PSYCH101: INTRODUCTION TO PSychology

“I write to understand as much as to be understood” – Elie Wiesel

This quotation captures the idea that the process of reflection can be a means by which we generate new insights about our experiences and about the experiences of others. In the same way that art or poetry can be used to understand, psychology can be seen ultimately as an attempt to explain life. Where artists may use a paintbrush, psychologists use the scientific method to answer questions about human behaviour. This course is a general introduction to the science of psychology. 

The main goals of this course are to: 

(1) help you get acquainted with the different areas of psychology: cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology
(2) provide you with some of the major contributions of each area to our understanding of human behaviour,
(3) demonstrate how to use psychology as a means of understanding your own world.

By the end of this course, you will have the skills to:

(1) critically evaluate scientific research in psychology
(2) critique popular science reporting on research in psychology
(3) construct effective arguments, verbally and in writing
(4) independently use research in psychology to explain daily life

PSYCH2231: INTRODUCTION TO BIOPSYCHOLOGY - Writing-in-the-majors

Course Description/Goals

I am currently an instructor for the Writing in the Majors (WIM) section of PSYCH 2231. The main purpose of this course is to deeply explore the way that biopsychology interacts with society at large. The section has 10 students from the College of Engineering, Department of Psychology, and Department of Neurobiology and Behavior.

The goals of the WIM section are to:

(1)  Examine the application of biopsychology research to issues in society, including medicine, technology, and politics
(2)  Explore how biopsychology research integrates with work in other fields, like engineering or fine arts
(3)  Critically evaluate how primary research in biopsychology has generated the knowledge/concepts 

In addition to attending the lectures, students in the WIM section were part of my 1-hour, discussion-based session. They completed regular prelims and exams but also WIM-specific assignments. The assignments are specifically aimed to help students improve scientific communication skills, both written and oral. Readings will include primary research articles, newspaper articles about scientific research, chapters from popular books, short stories, excerpts from novels. Assignments will include short, weekly assignments, 2 major written assignments, and 2 oral presentations.  

See the assignment guidelines for written assignment 1 and 2.

PSYCH1130: Scientific Writing for Learning and Memory Researchers

Course Description/Goals

This is a first-year writing seminar that I designed and taught for Fall 2014 and Spring 2015. The class has 18 students from the Department of Mathematics, the College of Engineering, the College of Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, and Fine Arts. The diverse nature of the first-year writing seminars means that the course must be both broadly appealing, but topically specific. Click hyperlinks (yellow) in the text to view relevant course materials.

My main goal for this course is to help students develop the ability to critique and make arguments. Yes, the class is on scientific writing, but I hope the students will see by the end of the semester that scientific writing is just one instantiation of the kinds of argumentation made in all fields. A subgoal is to generate some excitement about psychological research.

Within this larger goal, we have several learning outcomes. By the end of the class, students will be able to:

(1)    Critically read primary scientific literature
(2)    Critique popular science publications (books and news articles) reporting on research
(3)    Independently find and use references for writing and reading
(4)    Construct effective arguments, verbally and in writing
(5)    Give effective peer-review feedback (i.e. critically read literature)
(6)    Independently write a scientific review paper

The course culminates in a final paper, with many smaller writing assignments that contribute to it. The final paper is a review paper of a student-chosen topic. The topics chosen range from consciousness in self-modeling robots to visual processing of paintings and natural scenes to the relationship between music and cognition. Paper guidelines and grading rubric are modeled after those for publication in a peer-review journal. The students have two months to work deeply on this paper and follow a specific timeline that incorporates revision and peer-review. Throughout the class, students wrote ungraded assignments that covered aspects of the final paper, e.g. an abstract (which is a summary of a paper's argument structure), a literature review (synthesis and cohesion of ideas), a newspaper article (broader impacts and general interest). Each assignment was evaluated using the same rubric as the final paper with focused-feedback on how to improve. The goal was that students would have a deep understanding of the evaluation criteria for the final paper and that the final evaluation was reflective of their development in those areas.

Teaching Assistantships

COGST1101: Introduction to Cognitive Science

A lecture course (100+ students) that is a broad survey of topics in Cognitive Science. I was one of 6 teaching assistants for this class. My duties included running a weekly "Writing-in-the-Majors" discussion section, grading weekly student writing, holding office hours, creating multiple choice questions for the exam. 

PSYCH2150: Psychology of Language

A second-year lecture course (80+ students) surveying topics in the psychology of language from Universal Grammar to recent research into the genetics of language learning. I was one of two TA. My duties included grading exams, holding office hours, and running review sessions prior to the exams.

PSYCH3240: Human Perception-Applied Computational Graphics

Senior-level lecture course (~50 students) discussing advanced topics in visual perception. The class had an expressed focus on the applications of visual perception research, including film, video gaming, brain-machine interfaces. I was the only TA for this course. My duties included grading exams and holding office hours.

It was in this course that I developed a model for effective and interactive office hours. Prior to each exam, students received a list of ~80 questions, 10 of which would be on the upcoming exam. The questions required integration of multiple concepts and students had the opportunity to work on them throughout the semester. I realized that providing students with a formal structure/timeline to work on these questions would be optimally beneficial. In addition, I saw these questions as a great opportunity for gaining group work skills. Thus, instead of traditional office hours (i.e. me sitting by myself for an hour), I created a forum for students to form work groups that would answer questions together. 

PSYCH3260: Evolution of (Human) Behaviour

Senior-level lecture course (~40 students) looking at topics in the evolution of behaviour. The course featured topics like hominid evolution, mate choice, altruism. It focused mainly on animal research in these areas with some implications for humans. I was one of two TAs for this course. I gave a well-received guest lecture on the role of olfaction in mate choice communication (lecture slides here). My official duties included grading exams, holding office hours, and co-leading review sessions prior to exams.

Other Experiences

International Graduate TA Workshop Facilitator

The International TA training program is designed to provide a little extra help for international students during their TAships. My workshop involved the TAs preparing 5- to 10-minute lectures or activities, as they might use in classes, and presenting to our workshop. My purpose was to facilitate group feedback for students and give advice on areas of improvement. I extended these prescribed requirements by asking students to prepare different lectures each meeting for different audiences. These included introductory courses and an upper level course. I also realized that one difficulty for many non-native english speakers is the ability to answer questions on the fly. In order to help with this, we had a session where each TA would stand at the board and the rest of the class asked them questions from their introductory lecture. We worked through how to understand (1) the main point of the question; (2) construct a response with reference to the lecture material; (3) use visual aids and examples to clarify.

GET SET Workshop leader

I designed and lead two campus-wide workshops for graduate students and post-docs interested in teaching. The workshops were on the use of technology in teaching and integrated syllabus design, respectively. Attendees were from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and teaching experiences. While attendance was voluntary, some departments on campus require these workshops as part of their TA training curriculum.

GRADUATE STUDENT MENTOR

GPWomeN is an student-led organization for women in graduate/professional school at Cornell University. The goal of the program is to facilitate cross-disciplinary mentor-mentee relationships for students. These relationships facilitate a support system for younger graduate students, while at the same time providing some perspective about how the graduate school experience differs in other disciplines. The group also hosts networking/social events for grad/professional women on campus. I was a graduate mentor for younger women.

LEGO Mindstorms Activity Leader

I was one of 5 teachers who made weekly visits to Grade 5 and 6 classrooms to lead activities in engineering and computer science using the LEGO Mindstorms system. Each week, we gave the students a task to perform and they had to design a robot and write the program to accomplish the task. These were as simple as building a catapult or creating a robot that could "read" a sheet of paper and figure out what letter was written on the paper.

ENGLISH-AS-A-SECOND LANGUAGE INSTRUCTOR

Instructor for both the beginner (Level 1; 10 adult students) and advanced (Level 4; 15 adult students) classes. Developed the syllabus for each class and designed some of the course materials used. This experience was integral in my initial interest in teaching.