Cognitive Science can be interesting to absolutely everyone. I am cognizant that my students' academic goals may be very different from mine, but the ability to think critically and introspect on our own cognitive biases is relevant and important to students from any discipline. If my student can examine the experimental flaws in a journal article, she should be able to apply the same skeptical reasoning to a primary source from her history class or a piece of biased journalism. I prefer to ask my students to reason through the purpose and goals of an experimental design in small groups or as a class before discussing its results. This maximizes student interaction, engagement with the material, and critical thinking, all of which are valuable skills both inside and outside Psychology.
Science is a series of questions and debates, not facts. Scientific inquiry is a human process. It often does not result in a clear-cut solution to our questions, and even obsolete theories have made important contributions to the field. In general, there are two types of knowledge that I want my students to acquire before they leave the course: a discipline-specific understanding of the questions we ask, and a set of skills enabling them to go about investigating these questions. For example, I do not want my students to walk away from my classroom with a firm opinion on whether language is innately hard- wired or entirely learned during development. Rather, I want them to be able to articulate arguments for both sides of the debate and understand how both theories might be valuable. To this end, in courses that require sit-down exams, I aim to keep those exams open-book. I do not want a student to study for my course by memorizing definitions.
Young women need good role models starting in Psych 101. I am particularly dedicated to the retention of undergraduate women in experimental Psychology. Female attrition from cognitive science begins early in the academic pipeline, where female students begin to question their own qualifications to succeed in quantitative fields. I make an effort to support my female students inside and outside the classroom. As a graduate student, I recruited a team of four exceptional and diverse undergraduate women and one junior graduate student, and we were accepted into a funded program on research mentorship. We developed a seminar series in professional development for undergraduate women, including a Research Fair for labs to recruit undergraduates that has become an annual department tradition (see our Spring 2014 series here and our overall team goals here). I have served as a STEM mentor for the young women at Lincoln High School in Rhode Island, and as a panelist at a graduate student seminar on gender imbalance at the University of South Carolina. I am committed to behaving as a role model and source of confidence for women in my field.
Both the instructor and the student have responsibilities in the classroom.
Students are more engaged when they have a trusting relationship with the instructor. I hold my students to a high standard; in return, I learn their names, listen to their concerns, and attempt to make my classroom and office comfortable environments. I seek regular feedback from students about the structure and speed of the course, and adapt to that feedback immediately if possible. I have also sought multiple peer observations of my teaching. It is my policy to make myself available to any student who asks for help as long as he is willing to put effort into his learning, as well as to maintain flexibility and fairness with regard to assignment techniques and deadlines. My goal is to give my students the time and resources they need to maximize their learning.