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Anne Britt: The psychology ambassador

April 9, 2012
Anne Britt

Anne Britt

Anne Britt loves to challenge her students – and herself.

Much of her teaching load is methods courses in research, thinking and statistics, which students often consider “dry and difficult.”

“I view them as the most important classes that students can take. They help students to develop new ways of thinking about their world – such as how to observe, how to reason and how to distinguish cause from coincidence,” Britt says.

“I am dedicated to teaching these courses in a manner that is both enjoyable and challenging. I don’t think any student leaves one of my classes without sensing my enthusiasm and feeling like they have accomplished something.”

Feelings of accomplishment are just as familiar to the professor, who also won NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching award in 2008.

“I require participation in class. Students learn to ask questions, and I call on students to answer questions posed by myself and other students,” Britt says. “My goal is to get every student to talk at least once per week. This means students must come to class – and I have to learn their names.”

Rebecca Reynolds, a former undergraduate student who also has published with Britt, found the professor “passionate about her work” and highly available to students.

“Her open-door policy was unparalleled in my experiences at NIU. I could stop in or schedule a date to meet with her regularly, and she would help me whether I was struggling or excelling,” Reynolds says.

“Her clear commitment to student success creates a learning environment where everyone feels responsible for his or her work and, in a way, to Dr. Britt. We work hard for her because she works hard for us.”

Colleagues also recognize Britt’s talent for making the mandatory merry.

“Britt’s Research Methods course, a requirement of psychology majors, is well known for its rigor, creativity and, quite frankly, fun,” says Greg Waas, chair of the NIU Department of Psychology.

“During this course, Dr. Britt makes use of a wide diversity of approaches to teach and practice the basic methodologies associated with psychological research. Dr. Britt’s enthusiasm for the science of psychology is infectious, and I can think of no better ambassador for the profession than Dr. Britt.”

Britt came to NIU in 1999 after receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton.

She considers professional training as a part of her responsibility as a teacher.

Her journal publications and conference presentations include six pieces with undergraduate student authors and more than 100 with graduate student authors. Around five undergraduate students work in her lab each semester as part of their independent study; she also has completed four Honors projects.

Meanwhile, mentoring the Student Psychological Association taught her that many students lack a realistic understanding of the possible careers available to them.

It inspired her in 2009 to create the “Getting Into Graduate School Seminar” with a core group of graduate students. The six-week seminar helps undergraduate psychology majors navigate the maze of requirements to successfully apply to graduate programs in psychology.

Her mission to improve teaching and learning also extend into secondary schools.

As part of the U.S. Department of Education’s “Reading for Understanding” initiative, she and her team are developing and testing classroom-based interventions to improve complex comprehension skills for students in sixth- through 12th-grade when they are confronted with multiple text sources in history, science and literature.

“Quite simply,” Waas says, “Anne Britt has constructed a unified set of professional accomplishments centered on effective teaching that I have not seen matched in my over 20 years at NIU.”