Exceptional Faculty Award spotlight: The voice of experience

Psychology professor Kelly Fielding has spent decades demystifying the human brain      


“I believe in psychology,” says psychology instructor Kelly Fielding. “I believe it has value and purpose, and if I can affect a few students who want to make a dent in all the psychological distress in this world, then that’s a good thing.”

Fielding has seen first-hand the value of psychology: With almost 30 years of clinical experience as a psychologist, he has helped hundreds of patients cope with psychological distress. He brings this experience into the classroom at Clark College, where he has taught part-time since 1988. “I’m at the point where I’m teaching the children of former students,” he says with a laugh.

20140811_0676There’s a reason why parents are recommending Fielding to their kids—he has developed a reputation as an excellent teacher who incorporates personal and professional stories into his teaching. These are some of the qualities that earned him the college’s prestigious Exceptional Faculty Award. The award was announced at Clark’s 2014 Commencement ceremony and officially bestowed at the college’s Opening Day festivities on September 10.

“I already loved psychology when I went into [Fielding’s] course, but after I took his class, I gained a new love for the topic,” wrote one student nominator. “He would use storytelling to weave in the actual facts [of the course material], entertaining some students and allowing those students who required a visual aid to learn the material just as well as everyone else.”

Fielding, who has a Ph.D. from Brigham Young University, says he enjoys the diversity of Clark students. “I like the population mix,” he says. “I like that there are young kids who are still in high school and adult students who are much older than the ‘traditional’ college student. I think the older students gain from the energy of the younger students, and the younger students gain from the maturity of the older students. The older students, when they come back [to school], they’re very serious.”

Fielding says he’s felt his own teaching style develop as he’s grown older—though not necessarily toward the more serious. “I find that I become more and more open,” he says. “The younger you are, the more worried you are about judgment. The older I get, the less I find myself being afraid of what students will think if I share a particular idea or story.”

Over the years, Fielding says, the theory and practice of psychology has changed as scientists make new discoveries about the human brain. But when it comes to teaching psychology, some things remain constant—such as students’ misconceptions about the subject. “They think psychology is about manipulation,” he says. “And they have little to no idea how scientific it is. I teach them the scientific method. I show them how studies are conducted. By the time we’re done, I think they understand that science is more than chemistry, cells, and physics. But they also understand how those things play into psychology.”


Learn more about the other 2013-14 Exceptional Faculty Award recipients.

Photos: Clark College/Jenny Shadley


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