Saturday, September 29, 2012

Therese Huston - Teaching What You Don't Know Well

Hello all!

Sorry this has taken me so long to blog about but you know how grad school life goes!  Last week ITLAL in partnership with our Ed Psych RGSO, the School of Ed, and the GSO hosted a wonderful event where we welcomed Therese Huston to the University for a 2-day workshop entitled "Teaching What You Don't Know Well -- And Staying Just Ahead of Your Students."  Therese is the author of the book Teaching What You Don't Know (, a must read for any current or future teachers.  In fact, I believe it is a required text for our EPSY 780.  I highly recommend reading it, and I am proud to say that I now own a signed copy :)  

Therese is really a great speaker and commands the attention of her audience.  She has a great attitude, is very personable and just exudes a sense of confidence and comfort I hope to have one day when I am in front of an audience.  And her workshop definitely gave me some tools and strategies to get me on my way!  She opened Thursday's workshop by presenting 3 questions that would be answered by the end:  

1. Why might I have to teach topics I don't know well?  
2. When does expertise help and when does it get in the way?  
3. How can I do this kind of teaching well and enjoy it? 

Now I'm not going to give all the details of the workshop away (GO READ HER BOOK!) but we talked about what the current job market looks like for faculty and how general education programs are changing and how at some point, whether we like it or not, we're probably going to have to teach something we don't feel like we are experts in.  We talked about the positives and negatives of being put in this position - why some people hate it and why others might welcome it.  She also discussed different stages of mastery and how being an expert in something might actually have some disadvantages for teaching (e.g. it may interfere with your ability to effectively communicate because you are unconscious of your level of competence).  It was at this moment that I really felt some of the pressure lift off my shoulders (You mean we don't have to be a content expert and know everything about everything before we teach?  Whew!  We're just graduate student instructors and don't know everything!).  Therese pointed out that content novices actually have a lot of advantages:  they make more accurate estimates about time on task, task difficulty, and first-timer's mistakes; they offer concrete explanations; and they use more student-friendly examples.  The disadvantage is that they tend to use fewer abstract concepts which makes it harder to transfer ideas to new problems.  So!  A big note to self - as a content novice, abstract concepts and knowledge transfer is an area to focus on to improve your teaching.  Therese provided great stories of some of the people she interviewed when doing research for her book.  She also described how she characterized the people she studied (AGAIN GO READ HER BOOK!) and gave us strategies for how to be in the "Poised and Confident" group (e.g. think past being a "knowledge dispenser", take control of the choices you can, talk with a content expert, tell someone you're still learning).  We also talked about time management, how to answer questions you don't really know the answers to, and student perceptions of teacher credibility.  I was personally very surprised to learn that a lot of perceptions of credibility are things tied to the learning environment itself -- not necessarily your content expertise (e.g. have a clear syllabus and follow it, show up on time, remind students of due dates, be clear of your expectations of your students, ask if your students understand).  

Definitely a superb event!  Great guest, great food, great discussion and activities to get us involved.  Many of us feel much better about teaching undergraduate classes now that we have these strategies and tips and to know that we're not alone in our anxiety (which has been significantly reduced thanks to this workshop!).  A big thank you to Mary Beth, Zach, the GSO, ITLAL, the Ed Psych RGSO, and most importantly, Therese Huston.  We hope to have more events like this in the future!  Check out the photos from this event on the Event Photos page on this blog, as well as the MyInvolvement page:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

MyInvolvement Student Group Challenge

Greetings Ed Psychies,

The Ed Psych RGSO has entered into the Student Group Challenge on MyInvolvement.  1st place prize is $400, 2nd place $300, 3rd place $100 to be used by the RGSO for future events. We need to update our site on MyInvolvement and get as many people to join and use the site as possible!  So if you haven't already please join by going to the following link:  If you've never been on MyInvolvement before you might have to register and create a profile first but then make sure you join Educational Psychology and Methodology Graduate Student Organization!  And start posting on the wall (e.g. introduce yourself and say hi!).

As part of the challenge we need to create a header image/logo/banner that will appear at the top of our MyInvolvement page (much like a Facebook cover photo).  If you would like to submit a banner please email it to me at by October 1st!  You will be helping us meet the criteria for the 1st and 2nd place prizes of the Student Group Challenge if we have multiple banners.  The dimensions are as follows:

Image size limits: 960px x 150px (if smaller, image will be left justified)
File size limit: 100KB
Supported file types: JPG (RGB only), PNG, GIF

We are open to any and all ideas that represent the Ed Psych program/RGSO!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

This is my first post as the new Social Web Manager. Hi. I'm Holly. I am new to blogging so please bear with me. As we start our second week of classes with Labor Day off, I hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend and sunshine!!

Last week our division held the Welcome/Welcome Back Orientation and it was great to see so many familiar faces as well as meet many of the new students! 30+ people - including faculty and students - were in attendance and I hope everyone will continue to come to these events!  

We held our division RGSO elections at the orientation and I would like to extend congratulations to the following Ed Psychies who have been elected as the 2012-2013 Ed Psych RGSO officers:

President: Angela Lui
VP: Mary Beth Arcidiacono
Secretary: Hirah Mir
Treasurer: Jenna McLain
   Justin Chase
   Holly Meredith
   Jessica Lamendola
   Shufen Wang
   Fusun Sahin

They are being put straight to work as the first RGSO meeting of the semester is being held tomorrow!  Looking forward to a great year working with you all :)

Last but certainly not least, at the orientation we talked about an exciting ITLAL event coming up that I urge everyone to attend if they can!  Therese Huston is coming to UAlbany on Thursday September 20, 3:00-5:00pm, and also Friday September 21, 10:30am-12:00pm.  She is the author of the book: "Teaching What You Don't Know" which is an excellent resource for graduate students and professors about university teaching and learning.  The Thursday event is geared more towards graduate students while the Friday event is more for faculty, but you can attend either/both!  Regardless of your status and experience and how long you've been in the Ed Psych program, you should check it out!  In order to attend, you have to register first through the ITLAL website.  Here's the link to register:


Spots may fill up quickly as we anticipate this to be a popular event so sign up ASAP!