On Ostracism, Forgiveness, Compassion, and Accountabilty

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For numerous reasons I am a slow writer. I don’t type. though a nuanced writer I do not naturally dictate into a piece of software like dragon dictate. I’ve never had a secretary. I am a prodigious reader (and have been criticized for reading too much in order to delay writing). I revise multiple times trying to find just the right word, the right tone, the right feeling (This is version 21 of this short piece!). I am interested in so many different things—and therefore easily distracyted from the task at hand (yesterday I was distracted from writing by reflecting on digital doppelnamers!). I have no strong external incentive to write (I am tenured and intrinsically motivated). Are these excuses or reasons?

I am having quite a bit of difficulty writing this piece—and have had that difficulty for the past three years when my identity with my discipline of social psychology became disrupted and unsettled. In my Experimental Social Psychology class the past three years I have been sharing with students a case study of the influential career of European social psychologist Diederik Stapel. May I never be so famous that

  1. my biography is regularly updated in Wikipedia,
  2. my story is featured in the New York Times,
  3. my entire career’s work is evaluated by a Commission,
  4. I’m featured on a TED train special,
  5. and my work is regularly condemned on Retraction Watch.

The past two years I have invited my students to share in writing their reactions to this case study. Before “publishing them” in a blog piece, I was interested in whether Diederik might be interested in seeing them. Thank you, Diederik for replying and sharing some of your experiences over the past three years.

I am left struggling with the questions of at what point is ostracism unwarranted and forgiveness or a variant of compassion warranted. At what point does ostracism degenerate into a witch hunt? How can one both acknowledge and condemn wrong behavior (never forget) and yet not engage in wrong behavior by failing to allow an individual opportunities to show that they have learned from their wrong behavior?

I have much to ruminate about.


USING Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning

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I hope I never find myself in the position of this monk where I need to call in technical support to figure out how to read an object called a “book.” In my judgment there IS a danger, however, in becoming too dependent on “technology learning tools.” My favorite tools remain a # 2 pencil with an eraser, a Pilot G-2 broad ink pen, some writing paper, and my mind. Nonetheless, this blog post is a heart-felt mini-festschrift to an Internet visionary.

I’ve written numerous blog posts about the tremendous value I find from Jane Hart’s annual identifying top learning tools. I have unbridled admiration and respect for her vision, willingness to share, and thought-provoking ideas. As I wind up (or wind down) my teaching career over the next few years, I am making an intentional, concerted effort to use things I have learned from Jane (directly or indirectly) over the past seven years. Thank you, Comrade and Mentor across the Pond!

  1. I have incorporated into my Experimental Social Psychology class use of a Ning (or see Julie Lindsay‘s superb utilization of a Ning). If you would like to visit this Ning, especially if you are a former student or classmate of mine or are also an experimental social psychologist, let me know. I would welcome incorporating into the Ning your thoughts about the course or your thoughts about being a social psychologist or using social psychology.
  2. Jane has influenced (favorably) my extra-classroom university academic life (e.g. I maintain alumni contact through Linkedin, and by my cross-posting my WordPress blogs across Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Jane’s influence has transformed the way I conduct my committee work (e.g. I recently began a Planning and Budget Committee meeting which I co-chair with a screenflow screencast which explained to colleagues how to access budget and planning information).
  4. Jane has transformed my daily interaction with my student research assistants who annually pilot test all tools on Jane’s list.  Among the tools we currently use or are bench-marking for student learning utility are Google Drive, Class Owl, and WordPress. These research assistants continue to revitalize me with their intelligence, playfulness, eagerness to learn, and youth. I have invited this year’s S -Team to identify what Top Tools they find most valuable and which they’d like to learn. Stay tuned.



Giving Away (Social) Psychology

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Old Main

When I initially arrived at Carroll with my “ABD” degree (All But Dissertation) in 1978 it made much sense to me and to my chair, Dr. Ralph Parsons, to teach what I had specialized in during graduate school at The Ohio State University.

David, Ralph, and Virginia

David, Ralph, and Virginia Briefly Reunited February 1, 2014

My introduction to the field of social psychology had come while I was an  undergraduate at Oberlin College, and I hoped to give back to my Carroll students the excitement that I felt at that time of actually being a social psychologist.

At Oberlin  my academic adviser, Ralph Turner, was a self-described “arm-chair” social psychologist—i.e not at a researcher—interested in creating dithering devices to facilitate learning that would cascade within and outside the classroom. As an adviser and professor Ralph Turner was kind to and patient with me. He was a role model of a dynamic teacher and a voracious reader who regularly wrote book reviews and who played a leadership role in Division 2 (Teaching of Psychology). He encouraged my intellectual curiosity and accepted me as I was, unformed and uninformed but eager to learn. He introduced me to the idea that psychological principles of persuasion and attitude change could be used to make the world a better place—or a worse place if applications of these same social psychological principles and findings failed to be guided by ethics.

These were my most (in)formative years especially, perhaps, because I was taking all my classes “credit/no entry” (that is, ungraded).  This freedom from being graded allowed me to read voraciously, to be exposed first hand to social justice and war/peace issues, and to read and reflect upon works such as Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I was also at that time inspired by APA President George Miller’s 1969 address advocating that we should give psychology away.

While a perennial graduate student at Ohio State I was surrounded by students who already were far better scientists than I was or would ever become and who subsequently have made major contributions to the field. Once again I was heavily influenced by personal relationships formed with a few key faculty—in particular by my academic adviser, mentor, and friend Tom Ostrom and more indirectly but in many positive ways, by the teachings by example of Tony Greenwald. Both of them, in their kind but brutally candid way convinced me that my calling most likely would be in teaching rather than in conducting creative, seminal, path-breaking research. And here I am thirty-some years later!

It pleases me that a number of Carroll students have chosen to pursue advanced graduate degrees in social psychology (e.g. Mark Klinger, Pam Propsom, Deana Julka, Darcy Reich, Jenny Welbourne, Cathy Carnot-Bond ) or in related disciplines (e.g. Mike Schwerin). Some of them have developed enviable scholarly reputations. But my goal in my experimental social psychology class is not so much as to be a pipeline to graduate schools in social psychology as to attempt to provide a capstone-like experience in their developed abilities of thinking about research.

I’m at a point of giving serious consideration to changing what I teach and how I teach my experimental social psychology course—if I continue to teach it. Two or my colleagues have a professional identity with my discipline, and I’m sure that they could step in. One possibility is to teach it entirely based upon readings (e.g. classic studies and recently published articles). Such a change in format might allow for more extensive, daily discussion and the potential development of student research ideas resulting from such discussion. This possibility would work best, however, if the class were small. There are years, though when I’ve had up to 35 students.

A second possibility is to teach it from a much more global, international perspective. A third possibility is to dramatically introduce hands-on Internet-based resources and experiences—drawing upon my recent interest in developing Web 2.0 learning tool. A good start in identifying some such resources has already been made by Scott Plous in his development of the Social Psychology Network  and is reflected in the work of Jonathon Mueller in developing teaching resources for social psychology.  And, of course, I could draw more upon the expertise of former students who are active experimental social psychologists. (Are you interest in some good students directed to you? Let’s connect!)

I welcome input from students and former students concerning which directions I should explore. How best should I proceed to give social psychology away?

 

Remembering Mother Earth: Reflections on Earth Day 2014.

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North Lake Flowers

 

1) Earth Day concerns should be unifying every day concerns .

2) We must do more than merely virtually explore the wonders of our precious planet.

3) Preserving, savoring, celebrating, protecting, and nurturing Mother Earth should be a super-ordinate, cross national,unifying effort of international  concern.

4) We are all earthlings.

5) There is much to learn.

6) Mother Earth is fragile and the Pale Blue Dot is tiny in the cosmic scheme of things.

7) So much beauty must be shared, preserved, protected and passed on.

July 10

 

 

Making Lemonade: Personal Disrupting Educational Experiences

[An earlier version of this appeared in my Ning Sandbox for Global Educators and on my Mightybell.com account, which I shall be using in my classes.]

I am an experimental social psychologist by my graduate school training. Tonight I am in the process of preparing for my fall semester PSY303A “Experimental Social Psychology Class.” This year I am interested in giving it a more international/ global focus while at the same time preserving the course’s emphasis on the value in using the scientific method. I also want to imbue the course with technology learning tools that I have come to value.

I am entertaining beginning the class by having all students carefully read the article Coping with Chaos: How Disordered Contexts Promote Stereotyping and Discrimination

Science-2011-Stapel-251-3%20copy.pdf. After we have carefully studied the experimental design, elegance of the the thinking, data analysis, and conclusions and practical implications I will have the students read the full report of the investigation of Stapel’s fraudulent data collection here and his explanations of why he falsified data.

The challenge is how to avoid undermining students’ belief in the validity of psychological science while at the same time confronting the reality that science is a human endeavor. I found the Stapel malfeasance most disruptive to my own professional identity (and I am not alone.) How can I make that disruption a positive thing, especially for my students?