Paul E. Turner, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Dr. Turner has taught at Lipscomb since 1982 and served as department chair from 2000 to 2005. He has been awarded three "Outstanding Teacher" awards and one "Outstanding Advisor" award by the university. Dr. Turner currently teaches Introduction to Psychological Research, Behavioral Statistics, Drugs & Behavior, and History of Psychology/Senior Seminar for our undergraduate program. He also teaches Theories of Personality for the Graduate Program in Counseling.
Phone: (615) 966-5832
Office: Ward 165
A.A.: Faulkner University, 1973
M.A.: Southern Christian University, Bible/Textual Studies, 1976
M.S.: Public Health, University of Western Kentucky, 1995
M.A.: Experimental Psychology,
Ph.D: Experimental Psychology,
My first job out of college was teaching science at
I would have been content to teach high school science and psychology, but to get my teaching certificate 30-40 hours of education courses were required. It seemed much more interesting to pursue 30-40 hours of graduate study in psychology. So, I quit my job and June and I moved to
After graduate school my goal was to find a job in academia. My real desire was to spend my life working, teaching, researching in a Christian university. I have been blessed to be associated with Christian education and my commitment is as strong as that first week at
In the past several years, I have thought of my teaching philosophy in terms of metaphors. About a decade ago, I attended a meeting where Margaret Matlin presented her metaphors for college teaching. For example, one common teaching metaphor is the banker. The banker has the great storehouse of knowledge and allows students to withdraw vast resources. I would guess that for the banker, if one can show 130 PowerPoint slides instead of 30 slides in 50 minutes then you are a great teacher. Another metaphor she presented was the barracuda. As she gave examples of the barracuda professor, I remembered (not fondly) my barracuda professors. Dr. Matlin's personal metaphor was the midwife. She said, "Midwife-teachers support students as they give birth to new ideas." There is no perfect metaphor for teaching but her presentation provided an interesting way to conceptualize my teaching philosophy.
After thinking about Dr. Matlin's presentation, the tour guide metaphor seemed to best describe my view of teaching in 1995. The students take the journey with me as I guide them along the challenging path of research and statistics. Matlin identified a limitation of the tour guide metaphor, "it only allows information to flow in one direction from the guide to the tourists."
I became keenly aware of the tour guide metaphor limitations on a trip with Paul Prill. Prill invited me to go with him on an all day wilderness hike. Prill was the perfect guide, he brought the food, trail maps, and water - everything I needed was provided. That afternoon, as we were walking back, I remember thinking that if Prill has a heart attack, there is no way that I can find my way out of these woods. Thus, the problem with the tour guide metaphor: I was doing too much for students and not equipping them to make the journey on their own.
In the last five years, I have tried to view teaching as a more active/integrative endeavor. Currently, I prefer more of a coaching metaphor. Coaches motivate, demonstrate, provide feedback and direction, but the athlete has to execute the play. This metaphor works well in the skills courses that I teach. In Behavioral Statistics students have to select the appropriate statistic, analyze the data and interpret the data. I coach, but they must produce the data analysis.
In 2000, my sabbatical experience resulted in the implementation of Problem Based Learning in the statistics course, which is an approach that emphasizes active student learning. In the Introduction to Psychological Research and History and Systems courses students must demonstrate critical thinking and communicate ideas in an APA style format. Again, I can coach, but they must learn to execute the play on their own.
My teaching is shaped by four core values. Realistically, living up to these values is a constant challenge accompanied by many failures, but the values provide the foundation for what happens in my teaching.
One key value is my desire to search for truth. Lipscomb's motto is the John 8:32 passage, "the truth shall make you free." The authentic search for truth is a lofty value for all of us in the Lipscomb community.
I value fairness in teaching. It is my desire to clearly communicate expectations and treat students fairly. For me, this value is part of the golden rule and simply expresses the desire to relate to students in such a manner that they have an equal opportunity to be successful.
Third, I want to treat students with respect. When I was a student at
Finally, I value a professional commitment to teaching. Professionalism is usually measured in term of professional meetings, presentations and publications. These are certainly important components of professionalism. When I was watching the Super Bowl half-time show, as the Rolling Stones performed, another aspect of professionalism came to mind. One of the songs the Stones selected to perform was, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." I think the song was first recorded in 1964 or around that time. Here is a song they have performed literally hundreds of times. Does Mick Jagger ever get sick of singing Satisfaction? He sang the song with energy, enthusiasm and passion.
Teachers who are true professionals find a way to maintain the energy, enthusiasm and passion even when explaining classical conditioning for the hundredth time. It is the first time the freshmen in Introduction to Psychology have learned about Pavlov and his dogs. Mick looked like he was still having a great time performing one of his classic songs.
Challenges and Opportunities
Three of the courses that I currently teach could best be described as orphan courses. When Richard Beck left, there was not anyone interested in teaching Behavioral Statistics, so Bob Sturgeon asked me to take the course. Misti Counts left and I adopted the Introduction to Psychological Research course. History and Systems of Psychology was changed from a sophomore course to a senior level course and became the capstone and faith informed learning course in the major. For a couple of years, I taught the class as an independent study or small group class until there were enough senior level students who needed the class. Drugs and Behavior is the only course that has been part of my teaching load for several years.
It is a challenge to teach four different preparations, two of which are writing credit courses. Students often do not see the need or relevance of courses in research, statistics, or history. To say the least, the typical student is not excited about the prospect of studying statistics or research. I also face the challenge of asking students to think about the profession of psychology as related to issues of faith. I find that some students have become very comfortable with compartmentalization and are resistant to faith informed learning.
Yet, I have become comfortable with these adopted courses and love the challenges. In my view, anybody can make Abnormal Psychology interesting, but when you captivate the interest of student in courses like Statistics, Research, and History of Psychology, there is a real sense of accomplishment. There are days when students have asked important questions, interpreted the results of an ANOVA, evaluated a research article, examined the relationship between Christianity and psychology and actually enjoyed the process. It is those days that remind me that I love teaching. Teaching without challenges sounds pretty boring.
Finally, at the University level there is the challenge to support quality teaching. I think quality teaching is best nourished in an environment that respects individual differences, encourages individual freedom, and promotes creativity. I hope we can develop a creative teaching environment at