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, CO). After being there for only a year, I moved to Auburn University (Auburn, AL) where I have been ever since (except for a short stint at Appalachian State University (Boone, NC)), 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 with 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. For most of my career at Auburn, I taught large sections of introductory psychology. In total, at Auburn University, I have taught over 35,000 undergraduates. Desiring a change of scenery and a new challenge, about 2 years ago I revamped our department’s research methods course and I have enjoyed teaching this course very much. I founded my department’s Teaching Fellow’s program, which provides graduate students key developmental experiences and supervision for becoming college and university professors. Until recently, I taught two graduate courses on teaching at the college and university level as a part of this program. Each course focuses on assisting graduate students to acquire specific teaching skills and helping them understand the larger professional contexts in which teaching occurs. Finally, for a short stint, I directed Auburn’s Teaching and Learning Center’s New Faculty Scholars program, which helps new faculty adjust to the demands of teaching at Auburn.
I am currently the Distinguished Professor in the Teaching of Psychology. I have published 18 books and over 70 articles and book chapters on effective teaching and learning. 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 and again in 2014, 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 am a past president of STP. However, my proudest accomplishment is that seven 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 as intellectually and emotionally satisfying as the path I had the good fortunate to travel. I continue to be grateful to my family, my teachers, and colleagues who have provided me direction and guidance along this path.