Degree In Sight

A two-day academic workshop helped prep students and early-career psychologists to teach psychology classes--from developing syllabi and lesson plans to learning how to get students to participate in classroom discussions. The workshop, held before APA's 2005 Annual Convention, was sponsored by APA's Education Directorate, the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students and APA's Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology).

Four psychology faculty presenters also offered attendees advice on creating a teaching philosophy statement that may help them land a faculty job (see "Why do you want to teach?") and developing the teaching skills they need once on the job. Presenters included psychologists James Korn, PhD, of Saint Louis University, Thomas McGovern, PhD, of Arizona State University, Barbara Nordine, PhD, of Arcadia University, and Cecilia Shore, PhD, of Ohio's Miami University.

For example, Shore highlighted the components of a syllabus, such as:

  • Instructor's office hours and contact information.

  • Course description and objectives.

  • Grading scale.

  • Available academic support and disability services.

  • Course calendar, including topics for each class, exam dates and assignment due dates.

  • Course policies, such as for attendance, class participation, missed exams or assignments and academic dishonesty.

Shore suggested that workshop participants ask their departments if faculty use a standard syllabus template and for previous class syllabi to use as models.

After all, the syllabus is an important teaching component that university officials often use to evaluate teaching performance, presenters noted. For instance, they might use it to judge a teacher's fairness or conscientiousness, presenters said. With that in mind, Shore suggested that teachers pay attention to the syllabus's tone and whether it conveys the classroom atmosphere they want. For example, a syllabus with a casual tone may reflect a welcoming and opening class.

Div. 2 offers downloadable sample syllabi for psychology classes at

www.lemoyne.edu/OTRP/projectsyllabus.html.

-M. DITTMANN TRACEY


Information on next year's workshop will be posted at the APA Graduate Studies Web site.