older contestants.

 

Then there is buzzer strategy. Is it better to wait until you know you know the answer and then buzz in? Or, is it better to buzz in and hope your brain can find the answer in those few seconds? Holzhauer uses the former strategy. Buzz in first and hope your working memory is able to quickly retrieve the answer from long-term memory.

 

End this discussion by informing your students that if any of them go on to win on Jeopardy!, your cut is 10%.

 

Reference

 

Avril, T. (2019, May 16). Can ‘Jeopardy!’ whiz James Holzhauer be beaten? The science of memory and recall, explained. The Inquirer. Retrieved from https://www.philly.com/science/jeopardy-champ-james-holzhauer-speed-psychology-20190516.html

One of the many things I love about teaching psychology is that I can learn something new about the field—about our humanness—just about anywhere. I am currently reading Skeleton Keys by Brian Switek (2019), a science writer and bone geek. Exploring the origins of our bones, this book is a fascinating history. Any history that starts a few hundred million years ago—as this one does—reminds me how improbable our existence is. It is improbable that mammals exist, that primates in particular exist, that humans exist, and, lastly, that I, specifically, exist. With an incomprehensible timeline that is measured in millions of years, I can’t help but think—in the greater scheme of things—how small I am. While that millions-of-years perspective didn’t stop me from being irritated with some of my fellow drivers on my morning commute, I did think about that dinosaur who one day felt irritated with their fellow dinosaurs when travelling to wherever dinosaurs travelled. You have my empathy, dinosaur.

 

In a brilliant example of burying the lede, I’m actually writing about where the three little bones in the middle ear come from, as I just learned from Skeleton Keys. Stick with me.

 

Protomammals—a group of animals who were precursors to mammals—had jaws comprised of a number bones. Visit the Wikipedia page for Dimetrodon, a protomammal that lived almost 300 million years ago. On that Wikipedia page, scroll down to the drawings of the skull. In the lateral view, notice the quadrate bone at the back of the upper jaw and the articular bone in the back of the lower jaw. Over time—and by “time” I mean millions of years—those bones shrunk in creatures that followed Dimetrodon, but did not disappear. The quadrate evolved into the incus (anvil), and the articular evolved into the malleus (hammer). The stapes (stirrup) had a different origin, but same idea. It was a small bone on top of the hyoid bone in the neck of protomammals (Maier & Ruf, 2016).

 

Press your fingers into the skin right in front of your ear. Open and close your jaw. This is where your upper and lower jaws meet. Those tiny bones of the middle ear are right behind that joint.

 

References

 

Maier, W., & Ruf, I. (2016). Evolution of the mammalian middle ear: A historical review. Journal of Anatomy, 228(2), 270–283. https://doi.org/10.1111/joa.12379

 

Switek, B. (2019). Skeleton Keys. New York City: Riverhead Books.

This one is a challenge. I’ve taught in community colleges for almost 30 years. For the first half of my career, a lot of my students were older than me, and they were pretty stressed about taking their first college class. I decided early on that I would encourage my students to call me by my first name. Some time in the last 10 years I noticed that despite encouraging students to use my first name, many were simply calling me nothing. I chalk that up to—like my more-often-than-not aching lower back—aging. Most of my students are not younger than me. And my student population has shifted to include many students who were born into different cultures all over the world. What they think it means to be respectful to elders and people in authority differs from my views which, of course, are tied to my own cultural experiences.

 

I have since moved on to giving students a choice:

  • my first name—acknowledging that some students are not comfortable with that
  • Frantz—for everyone who prefers the formality
  • Sue—for those who want to split the difference, respect with a touch of informality

 

I am happy to use any of these. When I receive an email from a student, in my response, I use whichever form of address the student used. If the student doesn’t use a form of address, I sign with the most formal option: Prof. Frantz.

Through the Facebook group of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, Dara Friedman-Wheeler posted a link to this wonderful decision tree designed to help students sort out what to call their professors. This infographic is tied to an account owned by “A Gálvez,” but that’s all the information I have on who created it. (If anyone knows who this is, please contact me.) At the very bottom of the infographic is a note with what is likely the final line missing. A quick Internet search generated some others, but this one is both educational and respectful with just a touch of snark.

 

As for using this infographic, I’m adding it to my “how do we contact our professor” page in my course management system. Even though I am clear about how I would like to be addressed, I don’t know that all of my colleagues are as explicit. This will help students avoid awkward interactions. Not all awkward interactions. Just the ones involving proper forms of address for their professors.

Sue Frantz

Teaching Synesthesia

Posted by Sue Frantz Apr 24, 2019

I read The Man Who Tasted Shapes by the neurologist Richard Cytowic in the mid-1990s. Whenever the man ate something, he felt sensations on his skin. For example, eating chicken caused him to feel like his skin was being poked by pointy things. If the chicken was a little underdone, the points were more rounded. The sensation was so strong for him that he decided what to eat based not on the taste, but based on what he wanted his skin to feel like. Synesthesia has been a topic in my Intro Psych course ever since. I usually first cover it when we talk about how the cerebral cortex processes sensation, but it often comes up again in the sensation and perception chapter. Synesthesia is a powerful reminder that our experience of the world is entirely subjective.

 

Several years ago in class, after covering synesthesia, a student raised her hand. She said, “I have that, but I just learned that a few months ago.” A friend of hers who was taking my Intro Psych course was talking with his friends about synesthesia. This young woman was in that group conversation, and she said, “Doesn’t everyone experience that?” Silence—and they all turned to face her. That’s when she learned that the colors she sees when she hears sounds is not experienced by everyone else.

 

Synesthesia historians mark 1812 as the year synesthesia came to light. (For a complete history of synesthesia research, see Jörg Jewanski’s chapter, “Synesthesia in the Nineteenth Century: Scientific Origins” in the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia. Yes, I, too, was surprised to learn that there is an Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia.) Despite this 200-year start on the research, modern research didn’t really take off until Cytowic met the man who tasted shapes in the 1990s. “Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, described some synesthetes in his work Colour associations. The interest and attention on this field raised and some publications followed. The US-scientist Mary Calkins introduced the term synesthesia or synaesthesia at the end of 19ths [sic] century” (Mächler, n.d.).

 

How many people have synesthesia? We have no idea. That’s not true. We do have an idea. We know it’s more than one person. The problem lies in how to test for synesthesia in all of its forms from an appropriate population sample. For a good explanation of the challenges in determining prevalence see Watson, et.al.(2017).

 

Consider using Cytowic’s 4-minute TEDEd video to introduce synesthesia. He points out that we frequently use one sensation to describe another, such as using a skin sensation word like sharp to describe taste or sound, so we all may be, in essence, synesthetes.  

 

(Shout out to Ruth Frickle for sending me this video!)

 

If you’d like to explore the topic of synesthesia yourself—and amass some examples—check out these books among many that have been written about synesthesia. They are listed in no particular order.  

 

The Man Who Tasted Shapes (1993) by Richard Cytowic

This is the book that launched modern-day synesthesia research. The first half of the book is about the synesthetic experience. In the second half, he waxes philosophically on the meaning of it all.

 

Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens (2001) by Patricia Lynn Duffy

Written by someone with grapheme-color synesthesia—perhaps one of the most common forms of synesthesia—Duffy shares what it’s like to have sounds produce color.

 

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons (2014) by Sam Kean

Kean, in the “Wiring and Rewiring” chapter, spends a few pages discussing synesthesia. Mostly, I will take any opportunity to plug this book. If you teach Intro Psych—and especially if neuroscience is a weakness for you—you must read this book. It’s non-negotiable.

 

Synesthesia (2018) by Richard Cytowic

This is Cytowic’s newest book. I haven’t read it yet, but my local library system is routing it to me as I type. I trust that this will contain the most current research on the topic.

 

 

References (excluding the above book recommendations)

 

Mächler, M.-J. (n.d.). History of synesthesia. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://synesthesia.com/blog/synesthesia/science-of-synesthesia/history-synesthesia-research/

 

Watson, M. R., Chromý, J., Crawford, L., Eagleman, D. E., Enns, J. T., & Akins, K. A. (2017). The prevalence of synaesthesia depends on early language learning. Consciousness and Cognition, 48, 212–231. 

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about how to use The Gender Unicorn to help students understand the differences between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. Through this activity, students can begin to grasp the complexity of sex, gender, and attraction.

 

Matt Goldenberg, through the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook group, posted this 4-minute video that provides a nice introduction to a deeper discussion and The Gender Unicorn. (The recording is audio-described for the visually impaired and captioned for the hearing impaired.)

 

Before showing the video, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to describe the ways in which people express their gender. In other words, when you see someone, how do you know what gender, if any, that person identifies with? Or, how do parents show the gender of their infants? Ask students to volunteer what they came up with; record these where students can see them.

 

 

If you have time, ask students to consider how the concept of gender differs across cultures. This article from Independent Lens includes a map of places around the world that look at gender differently than people do in the West. Click on each pin to learn more.

 

After watching the recording and discussing gender across cultures, launch The Gender Unicorn activity.  

 

A quick note about terminology. The prefix “cis” is Latin for “on the same side of;” and “trans” is Latin for “on the other side of.” For those who identify as cisgender, the gender they were assigned at birth and the gender they identify with now are in agreement—they’re on the same side. For those who identify as transgender, the gender they were assigned at birth and the gender they identify with now are in disagreement—they’re on different sides. This language is misleading because there really aren’t any sides. Those who identify as non-binary are saying that they don’t identify themselves according to a side.

Last week, I gave five examples of experiments you can use to give students practice at identifying independent and dependent variables. Here are five more.

 

After covering these concepts, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to identify both the independent variable(s) and the dependent variable(s) in each example.

Hypothesis: If people use third person pronouns to describe an event that caused anxiety, they will be more likely to report visualizing the scene as a distant observer would.

Researchers asked study participants to recall a time when they were “worried about something happening to” them. Participants were then randomly assigned to either the first person condition or the third person condition. In the first person condition, participants reflected on their experience through answering questions with an I/my focus, like “Why did I feel this way?” and “What were the underlying causes and reasons for my feelings?” In third person condition, participants reflected on their experience through answering questions with an outsider’s focus by using their own name in their reflection, like “Why did Jane feel this way?” and “What were the underlying causes and reasons for Jane’s feelings?” When asked, participants in the third-person group reported seeing the imagined event unfold further away from them than reported by participants in the first-person group.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Kross, E., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., Park, J., Burson, A., Dougherty, A., Shablack, H., … Ayduk, O. (2014). Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(2), 304–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035173

 

Hypothesis: If people hear how many others who stayed in their hotel room chose to reuse their hotel room towels, they will be more likely to reuse their towels, too.

 The hotel room attendant supervisor placed one of five signs in the bathrooms of randomly-assigned hotel rooms. Each sign carried a different message: (1) a general “save the environment” message, (2) a “join your fellow guests” message explaining that 75% of guests who stayed at the hotel reused their towels, (3) another “join your fellow guests” message but this one explained that 75% of people who stayed in that very hotel room reused their towels, (4) a “join your fellow citizens” message that shifted the in-group from hotel guests to the broader citizens, and (5) a “join the men and women” message that shifted the in-group to one’s own gender group. Hotel guests who received message 3 about others who stayed in their hotel room were much more likely to reuse their towels (49.3%) as compared to all of the other groups (average re-use 42.8%).

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Goldstein, N. J., Cialdini, R. B., & Griskevicius, V. (2008). A room with a viewpoint: Using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(3), 472–482. https://doi.org/10.1086/586910

 

Hypothesis: If people are given unwrapped pieces of chocolate, they will consume them more quickly than those given wrapped pieces of chocolate.

Participants received six pieces of chocolate. Random assignment determined which participants received separately wrapped pieces and which received unwrapped pieces. Participants were asked to record when they ate the chocolate. Those who received the unwrapped pieces ate most of them within two days. Those with wrapped pieces took longer.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Cheema, A., & Soman, D. (2008). The effect of partitions on controlling consumption. Journal of Marketing Research, 45(6), 665–675. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.45.6.665Use the "Insert Citation" button to add citations to this document.

 

Hypothesis: If people receive information about available health services, they will use those services more.

Researchers sampled several communities in India on their use of available health services. They randomly assigned half of the communities to receive pamphlets and community meetings that informed them of services. A year later, these residents had more prenatal examinations, more tetanus vaccinations, more prenatal supplements, and more infant vaccinations than people in the communities that did not receive the pamphlets or hold the community meetings.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variables.

 

Pandey, P., Sehgal, A. R., Riboud, M., Levine, D., & Goyal, M. (2007). Informing resource-poor populations and the delivery of entitled health and social services in rural India: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(16), 1867–1875. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.298.16.1867

 

Hypothesis: If we invite girls to “do science” as compared to “be a scientist,” they will persist longer in playing a science game.

 

Researchers randomly assigned young girls to hear that “Today we’re going to do science” or hear that “Today we’re going to be scientists” before playing a science game where the children had to make guesses based on observation. After failing at their guesses, the experimenter the child if she wanted to keep playing or do something else. The girls in the “do science” condition were more likely to persist in playing the game than those in the “be a scientist” condition.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable.

 

Rhodes, M., Leslie, S. J., Yee, K. M., & Saunders, K. (2019). Subtle linguistic cues increase girls’ engagement in science. Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618823670