The Awards: 14 (part 1)

It’s taken a while, but the Department has finally gotten around to posting the Honour Roll with Distinction for Fall, 2015 and Winter, 2016 terms. (Better 8 months late than, er, never?) This post just covers the Fall, 2015 term.

All three of my Fall courses somehow managed to be placed on the Honour Roll with Distinction. For context, there were 10 undergraduate courses awarded the Honour Roll, and 17 on the Honour Roll with Distinction. Clearly, there are a lot of really great instructors in psychology; I’m honoured to be in such good company--even if it did take this long to find out. Anyway, I have a backlog of comments to go through. (Beware: my replies just may be #unfiltered.)

PSYCO 282:
“Dr. Loepelmann is awesome! Highly recommend him.
However, sometimes wastes class time to show videos that aren't all that relevant/important to the material. I don't need to watch 5 min videos of screaming children or how to toilet train a cat.”
(The screaming child video was 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I did not show a video how to toilet train a cat. I have standards, you know.)

“I trained my cat to use the toilet with the knowledge from this class”
(Sure, but what about your screaming child?)

“Course was okay. Format of notes was kind of annoying. Concepts are dry at times. Please show more videos in class.”
(OK, I have a whole bunch of screaming children and how-to-toilet-train-a-cat videos.)

“Though the tests were difficult, I was very grateful that the instructor was very understanding and accessible, answering questions promptly and made me feel more comfortable and confident for doing better in the course, thank you!”
(You’re welcome!)

(That’s all? Just “yes”?)

“Where does that course pack come into play for the course? You haven't really mentioned it when you were teaching the chapters.”
(The ethics coursepack reading ties in to my lecture on ethics. The willpower reading ties in to my lecture on willpower. If you read the syllabus, you’ll see that they are both “Assigned Readings.”)

“It was a little bit scuzzy to take the mandatory text from a company he works for.”
(I do make a full disclosure about that in the first class. I also reveal that I do not get *anything* from the publisher for choosing that book: No money, gifts, nothing. Not even a pen or a coffee mug. I chose that book because I believe it is the best book available for this course.)

“Also, while I really liked the course website, I wish commonly referenced things like the syllabus was on eclass as well, in order to make it a bit simpler to get to and find.”
(Getting to my website and the syllabus takes two clicks from the eClass page.

“You're course website is very well setup and helpful”

“I found that the use of examples using people with disabilities sometimes portrayed those people in a negative and incompetent light. It made it seem like all of those people need to be fixed or trained to comply using behaviour modification, which at some times I found inappropriate and frustrating. Both the in class content and the text had issues with this for me.”
(I understand. The goal of behaviour modification is to help people improve their lives, by giving them skills and abilities that allow them to lead more independent lives. If you work with people who have a significant disability, you’ll see how much of an improvement this can make.)

“The course markings I believe are unfair. There are multiple instructors teaching the course in the same semester and their marking styles are very drastically different. I enjoyed my teacher and the class structure however, the class average for my midterms was 10% lower than the other 282 class taught this semester. As the tests are made by the profs therefore this difference does not reflect that one class in on average smarter than the other. It reflects that one prof made the examinations more difficult than the other prof. I truly believe that my prof taught the material very well but his examinations were at a higher level and therefore does not make the faculty of psychology look fair and regulated. It allows certain students to reap the benefits of a non curved class based on their schedule availability to get in a class with an 'easier' professor. In my opinion, this does not help students learn and frankly is unacceptable for a university as a lot of other courses and departments regulate the midterms in a more academic and advanced way. Events like this make me unlikely to encourage prospective students to enter the faculty of psychology.”
(The instructor of the other 282 section was teaching it for the first time. We are not allowed to grade on the curve, so it is difficult to set the cutoffs for grades--especially the first time. I've only taught this course five times myself, which is not a lot. The class median grade has been B+ four times (and a B once). When you took the course in Fall, 2015, the median was B+. GFC wants the median in second-year courses to be B. If anything, I should be worried about grade inflation--not that I'm being too harsh in the grading.)

“The marking for the self-management assignment wasn't very fair... There was a 20% class average difference between two different markers every time, yet Dr. Loepelmann didn't do anything about it”
(In calculating interrater reliability (yes, I actually do that), there were only trivial differences between the markers--certainly not a 20% difference. I addressed every student concern that was brought to my attention. In many cases, the student’s mark increased, although on two occasions I deducted more marks.)

“I would love if the notes were able to be downloaded in PDF format and available on eclass. I would also like the notes to have more colourful, visual pictures.”
(I specifically do NOT use PDF format, because it is less flexible than HTML. You cannot resize text, for example. I limit colour because of previous complaints that my notes were costing students too much in terms of coloured ink refills.)

“More time should be spent on the self-management assignment. I felt really unprepared because we were given ZERO instructions on how to do it.”
(In the lectures, I explain what a target behaviour is and how to measure it. I explained how to find research papers. I explained dozens of different kinds of behaviour modification procedures, what they are, and how to apply them. I explained how to create a bmod graph (and provided instructions online explaining how to create a graph in Excel). I explained all about antecedents and stimulus control. I explained self-management, as well as generalization and maintenance. All of these things I explained directly apply to the self-management project. With these tools, it’s up to you to apply them to your behaviour; I’m not going to hold your hand. That said, I did answer literally *hundreds* of emails during the term, helping students with their project.)

“I had Dr. Loepelmann for PSYCO 104, and was very excited to have a course with him again. He did not disappoint. He is very thorough in his coverage of the material, and is good at explaining it in ways I understand. It's clear he is very knowledgeable about what he is teaching because he is able to explain it simply. He seems to really care about the quality of instruction we are receiving, and tries - and succeeds - at making the material fun and relatable. I appreciate the amount if effort he puts into his lectures and the amount of additional background research he does instead of just repeating the textbook. His exams are challenging but they are very fair. I really appreciate the many opportunities to assess my knowledge outside of exams with all the various practice quizzes and review questions he provided. I'm really excited to learn more about behaviour modification and apply it to my own habits. I heartily recommend him to other students”

“I find that I am demotivated to write notes further then the fill in the blanks. It's more helpful when I am consistently writing during class because it keeps me focused and engaged. So in the future leave more information out of the notes to encourage students to make more notes”
“I found that blanking out his notes was incredibly insulting. It's juvenile. Instead of paying attention to what he is saying we are scrambling looking for the "fill in the blank" in his notes, and that really takes away from the course”
(You don’t *have* to use my fill-in-the-blank notes, you know. You can write down as much or as little as you like--it’s up to you.)

“The time it took to mark assignments was excessive (Sometimes 20+ days after the submission date). Receiving feedback one day before the next assignment is due is not acceptable. How are we supposed to grow and learn from our mistakes in one day?”
(I agree. The next semester after you took the course (Winter, 2016), I changed the way the marking was done to decrease the feedback cycle time. Feedback time was much improved.)

“Great job on making a somewhat dull course and dry material interesting with many videos and real world examples. It is evident how much effort you put into creating this course. You are the type of instructor that makes me proud I study at the U of A.”

“Terrible style of teaching. I really hope you do something about this prof. You can't read slides for a term and think students will learn anything. Might as well made the notes accessible online, and then I'd never even have to go to class. Complete waste of money.”
“This class was the most boring class I have ever taken, if it did not fulfill a requirement, I would have never even considered it. Did not enjoy the content of the professor.”
“No, perfect class”

PSYCO 403:
“Although I have comments that I would like to make about the course, for fear of ending up on your blog, I will keep my comments to myself.”
(See what I did there? In all seriousness, constructive feedback is welcome. I respect and welcome your opinions. I don’t post every single comment I get, and they’re all completely anonymous.)

Check out part 2!

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