2008-2009 James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award

Wilbert McKeachie

University of Michigan

The field of Psychology as we know it today is greatly influenced by the enormous popularity of our college courses that inevitably draw large numbers of students to earn degrees. Dr. Bill McKeachie created this phenomenon by improving the college classroom. He began his career at a time when women and middle-class students entered college in growing percentages of an expanding student body.

His research is among the very earliest to examine student anxiety in the college classroom, and to document sex differences in classroom anxiety, test anxiety and interactions with the teacher and material. This research is clearly the precursor for continued work on this topic that has subsequently extended to any group of students that are a minority within the classroom or college setting, or the outsider in any social environment.

McKeachie’s work also demonstrated differences in teaching style among faculty and the importance of teaching approaches to the learning of the students. He found that the best way to improve teaching was to give teachers direct feedback on their effectiveness from their students and fellow faculty.

In addition to the many editions of his beloved book, “Teaching Tips”, McKeachie published many books and monographs that provided readings for Psychology courses, reviewed undergraduate curricula, provided tools for training women and minority scientists, and reviewed learning in a variety of settings. His lifetime career of basic research on classroom learning followed by application to the college environment has dramatically improved the collegiate experience for students and faculty beginning with our own field.