Angeline Stoll Lillard
Department of Psychology
University of Virginia
Table of Contents
Theory of Teaching
Reviewing for Journals
Course Improvement Activities
Theory of Teaching
The overarching purpose of my teaching is to stimulate my students to be better functioning members of our society. Through my courses, I expect to:
1. Increase students’ knowledge base.
2. Assist them in becoming critical consumers of information.
3. Hone their communication skills in written and oral modes by forcing repeated practice and offering feedback.
4. Motivate them to help others by modeling caring myself, by increasing their knowledge of where help is needed (goal #1), and also by educating on how they can help.
For graduate students and distinguished majors students, I have the added task of teaching them the professional mores of the discipline, guiding them through the process of becoming contributing professionals.
In order to succeed in these goals, I must first engage students. To engage, I must inspire them with information, presentation style, and as a personality. Personally, I try to be lively, interesting, open, and accessible. For example, I use anecdotes from my own household to illustrate concepts in child development. If I am lecturing about children’s overregularization of grammatical rules, I will describe my daughter Jessica saying, “I knowed that I sawded those deers runninged.” I also try to get across the essential simplicity of integrity; more and more I think we have a responsibility in moral example as well as knowledge provision. As to information, I try to present concepts that I find extremely interesting in terms that the students will find digestible. I try to make the information relevant to their lives, for example by using clippings from front page newspaper articles to introduce a topic. As to presentation style, I attempt to make my own voice and movements lively and attention-getting, but also try not to hold the floor very long. I ask a lot of questions, and wait for them to answer. I try always to encourage their responses, gently walking them through why incorrect responses were not correct, or (preferably) realigning those responses to make them right. Further, I break students into smaller groups (of 2-5, in a classes of 100-200), make them ponder problems together, then ask for students to tell the class what they came up with. Examples of these moves are in the appendix.
I love the feeling of a good day teaching, when the students were on the edges of their seats waiting for the next line, or were engaged in a heated discussion about some issue. I appreciate students telling me that they switched to a Psychology major because of my course, or that Statistics was so much easier than they expected.
At UVa, I have taught Child Psychology (PSYC 250), Undergraduate Research Methods and Statistical Analyses (PSYC 305), Developing Theories of Mind, The Origins of Knowledge (both PSYC 582), and Graduate Developmental Research Methods (PSYC 751).
For all my courses, I keep the syllabus and relevant materials on a web page which students can access (see http://www.people.virginia.edu/~asl2h/). I put old exams and answers to exams there as well as outlines for future classes. I have begun to use the ITC-Toolkit facility as well.
Psychology 250. Child Psychology is a 250-student class with discussion sections. Students range from first to fourth year, and include majors as well as students who take no other psychology. I lecture twice weekly for about 50 minutes, and for the final 25 minutes of each class, we do an exercise, watch a film, or interview a visiting parent with baby. I try to have a baby come in every 3 weeks; the babies get older as the semester progresses. I do some standard infant experiments and ask the parent questions, and also have the students ask questions. This creates a wonderful live example to refer to in lectures, and to give them a better feel for what we mean by a baby of X months. Films are to serve the same purpose; they can show experimental paradigms that I cannot recreate in class. An example of a demonstration is to divide students into subjects and coders (in adjacent seats). I then show students 2 video clips, a Houdini magic trick and a comedy episode. The coders are secretly observing how long the subjects stare at the end of each videotape. After this, students usually understand why looking time measures are thought to be useful assessments of infant cognition. (Of course, this is controversial, and we do not get into the deeper issues in this introductory course.) We also have a “Child Fest” in which 4-6 children ages 2 to 6 come to the class, and the teaching assistants demonstrate classic experiments we have talked about during the course. The script from the most recent of these is in the appendix. Students love these demonstrations.
For the sections, beginning this semester students must do two hands-on projects and write each up. Students choose which two of several alternative projects to do, including observations of children on playgrounds, interviews with parents (including their own), examining moral or gender issues in an a sample of children's media, and reading and evaluating research articles. During sections, students discuss readings for most classes, and review lecture and text material prior to exams.
I also work on graduate student teaching for courses with graduate student TAs. At our weekly meetings, the graduate students bring up problems they are having with students, and we discuss possible strategies to handle these. For example, if the class seems sleepy, I urge them to make the students write for 5 minutes about something, then share what they wrote. I find this easy and fun and the graduate students seem to really appreciate it. This semester I am requesting that all graduate students have the TRC evaluate their teaching with a Teaching Analysis Poll. Graduate students understandably usually do not want a professor sitting in on their class; my hope is that the TAP, being external to the department, will be less threatening and will be helpful. I give all students the opportunity to give a 20-40 minute lecture to the large class if they would like the experience.
Students are evaluated by attendance and contribution to discussion, 2 of 3 mid-term and one cumulative final exam (short answer and multiple choice format), and their discussion section papers.
Psychology 305 is the first of a 2-part sequence required by majors. Most students take it their third year, often with dread. This dread stems from the fact that many people take psychology because they are interested in people, and a large proposition of such people have an aversion to math. In fact there is not a lot of math in this course, and most find that the math is not all that difficult, and are relieved. There are a few, however, for whom it really is difficult; the way of thinking is simply very unnatural to them.
305 is a large class, about 100 students. Because of the size and the information that must be conveyed, I lecture about 45-50 minutes of most of the 75 minute class, then have a brief break during which those who feel very comfortable with the material are free to go, followed by a hands-on exercise designed to reinforce the material. This may consist, for example, in my assigning a problem which they are to work on in pairs for 10 minutes, followed by students explaining to the whole group (usually about 10 of the 80 students stayed last semester) how they solved the problem. Regarding the number of students staying: many of my students had already had an elementary statistics course because they were so concerned about the difficulty of this one. Because of their excellent backgrounds, they found it was not all that difficult.
As to the lecture part of the course, the topics I cover and texts I use are prearranged by prior agreement of 305 and 306 teachers. We periodically assess whether to change these. I try to blend the statistics and research methods aspects. The latter is much more interesting for students; statistics, they complain, is dry; however, for logical reasons it makes sense to first set up how to do an experiment (methods) and then how to look at the data (statistics). More thrilling examples were needed to spice up the statistical presentations.
The lecture course is augmented by weekly lab sessions, taught by graduate students. There are 12 students in each lab. The lab assignments (a series of projects) were developed by other professors and a lead graduate student TA takes the graduate student instructors through the sequence. I attended their weekly meetings to answer questions, but not having developed the labs had obvious consequences in terms of my sense of how they integrate. I need to get a deeper handle on the labs and refer to them more in my lectures.
305 Class Evaluation: I give 4 exams and a final over the semester; all students must take the cumulative final, and of the other 4 exams, only the top 3 grades will be counted towards the final grade. I give a mix of short answer and multiple choice items. They are required to work out statistical math problems during the latter half; they may use a calculator. My goal is that questions make them think; I hope they will learn while taking the exam. Their laboratory grade counts 50% and their lecture (exam) grade counts 50%.
Psychology 582. Developing Theories of Mind. In this graduate seminar we read and discussed recent source material in my main field of interest. Although one student yearned for lectures, most were pleased with the discussion format. We began each day with students sharing what they had written about in thought pieces derived from the readings (they were asked either to write two pages about some issue of interest, or to come up with two discussion questions based on the readings and then answer them.) This usually led to about 80 good minutes of discussion, at which point we would break for 20 minutes, and resume for a half hour of discussion. Then I would have everyone write for 5 minutes about whatever they found most interesting in that day’s discussion, and we would go around the class for the final 15 minutes telling and responding to those writings. I loved this format; it really brought out who everyone was and what there main issues were. It allowed lots of exchange and back and forth. No students really knew my area, but the 11 students brought in there own areas of knowledge (several were advanced social psychology, and one was an advanced cognitive psychology student) leading to exciting and interesting exchanges. I really enjoyed this class. Students were evaluated by class contribution and their final paper.
Graduate Research Methods course was co-taught with Prof. Claes von Hofsten. We included hands-on projects using a variety of research methods, for example taping, transcribing, and analyzing a child's talk, and running some classic Piagetian experiments. The students also gave three presentations, two very short ones on experimental papers, and one describing their final project for the course, a grant proposal. Readings covered a variety of methods and statistical issues in the field.
Origins of Knowledge was also co-taught with Claes von Hofsten, and was a wonderfully stimulating course, with visits from Susan Carey, Liz Spelke, and Mike Cole intersecting with the course. We pondered four major ideas about how knowledge arises in the individual: nativist, epigenetic, cultural, and dynamical systems. We read many of the new Mussen Handbook chapters and used a discussion/thought paper format.
I greatly enjoy one-to-one meetings with students, to discuss research possibilities with them and to discuss what makes for the best research. (I find I don’t always do what I know I should, so it helps my own work too.) I hold weekly 1-2 hour lab meetings with graduate students, distinguished majors, undergraduate research assistants, my paid assistant, and other interested students weekly during the academic year. At these meetings someone presents a research project and we all comment and discuss it, with an eye to how to improve the project. I also hold weekly hour-long individual meetings with students during project development stages. At all these meetings I try to think out loud, to model for them the process of science, how scientists approach problems.
When I first begin working with a graduate student (or an distinguished major), I ask them to work on an ongoing project in my lab, to get their feet wet on how to collect data. So far I have kept a paid research assistant (destined for graduate school) who helps keep things running right: we do work in local schools and there are many records to keep straight. They also help oversee beginning students’ methods. As the first year progresses, I work with students to find the intersection of what their hearts most want to study, my future interests, and my bailiwicks. Their second year they are to do a more independent project in that area.
Whenever I do research with a student, my goal is that it will end in a publishable product. I worked with a UC Berkeley graduate student for a year before coming here and we have two papers submitted and a number of conference presentations. I have one paper submitted with my current graduate student, and this summer both the distinguished major’s projects I supervised will be written up for publication. Students must write part of papers to be authors; second authorship is earned by participating actively in design and data collection and analysis, and writing methods and results sections; however, at this point usually the deep ideas are ones I have been working on. Later, as they develop their own ideas and projects, I will retreat to being second (or later) author, and the student will write the entire first draft. My policies on this and other aspects of mentoring are described in my RA/Student handbook (“Research Guide”) in the appendix.
Another forum in which I mentor graduate students is in responding to their presentations in research area lunches. Every day one or two areas in Psychology hosts a lunch at which faculty or students present work. When students present, two kinds of feedback can be offered: questions or responses following the talk, and individual meetings following the talk about how one can better present material. I participate actively in the first kind of feedback, for Developmental students and (less frequently) Cognitive and Social students. For the second kind, I sometimes email students with specific thoughts, and always welcome students who request to get such advice (three students have approached me for such). Such training was actively done in my graduate student department and I think it is invaluable.
At my prior university I was on a committee to institute a Writing across the Curriculum program, and I continue to take a deep interest in student’s learning to write well. I believe clear writing and clear thinking are one in the same, and that the skill of being able to clearly communicate on paper is integral to education. The process of revision is the most important to learning to write. As mentioned, in my Psychology 250 class I have students revise drafts of papers. In graduate seminars, I have students write short weekly pieces and turn in a single paper; I do not ask for revisions of these since as a graduate student, papers to be submitted for publication are where one’s rewriting energies should go. But I do comment on the text on clarity, sound argument, factual information, and some minor details. Honor’s students and graduate students with whom I am working on a project must submit multiple drafts, and we discuss them in person. I also supervise predissertation papers and other graduate school required papers, and again this is a process of teaching effective communication. In critiquing writing, I do not try to comment on every aspect of a manuscript, but focus on a few points to make a given work better. I also try to teach graduate students about how to help with writing, for example, always saying something positive, and not trying to say everything.
Reviewing for Journals
Another teaching role comes from doing reviews for journals. Although these are often for senior colleagues whom I do not presume to teach, when one reviews a junior colleague’s experiments and writing there are opportunities for gently educating, and I take this role seriously.
I have used mid-semester and end of course evaluations for assessment. The mid-semester ones I devise ask very specific questions (what is great, what should change) and I read and respond to these by discussing them in class son after giving them. I thank the students, let them know what were the most frequent responses, and what I can do to change those things I can change and why I will not change others. For example, perhaps 40% of a class mentioned a delivery speed issue with lectures, but 20% said I was too fast and 20% said I was too slow. I will let them know this. In my last semester, 2 students requested that I give homework assignments. This was a simple change and I began giving optional (not to be turned in) assignments.
Course Improvement Activities
I keep my knowledge base current by attending conferences regularly, reading, attending talks, reviewing for journals, and engaging actively in research. All this feeds into my teaching by allowing me to share with students the current directions and findings of my field.
During the 1999-2000 school year I will participate in the University/Lilly Teaching program to further develop teaching goals and skills, as well as to develop a course on culture and cognitive development.
I have attended several Teaching Resource Center workshops at UVa. One of these was on using one’s voice to guard against my going hoarse in the beginning of a semester. Another was on promoting discussion. As a graduate student at Stanford I used the similar resource, including having a lecture video-taped, attending several intensive workshops on teaching writing, and borrowing teaching books from the library. As a faculty member at the University of San Francisco I did the same, and there I was introduced to Angelo and Cross’s (1990) book on assessment techniques and began using those and active learning strategies.
Illustrates communication with students working with me, goals and means for keeping an organized laboratory (a skill they must learn), and direct teaching on how to do research.
Illustrate effort at clear communication about course goals and requirements.
Not included here, but available:
Samples of graded papers
Also placed at least a day before the lecture on the web, these guide students through lecture content. I add to them with markers sometimes during the lecture.
Despite the large class sizes, I include some short answer with multiple choice questions. Although I do not think many students perform differently on the two types, in my experience students feel better when they have some short answer.
Selected Course Evaluations
List of papers with students
Not Here, but Planned for Future Portfolio:
Pre- and Post-test assessment
Current video of teaching
Observation notes from TRC
Relation between Comprehension Checks and Performance
Examples of student papers with comments.
305 Course Improvement Plans
· Begin with discussing Gopnik & Meltzoff’s (1997) book which claims we are all scientists as children but that only “scientists” keep this up. Use to launch discussion of what science is, and to show how deep inside of us all there is a scientist (or how, at 18 months, we all used the scientific method).
· Give students a pretest where they devise an experiment. Have them give me one copy and keep the other. Throughout the course, after learning new concepts, have them critique their experiment. At course end turn in their log of their critique. Also at course end have them develop a new experiment. This gives a pre- and post-test assessment which I can also use in the portfolio.
· Begin class by having students write their goals. At class 2, explain mismatches. Have students keep reflective notes on what they are learning.
· Learn names by having TA take photo ids the first day and make photocopies of them. I think they will learn better when they think I know them.
· Learn more about the student labs and integrate into lectures so the students can see the connection between parts of the course.
· Instead of summarizing the last class myself, as I usually do, ask the students to provide the main points. This puts the onus on them to wake up and get involved.
· Revise lectures: some were too long and others too short. I kept notes at the end of lectures last year and need to go through and revise. Smooth over parts that did not work.
· Use more video demonstrations of experiments and discuss good and bad aspects of them.
· Bring in clippings of popular science articles and compare with scientific article from which they were derived. Show how journalists can distort information. This gets at my goal of their being critical consumers of information; we are all subject to media overload and we must retain a critical stance to avoid being misled.
· Work more on activities during class: having student break into groups and solve problems. Active engagement enhances learning and is fun.
· Use Toni Wegner’s Comprehension Checks. These will stimulate attendance (the course is offered at 8AM this fall!), will allow me to see how well students are understanding, and will allow them to know some major points.
· Make more use of the TRC library, and the Assessment techniques. Possibly apply to be a University Teaching Fellow to make myself focus more on teaching, and to share strategies with others across the university.
· Have the class do self-assessments soon after Test 1, so they focus not only on critiquing my performance, but also notice how they are or are not contributing to their own learning.
· Be videotaped and discuss the tape with a TRC person. I have not been videotaped in nearly 10 years and may notice stylistic or other features I should change.
· Drop in on sections and ask students how it is going, so they better know who I am, see me in a more accessible venue, and so I can tap how they are better.
· Put an anonymous feedback form on class website, so students will have yet another venue for supplying feedback, anytime.
· Ask that students who score in the bottom 15% of the class on any test be contacted by their TA for an individual consultation. This will help us to keep track of the students who need extra help, and let them know we are watching. This should lead to their working harder to get the concepts.