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A “Revisited” blog post indicates that I reread the original and used AI-assisted tools (e.g., Grammarly) to improve grammar and word choice.

First published February 2, 2011.

Even after all my years of teaching, the first day of class is anxiety-arousing, pressured, critical, and rewarding. As a youth, I was so anxious about giving oral presentations that I fainted when I showed my first high school debate. I had a similar meltdown during the verbal component of my graduate school general qualifying examinations in Social Psychology at Ohio State. With experience and a few setbacks, I’ve learned to overlearn and to reframe (attribute) the anxiety I inevitably feel from negative feelings to excitement.

The pressures I feel are primarily situational nuisances: making sure that syllabi and handouts are up-to-date, proof-read, and sufficient in number; visiting the classrooms ahead of time to guarantee better that there are enough seats, that the equipment works; thinking through how to handle disruptive classroom situations in that particular environment; and of course responding in a timely fashion to the myriad course-related emails and messages. [Note the irony that I am just now posting this due to first-semester busyness!].

For me, the first class meetings are critical for getting to know my students, creating shared and appropriate expectations, and establishing standards. This semester, I am teaching my “usual” three courses, yet, as in the previous three decades, each has features unique to it from previous semesters.

Based on 1) student evaluations, 2) what my students demonstrate that they can do at semester’s end, and 3) how I feel every time I teach it, my “Statistics and Experimental Design ” is without doubt my best course. Among the challenges in teaching such a class successfully are the attitudes that some students bring (“I hate math”; “I don’t do well in math”; “I’m afraid”), weaknesses in students’ fundamental computational skills, and their inexperience with my strongly believed outlook that statistics and data analysis is a tool, a language and a way of thinking.

With considerable trepidation, I’m teaching my “Introductory Psychology” course in an entirely different way, pioneering how it will be introduced to all our students starting next semester. Instead of the traditional survey course (as I have taught it since 1974), the focus will be on developing students’ capacity for clear thinking and a better appreciation and understanding of evidence-based, scientific approaches to answering questions addressed by psychology.  I hope to involve the students considerably in developing the course by introducing them to tools such as Diigo, so I hope to have a much-enriched syllabus by the end of the semester.

The third course I am teaching this semester, “Psychological Testing and Assessment,” has only seven students enrolled (usually, I have more than 20). Given its small size and the fact that I know six of the seven students well, I may well be able to do something I’ve long hoped to do— build a psychological test from scratch or improve an extant instrument. I’m also hoping to bring into the classroom a number of professionals (including former students) who use psychological tests in their work in many different ways.

Let the semester begin!