I received my BA in psychology in 1977 and my PhD in experimental psychology in 1981 from Brigham Young University (Provo, UT). My first academic position was at Adams State College (Alamosa, Colorado). After being there for only a year, I moved to Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama) where I have been ever since (except for a short stint at Appalachian State University (Boone, North Carolina), where I was the first Kulynych/Cline Family Distinguished Professor in the Teaching of Psychology).
Although right out of graduate school I was determined to be a laboratory researcher, an early opportunity to teach a large section of introductory psychology and wrestle with the problems associated teaching such a course changed my academic career forever. In trying to learn how to become a better teacher in this course I consulted the vast teaching and learning literature and found that I was much more interested and intellectually stimulated by it than I was with experimental psychology. I soon started conducting research into teaching long before the academy termed such inquiry the “scholarship of teaching and learning.”
For the last 20 years, all of my career efforts have been devoted to teaching, research on teaching, and promoting the importance of teaching in improving the lives of college and university students. I still teach the introductory psychology course. I also direct my department’s Teaching Fellow’s program, which provides graduate students key developmental experiences and supervision for becoming teachers of record (teaching their own undergraduate courses). As an integral part of this program, I teach two graduate courses on teaching at the college and university level. Each course focuses on assisting graduate students to acquire specific teaching skills and helping them understand the larger professional development contexts in which teaching occurs.
I am currently the Distinguished Professor in the Teaching of Psychology at Auburn University and a Faculty Fellow at Auburn’s Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. I have published 10 books and over 40 articles in on effective teaching and learning. I currently serve as a member of the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP) planning committee. In 2005, I was a co-recipient (with Leanne Lamke) of Auburn University’s highest teaching honor, The Gerald and Emily Leischuck Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. In addition, I was recipient of the 2000 Robert S. Daniel Teaching Excellence Award from the Society of the Teaching of Psychology (STP) and the 2009 American Psychological Foundation’s Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. In 2005, I was the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Harry Kirke Wolfe lecturer. In the spring of 2011, I was voted Professor of the Year by the Auburn University Honors College. I am a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and APA Divisions 1 (General Psychology), 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology), 52 (International Psychology), and is a past president of the Society. Six of my graduate students have been honored with national teaching awards.
As I reflect over a career than is now entering its 4th decade, I am often stunned at just how fortunate I have been to become a college professor. I can’t imagine how any other career path that I might have followed would have been as challenging and intellectually and emotionally satisfying as the path I had the good fortunate to stumble upon. I continue to be grateful my family and to my teachers and colleagues who have provided me direction and guidance along this path.