Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools. Interested in brain health maintenance, brain fitness training, and truth in advertising.
Tomorrow I meet with my students for the first time. Even after four decades of teaching I shall be nervous, though for different reasons than my two new colleagues whom I chatted with today (one, a former student!).
Delighted to connect via Facebook with two former students last Friday who saw me “marshaling” Faculty during the Opening Convocation as we welcomed their children to Carroll! Alumnus George Jifas wins the price for delicately indicating on LinkedIn how old I am:
“I clearly remember your old office with an IBM PS1 and the dual floppy drives when you would show us the “internet” and how it was used for research and access to the Library of Congress. My how times have changed.”
I have already sent my students a survey to have been completed before we meet. This begins the relationship building which is a focal point of how I teach. In the 2 sections of Statistics and Experimental Design I’ll collect some data to illustrate a simple two-group design. This also serves as a means of taking attendance. I also want to convey to them my interest in “robot-proofing them“, why I so value the liberal arts, and by belief in Carroll’s newly formulated ethos statement.
I am VERY impressed at how my Experimental Social Psychology students have thoughtfully responded to the blog post I shared with them. Based on their thoughtful responses, we may be rewriting the syllabus as we go.
My biggest worry at the moment is will I physically be able to get into my office – when I left today they were programming the locks!
When I initially arrived at Carroll with my “ABD” degree (All But Dissertation) in 1978 it made much sense to me and to my chair, Dr. Ralph F. Parsons, to teach what I had specialized in during graduate school at The Ohio State University.
David, Ralph, and Virginia Briefly Reunited February 1, 2014
My introduction to the field of social psychology had come while I was an undergraduate at Oberlin College, and I hoped share with my Carroll students the excitement that I felt at that time of actually being an experimental social psychologist.
At Oberlin my academic adviser, Ralph Turner, was a self-described “arm-chair” social psychologist (i.e not at a researcher) interested in creating dithering devices to facilitate learning that would cascade within and outside the classroom. As an adviser and professor Ralph Turner was kind to and patient with me. He was a role model of a dynamic teacher and a voracious reader who regularly wrote book reviews and who played a leadership role in Division 2 (Teaching of Psychology). He encouraged my intellectual curiosity and accepted me as I was, unformed and uninformed but eager to learn. He introduced me to the idea that psychological principles of persuasion and attitude change could be used to make the world a better place — or a worse place if applications of these same social psychological principles and findings failed to be guided by ethics.
These were my most (in)formative years especially, perhaps, because I was taking all my classes “credit/no entry” (that is, ungraded). This freedom from being graded allowed me to read voraciously, to be exposed firsthand to social justice and war/peace issues, and to read and reflect upon works such as Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I was also at that time inspired by APA President George Miller’s 1969 address advocating that we should give psychology away
While a perennial graduate student at Ohio State I was surrounded by students who already were far better scientists than I was or would ever become and who subsequently made major contributions to the field. Once again I was heavily influenced by personal relationships formed with a few key faculty — in particular by my academic adviser, mentor, and friend Tom Ostrom and more indirectly but in many positive ways, by the teachings by example of Tony Greenwald. Both of them, in their kind but brutally candid way convinced me that my calling most likely would be in teaching rather than in conducting creative, seminal, path-breaking research. And here I some 40 plus years later!
It pleases me that a number of Carroll students chose to pursue advanced graduate degrees in social psychology (e.g. Mark Klinger, Pam Propsom, Deana Julka, Darcy Reich, Jenny Welbourne, and Cathy Carnot-Bond ) or in related disciplines (e.g. Mike Schwerin and Mary Jo Carnot). Some of them have developed enviable scholarly reputations. But my goal in my experimental social psychology class is not so much as to be a pipeline to graduate schools in social psychology as to attempt to provide a capstone-like experience in students’ developed abilities of thinking about research.
As I teach this course for the last time at Carroll I am sorting through how and what to teach. Though some years the enrollment has been as high as 35 students, this year there will be only eight. One possibility is to focus on classic studies and recently published articles. Such a change in format might allow for more extensive, daily discussion and the potential development of student research ideas resulting from such discussion.
A second possibility is to teach the course from a much more global, international perspective. A third possibility is to dramatically introduce hands on Internet-based resources and experiences A good start in identifying some such resources has already been made by Scott Plous in his development of the Social Psychology Network and is reflected in the work of Jonathon Mueller in developing teaching resources for social psychology. And, of course, I could draw more upon the expertise of former students who are active experimental social psychologists. I had some success with that last semester in my Research seminar when former students Skyped with us or came to campus.
I welcome input from students and former students concerning which directions I should explore. How best should I proceed to give social psychology away?
A wonderful tradition on my campus both on the first day before classes and again at graduation is to have a bagpiper majestically lead the students on to campus. Today we’ll slightly change the tradition by moving the Opening Convocation to the day that first-year students arrive so that parents can witness the opening welcoming of their children as they walk through the line of applauding faculty.
I am very impressed by our new President Cindy Gnadinger’s interest in preserving our traditions yet open to changes consistent with our values and ethos statement. I wonder what she would think of our bringing onboard a “brand” new piper I’ve discovered. I suspect at the minimum she would be thunder-struck. He would, though, provide a cross-cultural experience, be energizing and engaging, and quite memorable. Stay tuned.
On a more serious note, it was delightful to be visited by my Lead Student Research Assistant today, Kristen Reszka and to be in touch with several alumni via LinkedIn and Facebook. Please continue to stay in touch via Facebook, email, Skype, LinkedIn, snail mail, visits, and owl. I still have a good supply of Carroll COLLEGE decals for the asking:). And I even make house calls sometimes for a coffee date.
I love the sounds of a bustling campus – the chimes, physical plant staff changing shifts, the chattering of students as they discuss their athletic practices – though the predominant sounds this morning are those of the many construction workers trying to complete Rankin Hall’s renovation before classes begin. When completed, the renovated building will indeed be magnificent. Thanks to the many donors, some of whom have become my friends across the years.
Almost time to leave the new office and drive out to the Graduate Center for another morning of meetings dealing with implementation of Carroll’s new Strategic Plan and contributions the College of Arts and Sciences can make. It is interesting to reflect upon how much of my life has been spent in meetings. In retrospect, was that time well invested?
To prepare for my meeting I opened my newly purchased package of pencils.I try to find the right balance between high tech and low tech tools! Now if I can only remember how to sharpen them. I may have to consult the help desk.
As I transition this last year of teaching psychology courses at Carroll, I am reflecting on what lessons I have learned which will ease my transition out of academe. In particular, today I am reflecting on habits: how they are formed, maintained, strengthened, weakened, and suppressed. I am finding helpful several books recommended by some LinkedIn individuals I “follow:”
Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (I also find his podcast and newsletter of value) and
Scott Sonenshein’s Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More than You Ever Imagined.
Among the habits I envision changing or developing are the following:
Reading (Though I shall continue my reading of literature, I now am finding much pleasure in reading lengthy thought pieces in, for example, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker.)
Time Management (I shall not miss the day long series of meetings I have today!)
Self-identity and Self-understanding
Frameworks for understanding (e.g. how should one view the aging process)
Writing. I am interested in writing longer pieces and publishing them in venues like The Conversation or Medium or self-publishing a number of books.
“There is something wrong with you! You have no sense of urgency about time!” I was recently admonished while sitting in my chair reflecting upon Patricia Hampfl’s delightful book of essays entitled The Art of the Wasted Day. Don’t retire, accelerate advises Bracken Darrell, Head of Logitech, in a recent LinkedIn blog piece.
Here are some of my previous thoughts about time:
A canceled meeting! How best to make use of that unexpected 50 minutes—that gift of time. Maybe catch up on Profhacker blog pieces sitting on my RSS feed? Here are five of them:
Exploring “gamification“: I’m still somewhat chary of moving in this direction, but intrigued by the creative writing/ gaming applications of English Professor Colleague BJ Best.
TIME was the campus -wide theme for Carroll University (Waukesha, WI, USA) during the 2014-2015 academic year. Across my years of teaching, I have enjoyed creating special courses (‘Why War?” “Happiness” “Pioneering Web 2.0 Technology Tools”) when I have been allowed time and total control over the course. Had I offered a course on this theme of time, I would have include the following as required reading and videos:
Even after more than 40 years of teaching at Carroll, the first day of class is anxiety-arousing, pressured, critical, and rewarding. As a youth, I was so anxious about giving oral presentations that I fainted when I participated in my first school debate. I had a similar melt-down during the oral exam component of my graduate school general qualifying examinations in Social Psychology at The Ohio State University. With experience and a few set backs I’ve learned to over learn and to reframe (attribute) the performance anxiety I inevitably am experiencing as excitement for the task at hand. Sometimes, too, I whistle a happy tune!
These academic first days-of-the-semester pressures are primarily situational nuisances: making sure that my syllabi and handouts are up-to-date, proof-read, and sufficient in number; visiting the classrooms ahead of time to better guarantee that there are enough seats and that the computer equipment works; thinking through how to handle disruptive classroom situations in particular classroom environments; and of course trying to respond in timely fashion to the myriad course-related emails. An added challenge this year is having the contents of last year’s temporary office moved into a brand new office which I have never seen on August 20. The move will occur while I am vacationing in Canada. No doubt a good part of on campus non teaching time in September will be consumed by sorting through the several hundred boxes of my stored materials as I both unpack and pack up again in preparation for leaving Carroll at the end of the academic year. Looks like I might need another bookshelf:) though I have contacted some graduates about taking any books they might want.
For me the first class meetings are vital for relationship and credibility building — for getting to know my students, creating shared and appropriate expectations, and establishing standards for students and for me. This semester I am teaching two sections of PSY 205 “Statistics and Experimental Design” (and its two labs). Based on 1) student evaluations, 2) what my students demonstrate that they can do at semester’s end, 3) how I feel every time I teach it, and 4) feedback I get from alumni “Statistics and Experimental Design ” is without doubt my best taught course. Among the challenges in teaching such a class successfully are the attitudes that some students bring (“I hate math”; “I don’t do well in math”; “I’m afraid”), weaknesses in students’ fundamental computational skills, and their inexperience with my strongly believed outlook that statistics (and data analysis) is a tool, a language and a way of thinking. Here are some reflections I shared a few years ago about teaching the course.
I have spent quite a bit of time the past few years thinking about aging and more specifically about brain health and brain fitness training. Two books written by geriatric psychiatrist Marc E. Agronin have very much shaped my recent thinking this summer about these topics. I shared some of my reactions to his latest book (The End of Old Age) in an earlier blog piece. NPR a few years ago provided a useful summary of Agronin’s earlier book How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Hear of Growing Old.
In this earlier book Agronin acknowledges the known biology of the cellular aging process (e.g. the Hayflick Limit) and the successive shortening of telomeres with cellular divisions. However, heavily influenced by the thinking of the late geriatric psychiatrist Gene Cohen, Agronin persuasively and eloquently argues in this earlier book that aging is not and should not be thought of as a disease. Reading this earlier book which is enriched with detailed case studies of his patients was enlightening about my own myopic, age-centric views.
Were I to teach a course on brain health, aging, or brain fitness, I definitely would include Marc E. Agronin’s engaging, thought-provoking, and well-written recent (2018) book The End of Old Age: Living a Longer, More Purposeful Life.He asks three fundamental questions – Why age? (to grow in wisdom). Why survive? (to realize a purpose). Why thrive? (to create something new.) He argues persuasively that aging can and should be seen not as a disease but as a life enhancing opportunity for developing strengths of wisdom, purpose, and creativity. His arguments are well supported both by germane case studies and by detailed chapter end notes. The author makes wonderful and creative use of metaphor and clever turns of phrase, provides useful chapter summaries and even gives the reader an action plan for redefining and “re-aging.” This book definitely deserves careful reading and heeding by readers interested in a balanced, refreshing positive perspective about aging. Below are some resources I plan to further explore gleaned from the book.
Resources drawn from reading Agronin’s provocative book:
I learn best and most by creating and then teaching courses. Here are five courses for which I have done extensive background preparation and that I may develope to fruition in the next few years. Even if I never offer them at Carroll, there are so many venues for continuing teaching (e.g. via LinkedIn, Coursera, etc.) that it seems a waste not to complete and share these thoughts —and others.