Principles of teaching
In every class, I attempt to follow principles of educational psychology, such as taking into account students’ background knowledge, welcoming critical questions, and making goals explicit. I promote participation by calling on students to answer simple questions, and by building in moments for students to discuss more elaborate questions with their partner for several minutes, after which I call on a pair to share their thoughts.
All teachers, no matter how experienced, can improve, but we sometimes have to create our own opportunities. Since shortly after I arrived at NYU, I have been in regular contact with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (now called Teaching and Learning Services). In 2015, I requested a CAT teaching consultation, including classroom observation. In 2016, I organized a CAT workshop on active learning in the Psychology department. In 2019, I helped create a requirement for Psychology faculty who are up for third-year review, tenure, or promotion to do at least one TLT consultation. As the new Director of Undergraduate Studies in Psychology, I introduced Teaching Squares to the department, a method in which four faculty visit each other’s classes and meet over a meal to discuss what they learned from each other’s teaching.
Soliciting student feedback
Undergraduates generally have little opportunity to help improve their education. In my courses, I either have a moment in the 4th/5th week where I ask each student for one thing they like and one thing I can improve on, or I create a Google Document in which students can anonymously leave feedback throughout the semester, and I reply. As DUS, I have established a “Student Advisory Council” open to all Psychology majors and minors; this group meets regularly to discuss concerns about courses, instructors, curriculum, or the broader educational experience. In November 2019, I used the concerns expressed in such a meeting as the basis for a survey among all majors and minors; I received 117 responses, and I am currently implementing improvements based on these responses.
I have been the direct research mentor of 12 NYU undergraduates (one Honors). Many have won DURFs and presented at the Undergraduate Research Conference. Moreover, 5 of them were authors on peer-reviewed journal articles and 4 more have papers in progress. I have personally mentored 3 high school students, one of whom made it to the national finals of the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2019. In each case, I am fully aware of the details of each student’s project, and we meet about once a week.
Growing up in Science
I started and still lead the mentorship series Growing up in science. In each event, one faculty member tells their life and career story with an emphasis on struggles, failures, doubts, and detours. Trainees of all levels report that this form of mentorship humanizes faculty members, places their own struggles in a different light, and helps build a supportive and open community in the department. Growing up in Science was featured in Science and has so far been adopted by about 20 other institutions worldwide.