CETL Podcast - Episode 13: Lynn White

Tony Pellegrini: Good morning good morning friends! Tony Pellegrini here and grateful for you tuning in this morning - this afternoon wherever you might be to visit with us, and visit with us about the teaching and learning here at SUU and the wonderful things that are going on. We have a guest today, Dr. Lynn White who is participating with us, and who will visit with us and take some time to explain some of the wonderful things that she is doing to keep her students engaged and moving forward in their classes. Lynn would you be willing to take a moment or two and tell us a little about yourself, a little about your activity, a little about your activity here at SUU?

Lynn White: Yeah, sure Tony. Well, I’ve been here since 1997, so I’m starting my 23rd year of teaching here - an accomplishment I suppose.

Tony Pellegrini: It absolutely is.

Lynn White: But, I come from Quebec, Canada, and I guess an interesting thing about me is that I was raised five months of the year in The Bush in northern Quebec, and so it was quite the struggle up and out to get here, and I’m very grateful to be at SUU, it’s a wonderful place.

Tony Pellegrini: I think it way be a little bushy here from time to time but not too terrible I hope.

Lynn White: So, I think you asked about what I do here?

Tony Pellegrini: Yes, please.

Lynn White: So I teach in the psychology department, and over the years I’ve taught a wide array of classes, and I think that’s because initially we were a very small department, there were only five or six of us, and so you had to kind of be a Jack or Jill of all trades. Hopefully not a master of none, but you did have to take on a wide array, so I teach physiological psychology, we call it “Brain and Behavior” to make it a little less intimidating for students. Recently I was able to create two labs to go along with that, so we’ve got an animal behavior neuroscience lab now at SUU (well, we’ve had it for a long time but it’s got a new name), but recently we started a human neuro psychophysiology lab.

Tony Pellegrini:That doesn’t scare kids away?

Lynn White: Um, I think they’re drawn to it because it sounds so impressive, they want to put it on a resume. So I teach that and I teach health psychology, stress and pain, statistics, research design, and independent research and the last three courses all have labs attached so, yeah, that keeps me out of trouble!

Tony Pellegrini: I think it absolutely would, I think it absolutely - there’s so much to do. I wanted to ask you a few questions or address a few questions and maybe you could go into just a little more detail, you’ve identified some of the classes that you teach, could you go into a little more detail maybe about those classes that you teach for our listeners and potential student maybe that would like to be involved in those?

Lynn White: Okay, well the ones I think that the students might like the most, because these are optional classes for most people and they appeal to a wide range of majors would be the health psyc and stress and pain classes. So health psychology, (the) best way I think to explain that is to say that it’s a marriage between psychology and medicine, and how psychology tries to find ways to work within the medical field to improve people’s health and well-being, keep them healthy longer, and if they do get sick find ways of promoting recovery, a quicker recovery and a more extensive recovery so it’s using psychological principles and theories to, you know, towards those goals and we even work with policy makers to look at ways to improve whether it’s, you know, health insurance policies or, you know, hospital administration policies. There’s lots of things that health psychologists do beyond research, and working directly with potential clients.

Tony Pellegrini: And I could see how that would be very invitational and engaging to your learners who want professions that provide these benefits, a lot would help that, help benefit health issues or health professions, we’re only going to be more than less in the future aren't we?

Lynn White: Yes, in fact this area is projected to grow tremendously over the next decade or so as health concerns become more and more salient for those of us who are well, we’re getting more and more aged experienced.

Tony Pellegrini: Guilty as charged. Well you know I love it here in Cedar as you can tell and I know you love it here as well too but as we - as I - go to Salt Lake or down into Las Vegas I’ll come over the top of the hill and see that brown haze that's over - so we live in  such a wonderful place, we can look out the window and it may be a little hazy way way away but we really do have some strong benefits of living here, and the health related issues that we have so I think that’s part of the reason why these people are coming.

Lynn White: Maybe, maybe,

Tony Pellegrini: It may be a little bit of that.

Lynn White: Well, and the great reputation that SUU has.

Tony Pellegrini: We do, we do, we’re very happy with that. I ask- I work with teachers, K-12 teachers all the time and when I am in class with them I’ll ask, “What is your teaching philosophy?” Can I pull your arm or kind of invite you to talk to us about your philosophy, what’s your philosophy of teaching?

Lynn White: Well it’s evolved over the years.

Tony Pellegrini: Good!

Lynn White: It’s constantly changing you know but I think there’s kind of three parts to it that maybe I’d like to talk about. One, it’s going to sound oversimplified but I’ll expand a little and that is to say, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” And I think, well, what I’m referring to here of course is motivation, right? Motivation to teach and motivation to learn, because in a classroom environment or an extracurricular environment it goes both ways, so teachers who come in under motivated or uninspired you know, how can you expect a student to show any enthusiasm for the course if you yourself don’t do that, and so when I come in, short of bouncing off the walls, I try to get them to see how wonderful this course is going to be, and why it’s important to them in fact in health psychology I come in and I tell them I’m going to teach you things that might very well save your life, and the lives of people you love, and so I try and get their attention right away. But like I said it’s a two way street, so it would be hard for a teacher to maintain that level of optimism and enthusiasm if students you know sat there.

Tony Pellegrini: It really is kind of a symbiotic relationship isn't it?

Lynn White: It is, and so I try and build rapport right on day one, and like I said I try to see how the course is going to be important for them and build up their intrinsic motivation to take the class. And that seems to work fairly well, you know, some are more of a challenge but I love challenges.

Tony Pellegrini: And I bet you’ve found one or two that have even pushed you wit their enthusiasm and you know it goes on both sides of the scale you’ve got some students that really encourage you and your motivation.

Lynn White: Absolutely. I’ve had students and I tell people that you know, the students have made me - to the extent that I’m a better teacher today, it’s because of the students who have given me feedback, whether you know it’s the brightness of their eyes as they hear something that intrigues them or the tears in statistics when I say something that maybe you know might go a little bit over their head, but it’s invigorated me, it’s inspired me to you know try to find more engaging ways to connect with students and get them excited, and absolutely it’s a two way street. 

Tony Pellegrini: It is fun, it is fun, this is really good.

Lynn White: So, that’s one part of my teaching philosophy is to, you know, recognize the importance of motivation on both sides of the equation. The other has to do with setting the bar and I think this is something that we all kind of find a little challenging you know, you want high academic standards but you don’t want it to exclude students, and it’s a funny thing because over the years I’ve found that it seems like no matter where I set the bar,  a lot of times I see students doing what they can to just make it.

Tony Pellegrini: Guilty as charged too- It’s kids of human nature a little bit maybe.

Lynn White: Well it’s interesting, I have a theory about that, it might not be it might me that I heard it somewhere else so-

Tony Pellegrini: That is okay, that is okay.

Lynn White: But we, you know, we have seen with the advent of the internet and video games everything else, we’re bombarded with stimuli everyday, and it’s quick changing stimuli it’s hard to keep anybody’s attention on one thing for very long, and so I kinda wonder if, you know, students are accustomed to wanting to do more and wanting to do everything particularly  enjoyable things. So, if we set the bar in a way that they proceed that it’s out of their reach, then they may not try and I think it’s because of FOMO; fear of missing out, right, to reach that bar, it’s going to take a lot of time and energy and  resources, other resources and to the extent that they have to invest that they’re not doing other things that they want to do, so the challenge for me is to have a very high bar, because I think that they can do it, you know, but put it so high that they don’t see how high it is, like, give them all the resources so they achieve it without thinking about the resources that they’re investing themselves.

Tony Pellegrini: I think that’s powerful to almost put a ladder up next to that, youth grade, to step by step go up that ladder, and be able to make those accomplishments.

Lynn White: Yes, and I think that if you engage them in such a way, if they’re not thinking about the other things that they could be doing, you know, we don’t want FOMO to kick in in the classroom right, so it’s challenging, but doable. 

Tony Pellegrini: We, and I love the attitude of challenging but doable, you see these students, I’m going to call them children, they’re my grandchildren’s age, but as they come in, you have a wide continuum of learners that come in, how do you try to address that wide variety of learning styles they come to you with, how do you build them up or help them to develop the successes where they’re strong. 

Lynn White: Well one way is, I think that you need to have or use techniques that engage the senses and some people are auditory learners, and others they like to see things so I have them read information and others are more tactile and they like to act things out and so I have tried to include a wide array of activities in the classroom, some are visual, some are auditory, and we do act some things out. I don’t know if anybody who’s listening is familiar with the action potential, but you know neural transmission and we do the wave in class to act that out, so I’m always looking for ways that we can appeal to students senses and I think that’s one way, and the other is to have of course a wide variety of assessments, different types of assessments, so that way they can- if they can't succeed in one- well I shouldn't say can't- but if they struggle to succeed in one, then they have the opportunity to succeed in the other and I think that building self confidence and self esteem and self efficacy are all good ways of encouraging them and showing them that it is something they can do, regardless of their learning style.

Tony Pellegrini: Well what a wonder opportunity as well for them to take those knowledge skills and dispositions from your class to other classes to say, “I’m particularly a tactile learner and it really helps” or “what can I do in here”- to reach out to a professor and say “what could I do in here to use that particular sense” Or as they go into their own professions or into their own personal relationships these are things that I do well and I’m going to be able to succeed and provide support to your organization as far as employment.

Lynn White: And the other thing is I'm not against students coming in but I invite them to do this if they struggle to say “how do you think- what ways do your learn and how can we adapt what we’re doing in class to align with those styles” so I get a lot of feedback from students, “oh you know what would really help me if you did XYZ ” and then I try and figure out okay so how can I do that idea.

Tony Pellegrini: That’s wonderful, so um, have you always been a great teacher?

Lynn White: Oh I don't know I struggle to see this as you know a great teacher I’m an enthusiastic teacher and I think and I hope that I will have a lasting impact on students and I guess you know I saw a student that I hadn't seen since 2003 and I must confess I didn't recognize her- 2003 was -

Tony Pellegrini: A while ago!

Lynn White: And she looked at me and she goes “are you Lynn White” you know and I’m like “yeah, maybe?” and she was telling me how she took my stress and pain class back in 2003 and how she used it recently in her own life, she was going through a challenging part of her life and so that’s nice to get that kind of feedback, but I think you also have to recognize that you’re not going to be able to reach everybody and I struggle with that because I really want to but there are just some people that for whatever reason-

Tony Pellegrini: We’re different personalities- whatever it might be, and you know and I really see that as a hurdle maybe that can be a challenge to us as teachers I think all of our listeners we’d love to touch everyone’s minds everyone’s hearts, could you talk for a moment about how you address that hurdle or maybe other hurdles that you’ve had and maybe let me go back just a second and rephrase the question. Have you always been an enthusiastic teacher? What are some of the things that you’ve had to overcome and what challenges and opportunities do you have to really work towards to become as enthusiastic as you are Lynn?

Lynn White: Well, I think initially I didn't have a large toolbox of techniques right and so I knew the techniques that I had been exposed to as a student.

Tony Pellegrini: And probably you were comfortable with as well. 

Lynn White: Right and so the technique that I was exposed to- I mean back then as you know faculty stood in front of a podium with lecture notes and just read from their lecture notes and so I started off kind of doing the same thing and you know I would try to get excited about what I was reading but I realized that that was going to cut it and so it was a lot of communicating with students, it was a lot of communicating with other faculty going to conferences to learn about techniques, with the advent of Google that’s been a great-

Tony Pellegrini: And the internet oh my goodness the kids are different today then they were back in 2002, aren't they? 

Lynn White: They are, they are, and in many ways I think the changes I’ve seen are very positive and others I worry about but I try and figure out okay well how can we take advantage of these changes and change ourselves in a way to align better with them and address them from a more personal standpoint or whatever it takes to get them to improve and to grow and to learn and everything so I think the obstacle at first was just not knowing, not knowing what I could do, and time, time is always going to be an issue.

Tony Pellegrini: It is! We’ve only got 14 more weeks this semester!

Lynn White: Only? Wait a second I’m a week behind!

Tony Pellegrini: No, no you’re there. But no, I think that you’re listening to students, they can be great teachers for us they can provide some great- and listening to other peers like you had mentioned can be a great support to us and say let me give some of these things a try if you’re brave enough to share it with me I should be brave enough to experiment a little bit, and try a little bit, some of these techniques or approaches it may help or assist you

Lynn White: Well, not to say that these techniques will work for everybody in every class but I have a website and I have posted what I do with the students in each class and it’s intended primarily for the students so they know what to do and what the different assignments are and the different activities and everything but if anybody wanted to go there and check it out-

Tony Pellegrini: I would love to get that from you would you send that when you get back in the mail with the address and I promise when I put the link up to this podcast I’ll put that up as well so they can click on that.

Lynn White: Yeah, well I know I have heard from a few faculty that they’ve been visiting the site and using some of the things that I do in class, and I know some of the students have gone on to get PhDs themselves are now using some of that work but you know It’s sharing like this I think that’s key so students sharing with you, peers sharing back and forth sharing if we stay in our isolated little pods, that’s going to limit improvement and so I’m all ears.

Tony Pellegrini: I’m just so tickled with your students that you know your students are coming back and using some of those it reminds me - Archimedes said, “If I had a lever long enough, I could change the world” when you first started teaching here in the late 90’s you had a lever long enough to change those kids in your class, but over time as they’ve moved on and progressed you moved out on that ladder and really your efforts- oh that lever excuse me, and really you are touching the lives of people so far you’re changing the world because of some of the efforts that you’re making so keep doing what you’re doing!

Lynn White: Well, I think educators as a whole are helping to change the world.

Tony Pellegrini: I hope so, I hope so. Our times just about up but I do have to I’m sorry I do have to ask one last question. On a scale of 1-10,  how weird are you, Lynn?

Lynn White: Well, I don’t know,

Tony Pellegrini: Well how about on Lynns scale?

Lynn White: Um, maybe that's what makes me weird I think I’m normal and everyone else thinks I’m weird and you know maybe it’s from growing up in the bush but I’ve got cockroaches in my office- they’re contained I’ve got a snake in my office and up until recently I had a tarantula in my office and I have them, I tell people “well they’re for educational purposes” in reality, I just love to scare people and be scared so I've got that part of my personality that kind of darker side, if you will, but a fun darker side.

Tony Pellegrini: I like fun dark.

Lynn White: And then I’ve got this other side I like to wear sparkles around my eyes and you know drink- not drink-dress in pink tie dye I just like doing weird stuff.

Tony Pellegrini: Well you connect with some out there so it’s wonderful to be able to push you just a little bit gently on that that’s wonderful keep doing what you’re doing. Friends this is going to wrap up our meeting with Lynn White here at SUU we’re just tickled about your participation and Lynn’s connection as well and Lynn thank you so much for engaging with us and for all that you do. I will put her website up here for your review learners and we will continue our great association and thank you so very much!

Lynn White: Thank you!


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