Douglas A. Bernstein

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There are few things I enjoy more than talking to students about psychology, and talking to fellow teachers about the teaching of psychology. If you are interested in having me speak at your conference or other teaching related event, please click the "Learn More" button and let's talk about it!

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Favorite Talks

  1. TEACHING CRITICAL THINKING THROUGH PSYCHOLOGY COURSES (60-90 minutes): This talk focuses on some of the ways psychology teachers and/or graduate teaching assistants can help promote students' critical thinking skills without having to substantially revise their courses or the content of their lectures. It includes a structured five-step system for students to use in practicing critical thinking, along with ideas for high-interest targets for students to critically analyze in class, and on their own.

  2. PROMOTING CRITICAL THINKING AND ACTIVE LEARNING IN PSYCHOLOGY COURSES (60-120 minutes): This talk is similar to the one above, but adds material on the value and use of active learning as well.

  3. WAS IT GOOD FOR YOU, TOO?: KEEPING TEACHING EXCITING FOR US AND FOR THEM (60-90 minutes): This talk for faculty presents ideas for building "highlights" into every class session so as to keep the teacher as interested in the class, year after year, as we want the students to be.

  4. WHAT SHOULD I COVER, AND HOW?: PROBLEMS AND ISSUES IN TEACHING INTRODUCTORY PSYCHOLOGY (60-90 minutes): This talk for introductory psychology teachers and/or graduate teaching assistants presents my views on the relatively limited range of goals that are most appropriate in teaching the course, and the methods that I have found useful in reaching those goals.

  5. CLASSROOM DEMONSTRATIONS FOR INTRODUCTORY PSYCHOLOGY (1-3 hours): This presentation for introductory psychology faculty and/or graduate teaching assistants is designed to familiarize them with a range of high-interest, sometimes dramatic demonstrations they can use in class to help students to better understand and remember psychological concepts, principles, and phenomena.

  6. ACTIVE LEARNING AND PASSIVE STUDENTS (60 minutes): This is a talk for faculty and/or graduate teaching assistants who are looking for ways to combat the passivity of students who expect to do no more than sit and listen during class. A variety of classroom active learning methods will be suggested for use in teaching introductory to advanced psychology courses.

  7. DOES ACTIVE LEARNING WORK? GOOD QUESTION, BUT NOT THE RIGHT ONE. Some research on active learning methods suggests that they are effective teaching tools, while other studies have found them to be no better than traditional lecture methods. The situation is much like the one that began to play out in the 1950s with respect to the effects of psychotherapy. In that realm, it eventually became clear that the question "does therapy work?" was not the right one. It was more important to ask "which therapies result in clinically significant benefits when delivered by whom in what manner to which clients with what problems and how durable are the benefits"? In this talk, I suggest that it is time for researchers in the scholarship of teaching and learning to go beyond asking whether active learning "works" and address instead of a set of deeper questions about it. Doing so will require a more systematic and critical analysis of existing evidence as well as a new generation of research designed specifically to fill in the gaps in our understanding of what active learning methods can and cannot do.

  8. DEALING WITH TEACHING ANXIETY (60 minutes): This talk for faculty and/or graduate teaching assistants in any discipline focuses on the problem of teacher anxiety and offers suggestions for combating it so as to make the classroom more comfortable and productive for both students and teachers.

  9. HOW TO BE A BAD TEACHER (60-90 minutes): This talk is aimed at teachers and/or graduate teaching assistants in any discipline, and focuses on a wide range of teacher behaviors that tend to alienate and de-motivate students. It also includes suggestions for alternative approaches that promote positive student attitudes, increase student motivation, and enhance student learning.

  10. STRANGER THAN TRUTH: STUDENT EXCUSES AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM (60-75 minutes): This presentation for faculty and/or graduate teaching assistants in any discipline describes a wide range of student excuses and then goes on to consider how they can be dealt with and how courses and course policies can be designed so as to build good student-faculty relationships while minimizing the number of excuses that students offer.

  11. IF I'D ONLY KNOWN: TEN IMPORTANT THINGS NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT TEACHING (60-90 minutes): This talk is for faculty and/or graduate teaching assistants in any discipline. It focuses on a list of important teaching goals, methods, and attitudes that I think teachers should be told about by mentors, but usually have to learn for themselves. These include, among others, the importance of being prepared, caring, genuine, flexible, and supportive--but also demanding--when dealing with students.

  12. WEAPONS OF MASS INSTRUCTION: SOME COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR SUCCESS IN TEACHING LARGE CLASSES (60-90 minutes): This talk focuses on the adjustments that teachers and/or graduate teaching assistants in any discipline must make when teaching large-enrollment classes. It includes ideas for creating a positive and intimate classroom atmosphere, for staying calm, in control, and active, and features examples of activities and demonstrations that work especially well in large classes.

    Many teachers complain that today's college and university students display lack of motivation, dependency, irresponsibility, and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. In this talk, which is appropriate for faculty in all disciplines, I suggest that if students really are different nowadays, it is largely because teachers have allowed them to become so. I propose that, much as parenting styles are associated with differing developmental outcomes, the behavior seen in students today is associated with the teaching style that they have most often encountered. I suggest that the range of teaching styles prevailing in higher education is roughly parallel to the authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful parenting styles described decades ago by Diana Baumrind. I describe the dimensions along which these four teaching styles differ, offer some illustrative examples, and examine what I see as the underlying assumptions that practitioners of each style make about the roles, rights, and responsibilities of teachers and students. I make a case for the teaching style that I believe is superior to the others in relation to learning outcomes, students' personal development, and teachers' well-being.

    Like most college and university students in introductory courses in other disciplines, most introductory psychology students—especially non-majors—tend to forget the specifics of what they learned surprisingly soon after the course ends. Further, the typical introduction to psychology does surprisingly little to alter permanently many of the long-held misconceptions about human behavior and mental processes that many students bring to the course. In this talk, I review research on these depressing trends and propose that the best way to reverse them is to transform introductory psychology into a dramatically different course that focuses entirely on combating potentially harmful misconceptions. I present a topic outline for the transformed course and describe some specific ways to organize and teach it that promote both active learning and critical thinking. Finally, I describe a set of research strategies that could be used nationwide to assess both the short- and long-term impact of this new entry level psychology course in comparison to that of the more traditional format.

  15. THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT (90 minutes to 3 hours): This is a presentation for new faculty or graduate students which presents an introduction to the full range of skills needed to set up and conduct a course in psychology, or any other discipline.

  16. PROBLEMS AND ISSUES IN FACULTY-STUDENT RELATIONS (60-90 minutes): This presentation is less a formal talk than it is a listing of problems and issues (such as student diversity, troubled students, disruptive students, dishonest students, sexual harassment and gender) that teachers in all disciplines have to face. The goal of the session is to share ideas on how best to handle these problems and issues.

  17. CRITICAL THINKING AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH METHODS (60 minutes): This is a talk for undergraduates. It is aimed at highlighting the steps in critical thinking, and how those steps are related to scientific research methods.

  18. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF PSYCHOLOGY COURSES AND THE PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR (45-60 minutes): This talk for undergraduates is designed to illustrate some of the ways in which courses in the psychology major can promote and enhance students' ability to think critically and scientifically about a wide range of topics in academic settings and beyond.

  19. APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY: PSYCHOTHERAPY AND WAY BEYOND (45-60 minutes): This is a talk aimed at familiarizing undergraduates with the various fields of applied psychology.

  20. A VERTICAL MODEL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF TEACHING SKILLS (60 minutes): This talk is aimed at administrators and faculty in any discipline. Its theme is that, because the undergraduates of today will be the graduate students and faculty of tomorrow, the quality of any department's teaching programs will, in the long run, be enhanced if every department were to apply teaching improvement programs at all levels of the organization, including faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Examples are provided based on my efforts to develop this vertical teaching model in the psychology department of a major university in the UK.

  21. WRITING EFFECTIVE MULTIPLE CHOICE EXAMINATIONS (1-4 HOURS): This presentation can be offered as a one-hour introduction to the characteristics of effective multiple choice tests, or as a longer workshop which includes the opportunity to critique sample multiple choice items, write a few items and present them to the group, and engage in a discussion about how even good items can be improved.  Additional topics include tips for returning exam scores to students and reviewing the answers to multiple choice tests in large and small classes.

  22. PSYCHOLOGICAL ILLLUSIONS IN EVERYDAY LIFE (60-90 minutes): This is a talk for general audiences of non-psychology faculty and students, or the general public. In it I point out that most of us think we are in touch with reality and that we make our own judgments and decisions, based on logical reasoning. I explain that this may be true sometimes, but in this session I show that our perceptions, memories, and decisions are often wrong, and that we are more strongly affected by social and psychological influences than we realize.

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