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Published on November 10th, 2011 | by Staff 12-13

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Looney Thun: An AP Psychology Q & A

Chase Wohrle
Staff Writer

Human beings are complicated, and the study of how they behave and why is even more so. Samo teacher Charles Thun strictly teaches AP Psychology, a social studies elective available only to seniors.  Thun instructs these students while acknowledging the fact that they are, of any grade level, the most qualified to take the course. Since the class is open to many Samo seniors, those who do take it are inclined to have a general interest in psychology. This being said, Thun aims to use his extensive knowledge and love for the subject to enrich his classes. The Samohi sits down with Thun and discusses the who, what, why, and how of AP Psychology.

The Samohi: What do you think makes your class so different from others?
Charles Thun: “As much as it’d be nice to say it’s me, I think part of it is just the subject itself. So many things in psychology are relevant to everyone, such as the study of human behavior because obviously everyone is a human being and behaves. So I think everything you cover in some way relates to somebody’s life. In some other classes, it’s more of a struggle to actually link things directly to someone’s life. So I think the content of the class is partly responsible for that. But also, I really enjoy this subject. In my spare time I’m reading a lot about psychology, looking for videos about psychology, articles. I try to make it as lively as possible, not just something out of a textbook.”

TS: Does your passion for psychology benefit the class?
CT: “I think part of it is that I’d study this even if I weren’t a teacher of it. Basically, I try to pass along the passion I have for the subject as much as I can. It’s genuine. I really enjoy learning about things.”
TS: Is that where your desire to teach this class came from?
CT: “Exactly. I took psychology classes in college as an undergraduate. Then I realized I liked it more than what I was majoring in at the time, which was history. I can teach history, but I haven’t taught it in a while. Then, when I was teaching in Michigan, I saw a position for AP Psych and applied for it. Once that happened, I just wanted to learn more and more. I’ve taken much more psychology classes than I have history classes since I’ve graduated. I got interested in it from teaching it before, and I just want to get better and better in bringing it to life.”
TS: Why do you think you have so many students with a score of 5 on the AP exam?
CT: “To be honest, I have to give a lot of credit to the students. Seriously. A lot of it comes out of how much work they’re willing to put in. I look at the curriculum and teach everything that I’m required to and more, if I want to add something in. But at the same time, it comes down to how much work you are going to put into it. Are you going to study? Are you going to read? Are you going to look over the notes a lot? And not only that, a lot of people take this class. While it’s good that a lot of people get fives, it also should be taken into account that there are a lot of people who take [the test]. I just try to make sure I teach what is required and make sure nothing’s missing. Hopefully that’s enough preparation, it usually is. I really try to keep on schedule. I pass out the syllabus from the first day with the target test dates. That way, if we haven’t gotten to something by a certain time, we know we need to be finishing up. Fortunately my health is good, so I’m almost never gone. It allows me to stay on schedule better.”

TS: How do you think the fact that this course is a senior elective effects the class?
CT: “I do think that maturity helps quite a bit, and to have some life experiences to relate to. It makes it so that the class is more interesting to people. Besides, the fact that it’s such an interesting curriculum— you don’t have to take it either. If you want to take the class, most time it’s because you want to learn about it. The atmosphere in class is usually pretty good for that reason. There are very few people that are just like ‘Ugh, I don’t want to be here.’ Although people aren’t aware that there’s a lot in the beginning of the curriculum that deals with the brain, sensation, perception and so forth. These are pretty complicated things. So sometimes its something to really bite through, the complicated material. Most of the time they’re really interested in it.”

TS: Where did you go to college and really get into psychology?
CT: “Indiana University. Most of the classes I’ve taken are out here, at UCLA. They have an extension program, and I’ve taken a lot of psych classes through that. They have really good professors there that have had really good classes I’ve taken—about mental illness, developmental psych. One class that was really useful to me was called Psychology and the Law, taught by forensic psychologists. It was really useful because you could directly link things. Like, “Here’s this theory and here’s how its applicable in a court case.” I’ve taken two mental illness classes. One was from a sort of sociological perspective, and another one that was from a psychological perspective. I bring that stuff in a lot in those units. It is very useful.”

TS: Even if someone hadn’t planned to major in psychology, how would this course benefit them?
CT: “I think it really helps you understand other people. One thing I teach about, for example, is persuasion techniques. You can know how to persuade people better or make sure you know when people are trying to take advantage of you. Also, a lot of people have biases that they’re unaware of unless they’re pointed out in a class; they’re called cognitive biases, which are judgments of probabilities and so forth that are off. When [students] learn about it in class, they can correct it. A lot of people have misperceptions about memory for example, and how accurate it is. We have a unit where we talk about interactions with people, in terms of empathy and looking at other people’s perspectives. I think it just gives you a better judgment of other people, a better understanding I’d say.”

TS: Describe to me how you run your class.
CT: “It’s a mix of various things. For example, today there was an article due about dreams. So we talked about that for a little while and then they handed that in. Then we watched a video clip about narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder. We watched ten minutes of that, which I then taught about, and brought it to life by showing an example of someone who has it. I’d say about half of the class usually is a lecture, in which there’s powerpoint content that I present. I really welcome anyone to ask questions, so it’s kind of a mixture of lectures and discussions. It try to make it as interactive as possible, within reason.”

TS: Is there anything else you would like to say?
CT: “I’ve really been happy to get this opportunity to have this job. It’s really a very enjoyable job overall, I enjoy the content and how interested students are in the class.”

cwohrle@thesamohi.com


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