Effective teaching is in large part the ability to present course material in an enthusiastic and positive light. In my experience, those teachers with a visible enthusiasm and interest in the material elicit the greatest amount of attention and involvement from their students. This is of great importance, as many classrooms include student with varying degrees of interest in the subject material. Many students will have enrolled in a class because it is within their choses area of study, while others will have enrolled in a class only because of a passing interest in the subject matter. Others might have little knowledge of the subject or have yet to decide whether to pursue other classes in the area.
Among those students without an interest in the subject matter exist many who might develop one if effectively taught. These students may be more likely to gravitate towards an area when the enthusiasm and vigor it creates is modeled by a teacher. For example, as an undergraduate psychology major, I decided to take a course in the anthropology department taught by Steven Gaulin. At the time, I had very little knowledge of anthropology and the extent to which its principles could be applied to psychology. The exciting perspective he presented in the class now forms the basis for my current program of research. Fostering this excitement in my students is the overall objective of my teaching.
The enthusiastic presentation of course material is also beneficial to those students with a developed interest in the subject area. By modeling an excitement for a range of ideas within a broad area of study, students may learn of and adhere to more focused areas. For example, the focus of my research is in facial expression and emotion, and I place a great emphasis on emotional processes when teaching evolutionary psychology. As a result, several students in my evolutionary psychology course have gone on to work with me on honors projects directly testing evolutionary hypotheses of facial expression and emotion. Here, a shift in established interests has brought forth novel research questions and ideas.
Through teaching, I have had the pleasure of working independently with several students. Here, the overarching objective shifts into preparing the student for graduate study. Last year, I had four honors students. Ashley Meyer conducted a project investigating the effects of mental contrasting on mood. Evelyn Castro examined the effects of laughter on group affiliation. This project was presented at a national conference last hear (Human Behavior and Evolution) and has resulted in a manuscript that is currently under review. Lauren Simon used a game-theoretic approach to model trait narcissism and dependency. This study was also presented at a national conference last year (North American Society for the Study of Personality Disorders) and resulted in a manuscript hat is currently under review. Finally, Jinnu Kim tested the relationship between facial expression, fluctuating asymmetry, and attractiveness. This resulted in an award-winning poster at the 2019 undergraduate research conference.