The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Planning for Next Semester

I have learned that fortunately I have been given a section of Introduction to Psychology to teach once again. My department and Chair have been very helpful in allowing up graduate students who want to teach ample opportunities to do so. Ever since I received my Masters, I have been given many opportunities to teach courses as primary instructor, including courses in Educational Psychology and Developmental Psychology.

I have taught Intro a couple of times before, but this will be the first time that I will have a large number of students (100+), and this will actually be my largest class ever. I will have 2 undergraduate TA's to run my lab sections. This is certainly a good opportunity for me to revamp my Intro class. The way that I teach it now assumes a smaller class size (< 30) and therefore I will need to adjust when I do certain things like class discussions and some demonstrations and the type of project that I will have my students complete. I have for the last two times I've taught the class had the students do a type of research article on a topic of their choosing. This was done in peicemeal fashion with many small steps along the way (choose topic, do literature search, summarise articles, then write an intergrative paper on these articles), but with 100+ students and having undergraduate TA's will not allow me to do such a labor intensive project.

So now I need to think of another, possibly more fun project for my students to do. Some people have their students compile a portfolio of examples of psychology from media, others a paper on a movie that is about topics in psychology. I'm not sure what I plan to do just yet. I am a big believer in a Liberal Arts type of education, so I see a written project as very important in my students' educations.

I am also pondering changing the topics that I cover. Over the years I have found certain chapters to bore me (such as cognition, problem solving, and language). I am thinking of including topics such as Health Psychology, stress, and other topics that I think the students (any myself) will be more interested in.

Also I am debating if/how I will incorportate some sort of research into this class. I plan to use my clickers (TurningPoint) again, and maybe even myy advisor's online study tool. But right now I'm not sure how to best study these. More thoughts and maybe some brainstorming with Mark will help.

Monday, June 19, 2006


As I continue to work on myy dissertation, I find it amazing how easily one study can balloon. As I am revisiting my data and my results, I find ways that I should reanalyze my data. I was sitting in one of my favorite local coffee houses (no not a Starbucks, thank you) trying to outline my results section when I found that I should be doind some other within-subjects analysis on some of my variables. I do the appropriate analyses, find significant results in a mixed model ANOVA and now must learn (or re-learn) how to conduct the appropriate post-hoc tests. I thought I had learned how, but I do not think that I have ever conducted a post hoc test with a mixed model ANOVA (significant three way results with two of my within subject and my between subjects effects).

In addition to new statistics needing to be done, as I revisit my literature I am finding subtle items in the literature that I did not fully grasp or had not known to pay attention to the first time I was reading these articles. Unfortunately I had decided to look into a field of theories where there are several different theorietical viewpoints on the same basic idea. In attempting to find past results to compare my present results to, I am finding it difficult to be able to directly compare some of the old results with my own. Mostly this is because my dissertation is testing a newer version of this theory, and another because of the differences in interpretation of what each of the different constructs are grounded in.

Needless to say I have more than enough work to keep me busy this summer. And to try to motivate myself to really get some stuff done, I am actaully going to publish some goals for myself, right here right now.

  1. By the end of July I will have a rough draft of my results on the measures that I have used includeing the factor analysis and replication of past results predicting motivation and self-reported study behaviors, and all results from the database comparing my two experimental groups.
  2. Beginning in August I will begin analyses on the Mastery group and the unique variables associated with that experimental group.
  3. By October, revamp the Introduction to better reflect new literature and my findings
  4. By October have a draft of the Disussion Section completed.
  5. October will be spent revising and hopefully sending out to committee members
  6. Hopefully defend in time for December graduation.

Now that I have at least made this somewhat public, maybe these goals will come to fruition.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Stats Nerds

All stats nerds unite! Someone has actually made a stats rap set to "Grillz." You can see it here Really only true stats nerds can appreciate this. May be somewhat useful in an introductory stats class near the end, maybe as a way to remember some fundamentals for a final.

Generally I've been pretty stagnate on the dissertation lately. I did start a rough outline for my resutls section and found some possible other analyses to run. But right now in my life I've been focusing more on getting back into a healthy lifestyle.

It is amazing how graduate school has affected my activity level. I'm not talking about doind stuff, but I'm talking physical activity. This is probably the least active I've been in my life. Even in college, though I did not exercise much but at least I had to walk everywhere. Since entering grad school I've gained about 10 lbs and have done little exersice. The exersice I have done has been pretty sporatic. Maybe I'll do good for a semester, but then it droppes off again.

So right now I am focused on getting more active. I'm on a running program right now to help me train to be able to run for more than a meager block. I also do a lot of bicycling and walking. In addition to this I'm watching what I eat and am a member of My Food Diary which is a great site for people who are looking to loose weight the proper way. Through watching what you eat and exercise. I have also taken up the President's Challenge and am 4% on my way to the Bronze Award. Yeah, not far, but it is a goal to look forward to. I'm also thinking of possibly entering into a 5K run sometime in the future. There is the Roger Maris 5K run in September. I'll see if I want to do that. I would certainly be a tangible goal to need to train for!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Why is stats so darned difficult

I am currently trying to re-analyze my thesis data. In my original thesis I had conducted a path analysis to help describe the relationships between a set a variables. With my last review of the ms I submitted on this research, the reviewer basically stated that the path analysis and the conclusions made from this analysis were not correct. I have a nagging feeling though, that they were correct, at least on some level.

I am now trying to get into the nitty gritty of path analysis and I am finding that it is a very difficult type of analysis to interpret because of the possiblity of needing to conduct several different analyses on several different models. Now I have tried to find a way to evaluate the fit of the model to my data and invested hard drive space into a trial version of Lisrel (a commonly used program for SEM and path analysis), but I cannot figure out how to use it! How much time should I spend learning this new software versus using an alternate, yet time consuming technique of decomposing my paths by hand.

Just frustrated with how completcated things can get when you really start to think deeply about them. Perhaps I wonder if I am thinking too deeply and getting to complicated. Parsimony is valued in our profession, perhaps I need to just try a simpler technique.