Teaching and Mentoring Statement
As a teacher, I aim to help students develop strong skills in critical thinking, research methods, and scientific analysis, and a strong background in the central concepts, key issues, and theoretical debates that drive psychological research. I regularly teach Introduction to Psychology, the graduate core course in cognitive development, and a doctoral seminar in the development of social cognition.
Introduction to Psychology is a large and broad course that can be challenging to teach in a manner that is engaging and meaningful for students (at NYU, this class has 300 students each semester). My goal is for students to understand the purpose, methods, and scope of modern psychological science—the kinds of questions research can address, how these questions are tested empirically, and how theory guides the whole process. I hope that the class will leave many students inspired to learn more about psychology, and all students with improved skills in scientific analysis that they can use as consumers of research. Thus, I have designed the class in a manner that encourages students to develop strong skills in critical thinking, research methods, and scientific analysis. I structure lectures around the deep theoretical questions that shape our field, such as how modern psychological science thinks about the relations between mind and brain. I present the material for each topic in the context of these broader theoretical issues. I also incorporate discussion of research methods into each unit. To assess student learning, each exam includes an essay question asking students to critique or design an empirical study.
To promote active engagement during lecture, my lecture slides contain very little text—they are mostly images to illustrate main points, outlines of the topics we are covering, and depictions of data. This places some burden on the students to pay keen attention, take careful notes, and keep up with reviewing the material. Although a somewhat risky approach for a large lecture class, the feedback I have received from students has been overwhelmingly positive. Students regularly tell me that they find lectures highly engaging and the material more fascinating—as well as more complicated and nuanced—than they expected.
I have a large and active laboratory and very much enjoy the opportunity to mentor students and trainees as they develop their research careers. My approach to mentoring is to provide students with the support and resources they need to succeed, along with the freedom to develop their own interests and independent research programs. I involve undergraduate students from start to finish (from conceptualizing problems and designing studies to write-ups and presentations) and emphasize both critical and creative thinking via our regular lab meetings. I regularly have 15-20 undergraduates working in the lab; these students are trained in developmental methods, collect data from children and families, contribute to data processing and coding, and actively participate in weekly lab meetings. In my time at NYU, I have mentored 17 honors students and 22 DURF projects.