Member Article

APS Teaching Fund Projects

In Fall 2006, APS awarded the first round of grants from the APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science. Established with the support of an endowed fund of $1 million from the David and Carol Myers Foundation, the Fund’s inaugural grants supported 6 diverse projects ranging from regional conferences in the United States, to teaching in Cambodia and Iran, to the development of websites which are supporting teachers around the globe.

In this and the next issue of the Observer, we are pleased to feature first-hand reports of what these dedicated educators were able to achieve with their APS Fund support. Two are presented here. For information on a third, Warren Thorngate’s Psychology in Iran efforts, see this month’s Psychology Around the World column on page 23.

The grant program is operating on a twice-yearly cycle, with deadlines of February 1 and August 1 for proposals. For further information, please see the call for applications on the opposite page or visit the APS web

Social Psychology for

Educators Website

Hunter Gehlbach

Harvard Graduate School in Education

Since receiving funding from the APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science, the “Social Psychology for Educators” website ( has been designed, built, and populated with ideas. The primary goals as the website moves forward are to (1) balance resources on the site to include more lesson plans and accompanying videos and (2) begin networking with other relevant sites to expand the amount of traffic that the site receives.

Currently, the website offers educators a range of options and opportunities to learn how theoretical ideas from social psychology might be applied in classroom and school settings. In an effort to reach a broader audience, the focus of the website has expanded from the original focus on social studies teachers to include educators of all types. On the website, educators can obtain one of three different types of resources:

(1) “General Pedagogical Practices” which are quick one-page summaries of general practices based in social psychology that teachers or administrators might use.

(2) “Lesson plans” which include content specific lessons that utilize at least one social psychological principle as a key part of the lesson.

(3) “Videos” which are illustrations of those lesson plans in action.

The majority of the submissions to date have been the “General Pedagogical Practices.” These have produced a wide range of innovative ideas. For example, one submission recommends that elementary school teachers invoke the principle of scarcity to get students more excited about working at stations that contain otherwise unpopular activities. By limiting the time students can stay at a certain station and by limiting the number of students who can work at that station at the same time, teachers will likely be able to bolster the desirability of that activity (Bayer, 2007). Another practice requires students to complete a survey about their hobbies and interests at the beginning of the year. After completing their own survey, they are handed another student’s survey (with the name omitted) and asked to draw out three similarities between their responses and the responses of this mystery person. The ensuing debriefing discussion should help students see each of their classmates as belonging to some of the same in-groups. Thus, a reduction in out-group prejudice is an expected outcome of this technique (Wynne, 2007).

Because the scope of the website has expanded to address pedagogy across all levels and fields, APS members are encouraged to submit any favorite pedagogical techniques or tricks that utilize ideas from social psychology.

First Annual Meeting of the

Oklahoma Network for Teaching of Psychology

Shelia Kennison

Oklahoma State University

The Oklahoma Network for the Teaching of Psychology (ONTOP) was held on Friday September 21, 2007, at the Renaissance Hotel and Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. There were approximately 130 attendees, representing 34 institutions around the state, including 15 high schools. Two high school teachers from Utah who are involved in teaching AP psychology also attended. There were nine spoken presentations, two panel discussions, and a poster session during lunch, featuring 14 posters.

The program began with Professor Emeritus Charles Whipple from the University of Central Oklahoma discussing the history of psychology in Oklahoma. He reviewed the early Oklahoma psychologists as well as the most recognized Oklahoma psychologist, who was Muzafer Sherif, a member of the faculty at the University of Oklahoma who carried out his famous research on group formation at Robbers Cave, which is located in southeastern Oklahoma.

Three keynote speakers were featured. Professor David Myers presented “Forty Years Professing Psychology: Lessons I Have Learned.” In addition to providing teaching tips and insights gained from a career in psychology, he also emphasized the value of having strong Introductory Psychology courses. Such courses help attract the best students to a department and can serve to strengthen the research programs of faculty. Professor Kenneth Weaver from Emporia State University presented “Inspiring Students by Promoting Student Engagement.” He provided advice on how to develop students as leaders and how strong student organizations require leadership from within. Bertha Holliday, Senior Director of APA’s Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs, presented “Increasing Minority Participation in Psychology.” She discussed data collected by APA about the numbers of minority students and faculty in psychology and efforts that have been successful in transforming undergraduate depart ments of psychology. Her message clearly underscored the dire need for psychology to grow the pipeline of minority psychologists, because diversity among psychologists is critical if the United States is going to continue to be a leader in the increasingly global marketplace.

There were two panel discussions. The first focused on how technology has changed the way we teach psychology. Associate Professor Thad Leffingwell from Oklahoma State University described techniques that he has used to archive video for class use, including lectures and colloquia. Professor Nancy Knous from Northwestern State University described her experiences teaching distance learning courses and the use of discussion boards. Professor David Thomas from Oklahoma State University provided an overview of the methods that he has used since he began teaching and described a “hybrid” course (half lecture and half CD) that he uses for summer courses.

The second panel discussion focused on “Mentoring Students in Research.” Speakers included Associate Professor Melinda Burgess and Associate Professor Stephen Burgess from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Associate Professor Melanie Page from Oklahoma State University. Tips were given on how to introduce students to research experiences and how to develop student lab managers.

In one of the most entertaining talks, Professor Charles Abramson from Oklahoma State University presented techniques for using animals in the classroom. He passed around an apparatus on which four bees were restrained and could be subjected to various conditioning techniques. He also had some cockroaches on hand and described the advantages of using cockroaches for experiments, rather than rats. Other spoken presentations featured Professor David Thomas from Oklahoma State University, Professor Jill Devenport from the University of Central Oklahoma, and Professor Bill Frederickson from the University of Central Oklahoma. The conference closed with a reception honoring the Preparing Future Faculty Program at Oklahoma State University.

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