Shanna D. Ray, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Phone: (615) 966-5833
Office: Ward 151
I have been teaching at
When I'm not working, I like to spend time with my friends and family, ride motorcycles and scooters (I drive a SYM RV 250, shown above), work on my long list of home improvement projects, go camping, swimming and hiking... and of course, enjoy plenty of downtime reading or watching TV. I am single; my family includes my father, R. M. Ray, who is retired from the Nashville Police Department and my mother, Barbara Cagle Ray, who is a freelance writer of poetry and short stories. My church family is the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ.
Before discussing teaching methods, I think it is worthwhile to ask the question “Why?” Why teach, and why teach psychology? What led me to major in psychology as an undergraduate was simple, although the 2-year journey to decide on this major was not: I wanted to learn Psychology, not just pass the class or make a good grade. What excited me about the field of psychology was that it sought to understand fundamental questions about the nature of human nature, about the influences that shape people and the reasons behind what we do. I try to bring this spirit of inquiry into the classroom, to communicate to my students a sense of enthusiasm for learning new things about themselves and the people around them. Why teach? I was motivated by the example of the excellent teachers who are now my colleagues. I wanted to do the kinds of work that they did and have the kind of impact on others’ lives that they had on mine.
My teaching methods are related to the role that my courses play within our curriculum. Within my department, there are courses that introduce students the tools of psychological research, such as Intro to Psychological Research and Behavioral Statistics. Others discuss applications of psychological principles, such as Behavior Modification, Death & Dying, Business & Industrial Psychology, and Introduction to Clinical Psychology. The courses I teach are primarily to teach the “content” courses, the basic scientific knowledge of psychology: human development, cognition, and social behavior.
One pitfall that I found hard to avoid in my first couple of years of teaching was to deliver 50 minutes of fact-ridden lecture—a deluge of information to be memorized. There was so much exciting information to be learned, and I was determined to tell students all of it! Still, I knew (I teach cognitive psychology after all!) that students aren’t effective at actually using that information unless they understand it with some degree of depth. It becomes what cognitive psychologists call “inert knowledge.” So, I’ve learned to devote more class time to helping students understand fewer things with greater depth, rather than acquiring massive quantities surface knowledge. I try to allow time for students to ask questions and for the class to discuss material. Often discussions revolve around big-picture questions like: “Why is this knowledge useful?” “How can it be applied to our lives and careers?” “What are the implications of this?”
Also, I want my students to understand how the knowledge they are learning was acquired. I believe that a critical thinker who can evaluate claims—an informed consumer of ideas—is important element of being educated as a psychologist, and I want our students to be equipped to do this. I also want them to understand where the knowledge we are teaching them comes from. I see what I do as being intricately linked to what Paul Turner does in teaching Statistics and Psychological Research courses. Students learn how to design experiments and analyze data in his courses; in my courses I try to help them apply this knowledge to the major areas that psychologists study. I do this by having students read original research articles about the topics we are studying and helping them understand how research in this area is conducted. In Cognitive and Social Psychology I do in-class demonstrations and data-collection assignments, which allow students to experience what it is like to be in a psychological experiment.
Finally, regardless of the course, there are certain values and traits that I bring into the classroom. I don’t avoid “controversial” issues, but try to address them in a balanced and intellectually honest way. I like to challenge students’ preconceptions and confront them with ideas and perspectives that they may not have encountered before. I value authenticity in others, and try to be genuine in the way I relate to others. This is a risk, of course (because sometimes I will look genuinely silly), but a risk I am willing to take if it means that I am connecting with students rather than hiding behind a façade. I try to be honest and admit when I make mistakes or don’t know something. Once I saw this as an embarrassing concession, to admit I didn’t know an answer to a question or that I had made a grading mistake. But a wise person once pointed out to me that this was an important part of “faith-informed learning”—acknowledging that there is an omniscient God, and I am not him. Our human understanding is flawed and our knowledge incomplete, but striving toward greater understanding is a worthy goal that I hope to model for students.
Ray, S. D., Lockman, J. D., Jones, E. J., and Hawkins, M. S. (2012, May). Attributions to God and Satan about Negative Life Events.Manuscript in preparation.
Ray, S. D., & Rieser, J. J. Children’s Ability to Imagine What They Read: Generating Spatial Representations of Verbal Descriptions.Manuscript in preparation.
Deák, G. O., Ray, S. D., & Pick, A. D. (2004). Effects of age, reminders, and task difficulty on young children’s rule-switching flexibility. Cognitive Development, 19, 385–400.
Deák, G. O., Ray, S. D., & Brenneman, K. (2003). Children’s perseverative appearance-reality errors are related to emerging language skills. Child Development, 74, 944-964.
Deák, G. O., Ray, S. D., & Pick, A. D. (2002). Matching and naming objects by shape or function: Age and context effects on preschool children. Developmental Psychology, 38, 503-518.
Ray, S. D., Lockman, J. D., Jones, E. J., and Hawkins, M. S. (2012, May). Attributions to God and Satan about Negative Life Events. Poster presented at the Association for Psychological Science annual meeting, Chicago, IL.
Lockhart, T., and Ray, S. D. (2012, April). Empathy in Siblings of Children with Developmental Disabilities. Poster presented at the Middle Tennessee Psychological Association convention, Murfreesboro, TN.
McCurley J.L., Ray, S.D., Richie, F., and Rogers-Vaughn, B. (2012, March). Self-efficacy and posttraumatic growth in female survivors of intimate partner violence. Poster presented at the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence, San Francisco, CA.
McCurley J.L., Ray, S.D., Richie, F., and Rogers-Vaughn, B. (2011, November). Self-efficacy and posttraumatic growth in female survivors of intimate partner violence. Poster presented at the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD.
Shelton, D. W., and Ray, S. D. (2010, October). Which Functions are Relevant? The Differential Effects of Specific Executive Function Processes on Theory of Mind. Poster presented at the Tennessee Psychological Association Annual Convention, Nashville, TN.
Ray, S. D., Jenkins, S., Hawkins, M., Lockman, J., Yosick, R., Davis, A., & Byrd, M. (2008, November). Causal attributions about life-altering events: The role of God, Satan, fate, and human choice. Poster presented at the Tennessee Psychological Association annual meeting, Nashville, TN.
Ray, S. D., Kirby, J. D., Smith, J., Anders, K., Williamson, T., Fitzgerald, K., Rehmel, J., & Wilson, J. (2006, November). Religiosity and Conceptions of Adult Status. Poster presented at the Tennessee Psychological Association annual meeting, Nashville, TN.
Ray, S. D., Tummins, A., Sprouse, A, Cummins, K, & Rellinger, K. (2005, April). Effects of Imagery and Role-Playing on Preschool Children's Ability to Learn from Stories. Poster presented at the Middle Tennessee Psychological Association annual meeting, Murfreesboro, TN.
Ray, S. D., Ogle, A. D., Thompson, N., Allen, M. S., Lebo, R., Britton, G. I., Sturgell, E., Whitsett, M. & Blair, Z. (2004, November). Developing an Ideological Identity: A Transition to Intrinsic Religiosity. Poster presented at the Tennessee Psychological Association annual meeting, Nashville, TN.
Ray, S. D., Cummins, P., & Rieser, J. J. (2003, April). Visual experience and geometry play roles in the development of the representation of locomotion and dynamic spatial orientation. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Biannual Meeting, Tampa, FL.
Ray, S. D., & Rieser, J. J. (2003, April). Young children can generate dynamic spatial representations from listening to stories. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Biannual Meeting, Tampa, FL.
Rieser, J. J., & Ray, S. D. (2001, April). Blindness, path integration, and development of the nonvisual control of locomotion. In J. J. Rieser (Chair), Blindness, plasticity and the development of dynamic perception and motor control. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MI.