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Classes

I include here some links to class web sites for those classes that have substantial online material. After those links is a section in which I describe both those classes and a few other ones that are not web based.


Class Web Sites

Current Classes

This Fall I am teaching History and Methods.

Other courses I have taught (and may again) include:


Psychology Classes

Introduction to Psychology

This class is offered by the department in2 large sections a term. I used to teach a section about once a year, in a format that is substantially different from the standard textbook approach. You might call it a great books approach, but in addition to classics, I also use current texts that are excellent overviews of an area. I recently moved the handbook for this class to the web so other folks could take a look at it. I most recently used the following texts:

Class consists of a mixture of lecture, questions, discussion of the topics in the chapters, and directed work on the exam and reading questions. There are regular quizzes. There are also 4 take-home exams that ask the student to integrate and reflect on the reading. These exams are open book and cooperative. That is, students can work on their answers using any sources available, including other students in the class, psychology majors, the assigned texts, supplementary texts or reference works, professors, friends at other colleges, etc. The questions are substantive and integrative. Since students have access to such extensive help, I am able to set high standards for what a "good" answer is.

Most students think that this approach, though difficult, is worth the time. They learn to use the material in a context sensitive way, rather than just memorizing facts. The exams do take a lot of time, but are the major learning experience in the class. Some students have wondered if this class was more a general education class than a comprehensive introduction to the major. It really serves both purposes.

Social Psychology

This is the first class in the Social Psychology series in the department. Some of the materials are now on the web. I have been teaching it for sveral years now and am considering a change in the book list. So you can expect things to change pretty drastically from one incarnation of the course to another as I iterate to a comfortable and successful format. In the past, we have read:

We breeze through Aronson's very readable introduction to the area in about 4 weeks. We spend the rest of the class looking in depth into the three areas represented by the remaining texts. Make sure you read Aronson carefully. It is such a readable text that students often take for granted the simplicity of the concepts he presents and miss a great deal of nuance and detail.

Social Conflict & Negotiation

This class is a hoot both to teach and to take. It is also a great deal of work. The class takes up so much time that have at times taught it in the interim so it did not conflict with other classes students might be taking. It is, however now back in the regular schedule.

The primary vehicle for learning in this class is a role-played negotiation among groups in the class. Class members choose sides in a current conflict and attempt to negotiate a solution to that conflict. They are graded both on what they get for their client and on their analysis of their (and their classmate's) performance in the negotiation. These role plays are intensive and emotionally draining, but it is from this intensive involvement in negotiation that we learn how people can escalate conflict, reach stalemate, and come (if reluctantly) to integrative agreements. The most recent negotations have been based in the middle east, but you do not need even to know where that is to participate in the class. I provide a great deal of supporting material and other faculty who specialize in the area are usually willing to consult.

In our analysis of these conflicts we use social psychology and communications concepts from these books:

These texts help us understand both the within groups dynamics of small, leaderless groups (like our class groups) and the between group dynamics of negotiation when there is a clear divergence of interest.

Moral Reasoning

This class is based in one of my official areas of expertise. It is a seminar, which means that students read the materials and bring their own observations and comments to the classroom to engage in an analytic discussion of the reading. I don't lecture at all, and try to keep my comments down to 10 minutes length at most. By the time students take this class they should be able to read psychological literature and critique it. But one can always get better at this, so this is what we practice in the class.

The readings focus on a variety of topics, from developmental processes to animal behavior. Readings include:

and a host of empirical journal articles in the field. We struggle to understand how emotion, motivation, social influence, cognitive processes, and learning all contribute to the complex process of deciding what is moral and deciding to do or not do the moral thing.


ParaCollege Classes

What's a Body To Do?

This seminar iwas taught for the first time in the spring of 1996. DeAne Lagerquist (the senior tutor) and I co-taught it. We followed time honored advice in the paracollege: find someone you would like to talk with, then find something interesting to talk about. In this class we talked about (and experienced) our bodies. Most of the moral controversies today are about what people do with their bodies, but there is precious little careful thought about how our embodied-ness really influences us -- or ought to influence us. We will be looked at a variety of issues in this conceptual landscape. We read Peter Brown's The Body and Society, an investigatioin into how the early church viewed and practiced celibacy. What does it mean to renounce sex? What are we losing and gaining when we do? We also looked at medieval ascetic women's experience of eating, and the "body as machine" metaphor from the industrial revolution.

What's a fine empiricist like me doing in a place like this? First, I learned new stuff from a fine church historian (DeAne). Second I brought various articles from psychology into class to help us reflect on how we experience our bodies. For instance, we looked at work on the emotion of anger and how it is both a "passion" and a thing we construct. We looked at the emotion of disgust (Think about the saliva in your mouth. Now imagine spitting it into a clean glass. Now imagine putting it back into your mouth). Get that disgust reaction? It is learned even though it feels innate and completely natural.

Psychology of Religion

This was taught for the first time in the 1999 Interim. You can find a syllabus and links etc. for the class on the web. The class asks students to both experience religious practice (through meditation or other contemplative practices) and to analyze that experience with theories and data from empirical psychology of religion. We use the upper-level textbook The Psychology of Religion by Ralph Hood et al. to get the best grounding in the empirical work in the area and the CD ROM On Common Ground by Diana Eck to get a feel for the variety of different religious practices in America. Students commit to doing some sort of daily practice (lectio divina, centering prayer, daily offices, relaxation techniques, yoga, zazen, etc.) and to reflecting on their experience in that practice. We also visit a local Buddhist temple, an Abbey of Benedictine monks and a Monastery of Benedictine Nuns. I try to keep the class small so we can all fit in one of the college's vans for these trips. Students also attend chapel every day during interim as observers to collect observational data on the religious practice that happens right here. This course is rarely offered now, so if you are interested in the topic, contact me to talk about how you might pursue it.

 

St. Olaf College
Psychology Department
My Main
Page
Research Projects
Classes
Essays
and
Poetry
Links
SPSP
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