My first experience as an educator was teaching local youth violin lessons as a high schooler. At Amherst College, I encountered new challenges teaching improvisational comedy and student health workshops. As my interests have turned to psychology and quantitative methods, teaching still motivates me: I have led statistics recitations at the undergraduate and Master’s level at NYU. Concurrently, I mentor students in assistant and independent researcher roles. My teaching career is still nascent, but these varied experiences have shaped my educational philosophy.
Teaching and Mentoring Philosophy
The core of my educational philosophy is meeting people where they are. To do so, I strive for a need-supportive, engaging, and flexible learning environment.
Support psychological needs to foster engagement. According to basic psychological needs theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000, Psych Inquiry), autonomy, competence, and relatedness are vital to human flourishing.
In support of students’ autonomy, facilitate choice whenever possible. Students prompted to consider why they want to succeed in class are more deeply invested. Similarly, career-relevant examples foster student’s motivation. Another expression of autonomy support is acknowledging students’ negative emotions, so they feel recognized and free to resume learning.
In support of students’ competence, create frequent opportunities to practice and improve. In one-on-one settings, I often use instructional scaffolding to build competence. For instance, I will interpret the first step of a multiple regression, pause for questions, then have the learner interpret the second step. Providing detailed, actionable feedback during learning is also a must, and new tools like gradescope make it easier than ever to provide on a large scale.
In support of students’ relatedness, structure interpersonal interactions—such as icebreakers and group work—into classroom activities. Fostering a sense of collaboration and communality in a STEM classroom might be especially important for women (Samuels, Benson- Greenwald, & Murphy, 2020, poster presented at SPSP).
Remain flexible to best serve the individual and the moment. To reach the maximum number of learners, I monitor students’ understanding by asking questions and attending to facial cues, then use alternative explanatory tactics as-needed. Technology also aids flexibility in teaching. For instance, PowerPoint presentations can be divided into collapsible sections to enable swift topic shifts. Google docs can house answers to frequently-asked-questions, meeting students where and when they need help most.
Course Objectives for an Introductory-Level Statistics Course
My goals are for students to 1) be conversant in statistical terms, 2) understand the how and why of basic analyses, 3) report results in APA format and interpret them accurately, 4) navigate basic procedures in SPSS software, and 5) reflect on how they could use statistics to address meaningful questions.
Support of Independent Research
Nearly every student I have worked with as a Research Assistant has developed an independent research project under my advisement. These projects, including two Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship award-winning studies, are critical to these students as emerging researchers. I currently advise Lizzie Voigt’s undergraduate honors thesis project about smoking reduction and socioeconomic status.