Monday, August 25, 2014

"Bloom Stuff" and "Maslow Stuff"

I stumbled across this picture (via Twitter, retweeted originally from @DocbobLA) and this quote/idea reasonates with me: I believe that if we don't attend to the "Maslow stuff" with students (e.g. sense of belonging/trust, etc.) we won't be able to even get to the "Bloom stuff" (e.g. analysis, synthesis, other critical thinking skills).

In my district, I get to co-present with other administrators on the topic "Relationship Matters." The main idea of that presentation supports the claim this quote makes: relationships are the "oxygen" in teaching/learning situations. Positive relationships have to be in place before learning can occur - they are the atmosphere teachers and learners breathe and operate in.

I think I've always had and operated on that belief as a teacher, but I've never thought about the belief in this "Bloom and Maslow" context before. I'd love to hear from other psych teachers about
  • whether or not the quotes "fits" with your teaching (or not!) 
  • how you attend to "Maslow and Bloom" stuff in your classroom
  • possible connections to the motivation unit? If this quote is true for learning, maybe it could be the basic idea behind some really interesting discussions/activities during the motivation unit?

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, August 22, 2014

To Type or not to Type: Is that the Question?

Last week several of us had a fascinating discussion via Twitter about the advantages/disadvantages of taking notes on computers or by hand on paper. 

The whole discussion started when Heather Chambers (@irishteach on Twitter) tweeted a question about the advantages and disadvantages of getting students to use computers for notes, or if they are better off handwriting notes.

I responded a few days later with an article I found: "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages ofLonghand Over Laptop Note Taking" These authors found that students who took notes by hand tended to summarize ideas in their own words rather than type quotes verbatim, leading to deeper processing, better encoding, and better recall. Our twitter community chatted about the implications for a while and then Dr. Chew chimed in (@SChewPsych - he's our resident expert on studying research) and said: 

So what should we tell students about how to take notes? The most important factor seems to be that students need to PROCESS ideas AS they take notes, not mindlessly write things down. It's easier to mindlessly write things down when they are using a computer (it's faster!) so students need to learn HOW to take better notes, no matter what method they use. The memory chapter is a PERFECT opportunity to help students learn this! Psych teachers can demonstrate the power of deep processing in note taking via mini-classroom experiments! Heather hit the nail on the head, and I hope our community continues exploring her question:

Note about Twitter: If you're not yet a Twitter user (don't call us Twits! :) , consider giving it a try! After you create an account, you can search for the hashtag #psychat in the search window, and you'll see a thriving conversation and dozens of psych teachers' accounts to follow!

image source: - labelled for reuse, creative commons

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Day Activities

So what should we do on the first day?  Here are some ideas:

I posted a couple activities to my Google Drive.  Included are:

  • a couple docs that Louis Schmier posted some time ago about establishing trust in the classroom
  • Dr. Drew Appleby's activity on memory and created connections within schemas--an adapted PPT file I use on the first or second day
  • A Psych True/False PPT Activity based upon chapters from the book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology by Scott O. Lilienfeld, et al
  • A "Psych or Not" PowerPoint I created a few years ago

Feel free to check these out, use, and adapt as needed.  There is some personalization in the PPT files.

I was going back through some files from the 1990s.  Yes, I am old.  I found a file that had day one mingle activities that require little to no set up.  I do not know who shared these or what the origins were.  I do know the ideas are very cool, depending upon your class goals.


For my first day interest-generating activity, I use a "mingle" format where they walk around the room introducing themselves to each other, at least five others anyway, except that they can't use any names or grade levels or usual items. Instead, they must introduce themselves by 1) what they ate for breakfast, 2) their weight, or 3) their zodiac sign:
***"Hi, I'm yogurt and frozen waffles, who are you?"***

This generates fun and laughs, then we sit down and discuss it. I ask what interesting aspects of human behavior they noticed during the mingle. Typical observations will bring up excellent items for brief comment on by way of connecting real-life scientific research that will be covered later in the class. Examples:
- Most of the girls didn't say their weight (gender differences, cultural norms, body image, interpersonal attraction, etc.)
- Some people knew the zodiac stuff really well, and other people didn't 
     (pseudoscience, magical thinking, parapsychology, experimental methods)
- A lot of people had nothing for breakfast (memory, cognition, applied vs. basic research, human development, longevity, etc.)
- Most people only introduced themselves to people sitting close to them already, even though we all had to stand up and move around   

     (propinquity effect, familiarity, out-group homogeneity, introversion vs. extraversion, etc.)
- It felt uncomfortable to do a familiar activity in a different way
     (schemas, social norms, interpersonal distance zones, elements of humor, ...) 


....usually I will tell them about my background and why I teach this class and on the second day we begin to have fun
...I have had them interview others and introduce the person to the class
...we arrange people according to birth date, age, without speaking
...we balance a ball on a 30 strings with a ring in the middle and challenge other classes
...we do a history of psychology on a string line ending with each of them
...we go on a blind walk
...we jump rope in a cooperative manner and competitive manner
...we discuss why they chose this class
...we discuss my best first day, when my son was born one of the first days of school (some students have said it was their best day as well when I was not there on the first day)
...we have discussed who was out best teacher and why
...we have formed a line over 60 feet long and passed our books from a storeroom into the class
...we have all cried when it was announced a teacher we had all known had died the day before...

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Start of the year! Woot! (and Crash Course videos!)

Howdy psych teachers! School started in my district yesterday - if you've started, hope you are having a great beginning!

I never expected this to happen, but I think my 12 year old shared a great psychology teaching resource with me! She asked me if I ever watched the "Crash Course" videos on YouTube, and whether or not I thought the psychology ones are any good.

I think they are very good! Hank Green (brother of John Green, who students and teachers may recognize as the author of The Fault in our Stars, and the narrator of other Crash Course videos) races through some great psych topics on the videos, including research methods, S&P, consciousness, and others. There are 17 videos so far in the psychology video collection:

The videos might be useful in psych classrooms as introductions to topics, or summaries, or possibly students could "check" Hank Green's summaries and connect his analysis with terms/concepts/studies from their textbook.

Last note: the online video system EdPuzzle might be useful as a way to insert questions into these (and other!) videos. If any of you use these videos, please sound off in the comments and let us know how it goes!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, July 18, 2014

Brainless or will the ten percent myth ever die

By now you no doubt have seen the trailer for the soon to be released movie Lucy, staring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freemen - and if you haven't surely your students have, and some will see the movie. If you have you know that the key concept is that the character played by Johansson has a drug of some sort implanted in her body, and when it begins to leak, it begins to give her super powers.

Why? Because this drug heightens her cognitive abilities, and since "we only use 10% of our brains," Lucy now has the ability to use much more of her brain to become this seemingly unstoppable force.

UGH. UGH. UGH. Psychology teachers have to know that this is a myth, and we must teach it to our students, particularly in light of this movie. If you need some resources to use in class, here's an excellent article from the Wall Street Journal by Chris Chabris and Daniel Simon (yes, the Invisible Gorilla guys), and here's an phenomenally good TED ED video by Richard Cytowic (yes, the synaesthesia guy who wrote The Man Who Tasted Shapes).

But what really drew my ire yesterday was this tweet from one of my favorite new science writers, Jordan Gaines Lewis:

WHAT??? How can this be? Surely this has been a mistake, so I tried to track down the source. I looked in the Chabris and Simon article and found this:

These "neuromyths," along with others, were presented to 242 primary and secondary school teachers in the Netherlands and the U.K. as part of a study by Sanne Dekker and colleagues at VU University Amsterdam and Bristol University, and just published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. They found that 47% of the teachers believed the 10% myth.
This can't be right, can it? So I tracked down the journal article - which fortunately you can to, since it's open access - and this is exactly what researchers Sanne Dekker, Nikki C. Lee, Paul Howard-Jones and Jelle Jolles found. What is amazing is that in the appendix to this article the researchers publish the entire list of 32 statements that they used, and they are perfect for use in the classroom. PERFECT. I will not copy and paste them here, but I strongly urge you to visit the article and get those statements to use in your classroom. Maybe even as some sort of pre-test and post-test around your bio unit? (Used formatively, naturally.)

What else can we do? Just what I'm doing now: using this movie to my advantage. I'm using this moment to remind you about this myth, and I think that you and I should spend time in our classes this fall introducing the factual evidence of what neuroscience research has given us to confront these stereotypes. And we may also want to do this in a faculty meeting, since if the research above is valid, our own colleagues may be just as clueless about the truth here. Use this as a springboard!

And as for me, will I see the movie? Oh, you betcha, though I'm probably going to wait for it to show up on Netflix. (I've been a huge fan of director Luc Besson since Leon and The Fifth Element.) What about you? Will you see it, and in what ways can you think to use this as a teachable moment in your classroom?

--posted by Steve

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Freudian Sip and University Tours

During the month of February we have a week off and for the past four years, I have co-led a group of sophomores and juniors to colleges and universities in Southern California.  It has been an amazing set of trips that the students really enjoy and benefit from.  So far, I have visited California Polytechnic Univ-San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge, Cal State San Marcos, UC San Diego, CSU Long Beach, San Diego State, University of San Diego, Occidental College, CSU Fullerton, UC Irvine, and CSU Los Angeles.  I list these because I have at least one t-shirt or sweatshirt from each of these schools.  I know, believe me, I know.

We take between 40 and 50 kids on a coach for four days--two schools each day and attempt to secure admissions presentations along with tours of the schools.  Students are exposed to colleges in session and get a sense of the vibe or personality of each school.  It's been a fun four years.

This year, on my first visit to CSU Northridge, I found one of their coffee shops, "The Freudian Sip."  I had to stop and take pictures. Here they are.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ten years of the APA-Clark workshop

The 2009 t-shirt, honoring the anniversary of Freud's 1909 visit to Clark
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the APA-Clark workshop for high school psychology teachers. It's hard to believe that it was five years ago when I wrote this post about attending the workshop. I was also very fortunate enough in 2011 to be one of the high school teachers presenters for this workshop, along with Kristin Whitlock, and I posted about it here. Whether as a participant or a leader, this workshop has been a phenomenal experience for me, and I believe that it was a terrific experience for more than 200 high school teachers since 2005.

Dr. Gurel in 2009
As I have written previously, this workshop is due to a partnership between the APA and TOPSS (especially Emily Leary Chesnes), Clark University (especially Nancy Budwig), and of course Dr. Lee Gurel. Dr. Gurel has generously given money each year to fund this workshop (along with many other TOPSS projects) and even participates himself by attending the workshop each year. I know many participants who are enchanted by that "sweet old guy" in the front row, who they learned much later was the benefactor making it all possible.

If you have been a participant in this workshop, feel free to leave a comment below about what the experience meant to you. I know that Dr. Gurel is a frequent reader of our blog, and I am sure he would appreciate hearing how his gifts have impacted you.

 --posted by Steve

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Call for applications from schools in the Northeast: Golden Psi Award

Attention Psychology teachers in the Northeast: the APA is calling for applications from schools in the Northeast U.S. (Maine, Mass., Conn., R.I., N.Y., N.J., Vt., and N.H) for the "Golden Psi Award."

Here's the official description of the award from the APA:
"The APA/BEA Golden Psi Award is given to schools that demonstrate psychologically based practices contributing to positive educational outcomes with successful learning environments, both academically and socio-emotionally. Along with a trophy, the winning school will receive (1) $1,000 cash prize; (2) recognition at the 2015 American Psychological Association convention; (3) an article in a 2015 APA Monitor; (4) Press Release from APA and winning school’s local media; and (5) acknowledgement on the APA Education Directorate website at"

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, June 16, 2014

History of Mental Illness Treatment: An Infographic

I receive a daily infographic from Some offerings I skip over since the content is outside my interests. Yesterday, however, I found this little beauty entitled, Electroshock Therapy and Other Ways We Treat Mental Illness [infographic]."It includes trepanning, phrenology, repression, asylums, lobotomies, bloodletting and more.

I will definitely be using this graphic as an intro and context setting for when I teach disorders and treatment next. There is excellent overview with details that can be filled in by the researcher or the experienced psych teacher. It does get larger with re-sizing your browser settings.
The direct link to the post is here:
-- posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, June 5, 2014

An amazing way to learn using rats in psychology class

Today's guest post is by Maria Vita of Penn Manor High School in Millersville, PA. Take it away, Maria!

At Penn Manor High School, students in regular psychology and Advanced Placement Psychology conduct lab experiments using live rats.  Yep, you read that correctly: LIVING RODENTS!  After the 10-15 day project, students create Youtube videos demonstrating concepts learned.  Some short, but effective videos from this year are Agnes (2014), Lacey (2014) and Oz (2014).

During the project, students apply content standards from the APA/TOPSS standards in high school psychology, including:

Ethical issues in research with human and non-human animals
Principles of classical conditioning
Principles of operant conditioning

Students ensure their three-week-old rat’s health by weighing it on an electronic baby scale.  If rats lose more than 5-10% of their total weight, it can be an indicator of illness.

Working in teams of two to three, the students name and “adopt” their rat: Each group is encouraged to fill their rat’s cage with enriching items like PVC tubes and empty tissue boxes. Our classroom can have anywhere from 12 to 26 rats (and cages) at a time! 

In AP Psychology, students are encouraged to use a “clicker” to classically condition their rat.  Ultimately, the “clicker” sound excites the rats because they associate it with food.  Students apply Ivan Pavlov’s trace conditioning by clicking first (CS), pausing, and then presenting the rat with food (UCS). For an example, see these student-made videos on Youtube: the rat Anastasia’s video (2011) or Ellie the rat (2010).

Among their many feats, rats acquire bar-pressing behavior in an operant chamber.  They also learn to navigate a maze and obstacle course. The student-made videos published on YouTube demonstrate the successes of the rats, but also students’ understanding of target vocabulary.  In 2010, for example, students applied the term shaping by getting their rat Nessy to push a marble down two ramps, then eight ramps, then seventeen ramps (see images or YouTube video @ 40 seconds).  

To see more student and rat videos, go to There is a project description on this link for those interested in training their own rats.

Thanks for sharing this, Maria!
--posted by Steve