- Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision (Queen’s, 2010)
Department of Psychology
In class we discuss the readings and we discuss what they don't understand. The discussion is what teaches.
Psychology professor Rod Lindsay has a reputation for being a talker, one that is somewhat well-deserved, he jokes.
"It's true. It's easier to start a conversation with me than it is to end one. Students are warned not to schedule another appointment right after an appointment with me!"
Lindsay first studied math, physics, and chemistry at university. "But then one day I had a real epiphany in a class where we were talking about how to calculate the momentum of an electron orbiting a nucleus. I was supposedly brilliant at this, but I was having trouble following. Then it occurred to me, that as long as the buggers kept orbiting, I really didn't give a damn about their momentum. When class ended, I quit."
After a few years, Lindsay made his way back to school, and tried the other end of the spectrum by taking philosophy and sociology. "I kept hearing my father saying 'if you want to be happy in life, find a job that you actually like doing.' So although I had no real goal, sociology and psychology were both fun."
Along the way, he paid attention to the teachers who really fired him up. "When I did my undergrad thesis, the teacher was very relaxed in his approach. Ferocious, but with no tension. I also liked teachers who were willing to debate as opposed to those who weren't interested in having their views challenged. I always thought that was where the most interesting stuff was."
These days, although he admits he might not be the most sensitive person in the room, he always tries to only challenge the idea, not the person. "This is how science works. It is not about the person, but about the information and what is available to you."
The discussion is what teaches...
Lindsay particularly enjoys these challenging discussions with his grad students. "Grad students [have about] 16 years of school. They are good at it, adaptive, smart, confident and do what they need to do. We bring up issues and talk about them. They expect to be challenged at a much higher level."
Lindsay also teaches a grad course in statistics, an essential tool of the trade for psychologists - like drills and hammers for carpenters. "I'm the strangest statistics prof ever. I find a textbook that covers the subject and assign readings. I use 'thought papers' where students write down their thoughts about the readings and then send them to everyone else via email before the class meets. Then, in class, we discuss the readings with questions like, 'What do you think about the stuff in this chapter? Why should we use this stuff and when?' I don't have to spoon feed them, and we discuss what they don't understand."
"My topic of specialization is eyewitness memory and police procedures for accurately obtaining evidence from witnesses, so I almost always stage an event in that class. One September, I had two people come into the room about five minutes into my class. One was pretending to be very upset - saying that he was my grad student and I was too demanding. After some shouting on his part, he stormed out but as he passed the other person, she raised a gun (a toy) and I slammed a book on the desk. They both fled while I told the class, 'That was a gunshot. I am dead and you are all witnesses.'"
"We spent the next two weeks discussing how witnesses should be interviewed. Some students who had been sent out on a false errand (prior to the crime) interviewed those who had been present. We discussed how identifications might be obtained. This kind of live event, coupled with active participation, is engrossing, brings the topics to life and demonstrates things that the students will subsequently read about. They have fun while learning."
One former student, Lavita Nadkarni, now Associate Professor and Director of Forensic Studies at the University of Denver, says, "Dr. Lindsay is one of those special professors who prioritize students' needs and their learning. His patience, reassurance, and research expertise helped me in my undertaking of a challenging undergraduate thesis. His scholarly work has had significant impact on forensic psychology, and I reference him often as I teach my own students. Queen's has been fortunate to have had Dr. Lindsay's teaching skills, insight and warmth for the past three decades. He is dedicated to the development of the field of psychology and of his students, and is one of the most helpful, open and accessible mentors I have had."
With a research interest in the area of adult eyewitness reliability, Lindsay not only teaches the eye witness course, but his intensive work in the area of reliability of child witnesses and their competence to testify was used to change the law. Lindsay himself has also has testified as an expert on eyewitness issues in both criminal and civil cases on three continents.
In his spare time, Lindsay enjoys theatre, bridge and cooking – and has been known to put on quite a spread at home for his graduating students. There is much mutual admiration between students and this professor. "I learned to share my love of my subject with my students at every level. My enthusiasm for psychology is boundless and contagious."
Indeed, one of his introductory psychology students decided to major in psychology after being in his section of the introductory course. And after he supervised the undergrad thesis for another student, she went on to do psychology law research as a graduate student. "It's a good feeling to turn people on to what interests you and to know that some of it really was useful, even life-changing, for some."
Profile by Patricia Henderson