A Safe and Respectful Environment

My first priority is to establish a safe and respectful learning environment. I have never had an issue with excessive disruption, cell phone use or side conversations. I think this is because I establish guidelines about expected student behavior clearly and definitively in the course syllabus, and follow up by enforcing it in a consistent way. It is my expectation that students will attend class consistently, be on time, and display professional and appropriate behavior in the classroom at all times. Therefore, expectations regarding attendance and professional behavior are spelled out. In fact, I feel so strongly about professional presence, particularly a class that covers sensitive material like Human Sexual Issues for Counselors, that I created a rubric: MHS 6470 Participation Attendance Rubric. The verbiage used varies depending on the developmental level of the students. It ranges from strict for undergraduates (MHS 4052), to slightly more lenient for graduates (MHS 6470), to non-existent in the Practicum classes (MHS 6800). By the time the students reach Practicum, they are almost ready to graduate, and they should at this point understand what is expected from them at the masters level.

An undergraduate syllabus: LoFrisco MHS 4052 Fall 11  (Human Relations Skills in Counseling)

A graduate syllabus:LoFrisco LoFrisco MHS 6470 Sum 12 (Human Sexual Issues for Counselors)

Practicum syllabi: LoFrisco MHS 6800 Fall 11, LoFrisco MHS 6800 Spr 12 (Practicum)

Preparation and Participation

To encourage students to participate, and process the material in a thoughtful and critical way, it is essential that they come to class prepared. Toward that end, I tend to give short, random quizzes at the beginning of class to ensure they have read the material beforehand. The questions on these quizzes are general questions about the material, as opposed to questions about specific facts that would require memorization. I do not think that memorization of specific facts helps students to grow and develop in their careers, nor do I think it facilitates learning. Research also shows that it can actually harm the brain. I also do not think it is a fair way to measure their internal processing of information.

Example quiz from Human Sexual Issues in Counseling: Quiz 3 Sexual Dysfunctions

In the Classroom – Critical Thinking and Respect

I like to start my classes off on a positive note, by asking my students how they are doing, and addressing any concerns that come up. The following video exemplifies the typical way I begin class:

Class Introduction:

To encourage my students to think critically, I ask them questions that require them to do so. In this video, I am processing an assignment that they had prepared by researching historical events of various decades:

Reviewing an Assignment:

Sometimes, students challenge you. I demonstrate respect for students by listening carefully to their ideas, thoughts and even arguments, and then explaining my position. In this video, I address a student challenge:

A Challenge From a Student:

I also utilize activities to help students process the material and simultaneously sharpen their critical thinking skills. Here are some examples:

I find that at certain times, and for certain topics, creating an online lecture is the most efficient way to facilitate learning. Online format is appropriate for topics that don’t lend themselves to class discussion, and don’t involve particularly controversial or sensitive topics. They are also often a convenient way to squeeze more time out of the day, particularly in classes when a discussion might run long. If we are having a productive and lively class discussion, I generally prefer to allow it to run its course, and then use the online supplement. I also find the use of classroom technology fun, creative and challenging. Here is an online lecture I did Fall of 2012 for the Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession.


I prefer to use rubrics to grade. Not only do rubrics help to communicate expectations to students, they provide a structure that helps me be more consistent in my grading. During the process of creating the rubric I am also prompted to reflect more deeply on the objectives of the assignment.

Example rubric: MHS 6470 Group Rubric


My evaluations are comparable to the high-end of the faculty members of the department of Psychological and Social Foundations. More specifically, students are generally satisfied with the level of learning they have received, and often report how they have grown and changed as a result. Students also enjoy my active teaching style, and the fact that I work in the field. On the negative side, students often complain that I am too strict, especially with regard to attendance and missed assignments. These types of complaints were particularly noticeable on the comments from MHS 6470 – Human Sexual Issues in Counseling. Because the course was offered in a 6-week summer format, we didn’t have as much time to cover the material as we would have in a 10-week summer format. Therefore, I had to be a bit more strict than usual with regard to keeping things on track, which isn’t always appreciated by graduate counseling students, who like to have a lot of time to process and discuss. To help remedy the situation, I have recommended that this course return to its original 10-week format.

MHS 4052 – Anonymous

MHS 6470 – Anonymous

MHS 6470 – Unsolicited

Card received from students at the end of the semester

MHS 6800 – Anonymous

As a Teaching Assistant (Fall 2010) – Anonymous

Peer Evaluations – unsolicited

From Shana Hughes, Instructor in College of Public Health, University of South Florida, in reference to my guest lecture on November 6, 2012:

Faculty Evaluations – unsolicited

From Debra Osborn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at Florida State University, regarding my guest lecture in her class.

From Caroline Wilde, PhD, instructor of record for Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession, regarding my role as her T.A.

From Debra Osborn, PhD, regarding my facilitation of a class on Twitter for the Computer Applications in Counseling Psychology & Other Human Services master’s level class at Florida State University.

Faculty Evaluations – solicited

From Caroline Wilde, PhD, a formal evaluation of  my role as her T.A. in Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession, as well as Counseling Theories and practices.


Recipient of Honorable Mention: 2013 Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Social Science, Business and Education category

University Graduate Fellowship Award

Letter of appreciation from NBCC



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s