Tag Archives: experts

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The Learning Scientists: Our Story

LSLogo200x200Recently, I had been trying to come up with creative ways to help my students link concepts from class to the real world. Improving learning is one connection. But there are many others, such as how we might frame an advertisement to help it sell, or how we can improve procedures in the criminal justice system to avoid false convictions – like Steven Avery’s first conviction. (The many who watched Making a Murderer have probably thought a lot about this connection to cognitive psychology, possibly without realizing how much of a role it plays!) Anyway, I decided to create an assignment requiring my students to interact with one another and make connections with popular psychology-related articles on Twitter. The first step was creating a Twitter profile for myself, and building it up with psychology-related tweets.

One random night, I saw that Yana was tweeting many messages to a lot of different Twitter handles. It turns out Yana had been feeling guilty that she wasn’t doing more to reach out to the community with her work on improving study strategies. Somewhat impulsively, she tried searching “test tomorrow” on Twitter, and realized that TONS of students were tweeting about upcoming exams. Many students were tweeting about being unprepared, not knowing how to study, or being unable to concentrate.

So, Yana started tweeting advice and encouragement to the students: wishing them luck on their exams, asking them what strategies they used to study, and whether they’d tried practice questions or writing out everything they knew on the topic from memory. I thought it was such a cool idea that I decided to join in. I suggested we start using the hashtag #AceThatTest, and overnight that hashtag had turned into our joint Twitter account: @AceThatTest. That was January 22nd, 2016.

Since then – in under a month – we have gained almost 700 followers on Twitter, tweeted well over 2,000 times, hired a student intern, made a website with a blog (learningscientists.org), been asked to help out with a book on learning, and forged many new connections with researchers and educators around the world. The project really took off in ways that I think neither of us had anticipated! The passion we both bring to the project comes from our mutual frustration with the lack of communication between science and educational practice.

We want to improve communication between the various educational experts. Education is an extremely important topic, and we believe that there are many experts in this realm, each bringing an important perspective that can serve to improve education. Teachers who have been practicing in the classroom for years are experts. Students, by the time they graduate high school, and may be considering entering into higher education, have 13 years of educational experience under their belts, and could be considered experts. Professors, like Yana and myself, who both research learning (sometimes in the lab, sometimes in live classrooms) and teach undergraduate students in our own classrooms are experts. Professors who are working with teachers in training in institutions of higher education are experts.

If you have an “it takes a village” mentality, like we do, then the idea of having so many experts with diverse experiences and perspectives is extremely exciting. No one person can solve every problem that comes up, but a diverse group has serious potential to get things done. Unfortunately, many of these groups are not communicating with one another as much as we believe they should be. The situation is not entirely dissimilar from the schism between research and practice in clinical psychology. In an ideal world, researchers would clearly communicate their findings and make them easily accessible to practitioners. Meanwhile, practitioners would communicate any practical concerns they have with implementation to inform further research. Yet instead of this type of symbiotic relationship, there is a strained relationship between clinical practice and clinical research, and the lines of communication are not as open as they should be, and need to be if we want clinical psychology to be maximally beneficial for the profession and the public as a whole. Clinical psychologists know this, and have been addressing the problem; there have even been special APA Convention programs and even special journal issues to address the lack of communication.

The same problem occurs in education – communication is simply not open, and it’s time for the many educational experts to address this. We have to talk to each other if we want to improve education. It seems to us that we can’t complain about a lack of communication while keeping our heads down in our own silos. For this reason, Yana and I started the Learning Scientists community.

Please help us spread the word, and open lines of communication between all education experts. There are many opportunities for you to get involved: Tell colleagues outside of psychology about this work, follow us on Twitter and tweet at us, comment on our blog, or even write a piece on something you’re passionate about and send it to us. You can get in touch with us through our website via our “contact us” tab, or on Twitter @AceThatTest.

LScientists Banner200x849About the authors:

MeganSmithMegan Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at Rhode Island College. She received her Master’s in Experimental Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and her PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Purdue University. Megan’s area of expertise is in human learning and memory, and applying the science of learning in educational contests. 

YanaWeinsteinYana Weinstein is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She received her PhD in Psychology from University College London and had 4 years of postdoctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis. The broad goal of her research is to help students make the most of their academic experience. 

Together they co-founded the Learning Scientists (@AceThatTest on Twitter) to make scientific research more accessible to students and educators.

 

 

ali

How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution Using Psychology and Harry Potter

Check out the first episode of The Psych Show where Ali Mattu, PhD, walks viewers through the psychology of sticking to your New Year’s resolution using Harry Potter.

Dr. Ali Mattu is a former APAGS Chair and is currently a clinical psychologist at Columbia University. He hosts The Psych Show, which launched in January 2015 and aims to make psychology, the brain, and behavioral sciences fun and easy to understand.

Do you know what to expect as you transition from college to graduate school in psychology?

Being an Undergrad Isn’t Like Being a Grad Student

Do you know what to expect as you  transition from college to graduate school in psychology?

Do you know what to expect as you transition from college to graduate school in psychology? (Source: “Graduate School of Social Service Diploma Ceremony” by Bruce Gilbert on Flickr. Some rights reserved. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

There is a lot of advice out there about the transition from high school to college. What I have rarely seen is any discussion about the many changes students face when they transition from college to a Master’s or Doctoral program in psychology. Here, I provide some personal reflections on some of those changes.

Commuter life
Living on campus as an undergrad, I had the opportunity to become involved in many extracurricular activities, stay out late around campus, get out of bed just in time for classes — and with luck, still be an “A” student. As a graduate commuter, there seemed to be less of an opportunity to feel as connected to individuals and even the college as a whole. I had to really put in effort to get to know people outside of class. It was easier then to just grab a cup of coffee with someone after class or possibly run into them in the residence hall. While my graduate school cohort made a conscious effort to get together throughout the year, it many times took a lot of planning!

Program Size
As a graduate student, there was also a feeling of being such a small presence on campus. In college, I attended a large state school with over 20,000 students. Later, I had to get used to only about 60 people total in my program or only 7 in my cohort. I was no longer one of thousands of undergraduate students. I’m not saying that one is better or worse but it was definitely a shift!

Workload
My undergrad schedule consisted of mostly large classes where we completed many readings, took multiple choice exams, wrote 2-3 page papers, and had the very rare group project. Conversely, I like to think of most of my graduate school classes consisting of the 3 P’s: papers, projects, and presentations. I have had greater opportunity to collaborate with others which can be hard to coordinate due to vastly different schedules. In terms of papers, if your writing skills aren’t up to par before you start graduate school, they will definitely be developed by the end! Writing a 10-15 page paper doesn’t feel like such a daunting task as it once did. Graduate school isn’t about being able to memorize rote facts towards an exam anymore. Being in graduate school is one step closer to being in the profession: So much of what is learned in the classroom is directly applicable to the future.

Being in graduate school is one step closer to being in the profession: So much of what is learned in the classroom is directly applicable to the future.

Work-Life Balance
In grad school, I’ve struggled the most with work-life balance and maintaining relationships. Trying to juggle 2-3 days of externship, working part-time as an adjunct at a local college, taking 4-5 classes per semester, and conducting research really made it difficult to even begin to have any type of social life! When I was in the earlier years of my program, my friends would always invite me out and most of the times I had to decline. As the years progressed, the invitations came less frequently, which was a bit disheartening. Having social support is really important and I’ve come to learn other ways to keep in touch with friends while also getting my work done.

As a minority student
One of the interesting aspects I’ve gotten used to is being more of a racial and ethnic minority in school. Although in my head I knew the statistics about the representation of students of color within graduate psychology programs, it still felt surprising to me how salient my minority status has become to me. Being a Black graduate student, it has become more important for me to get involved with issues of diversity than it did as an undergrad. While I had been involved in diverse student groups, I felt more compelled to become active in groups such as the Association of Black Psychologists and APA Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race) in order to receive support, network, and develop both personally and professionally.

Overall Advice
My suggestion is to put in the effort to maintain your relationships, hobbies, spirituality, and your sense of self in graduate school. While getting into a program is a great achievement and deserves your best, you can only give your best when you feel at your best so it’s important to do whatever needs to be done to stay on top of your game!

Allyson Regis

Editor’s note: Allyson Regis is a fifth-year counseling psychology doctoral student at Fordham University.  For more on the leap from undergraduate and graduate training, read this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. To participate in a November 6, 2014 webinar with APAGS on finding and evaluating the right graduate program for you, sign up here

Overcoming 3 Common Dissertation Pitfalls

Most students find writing the dissertation to be the most daunting aspect of graduate school. When it comes to the dissertation, they feel overwhelmed and ill equipped, they doubt their abilities, and many give up before finishing. So challenging is the dissertation, that some have estimated that as many as 50% of graduate students are ABD (“all but dissertation”), which means students leave graduate school having met all requirements except the dissertation.

But it does not have to be this way!
Based on my many years of experience or working with doctoral students, I have discovered that there are some very common pitfalls and misconceptions about the dissertation that cut across nearly all graduate students and block their dissertation progress. The good news is that these problems are all fixable! Due to space limitations, in the rest of this blog, I briefly highlight 3 problems students frequently encounter and provide tips on overcoming them. For more detailed information on these and other common problems and tips, or for individualized assistance, contact me (tamara@thedisscoach.com).
Problem 1: “I’m too busy to write.”

Graduate students are notoriously busy! In addition to working on their dissertations, students in the PhD clinical psychology program where I teach also have to juggle taking classes, studying, teaching classes, seeing clients, conducting other research, writing journal articles, preparing conference presentations, and their personal interests and responsibilities. It’s a tall order; who has time to write! Actually there is more time than you might think. Graduate students (like everyone else) waste a lot of time that could be spent writing. Some time wasters are obvious such as time spent on facebook or checking email. But some time wasters are not as obvious.

  • Examples given by graduate students I talked to are time spent organizing articles, organizing one’s workspace, and preparing to write. Getting organized is important, but spending too much time on it leaves very little, if any, time for actual writing. A solution is to first create a daily grid and keep track of how you spend your time so that you become aware of what your time wasters are and how much time you waste.
  • Next, get rid of the obvious time wasters such as email and facebook by making their use contingent upon meeting your writing goals. Get rid of the subtle time wasters by scheduling organization time into your calendar as separate from your scheduled writing time. This ensures you devote adequate time to organizing, but when it’s time to write, organizing ends. If you lapse into your favorite time wasters when you are supposed to be writing, stop yourself! Remember that you have other places in your schedule for those activities so carefully guard your writing time and only do writing during writing time.

Problem 2: Many graduate students mistakenly believe that they cannot begin writing until they are able to have an extended period (say 2 hours) of uninterrupted time to devote to writing.

Since they rarely have such large blocks of time in their schedules, the result is that weeks (and months) go by and students never begin writing, believing that they did not have enough time. Research shows that those who write in shorter spurts of time are more productive than those who write in binges and they tend to find writing more enjoyable. The solution is to change your thinking and start writing in 30-minute blocks of time. Why 30 minutes?

  • Because most people can find 30-minute blocks in their schedules. Decide in advance which specific section of your project you will work on so that when the time for writing comes, you can get started right away (rather than spending your 30-minute writing time getting organized). Write as much as you can and when the time is up, stop writing. If you write for 30 minutes every day, by the end of a week, you will have spent 3 hours writing! If you wait for a 3-hour block of time to appear in your schedule, by the end of a week, you will have spent 0 hours writing!

Problem 3: Mismanagement of negative emotions. Working on the dissertation is often associated with negative thoughts (e.g., “I am incompetent,” “they made a mistake admitting me into this program”) and negative emotions (e.g., fear, anxiety).

These thoughts and feelings, if not managed properly, feed on one another and result in behaviors that are self-sabotaging. Take procrastination as an example. I had a student with lots of negative thoughts and emotions associated with his dissertation that would overwhelm him every time he tried to work on it, so rather than work on his dissertation he would over commit to other activities (e.g., teaching, taking on more clients, household chores). These activities allowed him to avoid his fears and insecurities while still feeling like he was busy doing important work that had to get done. While procrastination provides temporary relief from unwanted thoughts and feelings, the problem is these avoidance tactics prevent students from making progress on their dissertations, and that lack of progress fuels even more negative thoughts and feelings which lead to more procrastination; a vicious cycle. A solution is to recognize how your behaviors, especially those that interfere with your dissertation, are influenced by your thoughts and feelings. Applying principles of cognitive and cognitive-behavioral theory are helpful in this regard.
These are just 3 of the most common pitfalls graduate students experience while trying to complete their dissertations. There are others that are common and some that are unique to particular situations. Regardless of the problem you are having, the solution is to get active in figuring out the problem and what to do about it. If you have tried to do that and it is not working, there are other options such as seeking the assistance of a dissertation coach. Dissertation coaches can be particularly helpful if you have spent an inordinate amount of time spinning your wheels on your dissertation rather than making real progress, if your dissertation chairperson is not providing the guidance and support you need, or if you are at the beginning of your dissertation and you want someone to help you get set up for the road ahead. A dissertation coach can help you devise strategies and step-by-step plans to keep you making steady progress.

Editor’s note: This post was written by Tamara L. Brown, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Psychology; University of Kentucky. It originally appeared on the Multicultural Mentoring blog by the Society of Clinical Psychology’s Section on the Clinical Psychology of Ethnic Minorities. (APA Division 12, Section 6). It is reposted here with generous permission. Over time, you will see all eight original posts on gradPSYCH Blog.

 

Author photo courtesy Dr. Gardner.

Dear me, future psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Howard Gardner

It’s time for the second installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

Author photo courtesy Dr. Gardner.

Howard Gardner (source: author’s own).

This letter is from Howard Gardner, PhD. Dr. Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero. He is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, a critique of the notion that there exists but a single human intelligence that can be adequately assessed by standard psychometric instruments. During the past two decades, Gardner and colleagues at Project Zero have been involved in the design of performance-based assessments; education for understanding; the use of multiple intelligences to achieve more personalized curriculum, instruction, and pedagogy; and the quality of interdisciplinary efforts in education. For more info, please visit Dr. Gardner’s website.

DEAR-ME

FROM THE DESK OF HOWARD GARDNER:

Dear Howie,

For your bar mitzvah, cousin Walter gave you book plates decorated with three pictures: a book cover (you love to read); a musical score  (you are an avid classical pianist); and a spade (you are a gard(e)ner). Those icons capture you: not athletic, not particularly social (though you have close friends), eager to go to college and to test yourself in a world wider than Scranton, Pennsylvania.

This year, Uncle Fred gave you a psychology textbook. I doubt that you knew about this subject—except for Fred, your family is not oriented toward academics. But as you leafed through the book, a picture caught your eye: the Ishihara test for color blindness. Severely color blind, you have pondered how the world looks to others. But you had not realized that scientists can study color-blindedness and elucidate what you can and cannot see.

I became a research psychologist. Though color blind, myopic, without stereoscopic vision, and prosopagnosic (all intriguing conditions!), I nonetheless elected to study artistic vision. I wrote my doctoral thesis on how individuals recognize the styles of visual artists; I was a founding member of Harvard Project Zero, a research group focused on artistic cognition; and I belong to two artistic boards (the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and New York’s Museum of Modern Art). Clearly the seed planted by Uncle Fred benefited from the gardening suggested by cousin Walter.

“Howie” in his school yearbook (source: author’s own).

By no means do I urge you to become a psychologist. (Even twenty-five years ago, I realized that neuroscience and genetics were equally germane for my scholarly interests).   I urge you not to take the line of least resistance for a bright Jewish boy— becoming a doctor or a lawyer. I’d add that you should not unreflectively follow those of your peers who feel that they need either become a management consultant (McKinsey) or an investment banker (Goldman Sachs).

I know that you don’t believe in reincarnation or in an afterlife. You only get one shot on earth, and it could terminate at any time. I have two recommendations that you’ve heard from others. But since they come from someone who shares your DNA, I hope that they have added credibility:

1. Follow your passion, your love, do what you most want to do vocationally and avocationally. Don’t worry about how much money you will make or what others will think.  If you embrace your interests and follow them well, you will be fine.

2. Think beyond your own needs and desires; serve the wider community. Following my quarter century of psychological research, I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to understand how individuals become good workers and good citizens and trying to help people your age pursue and embrace these broader forms of service.

Given your many talents and your supportive family, I have full confidence that you’ll make us proud of what you accomplish and how you accomplish it.

Howard

 

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for curating these.