I hope this holiday season has brought you much joy and peace. Last week was quite hectic for me as I finished up grades for term 1 while preparing syllabi for term 2 (I’ll finalize and post those in a couple of days). But then I had a wonderful long weekend celebrating Christmas with my husband. For the past few years we’ve had friends in town to share festivities, and that’s always lovely fun. This year it was just the two of us, and it was perfect too 🙂 One of the things we love to do together is cook. We just love the teamwork! So this weekend we spent ages cooking together… and then eating our delicious results!
I still can’t believe how quickly Term 1 went by! The end of November brought our 2nd Annual Psyc 217 Research Methods Poster Session: this year with over 130 posters and over 600 students across 7 sections of the course. The energy about research projects was exciting! I think we developed a good system this year too, smoothing out some of the registration kinks from last year. Next year we’ll be ready to bring in a larger audience and media — how exciting!
Our Psyc 100 Section 002 is coming along swimmingly in my opinion. The larger size (about 375) compared with last year (about 270) presented a few disruptions at the beginning of the term, but I think those are subsiding for the most part. A unit that stands out for me this past term was Language and Thinking: We had great fun exploring how babies learn one language and two. Such fascinating research is being done on this front! Take a look at this TedTalk by Dr. Patricia Kuhl for a taste of what we learned. If you are in this course, what was your favourite unit from Term 1?
Thanks to everyone for an interesting Term 1. It has been great getting to know many of you, and I hope to meet everyone else in Term 2. I look forward to another exciting term of leading you on your learning journey!
As of last night, I have completed draft 1 of Cozby and Rawn (2013), Methods in Behavioural Research, First Canadian Edition! My stomach did a somersault when I hit “save” on that last chapter. Excited and relieved to be done; nervous of what other instructors and students will think of it. I did my best work on every chapter, but of course it’s never going to be perfect (where’s the fun in that?).
I never expected to be writing a textbook at this stage in my career (i.e., early!). Then I got the opportunity to take an existing textbook that I had been using for a few years and update/adapt it for a Canadian audience. It took a long time for me to decide to do it–it’s so much work!–but I immediately knew that I would ultimately agree. See, here’s the thing about me: I have built my life by jumping on opportunities that have passed my way, and then carving my own opportunities to grow, which has led to more and more opportunities. I had to. I was raised by a very large, very loving extended family, and for them I am grateful. But I don’t come from money or big connections or a tradition of higher education (let alone post-grad). I was once a kid with modest dreams and a mountain of people who cared for me. My earliest teachers offered enrichment and suggested extra-curricular activities. I jumped on every chance I had to do more, learn more, grow more. As I did, my circle grew too. Fifteen years ago I could never have imagined I would be here, writing a textbook and teaching psychology at a world-class university in a world-class city 4000km away from what I used to call home.
But opportunity means risk. Taking a leap into uncharted waters is not for the faint of heart. Heading off to undergrad a mere half hour from home felt devastating at the time, but I knew I had to do it. It was the next opportunity. Then four years later, with a well-developed independence in tow, I moved across the country. In many ways it wasn’t as difficult that time. I didn’t end up with the same set of opportunities here that I initially expected, but I worked hard, seized the opportunities I found, and created more.
So if you’re about to start your time at UBC — or start a new year here or anywhere — I encourage you to figure out what opportunities you want, and go find them. Don’t be afraid to jump on them when you do. Or if you are afraid, but you know it’s probably best for you in the long run, take a deep breath and do it anyway.
… it’s been this long since a post! Wow, this term has really hit me hard! It was somewhat unexpected, but not entirely. I knew I wanted to revamp my 208 course substantially and that has involved a lot of re-thinking what material is included and how best to teach it. My TAs, class, and I have explored various learning activities together, and (as far as I can tell!) to much success! Since its inception, the spirit of the course has always been to push boundaries of learning, and we do this through activities like 5-minute papers, team-based quizzes and projects, as well as a strong emphasis on making connections between material and our lives. I appreciate the effort that my fantastic students and TAs bring to the table; without their willingness to explore learning, this course would flop. Many are taking risks and diving in to an attitude of embracing learning… and it’s awesome to be a part of it! I was so touched this week when a student came to me after class and mentioned how much she’s appreciating this class. What made this particularly special is that I have noticed how much this student has recently been taking risks to share her ideas during class. I congratulate her on her efforts to self-development! Oh, what a wonderful career I have… I get to be able to be a part of peoples’ growth and development! Yay!
This student’s thoughtful expression of gratitude came to me on the heels of having received a beautiful thank-you card from students I had almost four years ago. These three students — Grads of 2009 now writing from Montreal — sent me a card thanking me for my role in their stats class, which was waaay back in fall 2007 (or thereabout!). I taught their labs for Psyc 359, an advanced stats class for honours students. These were (are!) three great women who I remember fondly. Years later, they remembered that I brought Timbits to their final exam and encouraged them throughout the course. How absolutely touching that they remembered these things, and then cared enough to send a card! It literallly brought tears to my eyes (and I must admit one or two made it down my cheeks). What they couldn’t know is that I have just been assigned to teach a section next year of Psyc 218, the stats class for all majors that is a prerequisite for 359. Their note was a fabulous reminder of how much impact I might be able to have by showing how much I care about my students and their success. Because I really do!
Thank you all for your kind words, and indeed thanks to all my students. I’m honoured to be a part of your journey!
Last Friday evening (November 26), 550 Psyc 217 (Research Methods) students showcased their hard work designing and conducting research throughout this term in a poster session. It was a fabulous event with many students reporting a rich learning experience… and that it was fun to see what everyone else had come up with!
Many thanks to Eric Eich, who committed financial support from the department to make this happen, to the Life Sciences Institute for allowing us to book their space, to my fellow 217 instructor and poster session co-coordinator Colleen Brenner, additional 217 instructors Victoria Savalei and Rajiv Jhangiani, and all dozen Teaching Fellows for their support and dedication to making this a success. And, of course, to our hard-working, impressive students! It was a pleasure to see your work!
Today Sunaina and I had the pleasure of lunching with Russ Day, Senior Lecturer and head of the Intro Psych program at SFU. Of the many insightful ideas he shared with us, a few stand out for me in particular. Most potently, he built on the idea of of 20-60-20: 20% of students will learn in spite of you, 20% may not be sufficiently motivated to learn from you at all, but that middle 60% is where our biggest impact can be as instructors. So if I pitch my course at the 80th percentile of students, the top 20% won’t be too bored, the bottom 20% will be disengaged, but I have the potential to truly engage and challenge 60% of my students. This is interesting on its own, but he pushed it further into what this would mean for student evaluations. The students in the, say, 21st-25th percentiles will be pushed too far if I’m pitching for the 80th percentile. A psychologically healthy response to failure is an external attribution: i.e., to blame me. So if I’m not getting about 2-3% of students feeling frustrated by my course, I may be pitching my course at too easy of a level. Wow!!! That is powerful! (I’m reminded here about something else we discussed: Chickering & Gamson’s 7 Principles, one of which is “communicate high expectations.”) So often I (and others) ruminate about those few extremely critical comments in the student evaluations, and have to find ways to cope with them… but Russ offered such a thoughtful and realistic perspective on those comments! Instead, I should be ruminating on the positive comments, trying to figure out exactly what I did to connect with that student so I can do more of it.
The second idea that really stands out for me was our discussion about being a scholar. As a scholar, there is no choice but to keep up with the literature. For me, that means content, but also as a teaching-focused scholar, the education literature. This is a challenge to me, one that’s been in the back of my mind for a while now. One thing I do to help with this is that I attend the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI) reading group weekly during the summer months. This is one step in the right direction. Where can I build more literature into my life?