Head of the Class

How to teach psychology well

What Students Love about Teachers: A Valentine Mash Note

If college students gave valentines to good teachers . . .

Dear Professor:

I heart your intro class, I really do. Here's why.

Psychology is, well, interesting and often fun. The material you share in class usually makes sense, but you can also argue about it. For example, I know you said that while people often believe "opposites attract" it is more likely that we are attracted to romantic partners who are similar to ourselves ("birds of a feather flock together"). Among my friends, I can think of examples illustrating both principles. I'm glad you said that it can be difficult to accurately assess your own situation, as my girlfriend, who is different than me in many ways, and I have been arguing lately. I think it's because I say Valentines Day is no big deal and she says it is . . . w/e

I'm glad that you don't just lecture at us-too much of that makes me sleepy and I don't think it's a good way to learn. You usually have some activity to get us warmed up. Maybe we do some writing or maybe we get into a small group to talk about something among ourselves before you introduce the day's topic. Some lecturing is ok, though, especially if the material isn't covered so well in our reading or its technical and we need to be able to ask questions as you go along.

I can't believe you learned our names and actually remember them. I almost like being called on in class. And we always have some discussion; everybody feels free to share opinions. Even when you don't agree with us, you are professional about it-you explain why concisely, directly, and honestly. And when I drop by your office during office hours to ask you a question, you are ALWAYS THERE, like you promised. Wild.

Learning about research by being a part of it is cool, too. At first I was sort of annoyed that we had to take part in some psych experiments to pass the class. You explained that we were helping faculty and students answer questions about behavior by participating in their studies. You promised we would learn something about ourselves in the process (you were right, pretty much). I really liked talking with the experimenters afterwards. I had a chance to guess what they were trying to learn and to ask questions-they really liked the fact that I was interested in what they were doing.

Your tests are fair. You don't just ask a bunch of multiple choice questions that a computer or the TA can grade. You have us answer essays. I know, lots of students complain about having to write those long answers, but when I do, I realize I know a lot more about what we learned in class than I realized. Essays get at the big picture of why people do what they do. One thing: Sometimes I don't do the reading for class. If you quizzed us once is a while, that might motivate me. I know it seems a little high school-ish, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by all I have to do. If I knew a quiz was coming, I might manage my time better. I spend way too much time on Facebook.

Thanks for not showing too many movies. I get so bored. The YouTube clips are perfect-short and sweet. And you aren't slave to PowerPoint! Some of my profs have like a zillion slides and they JUST READ THEM to us. I mean, why bother having class? Post them someplace and I'll study them later on my own time. I don't need anyone to read to me and besides, they make me lazy. Why should I take notes if they already exist?

I like that fact that you really like to teach and that, like you said, you want us all to be there for every class. You work hard for us so the least we can do is show up, right? And I guess my parents wouldn't want me wasting my, well, their, tuition dollars. LOL.

So, thanks, Dude, for being a good psych teacher. Your end of semester evaluation is going to rock!

Later,

Your Secret Admirer

PS: Oh, one more thing. Can I get any extra credit points for giving you this card?

PSS: Are you sure opposites don't attract? Think it's too late to buy roses and chocolate for my girlfriend? :(

 

 

Dana S. Dunn, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at Moravian College, a liberal arts college in Bethlehem, PA.

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