Recently on FaceBook a former student, Jillian (now a high school teacher of AP Psychology) invited me to comment on Dana Dunn’s Psychology Today blog post about “The Overlooked Importance of Instructor Office Hours.” Thank you, Jillian, for alerting me to his thoughts — and for continuing to stay in touch. I admire what you are doing professionally in “giving away” psychology in your teaching and coaching and mentoring of other AP Psychology teachers.
Dana writes well and gives important advice in his blog “Head of the Class.” Here are comments I made to him in response to what he wrote:
Well said! I am saddened at how fewer and fewer students come to my office to see me across the past forty years. I have an open door policy in addition to scheduled office hours. “Today’s” student seems to think that email communication serves the same purpose. I respect the fact that they are so busy with multiple jobs, student extracurricular activities, and their studies. Meeting them in person, though, in my office, allows for mentoring, my learning from them, and the building of a relationship that can in fact last across one’s lifetime. I have been so blessed.
I’ve been reflecting lately on my role as faculty adviser to undergraduates here at Carroll and about those faculty who played such a crucial role in that capacity for me. Without doubt their influenceshaped how and why I relate to students and former students as I do.
At Oberlin College my most influential adviser was Ralph H. Turner. Ralph, the first faculty member to invite me to address him by his first name, somehow was able to provide me the right balance of challenge and support I needed both inside and outside the classroom. I fondly and respectfully remember him as intellectually curious, patient, playful, kind, and unusually generous in his time with me. Indeed he was willing to stay in touch with me even across the years that I was continuing my education at The Ohio State University. Thank you, Ralph.
I was blessed with a similar and even deeper rich and enduring relationship at Ohio State with Tom Ostrom, who was my adviser, research collaborator, mentor, friend, and role model until the day of his untimely death. Tom provided emotional support for me while I struggled with the likelihood of being pulled out of graduate school to be sent to Vietnam, listened to me as I sorted out my thoughts about getting married, wrote me a teasing letter about a study I should do if I ended up in jail, guided me in the transition from the intense research world of Ohio State to my current home at Carroll and inspired me to share with others my love of learning. His wisdom, lust for life, optimism, sense of humor, firmness, and candor still guide and humble me.
Both individuals so impacted my life in so many ways. I draw upon their wisdom each time I am interacting with a student in an advising capacity or with my student research assistants. Advising is much more than helping students make the transition from high school, providing advice in course selection, or giving guidance in deciding whether there is an afterlife after graduating from Carroll. The lessons taught me by Ralph and Tom aren’t and can’t be learned from adviser training workshops.
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.
“What will you DO when you retire?” I am asked more and more frequently—especially as I am a year away from seventy years of age. My answer is both simple and complicated – in part depending upon who is asking, why I think they are asking me, and when I am asked.
It is easier to answer what I shall NOT do! I don’t plan to grade any exams! Or to answer the question of what will happen to “David-in-Carroll-land.com.” It WILL retire or be transformed.
If my past behavior predicts my future behavior as it has in the past I shall not return to campus after next year’s commencement. Such was my behavior upon graduating from Howland High School in 1967 (though I was tempted by the Facebook contacts of classmates inviting me to our 50th reunion), graduating from Oberlin College in 1971, and my completing my graduate work at The Ohio State University in 1979. I’ve never been back. I treasure the richness of experiences and relationships which occurred but I look forward to having the time to focus on new or neglected aspects of life.
Consider the many meanings of commencement; start, genesis, infancy, first step, unveiling, creation. It’s been fun and rewarding being a professor, and I look forward to one more academic year before commencing. Still, it clearly also is time to move on.
Now is a good time to gather together some last thoughts about and for you while i am proctoring my last final exam of the 2017 – 2018 academic year. This year for the first time since I came here Commencement will be Saturday morning rather than on Mothers’ Day afternoon. Because of my age seniority length of time at Carroll and my rank of Full Professor, I march at the front of the line at Commencement. That gives me an ideal seating position for seeing and hearing speakers, but forces me to be on my best behavior — awake, disconnected from my Ipad, and resisting wearing my Brewers’ or Carroll College hats. I even got a hair cut!
For those of you I have met, I have done my best to teach you well but alas I am only human. Each student I teach is different, special, and always teaches me. You have enriched my life, and I welcome the opportunity as you become alumni to continue and perhaps to even expand upon our relationships. That happens a lot!
Thanks for the many lessons you have taught me.
Many people (family, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees) have worked very hard, in addition to you, to try to provide you with the best education that Carroll can provide both within and outside of the classroom. I often think that we ought to set aside a time for recognizing those unsung “guardian angels” who have done their best to make Carroll a caring community and a better place.
I urge that as time and circumstances allow you join them in giving back (without expectation of receiving “convocation points”) your time, wisdom, networking resources, prospective student recommendations, and examples of skills or values developed here at Carroll that have served you well. Carroll for me has always been a Caring Place.
Give Carroll its due credit when it has earned it, but I also encourage you to offer constructive criticism when the institution has failed to meet your expectations or deviates from its values which you value. Be appropriately skeptical of bland, branding platitudes. Seek out opportunities to do “a” right thing. Use your mind to think carefully and critically, but don’t forget that there are indeed many times when it is appropriate to follow one’s heart.
I envy your youth and the many opportunities that lie ahead or you as you share your talents and to make the world a better place. Stay in touch. Oh, yes… Here is a final exam.
With many fond memories,
David Simpson, Professor of Psychology and fellow, flawed human being.
“How long have you taught at Carroll?” I am often asked. I now tend to give the answer that my father-in-law, Golden Pioneer Walter G. Schmidt, gave when I once asked him how long he had been married. With a twinkle in his eye he retorted “forever.” Suffice it to say that when I came here senior faculty looked older to me and students at that time seemed much more my age! And, according to an online quiz my student assistant alerted me to my personality is most like Thanos!
I presently am proctoring my first final exam as I attempt to bring this academic year to a close. By my calculation I have made, given and graded more than 500 final exams since 1977. I am amused by some of my prior rants reflections (below) about the value of giving finals, the challenges of disciplining oneself to complete the task of grading, and the distractions (most self-induced) that temporarily knock me off course winding down. Somehow putting the semester to bed always gets done in time, with integrity, and with a sense of accomplishment.
Curious David Redux: Reflections on Grading.
Two books to read laid out before me: David Pogue’s Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Show You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life and Jocelyn K. Glei’s Unsubscribe: How to Kill email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real work Done. Each lends themselves to reading and learning when one has short “down times” for learning.
I should be finishing the grading of the exam I gave yesterday while I proctor the exam I am now giving. Yesterday Leo the Grading Dog and I devoted five hours to the uncompleted task–and decided that we needed sleep to continue. I playfully attempted to engage former students on Facebook in a crowdsourcing grading “experiment.” Alas, a lot of LOL’s. About as successful as my tabled crowdfunding proposal:)
Instead, I am reviewing all my past WordPress posts, Tweets, and Facebook Photos as I plan for major projects next semester. I am contemplating pulling all that material together in a “Best of Curious David” e-book. I hope to engage in extensive self-publishing with students, teach a research seminar dealing with “brain fitness/training” apps and interventions, and pull together 40 years of Carroll-related archival documents that really should not be forgotten. My physical office environment could be challenging as the Rankin Hall reconstruction begins–necessitating a moving from the office.
Here are some previous (unedited–I have not checked the links’ viability) musings about final exams. Clearly the fact that I pondered these questions before suggests that I still haven’t come up with a clear answer–yet I see value comprehensive, multifaceted finals despite the costs of time to grade them.
Final Reflections on Final Exams Dec 20, 2009
The last final exam has been graded–the grades submitted electronically.
Final exams began on Thursday this year, but my finals were the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Moreover, I chose to do something new within each final exam. These innovations resulted in my not having exams (newly made) ready until the day before I administered them. Such are academic opportunity costs!
This semester I introduced innovations in each of my classes, some common across each class and others unique to each course. Common to each class, I chose to complete the formal part of instruction a week before the end of the semester. I used the remaining scheduled class time for review and for preparing students for the final exam.
For each class, I wrote a blog about the class and invited students to respond to the blog. My primary goal in that assignment was not to increase “hit rate” on my blog site! Rather, I’d like to increase the likelihood that students subsequently might recognize how easy it is to comment responsibly to something “published” on the web. Though it is too early to say whether that goal was met, I was very pleased by the thoughtful comments from my PSY101 students.
Unique to PSY101, I also asked students in my Introductory Psychology class to visit a psychology podcast site and critique for me two episodes. Since I am exploring whether (video) podcasting is something I wish to do (is Audacity the answer?), I found their feedback quite helpful. Their final exam was the easiest to produce (50 multiple choice questions covering the fundamental concepts I cover in the course and 50 points of terminology questions)–and easiest to grade –in part because they provided compelling evidence that they knew the material. They were a fun group to teach and to learn with!
Unique to PSY205, I invited the students (once they had completed their 13 page, cumulative final exam —50 multiple choice, 30 points of terminology, 20 problems requiring students to indicate what data analysis was appropriate—to accept the Robin the Christmas Newf extra credit challenge.
Though I don’t believe in giving extra credit (it undermines intrinsic motivation), I was curious about their abilities to recognize flaws in published articles (the same article I gave my PSY303 class to critique for their final) and poorly designed surveys (the same survey administered to a sample of Carroll employees last week to assess the quality of the workplace). Though only one student (almost) identified the published data analysis error–and none recognized that the response scales of the survey had categories which were not mutually exclusive (and hence potentially invalidate most statistical break-downs), I was pleased that several students rose up to the challenge. And, more importantly to me, a number of students from this class clearly have a mastery of which data analysis to use. But will they have that same degree of mastery the next time I see them–or will they be singing this swan song again?
Unique to PSY303, I gave students in my Experimental Social Psychology course in advance two published journal articles. I also gave them a sense of the kinds of questions I would be asking them about the “Scrooge Effect” and “God is Watching You“ articles. I elected to assess students this way (rather than over course content—e.g. names, terminology, theories, concepts) since a major emphasis of this course involved thoughtfully reading and critiquing published research through weekly student presentations and discussion. I was most impressed by the thoughtful, reflective, insightful responses of almost every student–though none noticed the data analysis flaw.
Why bother giving final exams? Aren’t the 3 to 5 regular exams I give throughout the semester enough? It surely would be so much easier for me to give all multiple-choice questions which students respond to on a computer readable form. However, choosing the easy route would eliminate my opportunity to both assess and to teach during final examination period.
How odd it is that course evaluations occur before final exams are given. Wouldn’t a fairer evaluation of a course (and of the instructor) require that students have taken and received feedback from their final examinations? How frustrating it is not to be able to go over the final with my students and get from them suggestions for improvement in a timely fashion.
Maybe finals should be the last week of class and feedback should be during finals week. Alternatively, maybe a component of course evaluations should be a reflective writing piece the first day of classes. Maybe the first day of classes should be an exam covering the course prerequisites!
Too much grading leads me to think like this and hallucinate about Sugar Plums.
Happy Holidays from Curious David!
December 2014 Musings about Final Exams
It was a foggy 5:30 a.m. morning when I let the Newf out for her morning “duties.” One of many good reasons for driving carefully to Carroll this Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. I surely would NOT like to hit another deer–nor would Santa or my car.
I can still see fog outside my Rankin classroom. Thirty-seven years ago I was in this very building giving a sample lecture illustrating how I teach as part of my two-day job interview to become a faculty member at then-called Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I still have a copy of that presentation–and I remain at my first and only job for better or for worse. So much has changed–buildings, enrollment, technology, the institution’s name, the organizational structure. I feel obligated to protect traditions and overriding institutional historical values, but there are fewer and fewer here that remember them. So many of my former mentoring faculty and staff friends have moved on through retirement or from life. I miss their wisdom but try to preserve their gifts to Carroll.
And here I sit proctoring an 8:00 a.m.Saturday morning final exam covering “Statistics and Experimental Design” taken by students several of whose relatives (aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters) were former students or advisees of mine.
There are times when they look and behave very young and I recognize that I am 65-years old. Many other times they keep me young with their energy, willingness to learn, and playfulness. I feel that way especially in the present of my student research assistants–four of whom are graduating this year.
It has been a rough semester. I continue to find challenging teaching three consecutive seventy-minute courses in a row with 10 minute breaks even when two of the courses are the same. And this year I am co-chairing the Planning and Budget Committee (with a delightful colleague and poet BJ Best).
It has been the Dickens of a task: The Wurst of Times and the Best of Times. Younger colleagues like BJ, though, and the fewer and fewer remaining colleagues from my past reinforce my willingness to remain here and make a difference before departing.
The chimes just sounded. 10:00 a.m. Eight students remaining. Very good students among which several, should they wish, might join Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood as student research assistants.
Carroll’s 2014-2015 theme is “Time.” I just finished reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Time to start grading so that I can finishing reading The Book of Strange New Things.
I am still emotionally drained reflecting on the life lessons from the Milwaukee Rep’s performance of Thornton Wilder’sOur Town that Debbie and I enjoyed last Sunday. As a high school student and undergraduate, I used to keep journals documenting how literature and the arts impacted me. Thornton Wilder was born on my sister’s birthday and attended my alma mater Oberlin College.
Precious Moments: The entrance to this world by a new grand-nephew, Finn William O’Connor. Welcome!
Precious Moments: Quality time with Debbie, Dog, and Friends.
What to do when a few minutes after beginning a 3 hour exam the lights go off? The students smile and turn on their cell phone spotlights. After I ascertain that there is no health risk (it was a campus-wide outage), they choose to finish the exam by flashlight. I am impressed by their good humor.
Fiat Lux: Let there be light (more than an hour later).