Students know value.

Students are the brightest, most resourceful, individuals you will meet. They know value when they see it–what is and what isn’t worth it. They will not pay $200+ dollars for a textbook that isn’t used, and they don’t. Students will rent the book, or buy a used copy for a fraction of the new cost. In fact, using these methods, students are paying less for textbooks now than ever.

Still, they do know value. If students don’t like paying too much for something they don’t use, perhaps they will pay a small amount for something they will use. As part of Purdue’s affordable textbook initiative, I’ve created an anti-textbook for my Child Psychology class—A Child Psychology Primer. It provides just the bare essentials-the key concepts, methods, and findings that you simply have to know to usefully apply child psychology. This primer gives the essence of what child psychology is all about and what you can do with it. Much like “priming the pump” or laying down a coat of paint primer, this book serves as a jumping off point for future exploration, and to list a few added benefits:

  1. It costs a fraction of what textbooks normally cost.
  2. It perfectly matches the content of what I teach
  3. Because I’m in control of the content, revisions can happen in minutes.
  4. It is available in paperback and electronic formats so students can read it wherever they need it.

I think students will appreciate that value.

Link to Paperback Edition, and Kindle listing.


Dream Bigger

I had a dream. No, literally I just had a dream last night: I won’t lie, it left me in tears. We have failed our students, our mission.

It started with a small classroom: ideal numbers good relationship with the students, but this day, they were talking and not taking the class seriously because, perhaps we have given them too much power. Things escalated until a student threw a book across the classroom in frustration. Of course, I had to take punitive action, but like most things, the moment that led to throwing the book was an inevitable result of the thousands of tiny moments that had come before. I wondered, how we had got to this state of affairs.

Another classroom: (and here is where it gets weird) a clown walks in to give the lecture. The class laughs, uncomfortably. But she walks into a locker (wierd music and strange sound effects follow, and out pops a cheerleader, then a nerd, then a pothead, then our actual speaker for the day.

“These are your students” she says. How can one lesson reach them all?

Journal of Unpublishable Results

Dear Dr Hollich, we regret to inform you that we must reject your groundbreaking study on a highly interesting and important topic due to some flaws the two reviewers and I were able to find. While we understand these flaws are true of virtually all published studies, we chose to highlight these flaws in the review because substantive criticism takes more time and we have research to do as well and we are not getting paid or any kind of academic reward for our service…

It’s happened to all of us: the study to which you dedicated a significant portion of your life, apparently has a flaw (or two) that makes it unpublishable. Thankfully a helpful reviewer or editor has discovered these flaws. Perhaps we need a new journal to collect all these unpublishable studies. A kind of cautionary tale for new researchers.

After all, while you did spend years planning the studies, collecting data, and writing up the manuscript, the reviewers spent at least two, possibly four hours reading it and, honestly, that’s more time than anyone else will ever spend reading it… So if they don’t see the merit, why bother right?

College “teaches the unmeasurable.” I call BS.

In the recent discussion about the importance of the credit hour, a standard defense of college has arisen: “college teaches things not measured by tests.”

How convenient! Now I’m the first to lament the proliferation of multiple-choice testing as the be-all and end-all of assessment. And it IS true that we are certainly training students to become better test takers rather than critical thinkers to be sure.

But when you say that what college teaches cannot be measured, I take offense. After all, I am a psychologist, we pride ourselve on being able to measure anything. That we don’t, or worse, currently choose not to, suggests something:

  • Perhaps, we don’t really want to know how good college is at teaching critical thinking – critical thinking is not a unitary skill, students who are brilliant at math might suck at solving a physics problem, and both could be pretty bad at “practical matters”. Specialization, has a price. Maybe we don’t measure critical thinking because it is unique to each field and job, and global tests of critical thinking are doomed to be unreliable. Trying to teach critical thinking is a fools errand. (Even academic have been known to make to occasion irrational decision when it comes to finances, or relationships, or virtually anything one doesn’t have experience with.)
  • Maybe we are afraid. What if we actually do do a terrible job preparing students for the real world?  Most academics are not familiar with a world where doing something not obviously connected to practical application can get you fired. We live in worlds of theories, trapped in an ivory tower of similar like-minded academics. We don’t often have to explain the value of what we do to others not so entrenched. It’s uncomfortable when your field of study can feel like it is under attack.

And it is true that some of the value of college is not immediately obvious. Increasingly, the best companies are allowing for 20% time and letting their employees spend far more on R&D than schools ever do. Companies today understand that play and what appears on the surface to be “doing nothing” can be a crucial incubation period. Maybe practical value-added of college IS overrated. College is a time to make weird connections, to have exposure to the world’s biggest think tank: where someone who knows history walks near someone who knows psychology and students move between each class. We need to help students see the connections, to help them connect what they are learning now with everything they have learned.

Better yet, we need a way of getting the university to start acting like the powerhouse of real critical thinking that it can be. Finding better ways to help 35,000 students (and more) meet their best potential. We need a way of crowd-sourcing education, but that’s a discussion for another time.

New twist on a classic study, and one of the most important findings of last year.

Health & Family

(Updated) It’s the rare psychological experiment that is both informative and invariably hilarious to observe, but the “marshmallow test” — the one in which young children are asked to resist the sweet treat in front of them for the promise of a bigger, better treat later — fits the bill. Kids squirm, wriggle, sing aloud and cover their eyes to distract themselves from the temptation; they’ll even allow themselves to sniff or slyly stroke the yummy dessert, but not pick it up: their cuteness is often irresistible.

This apparently trivial challenge has serious implications, however. Children who are able to restrain themselves the longest in the marshmallow test are generally those who end up more successful later on in life: they grow up to achieve higher SAT scores (a 210 point difference), earn higher incomes, and have a lower chance of obesity, a lower risk of drug misuse and better…

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Good Reads

Here are links to some of my favorite books (via Amazon).

Even more Psychology Books, you may find of interest.

I, George Hollich, am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for this site to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to’s products. If you click on one of these links and then make a purchase, I get a small commission. Many, many, thanks, in advance.