Whatever the course, I strive to integrate considerable applied content, relating class material to social problems and contextual factors that may influence development and adjustment. I seek to make course material germane, thereby increasing the likelihood our students will be able to relate to it and understand the topic in terms of the day-to-day contexts of their worlds. Individuals are more apt to learn material they view as pertinent and useful, presented in an environment in which they feel comfortable.
Furthermore, I strive to ensure that my classes are as interactive and participant-oriented as possible. I do not simply lecture at students and present material from my perspective; rather, I work to foster a productive learning environment in which we actively engage the topics under discussion, stimulate my students to think critically and exchange ideas about the subject, and expose students to new ideas.
In accord with that approach, I attempt to facilitate active learning, drawing my students in by presenting material in a user friendly manner; providing opportunities for them to challenge themselves and demonstrate their knowledge; and attempting to make the topics and concepts real and relevant through demonstrations, case discussions, and anecdotes. For example, in my undergraduate classes, I typically have the students read from primary sources (in addition to the text), and I integrate writing requirements, including in-class thought papers and essay questions on exams. I do not want them to be able to rely on rote memorization; instead, I want them to express their ideas and apply what they have learned.
Also, I often draw from my research and applied work, both clinically and in the community, to take a topic out of the textbook and engage students in a way that will help them think about the subject matter and understand its relevance to their lives. Being able to provide examples from past clinical work or cases, from work with diverse partners and systems, as well as from individuals or families encountered via my research, lends credence to my teaching and draws attention to psychology’s human side.