Robert S. Daniel Award
for Outstanding 4-Year College/University Professor
Society for the Teaching of Psychology
Division 2 – American Psychological Association
The winner of the Robert S. Daniel Award for outstanding teaching at a 4-year college or university is Dean Keith Simonton from the University of California-Davis. Dr. Simonton received his BA in psychology of Occidental College and both his master’s and PhD degrees in social psychology from Harvard University. He is currently a full professor at the University of California-Davis and serves as the Undergraduate Honors Advisor. He is considered an expert in the areas of genius, creativity, leadership, and aesthetics.
Dr. Simonton has already received every campus-wide teaching award from UC-Davis, including the Distinguished Teaching Award for the Academic Senate, the Associated Students Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Magnar Ronning Award for Teaching Excellence. His reputation as a superior teacher goes beyond the current student population, however, as he was awarded the UC-Davis Prize for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement from the alumni foundation. Nationally, he was part of the Forum on Exemplary Teaching for the American Association of Higher Education.
His scholarly achievements have also been well recognized. He has almost 300 publications to his credit, including nine single-authored books. He was the recipient of the 2000 William James Book Award (Division 1: General Psychology), the George A. Miller Outstanding Article Award, the Sir Francis Galton Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Study of Creativity, and the Award for Excellence from the Mensa Education and Research Foundation, to name a few. His work on creativity has been cited in numerous media outlets including Newsweek, US News & World Report, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. A colleague noted that it is unusual “for someone with Dean’s scholarly record to be the best and most available undergraduate teacher and advisor in the department. It’s still difficult to understand how he does it.”
Dr. Simonton is extremely active in the profession. He has been named a fellow of 11 professional organizations, including the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Association for Psychological Science, and the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. He has served as president for Division 10 of APA (Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts) as well as the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics.
In the classroom, Dr. Simonton is known for his creative and innovative assignments. For example, in his term paper assignment for History of Psychology, he demands more of his students than a simple summary of the contributions of important figures. Instead, he requires students to analyze a figure from the standpoint of what psychologists now know about scientific genius. That is, to what extent does the figure fit the typical profile in terms of cognitive, personality, and social variables? As a result, students have to analyze the figure by integrating knowledge from the field. This innovative approach has been published in Teaching in Psychology.
Another example of his innovative approaches is a trick he uses to inspire student interest in the day’s topic. Each day, Dr. Simonton wears a t-shirt that illustrates some point or provides a broad theme for the day’s lecture. A former teaching assistant wrote,
This tool is effective, not only as an illustrative measure, but it also sparks interest in the students. This is evidenced by the fact that students try to figure out how the t-shirt relates to the topic before the lecture even begins. Consequently, students are engaged, attentive, and are involved in every lecture.
Dr. Simonton does not rest on his laurels; he works continuously to improve his courses. For instance, he was a participant in a Summer Institute on Technology in Teaching sponsored by the UC-Davis Teaching Resources center designed to train professors in instructional uses of the Internet and PowerPoint. This experience enabled him to set up Web pages for all his courses as well as monitor the Web page for student successes within the department.
A former student described Dr. Simonton as having the “energy and conviction of a Southern Baptist preacher.” She wrote, “It takes about 30 seconds in one of his lectures to know how passionate he is about the material and conveying it to his captivated audience.” In recognition of his influence on countless students in the field of psychology, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology is pleased to honor Dr. Dean Keith Simonton for his commitment to excellence in education with the 2006 Robert S. Daniel Award for outstanding teaching in a 4-year college or university.