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By Howard Iver Thorsheim, Ph.D., St. Olaf College
Howard Iver Thorsheim is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, USA. In these blogs he offers his first-person insights into effective teaching techniques gleaned from a combination of scholarly research and over 40 years in the classroom.
Extensive research* documents the validity and benefits of constructivist learning and peer mentoring. The challenge is how to introduce students to psychophysiology so that they have the opportunity to be engaged.
Psychophysiology is inherently engaging to students because it links with most course topics, as well as whatever are their interests. “Students think psychophysiology is cool…It generates all kinds of buzz, interest, excitement, questions—even from other faculty and administrators–and psychophysiology appeals to many students in related disciplines, creating opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration among faculty and student.” (Thorsheim, LaCost & Narum, 2010, p. 27-28).
In what I call The Appetizer Process, the assignment for the next class meeting is for students to search the Internet on a combination of three topics: (1) Their interests (whatever they have a passion for), (2) The word “Psychophysiology,” and (3) The topic for the day in the course I am teaching.
They are to see what pops up, look for a link that strikes them as intriguing, click on it, and print out one first page from that link to bring to the next class meeting. I tell them they will be asked to share what they have found and why it’s intriguing to them, and turn the sheet in so I can learn more about their interests.
Next class, I ask students to form pairs, and tell their partner what their sheet is about and something about why it interests them. While pairs are talking, I identify two or three pairs that seem to be particularly engaged in conversation and ask them if they would be willing to share about 15 seconds worth of what they talked about when we regroup.
I tell the large group that the reason for asking the pairs to share what they talked about is to demonstrate the richly diverse connections that people construct.
I remind the class to make sure their names are on their sheets when they turn them in so I can connect them and their interests. (Another option is to compile all the names and links to share back to the class).
Whatever the plan is for the rest of class, after pairs share and hear from the two or three pairs, I find students are engaged because they have actively constructed connections with their interests, psychophysiology, and the topic for the day.
*Galindo, J. H. (2011). Authentic learning (Simulations, Lab, Field). Download it here.
Mayo, J. A. (2010). Constructing undergraduate psychology curricula: Promoting authentic learning and assessment in the teaching of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Thorsheim, H., LaCost, H., & Narum, J. L. (2010). Peer mentoring of undergraduate research in community colleges: A “transplantable” model for workshops. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 31(2), 26-32. View it here.
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Professor Thorsheim is a licensed Psychologist, educator, and author. He has published or presented over 125 papers, journal articles, books, book chapters or monographs, and received a patent in 1985 as a co-inventor for an educational book design with interactive elements. His work has been funded by marquee foundations across the globe. His most recent work is Doing Psychophysiology: Getting Started, available from Knowledge Growers, Inc., available as an iBook download in 51 countries.