Fernando Estrada, Educational Support Services
Western Psychological Association (WPA) Conference
April 24-27, 2014
Nature/Type of the Event
The event focused on a range of teaching and research issues in psychology, broadly defined. I had the privilege of attending several workshops focusing on teaching strategies in higher education. I was interested in gathering strategies related to psychology, counseling, and other social science courses, particularly strategies useful for courses that integrate multicultural topics.
Relevance of the Event for Applicant's Teaching and LMU Community, the Applicant's Involvement in the Event, and Expected Learning or Outcome
In the workshop titled "Integrating Media into Psychology," presenters Drs. Licht and Hull discussed effective strategies to incorporate media and technology in psychology and other social science courses. The theme of the workshop was: Do not take away student phones, iPad, or other technology. Instead, take control of it. For example, the presenters instructed participants of the workshop to text a friend the following question: What defines media? They stated that the first person to receive a response would receive a small prize. This could be done using social media sites too. Prompts were grounded in learning outcomes. The presenters also discussed the benefits of opening a web-chat portal during class in order to maximize participation from students, particularly shy students. This strategy also helps with students who need to multitask in order to sustain attention in class or for students who have a tendency to dominate class discussions. Useful web links to V-Sauce and other educationally focused sites were distributed. For instructors of multicultural courses, I view these strategies as highly congruent with constructionist forms of teaching. Pedagogical approaches vary widely and the ubiquity of smart phones and other technological devices calls on instructors to find creative ways to incorporate them in ways that can enhance learning.
In the workshop titled "A Theme-Based Approach to Teaching," presenter Dr. McCann discussed the value of pedagogy based on course themes. For example, with a social psychology course, content can be organized into themes related such as the power of the relationship; hurting and hugging; and I am what I think I am. Essentially, a theme-based approach would lead an instructor to "leave a trail of breadcrumbs." In other words, instructors can help students connect new concepts with previously learned concepts by highlighting themes and incorporating them in class. A complimentary workshop was titled "Evidence-based Teaching and Learning" by Dr. Grison who discussed the importance of incorporating science in our teaching, particularly with assessment of learning. Dr. Grison discussed ways to integrate pre and post evaluations to gather data that could be presented to department chairs and university administrators. For many "soft science" courses (i.e., counseling) this strategy can help communicate to important stakeholders that teaching is based in science and that pedagogy, like other constructs, can also be rigorously evaluated.
Presenters Drs. Levine, Jones, and Lachs discussed the importance of mentorship in their workshop "Paying it Forward, Paying it Back." According to them, excellence in teaching can be cultivated by acquiring mentors who model desirable qualities in teaching. Relatedly, another workshop titled "Mentoring Students and Colleagues" by Drs. Gottfried and Gottfried highlighted the ways that mentorship can be a powerful pedagogical tool. Many courses, like multicultural counseling, require teaching strategies that blur the traditional boundaries between teacher and student. For example, multicultural education pedagogy urges instructors to share personal experiences as a way to support learning. By using models of mentorship in teaching, instructors can strengthen bonds with their students as well facilitate their learning.
Attending the WPA conference was beneficial for my evolving practice in teaching. Others looking to enhance their teaching will benefit from attending in future years. I look forward to sharing the knowledge I have gained here with others at LMU.