Friday, February 5, 2016

Northwest Conference on Teaching Introductory Psychology

High school psych teachers in the Northwest area: check out the great line up of speakers at this psych teaching conference:

I've heard both Dr. Nolan and Dr. Gurung before and they are GREAT. I talked with Sue Frantz from Highline College and she said they would love to have high school psych teachers attend. If you end up going, please post a comment and tell us what you learned!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


The fantastic Drew Appleby (psych professor emeritus from Indiana University, and friend to high school psych teachers everywhere) wrote this excellent article about his response to recent "shots" some politicians took at psychology as a major and career path.

"A Call to Arms or a Call to Action: Responding to Governor Rick Scott's Challenge to Psychology"

Besides being a well written and clever article (e.g. "the Sunshine State has launched its second gubernatorial torpedo at psychology in less than four months." - ha!) the article is a great example of a scholar reflecting on an "attack" in a thoughtful way, and turning the situation into a productive educational opportunity. That's what we want to model for students, right?

The article links to two other useful resources:
I think high school psych teachers could use these resources to turn what is usually a lecture/presentation about psychology careers into a participatory project: high school students could answer the question like "Is it a good idea to major in psychology in college if I want a job eventually?" using this and other research, and convince themselves of an answer instead of being told an answer by the text or a teacher.

(thanks Drew!)

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Those in and around the Philadelphia area - there's a seriously cool group of people meeting up on Saturday to talk HS Psych...

Time is 10 am and the location is Cheltenham HS in Wyncote, PA.

More information can be found here!!

Contact Maria Vita at for more info!

-- Posted by Amy Ramponi

Monday, February 1, 2016

"Hack your way to Scientific Glory"

This interactive website is really slick: it's a demonstration of inferential statisitcs - p values - and how "statistical significance" is influenced by factors like samplke size and number of variables included in the calculation.

Note: the content of the website (political party power and economic indicators) might be distracting to some students in some contexts?

The interactive feature is halfway down the page. The text at the top and bottom of the page is interesting too: a good discussion of how we need to be very critical and careful consumers of statistical findings (since data can be "hacked" to produce significance). (Note: some profanity in the text).

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Challenger Explosion, statistics, mistakes, and regrets

A LONG time ago, I wrote an activity called "Using the Challenger Disaster to Help Explain Correlation." I still think it's a good activity - gives students experience with generating/interpreting a scatter plot based on real data - but I've worried that it's "dated." Many/most students in my psychology club haven't heard about the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and those who do remember hearing about it feel like it's ancient history.

But this NPR report/interview made me realize that this is still a very current issue, in some ways, and there are connections to our psychology content that I never realized:

"30 Years After Explosion, Challenger Engineer Still Blames Himself"

One of the engineers (Bob Ebeling) who originally tried to convince NASA to NOT launch the Challenger that day tells his story, and it is heartbreaking. He had all the data, he had the scatterplots, he had the effect sizes/correlation coefficients, and they convinced him that the shuttle would explode. He pleaded with the NASA officials in charge to delay the launch, but they chose not to. And he's been living  with this "failure" ever since. Really, really sad.

Students could do the original activity involving the scatter plots and decision making, and then listen to this engineer's story. Can students think of ways they might have convinced NASA administrators? Concepts that might be involved: groupthink, centeral/peripheral route to persuasion, foot in the door, etc. 

AND students can think about what it might have been like to have these data, to know how important they are, and to not be able to stop a tragedy from happening. Bob Ebeling is convinced he "failed," but I wish he could consider himself (and that the world could consider him) a hero for caring so much about his work and the lives of the astronauts. 

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Can't go wrong with a cute baby video...

Writing prompt for your Learning unit: what parts of this video are examples of
  • Operant Conditioning?
  • Classical Conditioning? 
  • Observational Learning?
  • Schema?
  • Something else?

(Warning: cuteness level pegged at 11 on this one...)

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guess the Correlation game

If you think this is a fun game, you just might be a statistics geek :)

Steve Jones reports that he asked the developer (Omar Wagih) to add negative correlations, and heard back that it's in the works. Adding that feature would make this game even more perfect!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, January 15, 2016

The History of Psychology Rating Game

Christopher Green (who provides us with the fantastic resource "Classics in the History of Psychology") and Shane Martin developed a game we can all play!

Here's Christopher's description of the game:

"Play is extremely simple: The player is shown a pair of significant individuals from the past and asked to click on the name of the person who had the greatest impact on the psychology. If the player needs to refresh his/her knowledge of the figures, there is a short description of their important career highlights, along with a link to their Wikipedia entry. As soon as the player clicks on one of the two names, s/he is shown a new pair to choose from.

Players can play the game for as long as they like, as often as they like, whenever they like. They can quit at any time (though they might find it a little addictive). At the bottom of the page, they will find "top ten” lists that have been compiled from the tens of thousands of choices that they and others have made. (Click on the “Ratings” menu tab and they’ll find the complete list of ranking, along with some specialized top ten lists, including one for women psychologists.)

As well as a game, this is also a research project for us: the PsyBorgs Digital History of Psychology Laboratory at York University in Toronto. When starting the game for the first time, the player is asked three optional demographic questions, and there is a consent form to be “ticked” if the player is willing to allow his/her data to be anonymously included in the research project"

 I played for a while and found it addictive! I ended up skipping many pairings b/c I wasn't familiar with either name, but I enjoyed seeing the match ups, and the "rankings" at the bottom are fascinating (complete list of rankings).

(NOTE: If your district has rules about students participating in research studies, you may want to tell them to NOT click the box to participate in the study and give consent)

Psychology's EloRater Game

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ethically Teaching Psychological Assessment

A while back I posted a blog post about a website that I came across that would be great for our personality units - a website of really cool, original TAT images. I was pumped, but received a message regarding the post from someone much-less-enthusiastic about the post as I was. (I have since deleted the post due the concerns raised.) 

Dr. Ian MacFarlane of Austin College agreed to help educate me (and you, I hope) on why using original TAT, Rorschach or questions from actual IQ tests can be a real ethical dilemma. He also offers some great suggestion on what we CAN do. Here's what he had to say:

Ethically Teaching Psychological Assessment

With so much information at our fingertips, we can easily get primary source material to enrich our classrooms. Showing students pictures of the actual shock machine from Milgram’s study or grainy footage of Watson with Little Albert helps bring concepts to life in a way lecturing cannot. There is one area of psychology, however, where we must practice restraint and actually avoid exposing students to original material: psychological assessment. There are numerous places online where you can find the entire set of Rorschach and Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) cards or sample items from intelligence tests. Our natural instinct is to use this source material in our classrooms, but the problem is psychologists still actively use these assessments in clinical practice. Exposing our students to these stimuli in non-clinical settings can change their responses to these tests if they encounter them later. Thus we need to convey how the assessments work without showing students the exact stimuli used. I offer you a simple method for doing so.

When I teach projective assessment, I usually cover the Rorschach and the TAT. For an in-class activity I take an image I find online to use as an example and have my students write a response as if they were actually being assessed. For Rorschach cards, search “inkblot images” in Google Image search or your favorite image search engine. Since I pass the images out to students for them to refer to later with their notes, I make sure to use an image licensed for reuse via Creative Commons (another search option in Google Image). Here’s an example from Flickr user BradleyLeese and another by DeviantArt user OmniSentinel. Be wary, as a lot of the actual cards are posted all over the web, but you can check the images you find against Wikipedia to be sure it’s not one of the originals. If you want to go a step further, you can have students actually make inkblots of their own. Margaret Peot has a page explaining how to do this as well as several examples. The instructions for the test are to explain what you see in the image.

For the TAT demo, I make sure to search only black-and-white images, and while the real TAT uses drawings exclusively, I don’t think that is essential to understanding the test so I also use photos if I like them. Here you can be creative with search terms, but I like to have multiple people interacting. Here’s an example of a photo I found when I searched for “conversation” (courtesy Flickr user Das Fotoimaginarium), and here’s an example of an engraving in the public domain from 1878 by Ridgway I found when I searched for “arguing.” Searching for images with these types of terms vastly reduces the likelihood that you’ll pull an actual stimulus from the TAT. The instructions for the test are to describe what led up to the moment you are witnessing, what are the characters thinking and feeling, and how does the situation resolve itself?

Explaining the objective assessments, like the MMPI, is typically more straightforward, but it is still important to not use actual items from the assessment. A demo I like to use when I introduce the empirical keying method of the MMPI starts by asking students to raise their hands if they enjoy going to concerts. I inform those who raised their hands they just received a point on the mania scale of the MMPI. While the other students snicker, I inform them they received a point on the hypochondriasis scale. I ask them to make sense of that, and eventually we get into the process used to develop the MMPI. I tell them afterwards that I made up the question, but it still illustrates the process nicely and gets them to think about psychometrics and the importance of norm groups.

Using these simple methods will allow you to confidently simulate the experience of taking a projective assessment while protecting the integrity of these tests so they can continue to be used in clinical settings.

Thanks to Dr. MacFarlane for educating me (Sorry, again!) and for the great suggestions. Ian MacFarlane, PhD (Follow him on Twitter at @I_MacFarlane) is an assistant professor of psychology at Austin College in Sherman, TX. He teaches general psychology, research methods, and several clinical psychology courses.

---- Posted by Amy Ramponi 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Teach Psych Science

I'm gearing up for a new semester of AP Psychology in about 2 weeks and this semester I am starting with Research Methods on Day 1 and pushing History and Perspectives to the end of the semester, right before the exam. (My thought - they just don't have enough background knowledge to navigate the perspectives, and it is always such a struggle. And, my first day lecture is generally on structuralism and functionalism, Wundt, etc... and the first night reading is the whole History chapter with 2453 names and many of my students get overwhelmed with all that content right  off the bat. I'm going to see if moving History and Perspectives to the last unit after Social Psychology will make more sense to them as they'll be able to put all those perspectives, names, theories and movements of psychology into some sort of timeline and framework.)

ANYWAY...while looking around for some new Hindsight Bias, Confirmation Bias and Scientific Method-type activities, I came across this website. It is called "Teach Psych Science" and appears to be a great place to find activities for the teaching of various scientific method-type activities and also statistics and research type activities. The website appears to accompany the following Research Methods text from Macmillan Publishing (which I promptly requested a sample of!)

Teach Psych Science Link 

Discovering the Scientist Within
This great intro to Intuition vs Empirical Reasoning seems like a great way to get kids thinking about psychology as an empirical science for the first day! It is a variation of the "Which Door to Choose" activity.
Other good ones I came across?:

Seriously - get to this website and check it out! Everything here looks amazing and very engaging for the high school psychology classroom. I'm excited to explore some more!!

--- Posted by Amy Ramponi

(Remember that snow and cold I wanted, yeah. It is 7 degrees out today. Low is going to be -1. What was I thinking?!)