Murphy Award winner: Jeff Karpicke

May 6, 2011

Jeff Karpicke, assistant professor of psychological sciences. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Five exceptional teachers were honored with 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy at the Faculty Awards Convocation on April 28. This week, Purdue Today will feature a profile on each of the recipients. Today, we focus on Jeff Karpicke, assistant professor of psychological sciences.

Karpicke's research and teaching revolve around the theme of improving student learning. His commitment to promoting undergraduate involvement in research activities, combined with his high teacher ratings, are just some of the factors that led to the nomination of Karpicke for a Murphy Award. 
Karpicke's research examines human learning and memory, particularly the importance of retrieval processes for learning. His research has shown that when students retrieve knowledge it is more than just an assessment of what they have learned; the process of retrieving knowledge itself enhances learning. His findings show that the time students invest in reviewing their notes would be better spent practicing retrieval to ensure better learning.

Karpicke has given presentations at Purdue about his new approach to student learning via workshop series and department talks. He regularly speaks to student organizations about professional development and research opportunities as well.

And in the classroom, Karpicke spends time discussing learning strategies that students can use in many of their classes.

"I view strategy instruction as equally important, if not more important, than instruction about specific content or topics," Karpicke said.

Karpicke serves as a research mentor for undergraduate and graduate students. He promotes undergraduate involvement in research, and around 40-50 undergraduate students have been research assistants in Karpicke's laboratory.

Students in Karpicke's lab have the opportunity to take part in all phases of psychological research. Whether it's testing human subjects, collecting data or writing computer programs to run experiments, students get a first-hand feel for research in cognitive science. Karpicke has co-authored conference presentations and published papers with undergraduate students. A paper published earlier this year in the journal Science was an undergraduate honors project.

"In my lecture class, I hope that students get interested in cognitive science," Karpicke said. "In other research-focused contexts, I want students to begin the transition from thinking of themselves as consumers of knowledge to producers of knowledge."
Karpicke's focus on education is also evident in his role in the psychology department's Research Focused Honors Program, a program in which students complete independent honors thesis research projects under the supervision of faculty mentors. Karpicke has mentored students and has directed the program.

Karpicke's favorite part about teaching is interacting with his students.

"My students, both in the classroom and in my laboratory, have excellent and exciting ideas," Karpicke said. "I encourage them to voice their ideas and opinions, because I learn a lot from them."