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Teaching Philosophy and Approach
I know that psychology is a fascinating science, and my goal for teaching is to seek the motivations (hidden or not) within students that they believe the same. It is satisfying hearing students express an appreciation for a given topic of study that they did not know they had: a previous research assistant in my lab at UCSB came to work there for this exact reason. To locate these motivations, I believe in four crucial pedagogical principles: appreciation for the scientific method, critical thinking, active learning, and humor.
Appreciation for the Scientific Method. My approach to teaching stems from the scientific community, where the body of knowledge is constantly changing. I want students to leave my classes with the knowledge of the basic tenets of the scientific method and the understanding and appreciation that psychological science is rooted in rigorous methods and quantitative analysis, and that psychology is much more than what is typically known. This helps students to be better consumers of science and better analyzers of various psychological claims in popular media. This latter point has been a welcome addition to my classes, where examples include popular news headlines or public service announcement videos. In my evaluations, students consistently comment on my ability to ground each topic in the real world.
Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is crucial for any novice scientist and the task of the instructor is to create an environment that engenders critical assessment. Students must actively pursue deeper understanding and knowledge of any given topic, and not rely solely on the authority of the instructor. In my Experimental Psychology (methods) courses, I have incorporated laboratory report writing. Students replicate a classic study and analyze their own data, then describe the theory, method, results, and conclusions in an APA paper. Student evaluations have consistently pointed to this exercise as challenging, but rewarding and effective. In my Health Psychology courses, I adopted a set of small assignments focused on students’ own health behaviors that uses the framework of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change; this assignment delivers an esoteric theory into practical application for the students. Comments by students have suggested it is refreshing to actively engage in the material. As another example of critical assessment, I had students in my Social Cognition course analyze a recent popular Hollywood film that explored artificial intelligence (AI). They discussed and analyzed the human-human interactions and the human-AI interactions using course concepts. The students made excellent and thoughtful replies to these prompts, and I plan to use this film assignment again if given the opportunity.
Active Learning. For learning to transfer beyond the context and situation of the course itself, I strive for an environment and assessments that promote active engagement with the material. This shapes the cognitions of the learner to be more generative. This principle is connected to the principle of appreciation for the scientific method, as it is grounded in recent educational research. The health behavior change assignment I described above is one example of this principle in action. Notably, I am currently utilizing an experiential learning project for my Introductory Psychology courses, whereby students volunteer in the community, review films, evaluate their strengths, and review psychology media articles individually and in groups to understand and incorporate basic psychological principles in their daily lives. They then share these experiences online through social media. In my current Cognition course, I am using an interactive laboratory component called CogLab, which immerses students in classic cognitive psychology studies to show them how their thoughts translate to behavior and how scientists measure these phenomena.
Humor. Research has shown that humor improves memory. I aim to create an atmosphere of lightheartedness, engagement, and alertness by using targeted humor throughout learning activities and lectures. My humor is perhaps the most frequent comment I receive when students evaluate my classes—a great indication that the method is working. My use of humor not only makes the class environment less tense, but typically makes otherwise dry material worth a listen. I typically receive comments that reflect my energy and enthusiasm for the material, citing that the class is entertaining.

Teaching Experience and Mentoring Relationships
As an instructor, I have taught at a small liberal arts college, a large private university, and a large regional public university. Each of these institutions presented their respective challenges. At Mount Mary University, an all-women’s undergraduate liberal arts institution, I have taught several sections of Introductory Psychology (approx. 25 students per section) and a section of Health Psychology (20 students). At Marquette University, I have taught a section of Cognition (50 students) and a section of Social Psychology (50 students). At the University of California, Santa Barbara, I taught Experimental Psychology (4x, class sizes approx. 65 students), Health Psychology (3x, including a 330-student Winter quarter lecture), Social Cognition (once, approx. 150 students), and Advanced Research Methods Lab (once, 25 students). Additional teaching experiences as a teaching assistant (TA) include Human Memory, Introductory Statistics, and Lab in Human Memory and Cognition. In each course, I incorporate my philosophy, regardless of the course’s content. I value my experiences as a TA and they are complementary to my instructor experiences.
I have successfully taught undergraduates at all levels and for majors and non-majors. The students in my classes have been extremely diverse (culturally, socioeconomically, and crucially, college preparedness); these experiences, coupled with my experiences and training at California State University, Northridge (a nationally-recognized minority-serving institution), have been rewarding and exciting. I understand and am sensitive to the needs of a diverse student population. This immersion in diverse and minority populations has shaped my approach to teaching and my focus on active learning, which has the potential to bridge preparedness gaps.
At UCSB, I received a Certificate in College and University Teaching (CCUT), an interdisciplinary program designed to increase competency in college-level teaching. Students complete an extensive portfolio, reflecting on multiple years of training. I participated in additional training opportunities that included a blended training program (online and face-to-face), designed to support new instructors in planning and conducting their courses. I later served as a peer-facilitator of this program. I have participated in and conducted workshops in practical teaching issues and the use of technology in the classroom. Last, I participated in curriculum issues at UCSB, serving on my department’s Graduate Affairs committee, and on a campus-wide Program Review Panel, where I assisted senior faculty with the evaluation of degree programs on campus, which included suggesting changes to graduate and undergraduate curricula.
Along with teaching, I am equally passionate about mentoring students in research. I have mentored eight undergraduate research assistants, one honors thesis student, and one high school student advisee. I value the relationships I develop and aim to make them personal teaching experiences. I seek out qualified assistants and those with a drive to learn more about the research process and psychological science, and I endeavor to invite students from underrepresented and minority groups to join the lab. These students have excelled in their research roles: one recent project was presented at a conference and I have integrated it into my future research program. The honors thesis was invited for publication in a university journal. Two of the projects received funding and the students presented their ideas at an undergraduate research colloquium. My first assistant at UCSB, a first-generation college student, was inspired by my passion for teaching, completing a service commitment for Teach for America and remaining in low-income child education. These experiences demonstrate that with the right tutelage, undergraduate involvement in research can be more rewarding than merely reading about the final research product.Teaching Philosophy and Approach
I know that psychology is a fascinating science, and my goal for teaching is to seek the motivations (hidden or not) within students that they believe the same. It is satisfying hearing students express an appreciation for a given topic of study that they did not know they had: a previous research assistant in my lab at UCSB came to work there for this exact reason. To locate these motivations, I believe in four crucial pedagogical principles: appreciation for the scientific method, critical thinking, active learning, and humor.
Appreciation for the Scientific Method. My approach to teaching stems from the scientific community, where the body of knowledge is constantly changing. I want students to leave my classes with the knowledge of the basic tenets of the scientific method and the understanding and appreciation that psychological science is rooted in rigorous methods and quantitative analysis, and that psychology is much more than what is typically known. This helps students to be better consumers of science and better analyzers of various psychological claims in popular media. This latter point has been a welcome addition to my classes, where examples include popular news headlines or public service announcement videos. In my evaluations, students consistently comment on my ability to ground each topic in the real world.
Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is crucial for any novice scientist and the task of the instructor is to create an environment that engenders critical assessment. Students must actively pursue deeper understanding and knowledge of any given topic, and not rely solely on the authority of the instructor. In my Experimental Psychology (methods) courses, I have incorporated laboratory report writing. Students replicate a classic study and analyze their own data, then describe the theory, method, results, and conclusions in an APA paper. Student evaluations have consistently pointed to this exercise as challenging, but rewarding and effective. In my Health Psychology courses, I adopted a set of small assignments focused on students’ own health behaviors that uses the framework of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change; this assignment delivers an esoteric theory into practical application for the students. Comments by students have suggested it is refreshing to actively engage in the material. As another example of critical assessment, I had students in my Social Cognition course analyze a recent popular Hollywood film that explored artificial intelligence (AI). They discussed and analyzed the human-human interactions and the human-AI interactions using course concepts. The students made excellent and thoughtful replies to these prompts, and I plan to use this film assignment again if given the opportunity.
Active Learning. For learning to transfer beyond the context and situation of the course itself, I strive for an environment and assessments that promote active engagement with the material. This shapes the cognitions of the learner to be more generative. This principle is connected to the principle of appreciation for the scientific method, as it is grounded in recent educational research. The health behavior change assignment I described above is one example of this principle in action. Notably, I am currently utilizing an experiential learning project for my Introductory Psychology courses, whereby students volunteer in the community, review films, evaluate their strengths, and review psychology media articles individually and in groups to understand and incorporate basic psychological principles in their daily lives. They then share these experiences online through social media. In my current Cognition course, I am using an interactive laboratory component called CogLab, which immerses students in classic cognitive psychology studies to show them how their thoughts translate to behavior and how scientists measure these phenomena.
Humor. Research has shown that humor improves memory. I aim to create an atmosphere of lightheartedness, engagement, and alertness by using targeted humor throughout learning activities and lectures. My humor is perhaps the most frequent comment I receive when students evaluate my classes—a great indication that the method is working. My use of humor not only makes the class environment less tense, but typically makes otherwise dry material worth a listen. I typically receive comments that reflect my energy and enthusiasm for the material, citing that the class is entertaining.

Teaching Experience and Mentoring Relationships
As an instructor, I have taught at a small liberal arts college, a large private university, and a large regional public university. Each of these institutions presented their respective challenges. At Mount Mary University, an all-women’s undergraduate liberal arts institution, I have taught several sections of Introductory Psychology (approx. 25 students per section) and a section of Health Psychology (20 students). At Marquette University, I have taught a section of Cognition (50 students) and a section of Social Psychology (50 students). At the University of California, Santa Barbara, I taught Experimental Psychology (4x, class sizes approx. 65 students), Health Psychology (3x, including a 330-student Winter quarter lecture), Social Cognition (once, approx. 150 students), and Advanced Research Methods Lab (once, 25 students). Additional teaching experiences as a teaching assistant (TA) include Human Memory, Introductory Statistics, and Lab in Human Memory and Cognition. In each course, I incorporate my philosophy, regardless of the course’s content. I value my experiences as a TA and they are complementary to my instructor experiences.
I have successfully taught undergraduates at all levels and for majors and non-majors. The students in my classes have been extremely diverse (culturally, socioeconomically, and crucially, college preparedness); these experiences, coupled with my experiences and training at California State University, Northridge (a nationally-recognized minority-serving institution), have been rewarding and exciting. I understand and am sensitive to the needs of a diverse student population. This immersion in diverse and minority populations has shaped my approach to teaching and my focus on active learning, which has the potential to bridge preparedness gaps.
At UCSB, I received a Certificate in College and University Teaching (CCUT), an interdisciplinary program designed to increase competency in college-level teaching. Students complete an extensive portfolio, reflecting on multiple years of training. I participated in additional training opportunities that included a blended training program (online and face-to-face), designed to support new instructors in planning and conducting their courses. I later served as a peer-facilitator of this program. I have participated in and conducted workshops in practical teaching issues and the use of technology in the classroom. Last, I participated in curriculum issues at UCSB, serving on my department’s Graduate Affairs committee, and on a campus-wide Program Review Panel, where I assisted senior faculty with the evaluation of degree programs on campus, which included suggesting changes to graduate and undergraduate curricula.
Along with teaching, I am equally passionate about mentoring students in research. I have mentored eight undergraduate research assistants, one honors thesis student, and one high school student advisee. I value the relationships I develop and aim to make them personal teaching experiences. I seek out qualified assistants and those with a drive to learn more about the research process and psychological science, and I endeavor to invite students from underrepresented and minority groups to join the lab. These students have excelled in their research roles: one recent project was presented at a conference and I have integrated it into my future research program. The honors thesis was invited for publication in a university journal. Two of the projects received funding and the students presented their ideas at an undergraduate research colloquium. My first assistant at UCSB, a first-generation college student, was inspired by my passion for teaching, completing a service commitment for Teach for America and remaining in low-income child education. These experiences demonstrate that with the right tutelage, undergraduate involvement in research can be more rewarding than merely reading about the final research product.

Alexander’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: California State University-Northridge - Bachelor in Arts, Psychology

Graduate Degree: University of California-Santa Barbara - Doctor of Philosophy, Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics

Hobbies

baseball, football, netflix, superheroes, my kids, psychology, family, strategy video games

Tutoring Subjects

College Application Essays

English

High School English

High School Writing

IB Psychology

Math

Middle School Reading

Middle School Reading Comprehension

Middle School Writing

Other

Psychology

Social Sciences

Statistics