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A Spring 2014 GSTA Blog Retrospective and Useful Index

A Spring 2014 GSTA Blog Retrospective and Useful Index

Winslow Homer  Woman and BlackboardAssessment ASocrates and Platoscissorskeyboardpsych textbooksfoxy writingspring 2014bike rewardsthinking orangutanGSTA LOGO

Dear GSTA Community,

As the semester comes to a close we’d like to thank everyone who read, commented and posted on the GSTA blog. Here’s the list of the posts, which we hope will serve as a useful resource when planning your courses in the fall!

If you have any Teaching Tips you’d like to share please submit them to gsta.cuny.@gmail.com.


The GSTA Blog Editorial Team:

Philip Kreniske, Kasey Powers, Francis Yannaco and Theresa Fiani

And follow us on twitter@gradsteachpsych or join our Facebook Group!

Encouraging Inter-Student Participation in Large Lecture Sections using Discussion Board Forums

25 Feb 2014

By Danielle DeNigris


Teaching Tip: Choose Your Assessments Based On Student Learning Goals

04 Mar 2014

By Emily A. A. Dow


A Tool for Understanding Students: the Discussion Forum

11 Mar 2014

By Anna Schwartz


Socrates in the Classroom: Helping Students to Discover What’s Already There

18 Mar 2014

By Jeff Kukucka


A Mixed-Methods Approach to Child Development Instruction: Reflecting on Research Presented at the SRCD

24 Mar 2014

By Naomi J. AldrichPeri Ozlem Yuksel-Sokmen, & Sarah E. Berger


Using Low Stakes Writing as a Learning Tool

01 Apr 2014

By Kasey L. Powers


Short on Resources? A Variety of Useful Options for Graduate Students Teaching Psychology

08 Apr 2014

By Theresa Fiani and Rita Obeid


Teaching with Technology: Just the Basics Part 1

29 Apr 2014

By Francis Yannaco


Flip the Textbook

06 May 2014

By Kasey Powers


3 Tips for Supporting Greenhorn Research Writers

12 May 2014

By Philip Kreniske


Lecturers Can Run a Successful Course Without a Textbook

20 May 2014

By Hunter Kincaid



3 Tips for Supporting Greenhorn Research Writers

3 Tips for Supporting Greenhorn Research Writers

By Philip Kreniske  

repost from the GSTA Blog:

When my students see the syllabus on the first day of class they cry in unison, “But I’m no good at writing”. Writing a research paper is one of the greatest challenges for many psychology undergraduates, and teaching students how to write research papers is certainly one of the greatest challenges educators face. At Hunter College, as at many CUNY schools, all psychology majors must complete a psychology research methods course. At each campus this course involves slightly different requirements, but the one unifying component is the research paper.

Here are 3 tips for teaching the research paper

1. Use a Rubric

Using a rubric and sharing the rubric with students before the paper is due makes expectations and grading criteria clear. A rubric tells students important information about what their audience (me – the teacher) will be looking for and helps them compose their paper accordingly. The rubric is also helpful for me as I grade and later return papers. Along with track changes, the rubric is incredibly useful for dealing with student’s grade related queries. Admittedly, I do not always remember each paper – or why a student earned a particular grade, but one look at the rubric and I can see exactly what I was thinking when I read that paper and I can quickly articulate this to the student in person or over email. This gives the student a better sense of what they need to improve on in the future too. Why not use a rubric? Rubrics – like many useful tools take time to create. So don’t create it from scratch – adapt one. Here’s a rubric I adapted from Seamus Donnelly (a graduate student whom I TA’d for), or here’s a few others from the Hunter psych department, or create your own usingRubistar’s templates.

2. Writing Time and Rewards

I’ve written a number of posts on my personal blog about the pros and cons of Silvia’s (2007) writing approach detailed in his APA published How to Write a Lot. Silvia’s book is geared towards professors and graduate students – though his approach is useful for undergraduates too. Silvia encourages his readers to make a writing schedule, plan out goals and form writing groups.

The writing schedule, or what I call “my meetings” should be regular, at least three or four days a week for about two hours. The time can be used for any writing related activities, such as searching for literature or running analyses. A writing time is not to be used for checking Facebook or responding to emails. During this time Silvia suggests turning off phones and even the Internet (gasp!). Furthermore, I encourage my students to plan appointments and extracurricular activities around this time, as I if it were an actual meeting. To bring this point home I show my students my Google Calender and writing times.

In addition, Silvia suggests charting writing progress and goals and keeping track of completed and uncompleted writing times with an excel spreadsheet. I encourage my students to make goals and spreadsheets for themselves.

To scaffold this I make certain components of the paper – such as writing an article summary – one of their homework assignments. Furthermore, I consistently reference what they should be planning for their weekly writing times, with statements like “this week you should use your writing time to search for sources”.

Finally, Silvia emphasizes the importance of rewarding oneself for completing projects. In the past my students have rewarded themselves by planning dinners aftercompleting a major paper, or, in my case, after passing my second doctoral exam I bought a used bike! The only reward, however tempting, that is not allowed is skipping writing times!

my nirve beach cruiser and boomer's houndabout

3. The Paper Workshop

In my class, I ask students to bring in a working draft the week before each paper is due. During the class period, I lead a workshop where the students critique each other’s work. I think it is important to set very clear guidelines for this workshop and to walk the class through the paper section by section – starting with the cover page. For each section, I ask students to make at least three positive comments and three critiques or questions and if they can to relate these to the rubric. I even give an example of positive comments such as “I like how your running head is in all capital letters”. Depending on the complexity or length of each section of the paper I give students different amounts of time. I usually allow students two minutes to review each other’s cover pages, while I might break the introduction into two five minute review sessions. During this time I often project an APA sample paper for the corresponding section as I walk around the room and check in with groups. After the allotted time, I call on groups (I suggest groups of two and no greater than three) and ask them to share a positive comment from their partner’s paper. I elicit about three positive comments and then shift to asking for questions and critiques. As a class we work through the entire paper.

Concluding Thoughts

Perhaps someday I will meet this mythical being called “the good writer”.  Until then I believe that good writing takes practice, perseverance and planning. Throughout my course I show students the strategies I use to become a better writer. I approach my own writing projects by studying the provided rubrics – beyond the classroom such rubrics more often take the guise of calls for papers or grant guidelines. I plan out what I will do and when, generally by allotting blocks of time and aiming for specific deadlines. Finally, in search of constructive feedback I share my work with my adviser, my colleagues, and sometimes my wife. In my research methods course I encourage students to try out and adapt the practices that have helped me develop as a writer into their own schemas and schedules.


Free Citi Bikes on the Upper West Side!

Citi Bikes on the Upper West Side! If it was going to happen anywhere it would be here.

Riverside has always been a mystical park. Even as Guilliani and now Bloomberg whitewash the city Riverside resists.

Riverside No Smoking Sign


Riverside Rules

As youths, it was in Riverside where we escaped the confines of prep school to frolic in the animal kingdom, or trade stories with an old man who lived underground while his campfire cracked and licked at painted walls, and it was in Riverside on Christmas eve that Lester, Bat, Marley and I dove into piles of freshly discarded pines – light as haystacks and fragrant like a forest.

These days it is Riverside where the green turf fields turn to sheets of sparkling white – illuminated by the dipping winter sun, and in the summer it is Riverside were behemoth bottom trawling fish spill their guts, and bearded warblers sing of bygone eras.

So of course it would be Riverside where a wily band of nudniks chose to dump their dozen Citi Bikes. Were they stolen?  Has someone figured out how to hack a Citi Bike rack?

But it had to be a group because the nearest station is over a mile away, and to get twelve bikes to 97th – from 59th – that would take a lot of time. Were they somehow lost – at $1,000 per bike -that would be a hefty fine! Or was it a statement “Bring Citi Bikes to the Upper West Side, By Any Means!”.

Materializing after midnight and vanishing before dawn their origins and disappearance remain a Riverside enigma. Though the intent seems clear, these stolen Citi Bikes set free in Riverside Park send a message of dissent to the Bloombergian powers that be.

citi bikes 2

What do Citi Bike and the NFL have in common?

In Color Me Blue Ephron makes  humorous, poignant and cutting observations about how Citi Bank did quite well for themselves in the Citi Bike deal at the expense of New Yorkers aesthetics and tax dollars.

“For $41 million — what Citibank paid to sponsor the program for five years — our city bikes became Citi Bikes. To make certain you don’t forget this fact, a Citi Bike sign hangs in front of the handlebars, Citi Bike is printed twice on the frame, and a Citi Bike billboard drapes the rear wheel on both sides. The font is the familiar Citibank font and the Citibank signature decoration floats over the “t.” There is no way to see a Citi Bike without thinking Citibank. The 6,000 bikes so far rolled out, of a possible 10,000, and their signs are a Day-Glo cobalt blue that you see on banks. Nobody wears this color. Nobody paints his or her apartment this color. This blue is bank blue”.

I won’t summarize or paste the rest here – but if you missed this piece – here it is.

From city views,to neighborhoods like Greenpoint, to attempts to turn public parks into private stadiums, in the Bloomberg era we might ask, “What’s not for sale?”

Don’t worry New Yorkers we aren’t the only ones subsidizing big business, as Greg Easterbrook points out in a recent Atlantic article on the NFL, the subsidization of major businesses like sports franchises is a national pastime.

Ever wonder where your tax dollars went America? (hint, it’s not just health care)

How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers

To Give you a taste: Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

“Last year was a busy one for public giveaways to the National Football League. In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility. Hoping to avoid scrutiny, McDonnell approved the gift while the state legislature was out of session. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts.

Taxpayers in Hamilton County, Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, were hit with a bill for $26 million in debt service for the stadiums where the NFL’s Bengals and Major League Baseball’s Reds play, plus another $7 million to cover the direct operating costs for the Bengals’ field. Pro-sports subsidies exceeded the $23.6 million that the county cut from health-and-human-services spending in the current two-year budget (and represent a sizable chunk of the $119 million cut from Hamilton County schools). Press materials distributed by the Bengals declare that the team gives back about $1 million annually to Ohio community groups. Sound generous? That’s about 4 percent of the public subsidy the Bengals receive annually from Ohio taxpayers”. 

And this is just the beginning…The article goes on to explain that the NFL is a non-profit and how that happened.

I seriously considered boycotting pro-football,  luckily the Giants and Jets are two of three teams that have paid 3/4’s or more of their stadium capital costs.

At the end of the day, literally, you may find me searching 33rd street for a quicker way home, and scowling in dismay as yet again all the bikes have flown west for the night leaving me to ponder if maybe we could use more bikes?

But seriously, subsidizing millionaires is madness, inequality is bad for everyone – and if you don’t trust me – listen to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

an empty citi bike rack
But wait – you might say- I see that last bike at the end of the rack! Sadly, it’s always out of order.


biking across the hudson (nj.com)

The Week of the Bike and Biking Across the Hudson

The week of the bike began with with Manfrank and Michael riding up the Hudson from 59th to Van Cortlandt Park . The trail ends at my old block – Dyckman street – and there we ducked into the neighborhood, rode to the tip of Manhattan and then hit Broadway up to Van Cortlandt, where apparently there is a trail to Westchester (that’s for next time!).

The next day I turned my stiff neck and ogled as a sworm of bikers (the motorized kind) stormed up Amsterdam Avenue and later saw where they went after that. 

Yesterday one of my recent favorite NY blogs, City Room’s ‘Today in New York’ alerted me to biking across the Hudson.  (To give credit where it’s due, my wife introduced me to this great daily post a few months ago).

A few weeks ago Judah Schiller biked across the San Francisco Bay from Oakland to SF. Yesterday he biked across the Hudson.

New York Today also alerted me to a Daily News story claiming  Citi Bike was coming to Harlem.  However, when I recently checked the story the headline had changed: ‘Citi Bike NOT coming to Harlem!’

Me outside the Graduate Center (CUNY) on my Citi Bike (Photo courtesy of Manfrankager)

5 Pros & Woes from a First Time Citi Bike Ride

Like many of my New Yorker friends I let the summer slide by without taking a ride on a Citi bike. As you know if you’ve seen some of my past posts – I do have a couple bikes, so why use Citi bike?  Last week I gave it a try, and here’s what I found:

Me outside the Graduate Center (CUNY) on my Citi Bike (Photo courtesy of Manfrankager)
Outside the Graduate Center (CUNY) on my Citi Bike (Photo courtesy of Manfrankager)

Citi Bike Pros:

1. Crosstown Cruising

It’s great for short little jaunts, like going from the red line to the east side, or from the Graduate Center (34th and 5th) where I go to school, to Baruch (24th and Lex), where our gym is located.

Crosstown NYC
Crosstown NYC

 2. Freedom

You get a little exercise and fresh air, instead of being stuffed in the subways and sluggish buses.

3. One Free Ride!

The price is reasonable, I did the $25 for a week pass, and $100 for the year doesn’t seem so bad either. Citi even has a promotional offer this month – a day for free!

4. Where’s My Bike?

It’s so reasonable that in midtown the bikes were all gone at 6pm – luckily the Citi Bike website has this realtime map so you can check which stations have bikes and which don’t.

Citi Bike Station Map 2:30 on 9-18-2013
Citi Bike Station Map 2:30 on 9-18-2013

5. Room for Two

As Manfrankager and I found out you can even ride tandem – getting more bang (pause) for your buck!

(Sorry no photo – you’ll have to use the old imagination).


$hiti Bike Woes:

(sorry- I couldn’t help myself)

1. The Codes Don’t Work

To get a bike -unless you are an annual user – you need to insert your card into the bike kiosk which then gives you a code for each ride. The codes generated by the machines never worked on the first try, even after trying multiple bikes. When you call the Citi Bike helpline they require your name, phone and credit card number before offering innovative solutions like:

‘Are you sure you typed in the right code?”

The code was 33333, yes I’m sure!

Good news, by that time the mandatory two minutes between getting a ride code is up – so you can go to the machine and try again. For me it was usually the second or third code that worked.

2. Killer Bees!

I’ve been biking in the city my whole life but on my first Citi Bike ride I nearly met my end as a cabby sped to make a quick right – into me! Wouldn’t be the first time an NYC cabbie hit a cyclist this year.

Cab door Killer bees
Killer Bees

3. Doors!

Also on my first perilous trip I watched a woman exit her cab and door a hapless Citi Bike rider (I’ve had nightmares of being doored but  – until last week I’d never actually seen it happen).

4. Sorry Foreigners

According to the Portuguese speaking women trying to get a Citi Bike on west 27th street, foreign cards don’t work, and $25 gift cards don’t work either – I watched them try and fail as I waited (thankfully after the third attempt they let me get my code and get moving).

5. The Annual Pass…Not so fast!

After my trial week I signed up for the annual pass. I was ready to ride on. Not so fast!  It takes up to 10 days to process. Granted they have to mail you a key – but wouldn’t it be easy enough to let people use their cards at the bike kiosks as they do with the week pass?

In closing – the time is now and Citi Bike is the Official Transportation of the Apocolapyse.