Sunday, June 28, 2015

AP Psych workshop in Bellevue, WA

I'm getting the room set up for our AP Psych workshop in Bellevue, WA. I'm a lucky guy: I get to do this workshop every year, and every year I meet fantastic, enthusiastic teachers.

Big crowd this year - 35 teachers if everyone shows up! I'm grateful to the publishers who sent materials.One curiosity this year: Barron's is always nice enough to send plenty of copies of the How to Prepare for the AP Psychology Exam book, and this year we also got a dozen copies of Animals in the Water: My First Noisy Bath Book. Surely I can figure out how to work this into a demo, right? :)

Not sure if anyone will see this post in time but if you do: what advice do you have for workshop attendees? What should they keep in mind this week? I'll pass on the collective wisdom from the group. Let's get learnin'!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Psychology of GIFs

However you pronounce it (are you a "gif" person, or a "jif" person?) , GIFs (short, looping animations/video clips) abound on social media and blog posts. This long blog post includes MANY examples of GIFs and a good discussion about why they are so effective (sometimes) in electronic communication. Includes references to top-down/bottom-up processing, mere exposure effect, selective attention, and other relevant principles.

On Repeat: How to Use Loops to Explain Anything

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Standards-Based Grading (SBG) and Psychology

Hello Everyone,

Today we have a guest blogger, Maggie Payne from Shelby County Schools in Kentucky. I saw her post on Standards-Based Grading on one of the AP Psychology facebook groups and asked her to do a guest post for us. Thank you, Maggie!

I have no experience with this format, so Maggie's expertise and insight are particularly valuable. Check out her experiences below.

At Shelby County High School, we’ve been doing Standards Based Grading (SBG) for 3 years. It was piloted by our Science department and it gained momentum from there. Now the whole school uses it. Before the adoption of SBG, if students failed a test, as a teacher, we could only tell parents that they failed the test with an arbitrary grade behind it. With standards-based grading, we can pinpoint exactly what standards students did not show mastery or proficiency. When the students, and hopefully parents, see their returned test grades they can say, “Okay I really understood the different types of research design, but I really did not understand how to identify the independent variable and dependent variable.”

We do our grading on a 1-4 scale and this is our current grading policy:

1 - 60%
2 - 75%
3 - 85%
4 - 100%

A team of our teachers worked to create a common rubric for the 1-4 scale:
4 – The learner knows all of the simple knowledge and skills, all of the complex knowledge and skills and may go beyond what was taught in class to apply the knowledge.
3 – The learner knows all of the simple knowledge and skills, and some of the complex knowledge and skills.
2 – The learner knows all of the simple knowledge and skills.
1 – With help, the learner knows some of the simple knowledge and skills.
0 – Even with help, the learner does not know any of the simple or complex knowledge and skills. Does not attempt (SCHS Standards Based Grading Policy 2015-2016)

Our computer grade book system is Infinite Campus, and we use strictly the 1-4 scale. We also set up our grade books to be 90% summatives, 10% formatives. So all the little daily work counts, they need to do it for understanding, but tests, projects, papers are where they are really assessed. The consensus in our building was that we should design our classes so that they are similar to the college experience. I usually do not take up daily work. If it’s a little daily quiz over a specific standard, I will count that as a formative to see their progress on that standard and potentially if I need to reteach. One pain in my patella is kids always ask, “Is this a 90 or 10% grade?” So they think if it’s 10%, they don’t/shouldn’t have to do it.

Our tests are designed to assess standards. So the theory behind SBG is that students mastered “standards” or skills that we want them to know. This was my first year to really dive in deep into SBG with Psychology, so it is by no means perfect. But what I suggest starting with the AP objectives for each unit, or if you are teaching regular psych, use the objectives in the book that are at the beginning of each chapter. I created my own power standards on which to focus. In the screenshot above, I hovered over my unit test on Motivation and Emotion, with standard 5.3 focusing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, intrinsic, and extrinsic motivation. Most students did well on that specific standard, with an average of 3.05.

When students do not do well on a summative, such as receiving a 1 or a 2, it is our school’s policy that they can remediate. Again, this is beneficial to the student, parent, and teacher because I can look at their summative and say that they really didn’t understand Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and that’s what they need to remediate and retest over. Not the whole entire Motivation and Emotion Unit summative. Remediation should be some form of work, exploration, reteaching activity, etc. and then we review it again with students. Once they have done these things, they should be ready to retest. The new summative should not be exactly the same as the old, and the new grade replaces the old in the grade book as well.

On my tests, I usually have the standards listed out and the questions underneath them. In my grade book, if there are 5 standards on that unit test, then there will be 5 grades in the computer. So there isn’t really one exam grade, there are five. But if they got 2, 2, 3, 1, 4, for example, you would know they need to go back and remediate that 4th standard for sure. In the picture above I have a sample standard from my unit summative on Research Methods. I have the standard listed out and then the corresponding questions below.

Not all standards have to be assessed by multiple choice exams, but I understand if you are teaching AP Psychology and need students to practice timed MC questions. For this unit as well, I had them design an experiment, test their hypothesis, and write an abstract for a potential psychological journal. This was a different kind of summative assignment and therefore not included on the MC assessment. There are a few caveats to SBG. When working on specific skills, some teachers in our building will replace that summative grade over time in the grade book as students progress throughout the year. Other teachers will just create a new grade.

Also, for MC assessments, I find it’s easier to just figure out their percentage, and assign the corresponding SBG grade:
4 – 90%-100%
3 – 80%-89.9%
2 – 66%-79%
1 – 1%-65%
0 – All wrong, no relevant information, nonsense, etc. (SCHS Standards Based Grading Policy 2015-2016) Multiple choice might be easier to assess, but it’s not always the best. Essays and projects really lend themselves well to SBG.

Standards-based grading seemed really overwhelming to all of us at first. But once you get practice with it and the students really understand the purpose behind SBG, it is a better grading system.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I would be more than happy to help!
-Maggie Payne 
Shelby County High School
Shelbyville, Kentucky

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Amy Poehler's Smart Girls: Just Breathe

On her website, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, there is a video entitled, "Just breathe." It is a wonderful short examining what happens to the body and brain when we get angry or excited and how to counteract the rush of emotions. Great video and ideas to control emotions.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Psychology Teacher Resources by THSP

In an attempt to share resources among teachers in the modern world, we tried the 4-shared database for a number of years. Over time, it became clunky and unwieldy. Then I created a google site as a prototype, but the data allowed on any one site was minimal and links needed to be added rather than files being uploaded.

Then Google Drive came to us through a variety of suggestions. The current organization is much like the blog, with the units being numbered consistent with the AP Psych course outline--14 units.

The link for the drive can be found here:

If you have an outstanding assignment that you would like to add to the mix, please send the file to this email or send us a link for us to download, review, and add the file to the drive.

The email for this new GDrive account is:

We are uploading only items that are commonly shared/personally created and that are not copyright violations, so no videos or other works that are owned by someone else. We can access those via other methods.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are we done yet?

 Today is the last day for students in my district - are you all done? Are you ready for summer? Hope that your year ended/is ending well, and hope that you get a well-deserved break!

We'll keep posting resources here on the blog, and if any of you get energized this summer and want to give us resources to post, please holler! (links to our emails are in the left column, under "THSP Moderators")

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sympathy v Empathy

RSA Animates is now doing a short series of videos called "espresso for the mind". The first one I found is called "Sympathy versus Empathy." It does a great job of explaining how one should be listening to someone with a problem as well as cite our typical responses that create disconnection. Thanks to Brene Brown and RSA for this video.

Just excellent.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Potential Job in London

I was forwarded this email by an American Psych colleague to share for those who may be interested in teaching in London. Below are details and contact information. This information is for sharing purposes only.

We are looking for an experienced AP Psychology teacher, knowledge of the IB Diploma programme is advantageous. Any assistance you could provide in posting this position in a suitable forum would be most appreciated. Our website is and you can use my email ( as the person to contact. - Christopher Walker, Principal

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, May 15, 2015

MIT Videos

I was reading my weekly Scout report and they wrote about a video repository that MIT has online at
Here is the link for a psychology search:

This is Zimbardo's talk on how people do evil things:

Here is another talk on the brain and disorders:

There are quite a few others with psych connections. These videos are for professionals who wish to learn, they are not geared toward high school students.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dive into Research!

Toward the end of the year, some teachers look for "let's pull it all together" activities. Psychology students often hear about research studies, and summaries of studies, but it can be VERY useful for students to actually dive into published studies as a critical thinking exercise. Students have been studying psychology for the whole course - now can they apply their knowledge and "think like a psychologist" about research?

Here are some resources that might be useful if any of you want to tackle this:
  • Christopher Green developed and maintains a great archive of "Classics in the History of Psychology" - you can find many/most of the older classic studies in their original form. Students could read the original publication and compare it with the summaries made in textbooks and elsewhere.
  • Many teachers use the 40 Studies that Changed Psychology book as a resource - great, important studies, good summaries.
  • The Whitman Journal of Psychology publishes high school student psych research - these studies are written by high school students and may be shorter/more accessible (and may contain "flaws" that students should be able to identify?)
  • Glenn Duggan (@GlennDuggan) sent this fascinating, in-depth article about how science can go "wrong." This is high-level reading, but could be a great article for students who are ready to think critically about the reliability and validity of research findings:

Please share other resources in the comments and I'll update this post. Happy researching!

posted by Rob McEntarffer