Courses taught by Michael Ofsowitz

Descriptions about the way I teach each of these courses is available on a separate page.

I usually teach the following courses:

PSY 101 (Introduction to Psychological Science): This is our general, survey introductory course to psychology, which is standardized throughout the department (except for the honors section, described below). More information about this course can be found using the “PSY 101” link above, and also on the Psychology Learning Center website. Overall, this is a difficult survey course covering a wide selection of psychology topics. But you get three chances for every unit test and seven units to form your grade, so the level of difficulty is balanced by the opportunities provided by the department and the Psychology Learning Center. There are no papers, no graded homework assignments, and no midterm or final exams. As a teacher, I find this a fun course. At times it moves very quickly from topic to topic, as the standardized schedule demands, but at other times it can be very entertaining and insightful. This course is offered every semester and I usually teach at least one section (but frequently two) in the fall and in the spring.

PSY 101-Honors (Honors Introduction to Psychological Science): This is the honors section of PSY 101, offered in spring and fall, but I teach the Fall Semester only, and it’s quite different from the department’s standardized PSY 101. Although this course covers many of the same topics as the normal 101, it limits the breadth of coverage and emphasizes depth. As are all honors courses, this one is writing intensive, so instead of multiple-guess tests there are short answer items, short essay items, homeworks, and a paper or two. Readings offer a mix of traditional textbook chapters, non-traditional text chapters, and various essays exploring topics in psychology in more depth than survey material and allowing us to emphasize class discussions rather than lecture. If you qualify for the honors program, this version of PSY 101 is more thought-provoking and more committed to tailored interests in psychology than the standard course, and it’s no less enjoyable.

PSY 108 (APA Style): Mostly a hands-on attempt to bring students in line with the demands of APA style for writing papers. It’s a straight-forward right-way/wrong-way kind of course, here to help spread the conventions associated with scientific writing in psychology. Although most of the course is about the mechanics of format (where to put the title, how to show page numbers, how to show a citation…), there is an important element about plagiarism, paraphrasing, and the reasons for showing citations in a paper. But the course does not teach one how to write. Grammar and style are only briefly addressed.

PSY 166 (Psychology of Superstitions): This is a fun course that’s really about the gullibility of the human mind, the role of science in weeding out false claims, and finding out why most people aren’t good at critical thinking. Superstitious and magical beliefs of all sorts (including some coming from within the field of psychology itself) provide most of the topics that are used to examine why we frequently believe things that are just weird and wrong. As mentioned on the syllabus, our minds have an uncanny ability to deceive ourselves, and life is probably a little more comforting as a result of this; this course investigates the causes and problems of these common deceptions, and as a result prepares us to be more skeptical, thoughtful consumers of popular information. It runs in spring semesters only.

PSY 200 (Behavior Modification): At the heart of much applied psychology is the desire to change people’s behaviors. We might want to change the behaviors of our children, or therapy clients, or employees, or students in classrooms, or our own behaviors. And we might want to change them only slightly, like teaching a child to wait her turn before talking or teaching an athlete to alter some part of his form, or more significantly, like teaching the meek to act more assertive or a depressed person to act more happy or a nervous person to be less scared. Perhaps the most efficient method for changing people’s (and pets’) behaviors is conditioning through processes known as behavior modification or applied behavior analysis. This course details the ideas behind behavioral change and the processes that we can use to change the way people act and react. It’s a very useful course for current or future parents, teachers, managers, coaches, and anyone working with people with disabilities (from physical therapy to psychological disorders). This course is offered in both fall and spring semesters, though I usually only teach it in spring.

PSY 205 (Social Psychology): I think of this course as the most fascinating course we offer. It’s the sub-field of psychology that I’m most interested in. This course is a little more difficult than some others, but most of the students who take it are motivated and help make it into an active, thoughtful class. The topic is inherently interesting: everything dealing with people interacting with other people. It ranges from the ways we form impressions about people, and how those impressions influence our actions around people, to the ways we form and try to manage impressions about ourselves, to reactions we have in situations involving other people, like when we might help them, befriend them, or strike out at them aggressively. One of the most fascinating lessons learned studying social psychology is how frequently our common sense knowledge about all this material turns out to be wrong. When social psychologists carefully analyze people interacting with people, it’s almost as if the world we thought was real gets turned upside-down. I usually teach the daytime section of this course in fall and spring.

PSY 220 (Research Methods in the Social Sciences): I teach this course online, so the approach is different. The emphasis in the class is on active (not scripted, not fake, not busy-work style) discussions among us all. This may challenge students accustomed to the calculated discussions of online courses where you are simply asked to respond to a prompt and count your replies to others. Anyway, the material of this course is difficult. It’s not my fault. Recall that MTH 162, statistics, is a prerequisite for Research Methods. Conceptually, the topics in research methodology are fascinating if you realize how difficult it is to accurately discover and verify reality, and want to find out why reality is so elusive. Research methods are taught in almost every psychology course (at least briefly), but here it’s the whole focus. The process usually begins by figuring out what a research-able question is, and thinking about how meaningful the answers might be, and it turns to the nuts and bolts of collecting the correct and uncontaminated data for the question under investigation. The entire research process is tricky, involving a lot of fine distinctions, and this class looks carefully at many of them. The conceptual precision required for solid research in psychology is far from common sense, which is why psychology is a relatively young science, and why methodology is often difficult for students. The online section of PSY 220 is relatively new, and may be offered both fall and spring semesters, with a larger enrollment typically in spring.

Much less frequently I may teach:

PSY 201 (Developmental Psychology – Child)

PSY 212 (Developmental Psychology – Lifespan)

Courses I’m teaching this…

Spring ’20

PSY 205-001 (Social Psychology) TR 12:30-1:45
PSY-101-BH1 (Intro) online
PSY-108-001 (APA Style) T 10:00-10:50
PSY-166-001 (Superstitions) MWF 1:00-1:50
PSY-220-SL1 (Research methods) online

For copies of the syllabi, or what we refer to as the course information sheets for these courses, see my syllabi page.