Teaching Statement

Overview. My approach to teaching centers on the ideas of accessibility, association, and application. As an effective instructor, I strive to ensure that all students are able to orient to and understand material. Often, this process involves formal efforts to reduce barriers to their learning and/or facilitate a stronger grasp of material through association with things they already know. Once students are able to access information, they can begin to understand it and in turn apply it in novel ways. I firmly adhere to the idea that facts memorized do not constitute education; rather, skills obtained (particularly in critical thought) are how one measures the worth of one’s educational experiences. For example, I frequently teach undergraduate statistics, which many students find anxiety-provoking, difficult, or otherwise distasteful at first. At the beginning of each semester I learn my students’ majors to better solicit their career goals and personal interests. I use this connection to develop idiographic examples and methods of enabling students to understand complicated concepts. When current events are relevant to statistical concepts (e.g., political elections), I discuss material in conjunction with new stories or other cultural phenomena to get students’ attention. I design these courses around the theme of application such that learning a given statistical technique becomes ancillary in pursuit of a higher-order goal (and thus barriers to understanding are diminished). For example, in my undergraduate statistics course (PSY 200), students were “hired” by a music company to test results of various problems the company might have, such as advertising cost/benefit. Advanced graduate students are encouraged to conduct analyses with real data germane to their own topics of research, and then to present their results to their peers in class, discuss the implications, and justify their interpretations. Overall, application, rather than memorization, promotes stronger engagement, more thorough learning, and longer retention.

Skills. Additionally, I strongly emphasize the connection of material in any course I teach to skills that students will need when they graduate and enter a professional field. Critical thought, writing skills, and coherent verbalization of ideas are tools that will benefit every profession, and are thus highlighted in all dimensions of my teaching. For example, each course includes a written demonstration of skills and knowledge set: explain it in English for undergraduate statistics, results section reports in advanced and graduate statistics, results interpretations in Memory and Cognition, and many courses have final projects that require article synthesis and summaries. All of these assignments require both a set of technical knowledge (terminology, APA rules, etc.) and the ability to explain meaning to a larger audience. The role of technology is also inherent in all activities. I use Blackboard extensively, require all assignments to be submitted electronically, and orient students to the use of internet/information technologies as a tool for learning. The latter is synergistic with efforts to facilitate critical thought in knowing the difference between meaningful, empirical evidence (e.g., peer-reviewed journal articles), potentially intuitive appraisals (e.g., Wikipedia or other crowd-sourced outlets), and possible pseudoscience (e.g., many of the multitude of advertisements to which students are exposed daily).

Materials. Finally, I supplement classroom experiences with additional materials tailored to topics of interest. I have created statistical practical guides, and hours of videos for students and faculty to use in course development and/or research projects (see www.statstools.com). The material contained therein is strongly influenced by common (or not-so-common) questions arising in class, which thus ties this form of reference material to applied and practical problems students/faculty are likely to encounter. I designed and implemented a Statistical Help Desk that offers after hours and online statistical/research help to over 700 students a semester, along with the added benefit of tailored training for academia bound graduate students. Additionally, I often teach specialized topics courses to develop skill sets that are desirable for research and job oriented students (for example, application development for data visualization). I believe my teaching evaluations reflect my focus on teaching, as I consistently earn positive reviews from students and have been nominated and won several teaching awards. My style of teaching, engagement in basic and applied research, and general love of statistics makes me the perfect candidate for a quantitative or cognitive position that would allow me to continue working in an area I have excelled at and enjoy. As indicated in my vita, I am particularly interested in teaching both basic and specialized topics in statistics (SEM, MLM, nonparametrics), along with courses developed in my other research areas (cognition, psycholinguistics).

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