Maintaining an active research program is important not only to stay on top of new results, but it also has the desirable effect of bringing the enthusiasm of new discoveries into my teaching. I consider teaching to be extremely important and have devoted considerable effort toward improving both the content and delivery of my lectures. My teaching style is rooted in the philosophy that students must engage the material in order to maximize their learning experience. To this end, I always encourage students to be active rather than passive learners. I also strongly believe that students must appreciate the historical context of how scientific discoveries are acquired through research and experimentation.
Since arriving at McMaster, I have taught the following courses:
PSYCH 3A03 (AUDITION)
This is an upper level Faculty of Science course primarily intended for juniors or seniors in the fields of Biology and Psychology. The course provides an introduction to the biology of hearing and the psychology of auditory perception. The emphasis is on fundamental auditory principles, their underlying physiological mechanisms, and experimental methods used in hearing research. Topics include physical acoustics; sound analysis; structure (neuroanatomy) and function (electrophysiology) of the mammalian auditory system, with an emphasis on the peripheral auditory system; auditory behaviour and perception; and psychophysical measurement and testing. Wherever possible, the course highlights practical applications of sound and hearing. In-class audio demonstrations and computer animations (visualizations) are used to augment the educational experience. Numerical problem sets with solutions not requiring calculators are used to prepare students for examinations, and also to stress major points of understanding. Enrollment: 100 students.
PSYCH 4J03 (INQUIRY IN BIOPSYCHOLOGY)
(formerly INQUIRY 4SH3)
This is an upper level Faculty of Science course dealing with the systematic investigation of broad topics in the field of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior. Inquiry is a process of critical thinking, and the goal of this course is to improve student skills necessary for scientific inquiry by examining the process of conducting science. The course begins by reviewing the basic tenets and principles pertinent to scientific research: the scientific method; hypothesis testing; experimental design; data collection, analysis, and interpretation; and the reporting of results in peer-reviewed literature. Throughout the term, students are asked to read and discuss articles from the primary literature, and to make comparisons between different types of research literature. Written communication skills are strengthened by having students write an abstract of an article from a primary research journal. Working in groups, students also write a grant proposal based a novel research topic. Peer evaluation skills are strengthened by asking students to write anonymous critical reviews of an abstract and grant proposal written by another classmate or group. Oral presentation skills are strengthened by having students present a seminar on their grant and defending their proposal in front of the class. I also conduct one-half hour interviews with each student to assess their abilities and to monitor their progress in the course and with their group projects.
PSYCH 712 (SIGNAL DETECTION THEORY)
This graduate course is an introduction to Signal Detection Theory (SDT)—a branch of statistical decision theory. Signal Detection Theory is a theoretical framework for measuring and separating sensitivity and bias effects in decision tasks. SDT is often used to analyze observer performance in binary (i.e. yes/no) decision tasks. It has been used successfully in a wide range of basic and applied problems in science, and is arguably one of the most high-impact contributions that Experimental Psychology has made to Science. The course introduces the basic theoretical concepts of SDT and illustrates them in experimental contexts through examples and problem sets. In 2007, I co-taught this course with Dr. Patrick Bennett.