Jonathan Fugelsang: Contagious Enthusiasm

Jonathan Fugelsang: Contagious Enthusiasm

Jonathan Fugelsang

Jonathan Fugelsang, Department of Psychology

Written by Sarah Forbes, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. 

Dr. Jonathan Fugelsang wants to spread his love of statistics to everyone, especially the Psychology majors required to take his upper-year Stats class. This is definitely not an easy task. “Students often come into the course thinking they’re going to dislike it,” Fugelsang says. “I make it my goal to at least make them dislike it a little less...and maybe even grow to love it!” He achieves this formidable task by constantly remaining visibly excited about the material, drawing students’ attention to the many examples he includes in his lecture slides. He manages to remain enthusiastic even in his 8:30 am lectures, which he attributes to his deep and abiding interest in the course content.

Student quote
Despite growing up with two elementary school teachers as parents, Fugelsang did not originally envision a teaching career. Due to anxiety around public speaking, “I actually avoided all classes that required presentations,” Fugelsang explains. It wasn’t until graduate school where public presentations became an important part of the curriculum that he figured out how to handle his anxiety. With enough preparation, Fugelsang says, the anxiety would diminish. Now he looks forward to every lecture, which is obvious when witnessing one of his early-morning Cognitive Psychology classes.

It was during one of these early morning lectures that Fugelsang ran into the challenge of convincing a skeptical student that a colour constancy illusion was real and not a clever Photoshop manipulation. In order to convince the student, Fugelsang printed out a paper copy of the illusion and brought it to class, allowing the skeptic to examine it and determine that Fugelsang was telling the truth. While the student’s skepticism might have been frustrating for some professors, this attitude is exactly what Fugelsang tries to foster in his Statistics course.  “I want to teach students not only how to run statistical tests, but how to become critical consumers of information in the real world," he explains. This perspective includes evaluating information critically, even if the information is coming from the professor.

Above all, Fugelsang sees himself as both an educator and a recruiter for future psychologists. He aims to educate students not only on the intricacy of the brain and the validity of statistical testing, but on their own competency as researchers. This includes encouraging students to get involved in research during their undergraduate careers by volunteering in labs. By teaching them that success in statistics is within their grasp, he allows them to develop confidence in their own research and psychology skills, guiding them towards even more success in future courses and beyond. 

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CTE has developed more than 100 Teaching Tips. Each one is a succinct document that conveys useful ideas and practical methods for effective teaching. Some of the Teaching Tips that are relevant to the strategies mentioned in this Teaching Story include the following: