April 2016 Instructor of the Month - Michele Moscicki (Psychology)

Closing out our 2015/16 year as Instructor of the month for April is psychology instructor Michele Moscicki.

01 April 2016

Q: What do you teach?

A: I teach about life! More specifically, I teach a variety of courses that examine why humans (as well as non-human animals) behave the way we do and how we relate to our environments. These courses cover a range of topics including at the broadest level Introductory Psychology and more specific topics such as Behavioural Genetics, the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Learning and Behaviour, and my all-time favourite the Biology of Stress and Coping.

Q: Why should people learn about it?

A: Well, we all have a mind, genes, a memory, learn things, and experience stress. I think most people are interested in learning about these topics because they relate directly to everyday life. The effects of genes on behaviour can sometimes be quite misunderstood so it's an important topic to learn about to debunk myths we might see in the media like "gene for happiness found!". Learning and memory are great topics to learn about so we can use these processes more efficiently. Finally, in terms of my stress class, well, it's never going to be a bad thing to have more stress coping tools in your arsenal.

Q: What are some of its "real-world" applications?

A: ​I believe Psychology's application is real life. When we understand more about what goes into our choices to behave in certain ways we are better able to make choices that get us closer to the things we really want in life - feelings of happiness, meaning, satisfaction, etc. In terms of my specific courses, behavioural genetics is playing an increasingly interesting role in society - particularly in terms of the legal system as this type of evidence is being brought into courts of law much more frequently now than ever before. Learning and memory are huge topics for everyday life - particularly the everyday lives of students of all kinds. Stress is also something that impacts us daily - whether it be dealing with microstressors like waiting in line or more major stressors like school and work. Knowing more about these topics can help us enhance our lives (and the lives of those around us) in a variety of ways.

"We all have a mind, genes, a memory, learn things, and experience stress. These subjects help us learn about ourselves as people."

Q: What's the coolest thing about this subject area?

A: ​I think the coolest thing about all the subject areas I teach is how directly related to real life they are. These subjects help us learn about ourselves as people. Particularly in reference to stress I think it is infinitely cool to watch my students gain confidence in their own stress coping abilities and to then hear from them again (sometimes years after they have taken the class) when they write to tell me how they still use some of the stress coping techniques we talked about. I think being able to share tools with people to help them enhance their lives is spectacularly cool!

Q: What's your favourite kind of teaching and/or learning space, and why?

A: I think the teaching and learning space are the same because I always feel like I am learning things from my students through the great questions they are always asking! I think any environment where people feel engaged in the material and safe to ask questions is a great learning (and therefore great teaching) space. This is my favourite type of learning/teaching space because I feel like the space really comes alive with this sort of "learning electricity" when both the students and the teacher are engaged, excited, and curious.

Q: What was your favourite learning experience as an undergrad, and how do you incorporate that experience into teaching your students?

A: My favourite learning experience as an undergrad was probably the Tropical Ecology field course I took in Costa Rica for two weeks. During this experience we were literally living in our learning environment all day every day. We could really see how the things we were learning were applicable to real life. I try to bring that real world connection into all my courses to really get students excited about what we are learning because they can see the relevance of the material to their everyday lives.

Q: What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

A: That I love tea. Oh wait, everyone that has ever talked to me knows that one :)

How about this: When I was younger (high school, undergrad) I never considered teaching as a career path because I thought I was so bad at it. My friends would ask for my help with their homework and I would try to help them and just end up confusing them even more. I was also really afraid of public speaking (like, puked on my desk before giving a 5 minute speech afraid). Sooo, the fact that I now teach for a living and students seem to be able to learn from my teaching is something that still surprises me to know about myself sometimes! It's a really nice feeling to know that things can change with practice and effort - even our perceptions about ourselves.

Also, I used to clog at county fairs when I was younger. Yeehaw!

What her students say:

"Dr. Michele Moscicki is the most concise professor I have had thus far; every sentence she says clearly explains a new aspect of a concept and furthers the students' understanding. Dr. Moscicki has increased my passion for psychology ten-fold and led me to minor (and possibly major) in Psychology."

"Inside or outside of the classroom, [Dr. Moscicki] acts as a mentor to many students. She tirelessly answered my many questions after every class, and during her office hours, she answered even more questions I had about undergraduate research."