Dr. Kari Tucker-McCorkhill is a tenured professor of psychology at Irvine Valley College, located in Orange County, California. Like all other Community College Pathway Psychologists, she began college by completing her lower division undergraduate work at a community college: Orange Coast College. Kari then completed courses at the University of Southern California, California State University at Fullerton (BA), Pepperdine (MA), and – for her PhD – the University of California, Riverside. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her teaching excellence and her ability to inspire students. Kari joined Psi Beta while attending Fullerton Junior College.
Dr. Tucker-McCorkhill has earned the following awards and recognition for her effective teaching and student mentoring.
- National Community College Psychology Teacher of the Year in 2011 – Awarded by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology and the American Psychological Association
- UC Irvine Educator Recognition Award – Chosen by IVC-to-UCI transfer students as their most influential teacher, 3 awards since 2008
- Psi Beta’s National Advisor of the Year Award, 2006
- Outstanding Teaching Award, University of California, Riverside, 1997-1998
- Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship, University of California, Riverside, 1996
- Graduate Research Award, Pepperdine University, 1993
- Pepperdine Alumni Association Academic Scholarship, 1992
Kari’s method of teaching students about research gives insight into what makes her an effective professor. For example, she structures her research methods class like a university research lab. After exploring, discussing, and settling on a set of research topics, students are placed into groups by their area of interest. Each group conducts a literature search, forms several hypotheses, designs a study, gathers data, performs statistical analyses, and writes up the study in a formal paper. Although every study is conducted by the group, each student must individually write and submit a written paper that conforms within the strict, prescriptive, and challenging criteria of “APA style.” Students then collaborate to prepare and present a poster to the class. Moreover, her Psi Beta honor society students often present their papers at a research conference hosted by UCI, and/or at the Western Psychological Association’s annual conference. Therefore, many students gain the experience of attending and participating in a professional conference.
Here are some quotes contributed by several of Kari’s former students:
I met Dr. Tucker when I enrolled at IVC and took my very first psychology course, Introduction to Psychology. From the moment students walk into her classroom you can feel her passion for psychology and her enthusiasm for teaching. Dr. Tucker is an excellent college professor; she understands that students learn in different ways, and makes an impeccable effort to deliver her lectures in a variety of ways, so that all students can learn from the lecture. Her consistent enthusiasm keeps the class energy up and class participation at a higher level than I experienced in any other classroom throughout my college experience. Dr. Tucker also promotes student involvement in research. She has assisted me on numerous research projects that I’ve presented at the Western Psychological Association Psychology Conference. Throughout my IVC experience I continued to take courses taught by Dr. Tucker, and was saddened by the fact that I could not take her with me when I transferred to UC Irvine. Dr. Tucker has had an astronomical positive influence on the world of psychology and education. She shares her passion with students and inspires students to reach goals they never thought possible. – Jenelle Beazley Welz
Kari is, without question, the reason I went on to success in obtaining my degree with highest honors. She prepared us for the rigors of college and made sure we knew how to take advantage of the opportunities that came our way. Without her pep talks and challenging courses, I would not have been interested in studying Social Ecology or conducting psychological research. I owe my success to the opportunities she gave me and the confidence she instilled. Consequently, I landed a research position under Dr. Elizabeth Loftus (world famous memory researcher) at UCI with whom I completed an Honors thesis, and graduated summa cum laude. – Sara Holderfield
Returning to college after a 15-year absence, I lacked confidence and direction and was in desperate need of mentorship. In Dr. Tucker’s class I quickly found that she would challenge me while providing the tools necessary to further my success. In two years that I spent at IVC, I took four classes with Dr. Tucker. She encouraged me to become president of the local Psi Beta honor society chapter. During this time, I saw her reach out to hundreds of students with her love of psychology in the way she had reached out to me. I saw entire classes enthralled by her manner of teaching; many continued in discussions with her well after classes ended. Professor Tucker’s classes were the most challenging that I have ever experienced and they have prepared me well to compete at the top of my class in a university setting. Her passion for research psychology is contagious. Thanks to professor Tucker, I am now successfully attending UC Irvine. I am at the top of my class and I was recently accepted to a prestigious research lab over of a pool of hundreds of applicants. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Tucker for giving so much of herself and providing her students with such an amazing gift. – Adam Malnove
Dr. Tucker-McCorkhill regularly gives presentations on the importance of preparing for graduate school in our Careers-in-Psychology class and to students during psychology club meetings. Her talk includes the importance of preparing and maintaining a curriculum vitae.
Kari has been the primary advisor of Irvine Valley College’s Psi Beta chapter since 2001. Since 2001, the chapter has thrived. Examples of chapter activities include a project in which students identify and honor the college’s most hope-inspiring professor, doing research studies they then present at a professional psychology conference each spring, visiting a nearby mental hospital and talking with patients, and inviting former students who have successfully transferred back to campus to speak about their experiences at the university. Because the chapter engages students in so many educationally enriching activities, the Irvine Valley College chapter has qualified for Psi Beta’s prestigious Chapter Excellence Award each year since 2009.
Kari has helped to increase student interest in psychology and raise community awareness of psychology as an applied science that uses principles of psychology to improve the human condition. Over the years, for example, she has arranged to have famous psychology scholars come to the college and speak to students. Among the more popular speakers she has arranged to visit: Dr. Sheri Berkowitz, Elizabeth Loftus’ former graduate student; Sonja Lyubomirsky, a social psychologist known internationally for her groundbreaking research on the psychology of happiness; and Philip G. Zimbardo, another internationally recognized psychologist. Zimbardo’s visit was so popular that it had to be moved to a local high school having an auditorium that seats over 500.
Kari also shines as a “campus citizen” who supports college life outside of her classroom responsibilities. She served as the department chair for over 7 years, and served on numerous hiring and tenure review committees. Since coming to IVC, Dr. Tucker hired and mentored over 25 different part-time psychology teachers, six of whom have landed full-time, tenure track positions after having taught psychology classes at Irvine Valley College. Kari also co-chaired the Student Learning Outcomes committee for 5 years, and served as a faculty representative on the college’s faculty senate.
Teaching Philosophy: An Experienced-Based Reflection
by Kari Tucker-McCorkhill
My teaching philosophy has remained consistent since I taught my first course in 1994; however, with many years of experience in the classroom, I have come to realize that truly effective teaching is a career-long endeavor that requires constant attention to the most important goal that we have as educators—that is, students’ learning. Students’ learning involves not only retaining information, but the ability to apply principles in everyday life and to sustain motivation and interest to remain curious about new discoveries in the field long after the course or major has been completed. I believe this starts in each classroom and applies to every single student who is enrolled in my courses. I have the opportunity to positively influence each student in this direction, and it is my duty and sincere honor to try.
As in scientific endeavors, effective teaching is a self-correcting process that is far beyond the simple recitation of information. With this in mind, I approach each of my lectures with the goal of sharing historical and current perspectives in psychology with enthusiasm and curiosity, while providing examples of how to make connections between the current material, the scientific literature, and real-world situations. I seek to facilitate learning by incorporating individual writing assignments that provide flexibility for students to explore their personal interests within the context of the course. Also, when relevant, I implement collaborative projects, which provide unique opportunities for students to share and develop their ideas with others who share a common goal. To be an effective facilitator of learning, I believe (and research findings confirm) that it is important to maintain good organization and planning of lecture materials, speak clearly, make good use of class time, create fair yet challenging exams, and, above all, show respect to all students. I believe that effective teaching requires a continual dedication and commitment to the implementation of practices that thrive, improvement of practices that flounder, and the continual generation of new applications that apply to current students’ thinking and experiences as it relates to specific course content. However, knowledge about the effectiveness of practices cannot be gained by intuition alone. I believe that it is essential for professors to effectively assess their students’ learning and experiences by conducting sound research in the classroom. Only then can we objectively assess the effectiveness of our practices for the betterment of students’ learning. And, only then can we make appropriate recommendations for the continuation of the practices that have been demonstrated to be successful and for changes of the practices that have been demonstrated to need improvement.
From the beginning of my teaching career, my highest priority has been to be an effective teacher of psychology. What I did not realize in the beginning, however, was the extent of my potential influence on students in and beyond the one course. Regarding experiences in the classroom, studies show that characteristics of the professor may be one of the most important factors that influence not only students’ ratings of their courses, but strongly influence students’ motivation, learning, absence rates, and overall retention in the course. Hearing students’ comments such as “That’s interesting,” “I’ll remember that example for the rest of my life” “I never want to miss class,” or “I want to become a Psychology major because of this course,” means everything to me as a professor. While only meant to be casual comments, they resonate so deeply with the primary objective that I have in each class meeting—that is, to be mindful of my role in enhancing students’ interest, motivation, and learning. Regarding experiences that could extend beyond the one course, studies show that professors have an impact on students’ college experiences such as the degree of connection they have with other students on campus, and more global decisions such as whether to drop out of college. Hearing comments from students such as “I’ve made friendships that will last forever after taking this class,” “I had never seen myself as a ‘school-person’ until now,” and “You’ve inspired me to pursue my PhD” are rewarding to me as a professor beyond words. Although I do not believe that my contribution is anything other than small in the moment, I now realize that a simple comment of encouragement, perhaps one interesting lecture point or exercise, or a single opportunity to connect with other students may help to set off a chain of events that could impact students’ lives in great ways in the future. Thus, being an effective teacher means to me that I remain mindful of the power of these “small” moments in each class session, give great effort to create as many of these moments throughout the semester, regularly assess the effectiveness of my teaching practices on students’ learning, and to be thankful that I have an amazing career in which I have the opportunity to make small differences in the students’ lives today, and that these have the potential to lead to great things in their futures!
Dr. Tucker-McCorkhill’s publications reflect her passion and interest in the psychology of happiness. She has found that students have a keen interest in happiness and factors that influence personal happiness. Many of her research students choose happiness as the focus of their research course projects.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Tucker, K.L. (1998). Implications of individual differences in subjective happiness for perceiving, interpreting, and thinking about life events. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 155-186.
Lyubomirsky, S., Tucker, K. L., Caldwell, N. D., & Berg, K. (1999). Why ruminators are poor problem solvers: Clues from the phenomenology of dysphoric rumination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 23, 17-49.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Tucker, K.L. (2001). Responses to hedonically conflicting social comparisons: Comparing happy and unhappy people. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 511-535.
Tucker, K.L., Ozer, D.J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Testing for measurement invariance in the Satisfaction with Life Scale: A comparison of Russians and North Americans. Social Indicators Research, 78, 341-360.
Tucker, K.L. (2007). Getting the most out of life: An examination of appreciation, targets of appreciation, and sensitivity to reward in happier and less happy individuals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 779-813.
Tucker, K. L. (2007). Using your research methods course to help students prepare for
conference presentations. Psi Beta Fall Newsletter, 2-4.
Rudmann, J., Tucker, K.L., & Gonzalez, S. (2008). Using cognitive, motivational, and emotional constructs for assessing learning outcomes in student services: An exploratory study. Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, 15, 124-137.
Selected Conference Paper and Symposia Presentations
Developmental Education Conference at Mt. San Antonio College, 2008. Procedures, findings, and recommendations from recent studies on factors related to student success.
Psi Beta Symposium on Innovative Teaching in the Community College at the 2007 Western Psychological Association Conference, Hyatt Regency, Vancouver, Canada. Encouraging student research.
Symposium presentation on Identifying and Assessing Learning Outcomes in Psychology at the 2006 Western Psychological Association Conference, Riviera Resort, Palm Springs, CA. Structuring a psychology department student learning outcome research plan.
Paper session presentation at the 2005 Western Psychological Association Conference, Portland Marriot, Portland, OR. Getting the most out of life: an examination of appreciation, gratitude, and sensitivity to reward in happier and less happy individuals.
Symposium presentation at the 2002 Western Psychological Association Conference, Hyatt Regency, Irvine, CA. Student apathy, procrastination, and excuse making: problems and solutions.
Editor’s note: If you, or someone you know, is a psychologist who began his or her academic/career pathway by completing lower division coursework at a community college, please notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org We want to recognize and celebrate these individuals on the Psi Beta website.