Dr. Derrick Wirtz on Conveying his Personal Enthusiasm

Conveying his personal enthusiasm for psychology is a goal for Dr. Derrick Wirtz, and his students would tell you he is successful. Dr. Wirtz has been teaching introductory psychology at ECU since 2008, and he is very aware that the class is often taken in the first or second semester when students are still adjusting to college and how to study effectively.

One of the strategies he uses to support students is providing class outlines that are available before and after a lecture. “This is important because it doubles my chances of remembering important information,” one student wrote. Dr. Wirtz said he began providing the outlines, with strategic information missing, to help students attend to important information rather than writing as fast as they can in a notebook during a lecture.

“We know a lot more about what constitutes effective studying and what kind of strategies will work for students,” he said. For example, he gives students low stakes opportunities for assessment throughout the semester so they can identify areas that they do not yet understand. He also tries to provide students with examples from TV shows, movies, newspapers and magazines so they can develop critical thinking skills as consumers of psychological science.

“Dr. Wirtz makes several attempts to clarify tricky subjects by utilizing more modern approaches that connect with students on a personal level,” a student wrote. Dr. Wirtz said he has found that using the Pirate Rants section of the ECU student newspaper is a good way to teach social psychology and what people will say when they are anonymous.

Dr. Diane Majewski, Project Director for College STAR at ECU, said students value instructors who are able to make information in a class come to life or make content relevant or practical. “They tell us that this kind of instruction helps them stay focused, take efficient notes and know what to study later for tests,” she said. 

An out-of-class assignment that involved taking a personality test was also a hit with students. “I give them access to a highly validated, reliable personality inventory and then reflect upon it and think critically about its implications,” Dr. Wirtz said.

“The best part about Dr. Wirtz is his personality when teaching. He always maintains a level headed and open atmosphere. Even with 50 or more students in the class it is never uncomfortable to raise your hand and answer a question,” the student wrote.

“I just try to give everybody what they need to succeed,” said Dr. Wirtz.