What I Did on my Summer Vacation (2015 edition)

Last year, the theme for my Summer Vacation post was: Soccer. This year, the theme will definitely not be: Soccer. Things started out soccer-ish. I had tickets to go to some FIFA Women’s World Cup games with my dad and eldest daughter. Unfortunately, we discovered just how difficult it is to get around Commonwealth Stadium when you’re on crutches.

See, in an early-season soccer game, my daughter was brutally tripped by an opposing player. It was either a malicious act, or one of sheer clumsiness; either way, the referee should have taken some action, but he didn’t. You know what they say about mama bears and their cubs? Well, don’t get between a papa bear and his cubs, either. Grr! (No, I didn’t commit any physical violence--but I did get this year’s soccer fees refunded. And EMSA sent her a box of chocolate-covered strawberries. ) My eldest daughter was on crutches for a month. Not only was she out for the season, she doesn’t want to play soccer again. Ever.

And then the Canadian and German women's soccer teams crashed and burned, so yeah. Not the summer of soccer.

What we needed was a nice vacation. Like, going to Jasper National Park maybe? That sounds relaxing. But no camping; I don’t do camping. The first day, things started off promising--we went to Pyramid Lake and rented a paddleboat, then the kids took a dip in the lake. That’s when things started to go downhill. My youngest daughter stepped on...something. Poison plant? Black fly? Radioactive spider? She got a severe allergic reaction on the bottom of her foot. This prevented her from walking. It’s pretty challenging to be on vacation in the mountains if you can’t walk.

On subsequent days, I had to stay with her in the vehicle as the rest of the family went to Mount Edith Cavell to see the Angel Glacier. I had to carry her to the Columbia Icefield (where we waited 4 hours to get on an Ice Explorer. You suck, Brewster Travel Canada. You suck.). And then I got a gash in my arm from an overenthusiastic spring-loaded outhouse door at Patricia Lake. Great. No more carrying anybody.

Blurry, dark blob.

Four days into our trip, at Lake Louise, the clouds opened up and it poured rain. We did manage to go up the Lake Louise Gondola without getting soaked, and we did see an actual grizzly bear (see blurry, dark blob in photo). But we decided that we had had enough vacation; we would cut our trip short and go directly home. And then, on a stretch of highway 11, 50 km west of Rocky Mountain house, where there is no cell phone reception, we hit a deer.
Front-end damage.

Fortunately, aside from the deer and my wife’s van (which I was driving) there were no injuries. A good Samaritan named Kelly Black took my family into town while I waited beside the crippled van, its radiator leaking fluid. Somehow, we got the van and ourselves to, um The Town That Shall Not Be Named In Front Of My Children, extending our vacation by another miserable day. Red De--, er...this city had just suffered a major hailstorm which damaged most of the vehicles at the rental car place, so our only options were: a Lilliputian Kia Rio, or a gargantuan Dodge Ram 1500. The Rio could have fit in the bed of the Ram. We opted for the truck, which made us feel nearly invincible. However, our luggage had to go in the bed of the truck, which got rained on as we drove home.
Guts. Glory. RAM.

The summer wasn’t all bad. My cousin Martin and his family from Germany visited us, which was nice. (They also gave us gummy bears and chocolate which was really nice.) My youngest daughter had a dance recital. My eldest daughter built and flew her first model rocket. And we went to the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre. (Fun trivia: the Atlantic #3 well that burned spectacularly in 1948 was drilled on my wife’s grandfather’s property!)

Atlantic #3--on fire!

It wasn’t all fun and vacations: most of my time was spent working and on improving my courses. And I also spent weeks working on a major project, an Instructor’s Resource Manual for new (and “old”!) instructors in the Department of Psychology. I took this project on a year ago, and dedicated myself to finishing it on time and on budget. (Budget: $0. It was a “service,” or volunteer project.) Sorry I can’t show you the manual; it’s locked inside the department’s intranet. So instead, here are pictures of deep-fried Twinkies from K-Days, and a blueberry pie I baked!

How was your summer?

Why aren’t you studying?

The Awards: 13

You know, I completely neglected to mention that I was placed on the Department of Psychology's Teaching Honour Roll with Distinction for my Fall, 2014 courses. Thanks to everyone for your comments and feedback!

In other news, I also was placed on the Teaching Honour Roll with Distinction for my Spring, 2015 courses. Thanks!

Er, but, what about the Teaching Honour Roll for Winter, 2015? I dunno. It hasn't been released yet. Ooh, I'm on pins and needles! (Actually, I have full access to my eUSRI results online. And it looks like I'll qualify for, yep, Teaching Honour Roll with Distinction for those courses, too. Yay!)

Here are some select comments from students over the past year. Sorry it's a bit long--it covers the whole year. I was a bit surprised by the volume of comments, as when evaluations go online, the rule is that you get fewer responses. The tone of the feedback was constructive, respectful, and helpful. Thanks to all.

As always, proceed with caution. There be sarcasm ahoy!

PSYCO 104 (Winter):
“I had to rely on reading the textbook in order to pass the exams.”
“Textbook is interesting, it's the only one I've read in it's entirety in the last term.”
(Yep, the textbook is important.)

“Instructor's jokes were okay at best (sorry Karsten)”
(I’ve fired my comedy writer (sorry Mom).)

“I wish there would be some practice questions before the exams”
(That’s what McGraw-Hill’s LearnSmart is for. There are literally hundreds of practice questions for you.)

“I thoroughly enjoyed this course (enough to make me reconsider my minor)! Dr. Loepelmann is amaaaaaaazing”
(But not amaaaaaaazing enough to make you reconsider your major. Tsk!)

“He used portions of the course and made them applicable to our studying and our general life, which was very useful and actually helped me remember the concepts more clearly. His notes are very thorough and well laid out, and having the mad libs format meant that I could actually pay attention to what was being said instead of scrambling to write everything down. Overall a very nice guy who taught us with respect and made the course a very enjoyable way to start my day.”
(Wow, that’s really nice of you to--wait, what? Mad Libs format? For the record, I did not rip off my fill-in-the-blanks approach from Mad Libs. I ripped it off from a testing procedure developed by W.L. Taylor.)

“Hands down the best prof I have ever had. Really enjoyed learning from him I would recommend him to anyone and I want to take another class from him. What a great guy, I LOVE HIM”
(Thanks, but I’m already married.)

“In the course description I think it would be beneficial to first year students (or other years of students) to say that the course content has similar topics to Biology 30.”
(Thanks for your feedback.)

“the only thing I can say that I found negative about him is he tells us that reading all the textbook is important for exams but I end up learning a lot of unimportant information I wish he could single out key parts of text so I can spend my study time more efficiently and focus on the information I need to learn.”
(You mean, you just want to read for what’s on the test, right?)

“Stop giving out the whole class email list.”
(That’s not me, that’s Google Groups, and it's IST policy to give everyone access. I've asked them to change it, but they said no.)

“I did not really like the course website. The content was good, I just wish it was all on eClass like my other courses.”
(What? eClass preferred over my hand-coded HTML goodness? Do you prefer McDonald’s over home cooking, too?)

“The only issue that I had with him was that he did not take in-class questions. I understand that a lot of the times the instructor needs to be kept on track in order to get through the lecture for that day, however, it would have been nice to be able to ask the question as it was pertaining to what was being taught in class at the time. It would have cleared up confusion at that moment, and perhaps it would have let him know where he was unclear and maybe needed to slow down and go over.”
(I DO take questions. You just gotta really wave your hand around a lot, or I won’t see you in such a big class.)

(Math fail.)

“LOVE the prof and class, but disliked the fill in the blanks because if you miss one lecture and try to ask others for the notes they get too upset and protective over it.”
(What’s up with that? People, be nice to each other, the class is not curved, OK?)

“Throughout the course, there were no practice questions except clicker questions posted on eClass to help the students understand the concepts. There were no practice midterms posted online to help prepare for the exams. Since the whole grade component was just based off of tests, this would be helpful. There should be quizzes or practice questions posted throughout the term to help students make sure they understand the concepts throughout the course.
(Say it with me now: LearnSmart. Learn. Smart. Learnsmart.)

“I can't comment on the textbook readings because I haven't made it past chapter one. However, Dr.Loepelmann was an awesome instructor and had a weird amount of energy. I'm running on four cups of coffee and my left eye is still twitching but somehow he had the energy of a six year old, like, every day. He was always available for help outside of class and promptly responded to emails. A+”
(Thanks, that A+ will really help my GPA. Also, see a doctor about your twitching eye.)

“Dr. Loepelmann should be a more assertive professor, but other than that this course was great”
(I should? Ok, I’ll do what you tell me to do and be more assertive.)

“Coming to your class was kinda like watching a PG-13 movie. Just when i thought we were getting to the good stuff, you'd let me off with a tease.”
(Gosh darn it! What the heck are you talking about? Shut the front door!)

“The instructor wasted class time with too many jokes. I would have liked to get completely through the lectures before we start to mess around and have fun. Clicker question should have been more real like the actual exams rather than being so jokey.”
(Sorry. I try to integrate humour into the lectures periodically to change things up and aid in focusing attention and learning.)

“He was extremely enthusiastic and made for a great 10am class! Although it can be hard to get out of bed on a Monday morning, Karsten Lopelman was always happy and optimistic making Monday mornings a lot more bearable!”
(Thanks. But, er, you spelled my name wrong.)

“I wish if we could have more exam sample questions.”
(Learn. Smart. Learnsmart learnsmart LEARNSMART!)

“The fill-in-the-blank notes were terrible. Going back through my notes trying to study for the exam, I did not understand anything. The textbook clarified everything for me, but I still feel unsure about the material that was covered in class but not in the textbook. The notes are just so broken up and make no sense. The sentences are broken up into fragments which just make no sense. I would have even preferred to take down my own notes from slides instead of filling in the blanks.”
(I’m glad the textbook helped you understand things better. There’s nothing stopping you from ignoring my fill-in-the-blank notes and taking your own notes however you want.)

“I also felt as though the instructor did not want us to do good on the exams, since when our first midterm marks averaged out higher than normal, he made the second exam harder.”
(Er, no. You’re giving me way too much credit. I do not manipulate exam difficulty in any way. In fact, I cannot predict how a given class will do on a given exam. There are historical norms, but since this was the first time I used the Passer textbook, I did not know how well the class would do on the textbook-based questions.)

“I don't agree with having reading the whole textbook as a requirement; I have other classes that I also need to do readings for, I would suggest assigning sections rather than just saying to read the whole thing, this would make it more manageable.”
(Actually, you’re just assigned half of the textbook to read in PSYCO 104; there are another eight chapters that are left to PSYCO 105 to cover. Some intro psych courses in Canada actually do assign the entire textbook in a one-term course. So, you know, you’re welcome.)

“put missing words on eclass”
(Tried that. Didn’t work. Class misbehaved terribly.)

“Some profs give page numbers from the textbook that need to be focused on for the midterm so that students aren't focusing a lot on the material that isn't going to be on the exam.”
(“Some profs”? Really? I’d like to have the names of those profs before I try doing anything like that.)

“I have a hard time finding time to read the textbook and see them as a supplement for ideas that are unclear, not a necessity for exams. Karsten’s note materials are full of life and I think emphasis is taken away from the notes when it is necessary to study directly out of the textbook.”
(No, no, no. The textbook is NOT a supplement--it’s a required reading. It shouldn’t take away from the lecture notes, it’s there partly because I can’t (and don’t want to) cover every topic in the textbook in class. Embrace the textbook.)

“I appreciated the modern approach to the dynamic nature of literature, and was pleasantly surprised to be out of my comfort zone from more "traditional" texts. I also greatly appreciate that our primary texts were pulled from free online sources, rather than expensive hard copy books.”
(Um, I think you filled out the survey for a different course.)

“The only negative thing would be what I found to be an unnecessary inclusion of comment on Intelligent Design. It was actually stated that we would not be tested on it and it felt irrelevant to the course material. Only thing I would change!”
(Well, at least I told you that you wouldn’t be tested on it. I included that as part of a broader social context of understanding. My goal is not to stuff your head with facts, but to foster an understanding that goes beyond the course itself. Until ID is dead, buried, and gone, I’m going to talk about it. And help bury it.)

“Absolutely fantastic professor, he made me love psychology above all my other course. I'm even thinking about switching into specialization in psychology now.”
(Aw, shucks. Good luck!)

PSYCO 282 (Fall):
“I found that the professor moved a bit slow through the slides - hard for me to keep focused”
“The pace of the course was great, not too slow or too fast.”
“He spoke too fast”
(Right. Okay. Sure. Fine.)

“Karsten Loepelmann is one of the best professors I have ever had. He is constantly asking for our feed back and developing this course to make it better. I cannot believe he is not permanent staff.”
(I know, right?)

“Loepelmann is awesome!”
(That’s what I keep telling people.)

“Karsten Loepelmann is by far one of the best profs I've ever had. I had taken psych 104 with him, and I wanted to take another course of his so I decided on 282. When I was making my schedule, I had put it in the winter session, but soon saw that another prof would be teaching it. And so I destroyed my perfect schedule to put 282 in my fall term with Dr. Loepelmann, and it was sooooo worth it. Keep it up!”
(I hope you didn’t have to take some gawdawful 8:00 a.m. class! Thanks for spelling my name right,)

“Assignments were interesting but the instructions were vague. Clearer instructions would be beneficial.”
“I didn't think that the self management project was marked very fairly and that the objectives or marking rubric was always clear. it seemed like things were marked very harshly and it wasn't always super clear the expectations of the marker.”
“I felt that the instructions for the self management assignment were not as clear as they could. There were multiple places to lose marks, but it wasn't clear when completing the assignment what you were going to lose marks for.”
(I’ve been working on improving that for the past 7 months. I believe that things are a lot clearer now. Thanks for your feedback.)

“Clicker questions helped highlight the main concepts of each chapter and how well you understand them. The self-management project was really interesting because it let us apply what we were learning to our own lives in real-time. Dr. Loepelmann's enthusiasm is infectious and makes this already fun class more enjoyable.”
(You’re infected? Eww. You should see a doctor about that.)

“the choice of textbook was fantastic. I have taken many PSYC O classes with convoluted accompanying textbooks, but this one was very accessible and enjoyable to read. I also appreciated all of the links and resources he included on his website for assistance with the Self-Management Project or to further our knowledge on Behavioural Analysis and Modification. Thank-you, Dr. Loepelmann, your passion is very inspiring!”
(You’re welcome. Glad you’re inspired and not infected.)

“The majority of the classes involved searching for the word missing from the blank and filling it in without paying attention to anything else, and this still resulted in getting good grades. The fill-in-the-blank method is not efficient at providing information, because many students just look for the word without thinking of anything else, and just study the material at home. A different method should be used instead of this fill-in-the-blank method to make students pay attention, and I would even recommend not posting any notes at all because all the information is in the textbook anyways. Either post no notes and force students to copy them in class or pay attention, or use test questions that emphasis material that is taught in class but is not in the textbook.”
(I think the experience of (many) other students differs from yours. It’s lucky for you that you were able to get good grades without trying. I think that other students have to put in a lot of time and effort for the grades they get. I have taught without online notes; it did not force students to pay attention--in fact, they were so busy copying everything down, they didn’t really pay attention at all! I will continue to develop exam questions based on my lecture notes.)

“A appreciate that the instructor posted notes online, but the blanks on the notes really didn't help me learn. When I sit in class and fill in the blanks, I do not absorb the information nearly as well as I do when I can take my own notes. The instructor goes so quickly that taking your own notes is not an option. So I find myself sitting in class, filling in blanks and not focusing on the material being discussed. I would have benefited from a different teaching style, or a diverse teaching style (perhaps general slides where we can add additional comments).”
(A suggestion is to get together with someone else in the class, so that, between the two of you, you get all the fill-in words. Or one person can fill in the words and the other can take side notes; and, you can switch roles every class, or every topic.)

“Could you please do not let people to leave 15mins before the end of exam?? very distracting.”
“...writing the midterms was extremely distracting after half the class was up and kids were allowed to leave because the doors to the room are so noisy. After half the exam time was up, I could not focus whatsoever on the midterm which showed in my second midterm mark. It would be great if the doors could just remain open so that we don't have to hear them being closed every 5 seconds.”
(Sorry, I’m not allowed to prevent anyone from leaving during an exam. I have talked to the maintenance people about the slamming doors. Over and over and over. I hope things are fixed when classes start up again in September.)

“As much as I sometimes wanted to take a nap in that class (not because it was boring but because I was a tired student), I appreciated the formatting of the notes with spaces to be filled in as it forced me to stay awake. Overall interesting class that will help me better train my crazy dog.”
(Hmm, you know, you could apply behaviour modification to help get more sleep... Is "crazy dog" a euphemism for your roommate?)

“Out of the many courses I have taken, Loepelmann is the one prof I would recommend to everyone to take a class with. Time was superbly budgeted, the use of iclickers aided in consolidation of class material and the self-management project was a fun addition. The use of his own website was also great as it was well organized and had many links which aided in studying. Hope to be able to find if Loepelmann is teaching other senior courses so that I can enroll!”
(Although I am scheduled to teach next year, my contract has not--as yet--been renewed. Hopefully soon! When it’s renewed, I take my family out to dinner.)

“The only part of the course that was difficult for me was the assignment component that required computer knowledge. I lost 6% because I'm terrified of computers and couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make a graph. I understood everything that related to the course, but couldn't manage the technology. I understand this is pretty lame, and something I'll have to deal with in real life, but I'm not entirely certain I think it's fair for grades to be dependent on knowledge that has not been taught in class.”
(So, first of all, I could have helped you. (I did help one student who came to my office; showed her how to make a graph in 10 minutes.) You didn’t have to do it on a computer; you could have drawn it, and then submitted a scan of it!)

“The only thing that could make it even better is giving reminders to students when a part of the self-management project is due. I understand it's important for students to be have a certain degree of responsilibity, but with us having to pay attention to 4 other courses and labs, it would indeed be very helpful if there was a reminder”
(That’s why I go to the time and effort of setting up an online calendar for the course. Not only can you see the deadlines, but it emails you a reminder before each assignment is due. *sigh*)

“one of my part-time jobs require me to work with children with disabilities. I find great value in the concepts I learned in this class - very applicable to real life.”
(Wow, that’s great to hear!)

“The only aspect I would encourage to be changed would be the fill-in-the-blank style notes. It was very irritating for this class. A different way to encourage attendance, other than keeping the class interesting, would be to make the iClicker questions part of a participation mark, that's always fun.”
(Well, some students can barely afford the textbook, let alone another $40 for a clicker.)

“Spoon man!”
(Yes, my name, translated literally from German, does mean Spoon Man. One of my ancestors must have been a cook. I myself am (modestly) a pretty good cook, too!)

“Best Chem 101 class!”
(Ah, that explains your F.)

PSYCO 494 (Fall & Winter):
“Dr. Loepelmann is an exceptional prof. I have not encountered many profs who are as dedicated as he is to this class and his students. He makes the material very interesting and engaging. I had signed up for this class to fill a requirement but it turned out to be one of my favourite classes this semester. I always believe that the prof can either "make or break" a course. Dr. Loepelmann definitely "made" this course. Furthermore, I really, really appreciated how Dr. Loepelmann offered to give students feedback on their final papers before handing them in for grading. There are not many profs that offer to do this because it is very time consuming. This was wonderful, thank you!”
(Well, thank you! And, you’re welcome. I like to be well-mannered.)

 “I would like it if one change can be made: move the classroom...BS G114 isn't my favourite.”
(I don’t really get much say in that. There is one other classroom that’s a possibility: BS G110. Argh.)

“Karsten does a good job updating material, but some of the statistics are 10+ years old. All I can suggest is to continue being diligent and updating slides when possible.”
(Do you mean “studies”? Or readings in the coursepack? I try not to update things, just for the sake of updating. Some older studies are still relevant, and not overly complex. And I don’t update readings in the coursepack often so that you can try to buy used ones and save a few dollars. Some of the oldest readings--from 1994--are scheduled to be updated, but the publisher keeps moving the deadline back every year.)

“Way too much details and you are never tested on them. Waste of time. There should be 2 midterms because the lectures cover so much and bring down the percentage for the term paper.”
(The nature of this course is not so much about memorizing details--and essay exams are not structured for that. If you can remember the details and give them on the exams, your work will be rewarded.)

“I really enjoyed the material in this course and found the instructor a very engaging speaker whom you could tell was passionate about the subject. I've learned how concepts in this course can apply to so many different aspects of my daily life, such as explaining my errors in interacting with technology, and how organizations and groups of people deal with and evaluate problems. Overall very valuable class”
“As a student, this knowledge and enthusiasm has been passed onto me. I am interested in ways to apply human factors and design into a career, and will be pursing graduate school in a field that uses human design concepts.”
“I really enjoyed this course. I find myself now looking at the design of things and critiquing them about how they aren't human-centric, as well as appreciating good designs.”
(If you can apply anything you’ve learned in class to daily life, that’s incredible! I hope it’ll help you in your future career(s), too!)

“Professor Loepelmann created a custom course pack that brought down the cost for the mandatory text material to a mere ~$27 (with alternative resources for the rest of the readings). I greatly appreciate this and heartily wish that other instructors who use a bulk of journal articles as mandatory reading use this same method. It saves students a lot of aggravation due to printing for hours on end (although it makes for good entertainment fodder for my cat)”
(I hope your cat enjoyed the readings, too. Meow!)

“The pragmatism of some concepts were a touch weak, but overall the course was interesting. I'd be cautious of recommending the course to other students if they share a similar nihilistic view about psychology, but I truly do commend the instructor for being one of the main reasons for attending class.”
(I have to balance the theoretical and the applied--too much of one or the other and it’ll be boring, or entertaining but useless.)

“I found Dr. Loepelmann to be quite arrogant in this small classroom setting. Demanding a 12 page paper takes focus away from content and makes it all about the word count.”
(Arrogant? Sorry you felt that way. Yes, I “demanded” a 12-page paper, which is appropriate for a 400-level course. It used to be 15 pages, which is what I had to write back in the day, but it took too long for me to mark. It is the length it is not for the word count, but so that you can do your topic justice.)

“The prof was very enthusiastic throughout the term, and made sure that students were being fairly graded. I appreciated greatly that he took back the assignments not once but a second time to ensure that the students received the best grade they possibly could.”
(Unfortunately, getting a TA with HF/E experience is almost impossible. They do the best they can when marking the short paper.)

PSYCO 258 (Spring):
“The notes system was particularly distracting. The blanks for the notes were in irregular patterns and were often for unimportant pieces of information. I think the system is good because it forces you to pay attention in class, I don't like the words that were specifically chosen for the blanks. I would have preferred more technical and important terms to be underlined, otherwise I spent too much time in class focusing less on the material and more on what I need to write down. The space for writing was also heavily constricted, and could have used some additional room to write.”
(In my Blanks FAQ, there’s information on how to make the space bigger. That’s why I use HTML for my notes, and not PDFs.)

“In-class examples/experiments were very effective at helping explain the material. The instructor did a fantastic job at explaining concepts in a way that did not feel like he was simply reading off of his powerpoint slides. At no point did I feel like I could simply read the posted notes, skip class, and still get the gist of the course content. Excellent use of class time, and a very thorough and interesting course. I will definitely take another course with this instructor in the future.”
(Thanks for the kind words!)

“Steve Holt!”

“Some questions on the midterms were very confusing; there were 2,3 questions that were not mentioned in the book nor in the lectures”
(If you ask me, I can tell you where the exam questions are from. Some, however, are integrative, that require you to put together information from a number of sources.)

“With the course being a survey course, I can understand that there is a lot of material to cover but it would be nice if you prompted for questions at least once during lecture. It would give students' brains a break from constant absorbing of information and allow some time to consolidate information give opportunity for curiosity driven questions.”
(If you notice, I do that early in the term, and see how the class responds. If there are no takers to “Any questions?” I stop doing that. Generally, I’ve found that very few students want to ask questions during class. As soon as class is over, though, there’s a line of people wanting to ask me questions.)

“overall, this course is good. but when we have to print out the notes wast more money. if we take notes as PDF it is less useful than PPT. As well as there are many acronym in the notes, if makes the notes hard to review for students use English as second language.”
(Sorry, but I do not give out my PowerPoint slides. If there are acronyms and abbreviations that I use in class, please raise your hand and ask me. Please! I do not want to leave anyone behind, whether they are native English speakers or ESL.)

“Hopefully you get your promotion soon Dr Loepalmann!”
(Yeah, well, that didn’t work out. But thanks. Also, you spelled my name wrong.)

PSYCO 367 (Spring):
“K.Lo is one of my favourite faculty lecturers at the university. Even without all of his top notch jokes and references, he makes class very engaging. The material is interesting (I keep on telling everyone about cheap sunglasses) and I really enjoy having lots of research presented in class to help solidify concepts. He is always ready to answer any questions you may have, even if you stay after class to ask heaps of questions so frequently that the class in the room 20 minutes after knows exactly who you are (where does that patience come from?). I really appreciate how fast he gets our grades back to us and I'm glad to know that he didn't want the exams to be purely multiple choice either. Although I am often interested in what we are learning in class, I found it difficult to manage learning everything in the lecture notes and textbook over a six week period, given that there isn't as much overlap between the two as in most other classes. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend both this course and that salad person from Arby's to others.”
(There used to be greater convergence between my lectures and the textbook, but with each new edition, the textbook drifts further and further from what I consider to be core concepts. It may be time for a different textbook. ("K.Lo:?))

“The course material was a bit dry but I love that Dr.Loepelmann was enthusiastic to teach us and made jokes. I realize the class was probably a bit too unresponsive to the jokes but I found the funny.”
(The first rule of lectures is you do not laugh in lectures.)

“Don't ever change the way you instruct, the simple fill in the blank notes combined with the comfort as ease you seem to have while lecturing makes for a very engaging class and I retain information very well because of that.”
(I’m too old to change, so no chance of that happening.)

“Love all the jokes made in class. Instructor presents information clearly and effectively. Keep up all the awesome dad jokes!”
(But I didn’t tell any jokes about my dad. Oh, you mean jokes about me being a dad, and my two daughters? Just wait until they’re teenagers. Then I’m sure I’ll have a lot of “jokes.”)

Why aren't you studying?

The Good News, Bad News

There's good news, and there's bad news. Research shows that it's better for recipients if you lead with the bad and end with the good. But this isn't a posting about the psychological effects of presenting news. Nope, I actually have some news.

So, first: The bad news. I didn't get the job that I applied for last month. News like that is difficult to hear. When you apply for a job, it's usually not a shot in the dark. (I mean, I'm not going to go to the Toronto Raptors training camp. My slam dunk needs serious work. Also: I need to gain a few feet in height. And: Some athletic skills.) You apply because you think that you have a chance, even though the new job may be outside of your usual skill set. You look to challenge yourself, grow, develop, and change. Or maybe you're just tired of the same old, same old. If you believe this of yourself, why wouldn't others, too?

But then...maybe the hiring committee was right. Maybe I'm not the kind of person they need in this position. If you're looking for someone who's going to be an arm-twister, trying to get professors to buy into new ways of teaching, I'm not your guy. Courteously, I was told of the committee's decision in person--not in an email or, worse, only hearing about it when you learn that another candidate got the job. And I was given some reasons, which were along the lines of you're-good-but-you're-not-the-right-fit-for-this explanations. Although the higher pay and tenure would have been nice, if I end up being stressed and hating the nature of my job, it's not worth it.

So: On to the good news. I'm still a Faculty Lecturer. I've got a 2-year rolling contract, which gives me more job security than many other Contract Academic Staff: Teaching (even if there is a clause in my contract that says they can dump me with 2 weeks notice!). And the hiring committee made a case to the Vice Dean of Science that my contract as a Faculty Lecturer should be a 5-year renewable, like all Faculty Lecturers in Arts. There even have been rumours of an interest shown by central admin in creating a category of tenured teaching-only positions--maybe just a glimmer at the end of the tunnel, but it's better than nothing.

The best news: I'll still be teaching--8 classes a year. It would have been really hard to give that up. It energizes me to see so many students keenly interested in learning, and sharing the passion (ugh, that word) that I have for psychology.

Why aren't you studying?

The Academic Interview Day 2

As I wrote in my last post, the Department of Psychology is hiring a new FSO Teaching and Learning. I described day 1 of my experience, which included giving a presentation on the state of teaching and learning in my department. Did I mention that day got off to a great start? As soon as I got home from dropping my kids off at school, the phone rang. It was the school, asking me to pick up my youngest daughter, who was sick. Argh. Arrangements were hastily made (it’s not good to show up for an interview with your sick first-grader in tow). Day 2 would be different--no hitches, glitches, or problems of any kind. Right? Just sail through meetings that went straight from 8:30 to 4:30.

I had had a busy weekend, which was probably a good thing. My elder daughter’s soccer team was in provincial finals. Thankfully, the games were held in Edmonton this year, not Calgary. Shuttling her to four games over three days kept my mind off anything to do with the job, my presentation, and everything else. Mostly. (BTW, her team didn’t get a medal this time.)

First thing on my agenda was a breakfast meeting with the Chair of the Department at 8:30 a.m. No problem, right? I left extra early, allowing myself an extra 20 minutes “just in case.” On my way to the University, I heard the traffic reporter on the radio mentioning something about “the Groat Road problem.” Huh? What problem? I knew they closed Groat Road to work on the 102 Avenue bridge overnight, but Groat Road was supposed to be open again. Was it...still closed? Since I was now one block away from Groat Road, this was a pressing concern.

Yup, I could see the taillights of all the vehicles backed up. My mind raced. How else--where else--could I cross the river to get to North Campus? If Groat bridge was still open, I could...maybe...swing through downtown. This was the same idea that hundreds of my fellow Monday-morning commuters had. Argh. I sweated through every centimeter of progress, every minutes that ticked off the clock. I got to my breakfast meeting 15 minutes late, and very stressed out. I gulped my coffee and choked down a muffin.

Next up was my “guest lecture.” This is so that the hiring committee can see for themselves what I do in a classroom and how I do it. Hilariously, I was offered the opportunity to lecture in someone else’s class, if I chose. Naw, I just went ahead and invited people to come to one of my PSYCO 104 classes. I didn’t do much different, although I spiffed my lectures up a bit and made sure to run some clicker questions at the end. Of course, I ran into technical difficulties: one video wouldn’t run so I had to fire it up manually, and then I somehow put the clicker system into numerical mode and couldn’t change it back. Argh! (Just a typical lecture for me, eh?) I don’t think my colleagues learned anything new or interesting about Pavlov, either. (Did you know that he didn’t use a bell at first? He took the metronome from his wife’s piano.)

Next: more meetings--including a lunch meeting with graduate and undergraduate students. It was very instructive to hear their concerns. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend a lot of time eating. By the time my actual interview with the hiring committee was to start, I was exhausted and hypoglycemic. I think that’s why I got a bit emotional, recounting the story of a student who chastised me a few years ago. She missed an exam because her father had died. I told her the procedure to follow, what paperwork she had to fill out, blah blah blah, so that I could transfer the weight of the midterm to her final exam--all stuff that’s in the syllabus. A few weeks later, she approached me at the end of class. She was visibly upset. When I had rattled off all the information, I had neglected to say one important thing: “I’m sorry for your loss.” She told me how disappointed she was in me that I was so unfeeling. Since that time, I have always made an effort to be sympathetic to the situations that students find themselves in.

One more meeting, and then I was able to relax in my office and process a midterm. Yup, that’s right. Instead of going home and pouring myself a nice, stiff drink, I sat in my office and worked on an exam. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as uploading marks to eClass. Of course, I had made an error in coding one question. Of course, I had to go through and manually fix everyone’s mark. THEN I went home a poured myself a nice, stiff drink.

The next day was the wrap-up dinner, with two profs and an undergraduate student. This dinner was originally scheduled for Monday, but had to be moved to Tuesday. (This, after me going through three of the choices given to me, and finding out that none of them were open on Mondays.) I was grateful for the respite, even if it did extend my “interview” by another day. And I got to go to my first choice of restaurant!

It’s a bit strange to go through this process. I’ve had the same job for 15 years, and the interview process back then was a lot less involved. There have been jobs I’ve applied for over the years, but obviously didn’t get. Even though I’ve been kicking around the Department of Psychology for so long, I finally had the opportunity to talk to some people who I’ve never talked to before. It was also intimidating to hear all the things they expect from the new FSO Teaching and Learning.

Well, whatever happens, happens. If I get this new position, my life will change--at lot. If I don’t get it, I’ve still got a great job that I love to do. (Unfortunately, I ended up catching my daughter's cold, which also turned into a sinus infection, bronchitis, and now laryngitis. Stress will do that.)

BTW, if you ever apply for a tenure-track position, here's a great primer from University Affairs.

Why aren’t you studying?

The Academic Interview Day 1

The Department of Psychology is hiring. The position is for an FSO Teaching and Learning. “FSO” stands for Faculty Service Officer, an academic position that’s kind of a catch-all for a lot of varied things. For example, in psychology, there are currently two FSOs: one person who handles the department’s intranet, manages the psychology workshop, and deals with various research issues; the other person runs the psychology internship program.

This new position is about teaching and learning, which is right up my alley, so naturally I applied for it. It is also a tenured position. These kinds of jobs don’t come around often; I know that a lot of contract instructors with PhDs in psychology applied for it. It’s amazing that in this current budget climate, the Faculty of Science is willing and able to fund this position. I think that speaks volumes to the Faculty’s commitment to teaching and learning.

I am pleased to report that I was chosen to be interviewed (as was one other person; and there is apparently one other candidate being interviewed in a couple of weeks).

Let me step you through the application process. There are a number of documents that you have to submit. At the top of the list is your CV (“curriculum vitae,” which is basically your academic resume). You have to ensure that you CV is up to date with your most important accomplishments, publications, awards, etc. A teaching dossier is also required, which includes your philosophy of teaching, approach to pedagogy, and so on. To support this, it’s important to include some course syllabi and the results of student evaluations (USRIs: Universal Student Ratings of Instruction). Then, you have to find three people to write you academic letters of reference that speak to your ability to manage projects, teach effectively, get along with others in a team or group, and so on. Lastly, you have to write a cover letter. That’s just the paperwork.

I’ve been on screening committees before, so I know how this works. Part of it is to weed out people who can’t complete the paperwork. If you are unable to find three people willing and able to write you letters of reference and send them in by a deadline, that sends up a red flag. And if you don’t include documentation about how students view your teaching, what’s up with that? Teaching will be an important component of this position, in two ways. First, this FSO position is about leadership in teaching, which means supporting the Department of Psychology’s teaching mission. That might mean working with Contract Academic Staff: Teaching or tenured faculty to apply new teaching techniques in their classes. Or it could include training graduate students who may be teaching their very first course. Secondly, the FSO will be required to teach two courses per year. That would be a huge reduction for me, as I currently have to teach eight as a Faculty Lecturer. I had to think long and hard about applying for this position; teaching fewer courses was a big downside for me. I love teaching, and it has come to define how I think of myself. To consider changing that was very difficult. The lure of a tenured position is strong, though. Finally, there is also an administrative and service workload--which means being on a lot of committees.

The interview process is not like what you’d expect for a typical job. You don’t come in, talk to the hiring committee for an hour, and then leave. Oh no. My “interview” was a day and a half long (plus a dinner on yet another day). Two major components are an open presentation, and a guest lecture. The presentation is where you talk about your ideas for what you might do if you get the job. This lasts an hour, and includes time for questions (the scary part). I chose to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of teaching in the Department. Think about that: I’m potentially criticizing the people who are considering hiring me. Yikes. I then talked a bit about various trends and buzzwords in pedagogy (MOOCs anyone? Flipped classrooms?) and briefly evaluated them. The people at my presentation (faculty, graduate students, administrators) took it pretty easy on me. Or maybe I just rendered them comatose with my Powerpoints. Zap!

(Sorry about being circumspect in describing my presentation, but there is still one other candidate who will make a presentation in a few weeks. It’s in my own best interest to not say too much. Maybe I’ll post my presentation at some point in the future.)

A few faculty members requested meetings with me. So, after my presentation, off I went to six half-hour meetings in a row. Everyone offered me coffee, which I declined. (That’s all I need: six cups of coffee in a row. That’s enough to make me vibrate.) Everyone had different things that they wanted to discuss. Some of them were casual chats; others were serious discussions about the future of teaching and learning on campus. These meetings are not part of the formal job interview; however, after talking to me, these faculty members will generally give feedback to the hiring committee about my ideas. You have to be “on” all the time, make a good impression, and know your stuff.

That was day 1 of my interview. Well, half a day, anyway. It took place on a Friday. Now I had a whole weekend to stew about my performance, and get ready for day 2 the following Monday.

Next: Day 2, in which actual bridges play a role.

Why aren’t you studying?

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