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Speed dating to teach history of psychology

Crafting the perfect opening line is the key to successful speed dating, and in the History of Psychology class students have discovered the secret ingredient to an unforgettable introduction: famous historical psychologists.

Psychology Professor Joanne Davis devised an unusual lesson plan for students to become acquainted with the giants of psychology. Each student was assigned one of seven well-known psychologists, and after thorough research, they attended class as his or her psychologist in character. “They came to class to speed date with each other; every psychologist met every other psychologist,” Davis said. “At the end, we had a writing assignment to see who was the most influential psychologist of all time.”

Meredith Pearson, a second-year student in the clinical psychology doctoral program, played Lightner Witmer, the founder of clinical psychology. “We study these time periods, and we get these long lists of names with all their accomplishments,” Pearson said. “This is an interesting way to bring it to life and make them real people again, rather than just names in a book.”

Witmer studied under psychologist Raymond Cattell, and the two had an opportunity to speed date together in the class. “There was this great moment when I said, ‘Oh, Dr. Cattell, I’m Dr. Witmer. I’m the one you taught,’” Pearson said.

Speed dating allowed the students to act out reasonable interactions among these great psychologists.

Senior psychology and pre-med major Darian Dozier had her doubts about the History of Psychology. “It sounds like an absolute snooze fest, but Professor Davis finds these really creative ways to teach us the information without us reading it and her standing there lecturing,” Dozier said.

Dozier played convincing German psychologist Hugo Munsterberg who asked the question, “How can people who aren’t studying psychology be affected by psychology?”

At the end of class, Munsterberg proudly claimed second-place as the most influential psychologist, but Witmer was voted first. Driven by competition and creativity, the students embodied their psychologist’s character. “It could be potentially boring, but it ended up being one of my favorite classes,” Dozier said.

“Over the years, I have sought to find a number of ways to shake it up,” Davis said. “It helps the students engage with the material and learn about it in a completely different way.”