Like most of my colleagues, I continuously struggle with how best to teach my courses. I think one of the great challenges of teaching is that the teacher must serve so many varied interests. As a professor of psychology, I have resposibilities to majors and nonmajors, to my department, to my school, and to my field. It can be difficult to avoid balancing all of these varied interests and ending up with an average, mediocre class experience.
My compromise is to teach, as best I can, to overarching themes that extend beyond the details of particular course material. In that respect I am fortunate to be teaching psychology and neuroscience - two fields dedicated to the study of human beings, and therefore two fields with obvious implications beyond the classroom. In addition, these two fields progress using the scientific method - the use of critical thinking to specify testable hypotheses by isolating experimental variables. This method can be applied to problems in everyday life.
Intro is a broad survey course designed to introduce students to the many topics investigated in the study of psychology. This course covers physiological, developmental, learning, cognitive, social, and personality psychology, sensation and perception, psychopathology and a variety of research methods.
Perspectives In Psychology II examines a major research area in psychology from multiple perspectives, including physiological and neuropsychological. As part of the two-course first year experience for psychology majors, this class traces the historical forces that shaped research in psychology, and presents students with fundamental theoretical concepts and methodological tools in psychology.
An Intersession course that examines the neuroscience of music production and music appreciation. Music appreciation and production involves emotion, memory, movement, timing, sensation and perception, and neural plasticity, and thus provides an interesting entree into many areas of modern psychology and neuroscience research.
Statistics and Research Methods II is a required course focusing on hypethetico-deductive approaches to psychological research. We discuss the scientific method and experimental design, as well as master basic parametric statistical procedures such as t-tests and analysis of variance.
Sensation and Perception is an in-depth look at sensory systems with a focus on active perceptual processes. We see many examples of how our perception is shaped by context, culture, expectations, and past experience. We examine how these biases leave us vulnerable to optical and auditory illusions and leave us prone to misunderstanding what we have seen or heard. The course now features a lab.
Neuropsychology is a conference-style course focusing on case studies of people with brain damage. Throughout the course, we examine these cases both from the perspective of cognitive neuropsychology, which aims to learn more about normal brain and behavior by the study of people with damaged nervous systems, and from the perspective of clinical neuropsychology, which aims to understand the etiology and prognosis of deficits from a client-centered perspective.
Physio is taught as a survey course, examining the contribution of physiological psychologists to such psychological topics as sensation and perception, learning and memory, emotion, and decision making. We also discuss the basic principles of the nervous system, and stress the dynamic, plastic nature of the brain.
The senior senior is a capstone course that requires mulitdisciplinary synthesis and the students as active learners shaping the content of the course. Topics will vary from year to year, and may include:
The Mind-Body Problem, examines topics such as consciousness, sense of self, and freewill from both a philosophical and experimental psychological point of view. We focus on recent experimental attempts to better understand these topics, including neuropsychological studies of synesthesia, hallucinations, and blindsight, and neurobiological approaches to binocular rivalry, subliminal stimuli, and optical illusions.
The Psychology and Physiology of Eating and Drinking, examines the genetic, cultural, physiological, environmental, and developmental underpinnings of ingestive behavior, with a focus on the "obesity epidemic" and the wisdom (or lack) of popular notions about diet and exercise and government recommendations about diet and exercise.