ASU psychology professor receives Outstanding Lecturer Award
Whitney Hansen recognized for innovative teaching methods, dedication to student success
Awarded annually, the Outstanding Lecturer Award is one of five faculty awards that recognize teaching excellence in The College. Recipients are anonymously nominated by their students.
“I wish I knew who it was so I could thank them,” Hansen said. “Students are very busy. They have a lot going on in their lives. To know someone would take the time out of their day to nominate me for an award is so very humbling. I’m grateful.”
Using her cognitive psychology training to inform her teaching, Hansen skillfully weaves together case studies, current events and humor with empirical evidence. From foundational classes such as Introduction to Psychology to mid-level courses like Physiological Psychology and even advanced senior-level offerings such as Cognitive Psychology, she approaches her teaching in a way that not only captivates students during class but also enhances their ability to retain and recall information later on.
“Stories and anecdotes help us organize the information we are learning to improve our memory. I think about the science of learning when I design my courses, slides and activities. I really think about what is the best way to help them learn a complicated topic, and then I give them the tools to learn, as well as a set of skills that will be useful for the rest of their lives,” Hansen said.
Over her nearly 13 years as a full-time teacher, Hansen’s methods have evolved to be more inclusive, flexible and innovative. She instructs both in person and online. As the associate director of online initiatives for the Department of Psychology, Hansen contributes to the evaluation and creation of new online course offerings.
“Dr. Hansen’s courses are thoughtfully designed in terms of content coverage, organization and pedagogical principles,” said Steven Neuberg, Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology. “Her best-practices approach for her online courses includes dividing courses into smaller sections with their own, specific learning objectives; providing students with information using multiple modalities like supplementary podcasts and videos; using low-stakes quizzes to check understanding; and responding quickly to student inquiries. She makes a huge difference in the academic lives of our students and is so deserving of this impressive recognition.”
Hansen is also dedicated to helping other professionals improve their teaching. She’s presented at national teaching conferences on flipped classroom design, provided consultation to faculty about online education, and actively serves as a mentor to junior faculty and students at ASU.
Hansen led the launch of the Department of Psychology’s Student Success Center, designed to provide coaching to students who are looking to improve their understanding of the science of psychology, writing and statistics. Staffed by upper-level student coaches, tutoring is available on days, nights and weekends, with favorable results. More than 96% of surveyed Student Success Center participants said they were extremely satisfied with the help they received.
“The students who use the Student Success Center love it and see real benefits in their grades. I was happy to apply for the funding and excited to serve as supervisor for the first three years, but the idea itself was a result of conversations with several of my amazing colleagues on the psychology teaching faculty,” Hansen said.
Hansen experienced the excellent faculty and quality education at ASU firsthand as a triple-Sun Devil alumna. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from ASU, and said the faculty were warm, compassionate and incredibly open to being helpful.
“As a whole, our faculty marry their impressive intellectual creativity with true caring to help our undergraduate and graduate students succeed, not only in psychology careers, but in any field that relies on understanding human behavior,” Neuberg said.