Hi folks, been a while since I blogged at ya. School starts in a few short weeks (on Labor Day for us), so I thought I would briefly fill you in on what I have been up to this summer. I have longer posts for each of these planned, so stay tuned in the next week or so for more details.
I taught summer school. It is always interesting teaching summer school, which at Randolph-Macon tends to be much lower class sizes (mine was 7), but the students aren’t always the most motivated. I taught General Psychology and tried, with some modifications, a re-do of my big experiment in redesigning this course (described in this earlier post). My first post this week will be reflections on this experience.
I also supervised a research student on a project of her own devising. Her step-father owns an art gallery, and she was interested in how spacing and labeling of art influences aesthetic judgments. So I got to read a bit about the psychology of art, which was kind of cool. We tried a replication of a few well-known effects with a new twist (actual paintings, not computer projections) had trouble recruiting subjects, and failed to replicate. Oh well, that’s research. She did a fantastic presentation at the end, which made me all kinds of proud.
My kids did a few different camps, but for one of them, if you volunteered, your kids could go free. So I did. As the people who were running the camp pondered how to assign the volounteers, they found I had some relevant expertise, I was basically bumped up to a teacher and had my own group. So I found myself teaching 5-7 year-olds how to play chess for a week. As a bonus, I got to talk to an International Grandmaster (Maurice Ashley)about perceptual illusions, chess illusions and the mind-blowing fact that the Earth itself is moving faster than just about any object moves on Earth. As you might have picked up, a big theme of my (college) teaching is picking up lessons from other teaching situations, and this was no different. It was exhausting, but fun, and a little eye-opening.
I’ve been planning the first new course I’ve taught in a while, and it is a newer new than I have ever taught before. It is called “Kids These Days” and it is a collaboration with fantastic English professor here at Randolph-Macon who specializes in children’s literature. It is a First Year Course (part of our First Year Experience) and is creative, interdisciplinary, team-taught class. Typically biting off way more than I can chew, I will be taking twenty lucky 18-year-olds (mostly) on a magical mystical journey through the history of science, and of psychology, through the lens of how psychology has explained those fascinating creatures we call children. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in a post coming up, but I am really excited, and more than a little nervous teaching something where there is no textbook and no existing framework. But ultimately, this kind of experimentation is why I love my job.
I have also dreamed up a way to get into the movie business. I have always liked playing around with movies, and have wanted to make a few when I find the time. This semester, I aim to make a series of short videos, integrated into my First Year Class, called the Art and Science of Being a College Student. My hope is to interweave direct practical advice (the first one will be “How to Write an Email to A Professor”) with a bit of the science of psychology (in the email case, I will summarize James Pennebaker’s excellent research on language). So, keep your eyes peeled for some of those.
Thanks for your patience loyal readers, stay tuned, there will be blog!