Cognitive Psychologist building a passion for learning and student success by day; deep thinker, memory guru, and satisfactory mom by night.
Like many college students, no one ever taught me how to learn. To prepare for a college test I often pulled an all-nighter to cram material the night before, read my notes to memorize material, and highlighted important concepts in a textbook. Little did I know that these strategies do not lead to remembering overtime! I do now, and am on a journey to teach college students successful strategies through a program called LEARN.
I am a Cognitive Psychologist and have been teaching and doing research with undergraduates for 15 years. I have always been passionate about understanding my thoughts. I recently found a book from my childhood called, “Thinking.” It excites me to read it now with my two young boys and discover how much we have learned about cognition and the brain in the thirty years since that book was written.
I am also committed to teach students about how memory works. Most of us feel like our memories are not very good! Here through video and blog posts I share ideas about the things we can do to improve our memory and learning.
Evidence of Teaching Success
Teaching is a very enriching experience for me. The classroom is a laboratory of sorts, as my research is in the areas of memory and cognition. Thus, my teaching informs my scholarly agenda and my research often generates new pedagogy for the classroom. This consistent bridge between teaching and scholarship has been one of the keys to my success as a teacher, researcher, and scholar. I am committed to these goals in my teaching:
I have had teaching success due to my philosophy of reciprocal learning. As we explore topics together, I demonstrate that learning is dynamic and reflective; in other words, we can learn a lot from one another. Such learning I identify as “reciprocal learning.” I want my students to learn something from me. Additionally, I consistently learn how to improve my teaching from my students. I believe that this dynamic relationship of teaching and learning accomplishes shared meaning in the classroom.
I have established goals for my teaching that, when properly maintained, support my teaching philosophy: reciprocal learning
*Click on course for example syllabus
Research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is reflected in classroom research projects. These projects give students critical research experience and also have given me the opportunity to write manuscripts and create scholarly presentations with undergraduates.
These course projects represent the connection between teaching and research in my classes:
*Click on links for addition information
Evidence of Research Success
My research is conducted in a Cognitive Laboratory within the Psychology Department at MSU, Mankato (see left). My research directly benefits from the work of undergraduates. I am a cognitive researcher which means my focus is on topics that provide an understanding of the fundamentals of thinking and memory. My research often involves collecting reaction time data combined with other methods of asking questions; this data is used to make inferences about cognitive processes. In my approach to research I place strong emphasis on experimental design. Undergraduates working in the lab develop a comprehensive skill set in experimental psychology. I also collaborate with colleagues in and out of my department.
Explore my areas of research and supporting papers/presentations below
Cognitive Training for Student Success: Research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Refuting Psychological and other Science-based Misconceptions
I have been working closely with undergraduate students on a program of research investigating psychological misconceptions. The general public and even psychology undergraduates are highly influenced by "pop psychology" and false knowledge about human behavior. As an ambassador for my discipline, I have found great meaning in work that aims to change common pseudoscience. My research has focused on changing incorrect psychological beliefs using cognitive-based experimental methods. One of these methods requires the use of refutation texts. In a refutation text, a misconception is explicitly mentioned and then a detailed description is provided to explain why the misconception is false. These texts have proved to be powerful tools to revise incorrect information.
I have used refutation texts to correct psychological misconceptions in a variety of experiments.
I found that stereotypical knowledge could be measured using the contradiction paradigm while working on my dissertation (e.g., Albrecht & O'Brien, 1993; O'Brien & Albrecht, 1992). This is important because stereotype knowledge is often investigated using explicit measures of stereotypical beliefs, which are difficult to interpret because they allow individuals to moderate their responses as a function of social desirability. The contradiction paradigm is a useful method for measuring the presence of stereotypical knowledge because it is an implicit measure of knowledge activation that does not reflect social desirability.
I have developed several research projects in which participants read short passages containing a target sentence that conflicts with information in long term memory. If the conflicting information is available to the reader then it should disrupt the time to read the target sentence. For example, if a passage contains a reference to a character for which we have stereotypical knowledge, this reference triggers activation of stereotypical knowledge in long term memory. If subsequent text contains information that is inconsistent with activated knowledge then reading time for that text will be disrupted; however, if text contains consistent information then there will be no disruption in reading. I have used this paradigm to access the following stereotypes: occupational, gender-stereotypes, age-related stereotypes, and positive and negative stereotypes, veteran stereotypes, and race-based stereotypes.
Inference Activation and the Memory-based View
Much of my scholarship has been related to work examining the influence of memory activation on individual reading comprehension. Understanding text requires that the reader connect incoming information with information already stored in memory. There are two major components working in the comprehension process: activation and integration. I have examined the activation component within the memory-based framework (e.g., O’Brien & Myers 1999) which was the basis of my masters and dissertation work at the University of New Hampshire under the direction of Dr. Edward O’Brien. Within this framework, whenever the reader encodes information, it produces a signal that is sent to all of memory. The signal is passive in the sense that it is activated by the text and not by the reader. The signal is also unrestricted, potentially making contact with any information that is related, independent of whether it is relevant or not. Related information resonates as a function of the degree of featural overlap with the currently encoded information (see image to right). One part of my program of research has focused primarily on this activation component; specifically, when activated information facilitates comprehension by leading to inferences that fill the gaps in text.
Additional Scholarship Highlights
CONTINUED PROFESSIONAL STUDY
The following section highlights a selection of activities that have most enriched my profession.
Attended the 2015-16 HERS Institute: Higher Education Leadership Development Program at Wellesley College
The HERS Institute is a transformational, leadership development program for women in higher education, founded to fill leadership pipelines across the United States with dynamic women, each capable of ushering their respective institutions into a more inclusive and equitable future.
Attended Science Communication Boot Camp at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University
In this program I learned how improvisation, empathy, and knowledge of audience could best improve my skills in communicating the field of psychology. This content propelled me to design the course, PSYC: 410 Communicating Psychological Science. Program knowledge will assist me in psychological outreach.
SUCCESS WITH STUDENTS
STUDENT GROWTH = PERSONAL GROWTH
My growth as a professor has been at the hands of serving students. Students continue to develop my love for the field of psychology. Advising, teaching, and working on research projects with undergraduates allows me to promote the best our discipline has to offer.
I am proud of my dedication to advising and being committed to student success. Advising students is always a challenge and this work has allowed me to realize how important my job is. Students look to me for advice on many topics, from what courses to pick to major decisions about attending graduate school. I am never surprised about the range of questions and their strong need for a mentor and advocate.
STUDENT GROWTH = RESEARCH EXPERIENCE
The work I do with student researchers is profoundly rewarding. I have directly mentored over 50 undergraduates. The highlight of my professional work is training these students in the rigors of experimental psychology. I am always impressed at the success of my students. I believe research is one of the most important types of academic experiences a student can have. Students completing research are best prepared for employment and professional study.
I have been surprised at the unique opportunities I have had to blend my love for research with a broad goal to provide research support for MSU students (i.e., serving as Director of the Undergraduate Research Center for 3 years, serving on the Undergraduate Research Symposium Committee, and leading the Minn State Undergraduate Research Coordinating Committee).
STUDENT GROWTH = RECOGNITION
Here my service is outlined in several key areas.
Service to Psychology Department & College
Service to the University
Service to Community & Beyond
My initiatives to communicate Psychological Science to the public
Communicating Psychological Science Site
I host the site Communicating Psychological Science along with my colleague, Dr. Emily Stark.
This site uses blogs from students and colleagues from MSU, Mankato to promote public understanding of psychology as a science.
EXPERIENCING PSYCHOLOGY (see marketing material)
A team of department colleagues established and facilitated a collaboration with the
A team of about 50 undergraduate students (see student training guide) informed young children about psychology through fun and interactive demonstrations.
Minnesota Psychology Teachers Workshops
Along with colleague, Dr. Emily Stark, I developed and facilitated a workshop, for regional high school psychology instructors:
1st Annual Minnesota Psychology Teachers Workshop: Teaching the Science of Psychology at the MSU, 7700 France location.