Statement of Teaching
Joseph F. Chandler
What I remember from my favorite
classes as a student, and what I employ now as an instructor, are both rooted
in basic psychological principles. I
truly love what I teach, and I use my love for psychology to guide my
teaching. I tell stories, employ
multiple senses, cater to the social animal, focus on how to think rather than what
to think, and remember to laugh.
Telling a good story
The way in which material is
taken in is directly tied to the chances of remembering it. Rote memorization is not good enough. It is necessary to encode information
elaborately, that is, with as much depth and detail as possible. There are three advantages here: 1) the most
effective elaborate encoding is tied to what we already know about ourselves:
if it happened to me, it must be important! 2) it
allows us to tell stories rather than present facts; details, examples, and explanations are all
cues for recall; the more cues there are the better the chance of recall, and
3) stories are just plain fun.. I do not
lecture my students; I tell them a story.
When studying elaborate encoding you can just provide a definition;
alternately, you can define it, illustrate via examples and then ask for
student examples. That is, have them
tell stories, too. Story telling
Taste those facts!
Elaborate encoding can be seen
from several angles; we have five senses – why not use as many as possible to
paint a cue-rich picture? Stories come
in many forms: music, movies, skits, group presentations, and spontaneous
ideas. A vivid lecture is only one way
to convey meaning. I want my students to
see people with unusual brain disorders, to listen to song lyrics based in
depression, to act out classic experiments from their book, and to read great
psychological works. I have not yet
worked out taste and smell, but I am trying.
We are social animals
Effective story telling happens
in groups. It involves a giver and a
receiver. This, along with the influence of social comparison theory
(individuals work harder when in groups than alone), necessitates attendance
and active participation in my classroom.
Different story telling techniques accommodate different learning styles
and different levels of participation.
One student may love acting out a classic experiment
while another may freeze in that position.
One may sleep through a video while another wakes to watch it. It is this variety that allows me to cater to
all of my students. The point is that
each approach requires they be there.
How to think, not what to
Now the issue is what
they should remember. What if my
approaches don’t work and six months after the class a student recalls only 15%
of what he or she learned? That is what
the textbook is for. Students can always
go look it up. I consider my role not to
cram my students’ heads with a set of disconnected facts; rather, I
strive to change they way they think. Critical
thinking skills are essential to success in science, but it does not end
there. We must be intelligent consumers
of information. College students, face
novel, complicated decisions every day.
For instance: how to buy a car.
The answer is the scientific method!
1) Set up a hypothesis (Car A is a better than Car B), 2) design the
method for gathering data (use a combination of
internet reviews, car magazines, and personal recommendations), 3)
collect the data (compile the information gathered), 4) analyze the data and
draw conclusions (Car A gets better reviews across the board, my dad had one
for 15 years, and it costs less – I will purchase Car A), and 5) report your
findings (I will let others know about the merits of Car A). I ask my students to apply this formula to
everything I tell them. I encourage them
to correct me, and warn that I will require evidence. Soon, I am rewarded with lovely answers to
essay questions, well-balanced papers, and conversations in which I have to
flex my own mind! This is the ultimate
purpose in my classroom: to become better thinkers, better speakers, and better
Laughter is the best
medicine… and teaching tool.
Laughter is a powerful tool in
the classroom. It allays anxiety, often
resolves conflict, and is an excellent elaborative cue for recall. Think about how well you remember a funny
joke versus the periodic table of the elements and you’ll see what I mean.
I teach from two undeniable
angles: 1) as my job. A shoe salesperson
sells shoes, and so is dedicated to finding the best shoe for each customer in
order to make a sale. I teach, so I must
be dedicated to finding the best approaches and combination of techniques to
teach my students something valuable. And 2) as my passion.
I would be telling anyone who would listen to me about this stuff
anyway, so I might as well benefit some other people in the process.