Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

2007 Action Teaching Award Recipients

SPN Action Teaching Award    In 2007, the Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award was won by David Sattler of Western Washington University for his entry "The International Tsunami Museum."

For details on the winning entry as well as other excellent entries that received Honorable Mention, please see below. Instructors are welcome to use or adapt these teaching ideas for their own classes, provided the use is noncommercial and appropriate credit is given to the individuals below. To see other award-winning entries, please use the pulldown menu below.

Winning Entry
Title: The International Tsunami Museum
Submitted by: David Sattler (Western Washington University)
Category: Student assignment, field experience
For students/learners in: Graduate school, college, high school
Objective(s): To (a) teach students about psychological and cultural responses to disasters and traumatic events, and (b) allow students to apply theory and research findings by developing exhibits for an educational museum


International Tsunami Museum On December 26, 2004, a devastating tsunami struck 12 counties bordering the Indian Ocean. More than 250,000 people lost their lives and 2.3 million were left homeless. To learn about psychological and cultural responses to disasters and see how research can be used to promote mental health, U.S. university students helped create the International Tsunami Museum in Khao Lak, Thailand. Through this activity, students not only studied trauma and recovery in a meaningful context but were able to contribute directly to communities in need. For example, donations from the museum have helped provide drinking water, food, and school supplies for Thai children. More generally, this project shows how an action teaching assignment can help students learn about psychology while they support and educate local communities.

Honorable Mention
Title: Intersecting Diversities: The Shadow/Role-Play Exercise
Submitted by: Bonnie Moradi (University of Florida)
Category: Student assignment, field experience
For students/learners in: College
Objective(s): To teach students about different forms of diversity within and across groups, and how those forms of diversity intersect with each other


In this exercise, students spend a day either shadowing or role-playing a woman who is different from them in age, ability status, religion, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or motherhood. Students who conduct a shadow spend a full day with the woman they select, and students who conduct a role-play transform themselves into the woman they select (men are limited to conducting shadows, given the physical danger of men dressing as women). Next, students write a paper on what it was like to live as the person they chose. Finally, students give presentations about their experience, and the class discusses differences among groups of women, thereby challenging stereotypes of certain women as well as women in general.

Honorable Mention
Title: Using Lessons from the Holocaust to Reduce Bullying
Submitted by: Ruth T. Hannon (Bridgewater State College)
Category: Student assignment/Field experience
For students/learners in: College, high school, grade school
Objective(s): To (1) teach college students about social-psychological dynamics involved in the Holocaust; (2) train college students to teach children how these dynamics operate in contemporary hate speech, hate crimes, and bullying; (3) illustrate the value of action teaching


In an interdisciplinary course "Perspectives of the Holocaust," college students learn about research on conformity, obedience, diffusion of responsibility, and other psychological factors involved in the Holocaust. After that, local middle school teachers visit the class and describe the challenges their children face from bullying and hate speech. Students are then invited to (a) develop presentations that use lessons from the Holocaust to teach children about prejudice and bullying, and (b) give these presentations to children at the middle school. Following this experience, students write about their work and present a summary to the class. Reactions to this activity have been overwhelmingly positive and suggest that it reduces bullying and leads to long-term learning about prejudice and the Holocaust.

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