Perspectives

Psychology professor awarded for unique and effective teaching style

Jeff Katz, left, with Provost Tim Boosinger

Whether it be current events, metaphors or hands-on examples including coffee mugs and pigeons, Professor Jeffrey Katz's goal is to keep students engaged in the content he teaches.

Katz, pictured above (left), is a psychology professor in Auburn University's College of Liberal Arts and has been recognized this year by students and faculty for his unique teaching methods by receiving The Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.

"This award means to me appreciation, value and respect," Katz said. "It is an awesome feeling to know that many of my students have taken the time to write about the impact that my teaching efforts have had on their lives."

His appreciation and dedication for teaching shows how he puts his students first and strives to teach them in a way that keeps them interested, involved and constantly thinking.

"To me, the worst thing to do is have a lecture that is boring and dry," Katz said. "I try to engage [students] with current events that they would find interesting and integrate that into lecture material and how it relates to their own lives."

Katz also realizes that his students' learning styles are different, and understands the importance of capturing the attention of all students in the classroom. To do so, he uses a technique in his undergraduate classes he coined as the "Dr. Seuss method."

The "Dr. Seuss method" is a teaching style that aims to reach students of all intellectual levels. Katz uses examples and metaphors that are simple and easy to understand, but often times have a deeper and more complex psychological meaning.

"Students seem to like the approach of integrating current events with the standard class material with my nuances in an entertaining fashion," Katz said. "The students overall are motivated to attend class and learn the material in what I believe promotes higher-order learning."

Along with engaging students in the classroom, Katz says another important part of the learning experience is to make students feel comfortable to ask questions and converse.

"I try to create an atmosphere where anyone can sit there and feel good about asking questions and not be intimidated or afraid by the process," Katz said. "When they're comfortable being in the classroom, it works really well."

His graduate classes are quite different than undergraduate, being purely discussion based. Katz's objective is to challenge his graduate class discussions once his students feel comfortable. Instead of giving answers, he guides discussions and attempts to let the students find the answers themselves.

Katz has been teaching various psychology courses at Auburn University since 2000. The current primary focus of his research is on the comparative mechanism of learning and cognition. He works with dogs and pigeons for his research in animal cognition and how animals can learn abstract concepts.

Katz also uses simple and relatable examples in his every day lectures, such as a coffee mug, to illustrate topics of sensation and perception.

With more than 15 years of teaching experience, Katz is no stranger to awards and recognition. Katz has received several other awards acknowledging his teaching and research from Auburn University, the American Psychological Association and other prestigious organizations.

Written by Molly Larwrence, from the Office of Communication and Marketing at Auburn University. 

Last Updated: June 29, 2016