Tag Archives: Psyc 208

Interuniversity Conference on Education (ICE) 2011

Over the weekend I gave the keynote address at this interesting, student-driven conference. It united students, faculty, and community members from all across the country to question our assumptions about education and to promote innovation. Consistent with this spirit, in my keynote I discussed my section of Psyc 208 (Psychology in your life: How social psychology can help you succeed). I have created that course with students in mind from the very start. I strive to create a course that matters, and I challenge both educators and students (yes, it’s a two-way street!) to make education matter. I also discuss how the course has changed from the first time I taught it to the second, and share how I have relied on student feedback to make important changes for the better. If you’ve taken the course before, plan to take it in January, or are interested in course (re)design more broadly, check out the video here.

Congratulations to Tyler Nelson and the entire planning team for a great conference. If you’d like to check out more about the conference, we had a twitter feed going all day long (search for #ice2011) and videos from all of the interesting speakers are available here.

Reflecting on Student Evals, 2010-2011

Because I pour so much of my heart and soul, sweat and tears (never blood, yet anyway) into each course, I find it necessary to wait a while after a course is over to view the student evaluations of those courses. It can be very emotional to read them, full of breathtaking highs and, occasionally, devastating lows (I appreciate criticism, but not one worded disrespectfully). I have posted summary graphs of my scores and some commentary here, and will share some further reflections in this blog post. Links to all my course syllabi are available here.

The first thing I noticed was how students rated my introductory psychology course overwhelmingly positively. Those ratings are the highest I have ever received. This was absolutely thrilling! I had felt throughout the year a special rapport with this class, despite its large size (N=260). Their energy, curiosity and astute questions continually kept me on my toes, and this in turn fueled my own passion and excitement. I want to share with you a particularly thorough–and not 100% positive!–comment that might give you a feel for what to expect from me (if you’re shopping for courses):

At first, I didn’t like the way Catherine Rawn taught. She was a little too flamboyant and enthusiastic. I felt like she babied us a little. But as the year went on, I really began to appreciate it. I found that I paid attention even to the material I wasn’t particularly interested in. I appreciated her invitational office hour. I never would have gone to her were it not a “requirement,” and that was actually the point that caused me to like her better. I realized that she actually cares about her students (enough to LEARN OUR NAMES, which impressed me) and she was willing to be challenged and she was very respectful to students with opinions different than hers. I have to say that she is one of the better professors I have had in my first year of university. She was interesting, prepared, open, enthusiastic, and positive. She may have babied us a little, but only in the sense that she was so open to help. She still gave challenging and stimulating assignments. Overall, I would say, I thank her for doing a good job.

It’s an interesting comment, to me anyway, in part because it uses a term I’ve received in evaluations before: “babied.” This always intrigues me because I suspect it has something to do with people’s notions about what learning should look like in the university classroom: It should be serious! I attempt to infuse some fun in my courses (e.g., cheering!), I enjoy and find value in exploring with my students, and starting with the basics is important especially in an introductory course. My intention is never to baby, but I also want to dispel the notion that learning has to always be serious. Learning can be fun! Overall, I’m very pleased with the ratings of this course, and will not be making major changes to it next year… with one fabulous exception: the introduction of Peer Tutors! Ten fantastic “grads” of my course from last year have volunteered to help answer questions and act as role models as new students transition to my course and university more broadly. Looking forward to introducing them soon!

The second thing I noticed was that although my scores for Psyc 217 Research Methods are solidly and largely positive, I’m still having a challenge as students are perceiving my evaluations to be less fair than is average across campus (though not unfair per se; see the means on my “evaluating teaching” page, linked above). It is possible that this is simply perception given that this is a very tough course (which is true for all Psyc 217 sections), as it should be because it provides the foundation for all further study in psychology and other behavioural sciences. Yet it’s also possible that my evaluations are in fact less fair than is average across campus. In order to address this consistent rating, I am vowing to critically re-evaluate my exams and assignments this fall. One of those, the group research project, is common to all sections and has a common grading key/rubric, so there’s little to change there. My action plan for evaluating my exams and assignments is to gather all my learning objectives together from every lesson of the course, as well as the broader course objectives stated in the syllabus, and the readings for each unit. I will then consider every question on every evaluation, specifically in terms of how well it links to one or more objectives. Then I will consider whether any question isn’t measuring any objective, and toss it. Then I will consider whether any objective isn’t being addressed, and consider whether the objective should be changed/tossed or measured. After I conduct this analysis of content validity, I will use data from previous years (as I often do) to inform changes to the individual questions to improve their ability to accurately measure learning in my course. I expect my students to use my stated objectives as a road map; it’s time to re-check that they’re aligned with the way I’m evaluating that learning.

Third, I was pleased to see that my scores for Psyc 208 Section 2: How Social Psychology Can Help You Succeed (Special Topics) have improved much from the first time I offered it in 2009, as I used the feedback from 2009 as well as inspiration from a talk by Michael Wesch last summer to make substantial changes. It’s an unconventional course, with lots of teamwork and interaction. For one, I implemented the validity analysis process for exams I explained above (for Psyc 217), which resulted in much fairer exams. As for improvements based on this year’s feedback, I will shorten the midterm a little, and make some small adjustments to the grading of the team project so that individual work related to the team project is weighted more heavily relative to the team grades. Also, I’m considering making grading keys available for the team assignment to improve the clarity of what’s expected for each. Given this feedback, I’d like to share one of my favourite comments from this course, because it reflects my intention in creating this course and in how I structure each and every lesson/experience. Of course they’re not all this positive, but indulge me:

Easily the best teacher I have had at UBC. She should hold workshops for other professors! Or publish a book, or work w ith the Chapman Learning Commons to develop a free, non-credit version of the course that students can take to learn how to improve their university experience. I would recommend her course in Social Psychology and its application to academic success to any student regardless of faculty or major and consider it an invaluable tool to my success. Catherine was always helpful, expected the best of her class and demonstrated an unparalleled concern for the personal and academic development/wellbeing of her students.
I have offered these (lengthy!) reflections to you as evidence that I take student evaluations very seriously, and make real changes to my courses in response to them. Teaching psychology to learners is my passion and, I believe, my calling. I am delighted that so many students report valuing the way I teach and what I contribute to their university experience.

Celebrating the end of term!

And what a term it’s been! It’s certainly been busy and challenging, but I feel like I have learned a lot and I have had a ton of fun! This term I taught learners in two courses: the continuation of Intro Psyc (go section 6!) and Psyc 208 (a course I designed called How Social Psych Can Help You Succeed).

This year the students in my Intro Psych class were so wonderfully curious and engaged! I felt such great energy from them every day (some days more than others, but that’s normal!), and they truly inspired me to bring my “A game” every day (which I tried my best to do!). Here are some photos from our last day together. I had asked them to write their most important take-away message from this course. Take a look… 

Last week in Psyc 208 we held the Creative Advertisement Showcase, which was a fantastic celebration of what they had discovered throughout the term! Previously, teams of students had identified a learning challenge they face, investigated primary sources for insight into understanding and addressing the challenge, and summarized those sources in annotated bibliographies and team abstracts. The purpose of the Creative Advertisment was to get the word out to fellow students about research-based techniques and strategies for addressing the learning challenges they face. They truly were creative! Projects ranged from video and live games to posters to live skits and demonstrations to videos and pamphlets… an impressive variety! Check out some of their videos and websites (ordered by team #)…

Team 7’s Learning about Distractions:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lts-wX9L8q4

Team 9’s Learning Environments: http://psyc208.wordpress.com/

Team 12’s Sleep & Learning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaqQkImzagU

Team 15’s Stress Happens, Even for a Jedi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnmYyz61Mys with website: http://ipixels.net/stress/

Team 18’s Technology Crackdown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zBCkhIoS74  

Team 22’s Cultural Differences and Learning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jPW6tRA20w

And here’s a shot of Team 13’s interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” study strategies station in action!

Thanks to everyone for a fantastic year! Study smartly for your finals… and remember that no matter how you do on them, that’s not a reflection of your worth as a person.

I know it’s been a busy term when…

… 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!

Syllabus Accepted for Publication!

I just learned that my syllabus for Psyc 208: Psychology in your life: How social psychology can help you succeed has met the peer review requirements and been accepted for publication by the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology! Yay!