One of my main goals in the classes I teach is to expose students to ways of thinking that may be new to them and that are, at least in my view, at the leading edge of the field of study the class is focusing on. Because newer ideas do tend to be more controversial, they usually stimulate more thought, discussion, and hopefully excitement among the students. While I try to be authentic and honest when I find certain ideas untenable, or when I find other ideas or lines of reasoning to be especially compelling, I always stress with students that they should never feel that they need to think about things the way I do – that as long as they have a solid understanding of the arguments I make and the concepts I teach, they will be rewarded in the class for thinking for themselves, and what they think and believe will always be up to them.
While I do have strong opinions about many issues, I try hard to impart an ethos in my classes that the highest goal and value is always to seek the truth. I try hard not to be overly invested in any particular way of looking at different issues, and try to reinforce with students that the best theories are simply the ones that seem to best account for and explain the available evidence. My experience and strong belief is that the truth is always what leads us forward, and that this ethos is what is most beneficial to all of us not only in our capacity as thinkers or researchers, but also in our lives as a whole.
I try to make my classes as interdisciplinary as possible, and try to, in particular, integrate neuroscience and evolutionary studies with more traditional psychology. I also try to incorporate the arts, especially music and the visual arts, whenever possible, as I find students, like everyone, can have strong responses to art, which can make the concepts feel more vital and applicable.
I also always try to be very encouraging to students about their potential research interests, and to support them in following their own interests and passions. I’m a reader for several of my students’ theses, and try to give them as much guidance and help as I can. I also do what I can to help students feel emotionally safe in my classes and try to never put anyone ‘on the spot’, but just to encourage students to be themselves and, at least in general, to ask or say anything they feel like asking or saying. In my experience, this kind of environment is best for students in helping them to grow as thinkers and as individuals.