Dr. Charles has a long-standing interest in finding
more effective ways of teaching psychology. He also
has an unfourtunate, burning desire to write an
Ecological Psychology textbook, and eventually an
Introductory Psychology textbook. He will happily talk
to you for hours about what is wrong with current
books, the standard methods of teaching current
classes, etc. You will also find him highly opinioated
about other aspects of the curriculum.
Introductory psychology is, on average, horribly
conceived. The textbooks, the content, and the class
style seem as if they were designed to convince
students that psychology was not a science - and the
attempts at a more "scientific" textbook are little
improvement. We just don't teach psychology as the
sciences are taught - intro psych could expose
students to 150 years worth of things psychologists
know, integrated into a coherent story, but it does
not. If you want to know more about what I think is
wrong with Intro Psych, and what a better version
might look like, see more here:
E. P. (2008). Eight things wrong with introductory
psychology courses in America: A warning to my
European colleagues. Journal fur Psychologie, 2.
Note that I actually think there are two coherent
ways to teach intro psych: 1) You teach it like a
science class (see above article), 2) You teach it
like a humanities class. If you go the latter route,
then Introduction to Psychology becomes a History of
Psychology class. The problem with the current system
is that it does not do either of those options well.
It is, typically, a hodgepodge of disconnected facts
and ideas that inevitably does not serve our students
or our field very well.
At Penn State Altoona, English 202A is Writing for
the Social Sciences, and is required for all
psychology majors (and many others). In the research
lab, we have spent the last 2 years assessing the
course to determine how it serves our majors. This
includes gathering survey data from students in the
class, and doing interviews and document assessments
with the 202A faculty and the social science faculty.
This has resulted in several presentations (including
the first student presentation every given at the
campus Teaching and Learning Consortium) and a senior
thesis for Steven McFall (now in grad school at
Indiana University of PA). We are in the process of
producing a report for publication and an internal
document that provides recommendations to future 202A
I am a big fan of academic freedom, so we are not
trying to tell anyone what to do in their classes. Our
goal is to better explain how this course fits into
the sequence of social science classes, so that the
faculyt can make informed decisions about how to best
help their students. The Engish Department
faculty have been very receptive to this approach, and
I will post the final documents when we produce them.
The field of Ecological Psychology has not had a new
"text" in several decades. The last books that could
count were Gibson's last book, from 1979, and Michaels
and Carello's Direct Perception, from 1981. The field
has changed much in the intervening years. In
particular, we now have a discipline's worth of
empirical success stories that can be told, where as
in much had to be kept speculative while the field was
At the International society for Ecological
Psychology meeting in Indiana, Bill Mace gave at talk
where he speculated as to what would be included in an
Annual Review article about the state of the field. He
also speculated that it would be very difficult for
any individual member of the field to write such a
book. This led me to the conclusion that we needed a
new textbook, and that we needed to write it as a
group. I have been working slowly, since that time, to
wrangle a large group of Ecological Psychologists into
writing a textbook. Several chapters are underway now.
Anyone interested in helping out should contact me.
The plan is to have large blocks finished by 2013, a
solid draft with all the holes filled in by 2014, and
a finished draft by 2015. The goal is to create an
undergraduate textbook that can be used for any class
on 'Perception' or 'Perception and Action', as well as
specialized courses on the Ecological Approach.
Psychology Press has expressed considerable interest.
Because of the massively-multicolored nature of this
book, all proceeds will go to ISEP.
Email me if you are interested in helping out!
Altoona's psychology program shot to the forefront of
assessment efforts on campus a few years before I
arrived. Despite my skepticism, there was even some
evidence accumulating that the time and effort spent
thereon was useful. I have been involved in these
efforts since arrival, including helping to design
some control conditions that allowed us to better
monitor changes in knowledge from freshman to senior
year (as opposed to simply assessing seniors). This
research is being written up, and will be submitted in
late Fall 2012 to Teaching Psychology.
I have already used some of the findings to create
supplements for my Intro class. We will see if it