Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2011

Faculty Award winner

Alisha Janowsky

 College of Sciences

 Department of Psychology

A student should never leave a psychology course bored...period. My job is to teach human behavior—that cannot be boring!

Like everyone else, students are naÏve psychologists with their own intuitions about why people act as they do. Whether teaching large classes, online classes, or small seminars, my goal is to challenge students‘ preexisting perceptions and get them thinking like scientists. Students enrolled in my courses are asked to bring their theories about human thought and behavior to class, share them with their classmates, and apply class material to these ideas. Achieving these goals provides students with a challenging and memorable learning experience.

To further establish and maintain an environment which encourages participation and meaningful dialogue I utilize humor, student-friendly examples, technology, and multimedia supplements. For example, I use YouTube, pop-culture references, television clips, current events, and comic strips in each class. At first students are simply happy to have breaks from lectures but they come to recognize that the concepts we discuss in class can be seen in their daily lives. Discussion then moves to a new level in which students begin critically thinking about how to apply the material to their lives and communities.

In sum, my philosophy is that educators need to go beyond the “sage on the stage” model. To reach our students we must engage them, establish rapport, hold their attention, and create an open learning community. To avoid the distance that can come from large classroom and online learning, I make sure students know me. I share my life, humor, successes, failures, and enthusiasm for my subject and profession. By setting and maintaining high, consistent standards for my students and encouraging and motivating them to share their ideas and think critically about psychology, students leave my classes with a recognition of, and appreciation for, research and diversity and on a path toward achieving their personal and professional goals.