Renewal

Over recent years I have started to find Easter a better time than January for making new plans and thinking about the coming year.  The story of Easter alongside the lengthening days and warmer weather generally puts me in a more positive frame of mind than the relentless dreich darkness of January.  There is also the added benefit of the end of the academic year being in sight.  It might only be April but in another month almost all of my students will have drifted away from university to await their grades and make plans.  There are exciting things ahead for the coming year and I also thought it was time to change my website theme after three years of the same thing…

I am now the programme leader for a newly approved MSc in Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology.  After being in the pipeline for a very long time this course is now open to applicants and I’ve already interviewed the first candidates.  This course is a collaboration between criminology and psychology and it offers a great blend of topics covering the entire legal process.  I am really looking forward to this programme starting in September and then teaching on it after Christmas.

The deadline is also rapidly approaching for the submission of my first book.  Co-authored with Michael this book will explore the subject of feederism and it has been a fascinating process putting it together.  Between us we have interviewed over 20 people involved in feederism making our book a qualitative analysis of one of the largest samples ever published.  Interest in our book has been really encouraging (thanks in part to Vice) and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it.  It’s due in September/October time this year.

Before all this September excitement I will also be heading to Singapore to spend some time working with the Singapore Police Force and Nanyang Technological University.  After a thoroughly enjoyable visit in May last year to attend a psychology conference I can’t wait to return to exotic Singapore.  I am grateful for the Santander Universities grant I have been awarded to help me make this visit.

I have also had the pleasure this year of taking part in the Leadership Foundation‘s Aurora Programme.  Held in a range of beautiful venues around Edinburgh this programme has really helped me think about how to work more effectively with my colleagues as well as helping me plan better and think bigger.  I have met some great women on this programme and I’ve really changed the way I listen to others.  There is one more session to go and after initially being sceptical I am now looking forward to it!

All in all, there are many reasons to be positive for the rest of the year ahead and I look forward to sharing them here.

Happy Easter!

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Teaching in Hong Kong

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong to deliver the beginning of Social Psychology 2 to students studying BA (Hons) Social Sciences at HKU Space University.  This was my first experience teaching overseas and my first visit to Hong Kong.  What a time to visit the Pearl of the Orient…  In the week I was there planned student protests were confined to the financial district (Central) and Tamar Park.  I followed these with interest and while there was widespread awareness of the protests and TV coverage, there was no real disruption in the city and I managed to get about quickly and easily.  The real escalation in activity began about 24 hours after my departure and I am following developments through some excellent accounts on twitter such as Occupy Central and Varsity CUHK.  I support the students in Hong Kong and I hope they can all keep safe.

Teaching overseas was intense and hard work.  After about 19 hours of travelling from Edinburgh I arrived at 5.30pm on Sunday and went straight into meetings at 9am on Monday (no mercy for my cold or the considerable jet lag!)  Tiredness inevitably strikes in the mid afternoon when it is bed time in the UK.  On Tuesday morning teaching began at 9am for an intensive three and a half hours.  This is where I made an effort to get to know my new students for the few days I would be with them.  The students at HKU Space were very friendly and very keen to learn.  It was a genuine pleasure to meet and work with them.

My Social Psychology 2 class at HKU Space.

My Social Psychology 2 class at HKU Space.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to be learning a lot alongside my students.  I had never considered how much cultural information I take for granted when teaching – examples, jokes, prices, imagery – all of these things have to be adapted for your teaching to have the same meaning in a different context.  Sometimes my efforts were met with amusement (e.g. when I decided to talk about the Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong for my gambling example instead of betting on football matches at William Hill!).  The next day I was teaching again for a four hour block in the afternoon and my students showed impressive focus during a week where they attended from 9am to 5.30pm almost every day.  I found such long periods of teaching hard work but then had a day free to explore wonderful Hong Kong.

View from The Peak.

View from The Peak.

Dim Sum on the Street.

Dim Sum on the Street.

My teaching in Hong Kong raised some questions for me about the value and meaning of psychology.  In May I attended a conference in Singapore where Professor Olwen Bedford spoke about indigenous psychology.  I really enjoyed her presentation – it quickly made sense to me and I was keen to know more.  For Social Psychology 2 I was teaching attitude formation and heuristics developed in a western culture.  This is essential for a British psychology degree and my Hong Kong students are specifically working towards a British degree, but I can’t deny it felt strange telling them what was ‘normal’ when for them, it may not be.  Both of my visits to Asia this year have caused me considerable reflection on psychology and teaching and I’m glad of that.  I think Hong Kong will be in my thoughts for some time.