Thank you for attending my session on Teaching the Values of Psychological Science at APS 2016!

Below you will find resources for exploring the research on values-affirmation as well as instructions for the exercises we did in the workshop, and more ways to identify and act on your own values.

Download or view a PDF of my slides here.

Best, Kelly

RECENT Research on Values Affirmation

Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 333-371.

Dahl, J. (2015). Valuing in ACT. Current Opinion in Psychology, 2, 43-46.

Dutcher, J. M., Creswell, J. D., Pacilio, L. E., Harris, P. R., Klein, W. M., Levine, J. M., ... & Eisenberger, N. I. (2016). Self-Affirmation Activates the Ventral Striatum A Possible Reward-Related Mechanism for Self-Affirmation. Psychological science, 0956797615625989.

Tang, D., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2015). Self-affirmation facilitates cardiovascular recovery following interpersonal evaluation. Biological psychology, 104, 108-115.
Silverman, A., Logel, C., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Self-affirmation as a deliberate coping strategy: The moderating role of choice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(1), 93-98.
Chase, J. A., Houmanfar, R., Hayes, S. C., Ward, T. A., Vilardaga, J. P., & Follette, V. (2013). Values are not just goals: Online ACT-based values training adds to goal setting in improving undergraduate college student performance. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 2(3), 79-84.
Critcher, C. R., & Dunning, D. (2015). Self-affirmations provide a broader perspective on self-threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 3-18.
Dindo, L. (2015). One-day acceptance and commitment training workshops in medical populations. Current opinion in psychology, 2, 38-42.


Exercises for Identifying Your Values

Download the instructions for these exercises as a word doc here. Feel free to use and adapt these exercises in your own teaching!

Classic Values Affirmation

Step 1: Identify 3 Core Values.

Values are a reflection of what you care about. It doesn’t matter if you are “good” at that value, or if other people would understand why this is important to you. A value can be something that comes naturally to you, or something you would like to develop in yourself. It can be an attitude (such as seeing the good in others or having a sense of humor), a personal strength (such as courage, tenacity, or creativity),  an ethical or moral virtue (such as honesty, fairness, or compassion), or a community you belong to (such as your family or your faith). It can be what you would like to experience in life (such as joy, peace, or learning), or what you would like to share with others (such as kindness or positive influence).

A value can be a priority, an ideal, a process, or an aspiration—but it isn’t an “outcome” you can achieve and be done with. An example of a value might be family, versus the outcome of adopting a child. Or a value might be lifelong learning, versus the outcome of attaining a degree.

[You can generate your own list of 3 important values, or use a list of common values as inspiration.]

Step 2: Affirm a Core Value.

Choose one of your values and write about it for ten minutes. Describe why this value is important to you and/or your family or community. You could also write about how you express this value in your everyday life. If there is a difficult experience or decision you are facing, you could write about how you this value might guide or support you.

Studies using this kind of exercise typically have participants do this only once, although some invite participants to repeat the exercise weekly.

The Award Speech: Celebrating Your Contributions

Imagine that are receiving an award in your field, recognizing your contributions as a scientist/psychologist or as a teacher. Ideally, what are you being recognized for? What contributions are being celebrated? Most importantly, how are you described in the award speech or announcement? What do your colleagues, students, or peer/professional community say about you?

Option: Imagine you are accepting the award publicly. What does your acceptance speech include? Who do you want to acknowledge for their support or mentorship? How would you explain why your work matters to you, and what you most hope to offer or achieve through it?

An Inspirational Mentor or Teacher

Think about a mentor, role model, or teacher who has had a positive impact or influence on your work as a scientist, psychologist, or teacher.

How would you describe them? What do you admire or appreciate about how they approach their work?

What is an example of this quality in action? Describe a specific moment, choice, conversation, or memory that demonstrates, for you, what you appreciate about them.

Option for groups: Describe this role model or positive influence in one sentence or three adjectives. Then introduce yourself to others using that sentence or those words. For example, “My name is Kelly, and I am committed to helping students develop their unique potential ….”

The Sweet Spot Exercise:

Recall a teaching or research-related moment where you were in your “sweet spot.”  A moment when you felt full of purpose, connected, contributing, or inspired. Then reflect: In that moment, what were you doing? What mattered to you most? What personal qualities did you bring to that moment? What ideals did you feel aligned with?

The Values Venn Diagram

Consider the values that are most important to you as a human being, the values that are most important to you as a psychologist and/or scientist, and the values that are most important to you as an educator.

If these were three circles in a Venn diagram, what values would be in the overlap?

Another way to reflect on this overlap comes from the work of Parker Palmer (author of The Courage to Teach). According to Parker, some values are so central to who you are that some version of this quality cannot help but suffuse all the roles you take on. Consider these questions:

What does the proposition “we teach who we are” mean to you? Does it ring true for you? (Or: consider the saying “all research is me-search.”)

How do you know when you are or are not teaching from “who you are”?

Does the subject you teach or study give you a richer view of the world and a larger sense of self? In what ways? Has that aspect of your work changed over time?

[These reflection questions are adapted from The Courage to Teach workbook.]

Write Your Mission Statement as an Educator.

In 1-3 sentences, describe your teaching philosophy, which might include what you teach, who you teach, how you teach, and why you teach.

In crafting your statement, consider these questions: What are you passionate about, as a scientist and an educator? What is your responsibility to students? What is your responsibility to your field/psychological science? What do bring to the learning environment/relationship that is unique or central to who you are as a scientist, educator, or human being?

The Lifeboat Exercise:

A classic values-clarification exercise asks you to consider whose lives are most worth saving. For example, “The ship you are on is slowly sinking and there remains only one more lifeboat.  It holds six people, but there are ten people on deck.  Here is the list of ten people […..] Who do you rescue and why?”

I’ve also heard that job candidates in one philosophy department are asked, “If you could go back in time and strangle any Western philoshopher at birth, who would it be and why?”

I like to rework this exercise as a question of what psychological study or theory would survive in your own competition of ideas.

Imagine that you can only share one psychology study (or theory) with students. What do you share and why? What does this study (or theory) say that matters to you? What impact do you hope it will have on students?

Values as a Compass

Once you’ve identified one or more core values, use them to help you navigate the teaching process.

There are three main ways I use values in teaching. You may discover other ways that your values can guide you!

1.     I think about my values when I engage in course design, from overall course goals to developing lecture slides, creating assignments, choosing readings, and planning classroom exercises and discussions.

2.     I reflect on my values before I teach a class or meet with a student, to put myself in a mindset consistent with my values.

3.     When I face a teaching challenge, such as receiving negative feedback, conflict with administration or students, or feeling burned out, I consider how my values might be a guide, resource, or reminder.



Read the first chapter of Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach