Teaching Philosophy


A central theme of my teaching philosophy is deliberate practice. My highest priority as a teacher is to engage in systematic self-reflection and self-evaluation (and to reflect on and implement feedback from others). As both a teacher and a researcher, I see my own teaching practice as an explicit object of personal study – I try to leave nothing about my teaching practices to habit or tradition.

Knowing the Learners

Drawing insights from situated learning and other approaches, I assume the various projects of life in which students are engaged — that is, what matters to them — plays a consequential role in how and what they learn. For example, a correlation coefficient might disclose itself entirely differently to a student trying to complete a dissertation study (and hoping for a significant result to report) than a student who simply needs an A on a test. Further, this “mattering” is influenced by external social dynamics, institutional factors, and by the details of the individual, unfolding narrative life-story of the learner.

This means that, in addition to attending to the social context and dynamics of the classroom (such as the communities of practice in which learners participate), teachers should learn about their individual students and what matters to them within the learning context. For this reason, I strive to learn about my students perhaps as much as or more than students learn from me. I try to design lesson plans and instruction that help me get to know learners as more than just names on a list (or profile pictures), and beyond cursory introductions the first day of class.


When grading and evaluating student work, I adopt a flexible, mastery learning attitude, in which I place more emphasis on whether learners have mastered the skills they are learning than how long it took them to master it, or how many times they attempted the assignment. Balanced against real-world practical considerations, I often allow students to revise and resubmit assignments based on feedback. What matters most to me is that learners have opportunities for practice and mastery.

Perspectival Teaching

I believe that to truly understand a theorist’s ideas, we must also understand how others could be deeply persuaded by them. In other words, if we say of Skinner, “Those ideas are crazy, and no one should give them any merit,” then we probably do not fully understand Skinner, his worldview, or the evidence available to him. As a teacher, my job is to help learners step inside the worldviews of those they are learning about — to be able to convince themselves (provisionally) of their point of view. When teaching behaviorism, learners need to be shown how to view the world as a behaviorist. When teaching cognitive theory, learners need to be shown how to see the world as a cognitivist — including its criticisms of behaviorism. The same is true for situated learning or any other theoretical perspective.

Critical Thinking

As an instructor, I invite learners to think critically about and systematically interrogate their assumptions about the world. This does not necessarily mean that they doubt or dismiss their assumptions or prior beliefs – rather, it means we (together) take them seriously by examining their origins and implications, and by contrasting them with competing perspectives. For example, I try to help students understand the premises upon which a learning theory or research method is grounded, and to contextualize those premises within a broader intellectual context. When teaching research methods, for instance, I might introduce learners to the philosophical roots of empiricism (and its alternatives), and the competing and complementary assumptions of quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Courses Taught

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Computer Applications for Instruction and Training

Taught Fall 2013, Summer 2014, and Fall 2015

This course is an introduction to some widely used applications for media authoring, editing, and delivery and how they can be used to support the development of materials for communication, instruction, and training. The course focuses on the following categories: Assessment (e.g., Qualtrics, Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, etc.), Content Management (e.g., Canvas, Moodle, Wordpress, etc.), and Media Production (e.g., Photoshop, InDesign, Audacity, iMovie/Moviemaker, etc.). In Fall 2015, I partnered with a fellow instructor who taught the course Summer 2015, and together we completely revamped and updated the course. This involved selecting new tools to introduce, redesigning the assignments and projects, and shifting the focus away from technical profiency (without sacrificing it) and towards best use and practices — our focus became on helping learners use the tools to improve learner experience, rather than merely demonstrate a rudimentary mastery of the tools' features.

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Distance Learning Tools

Taught Summer 2013, Summer 2014

This course is designed to provide students with a foundation in tools used in distance learning, and a basic understanding of issues related to distance learning. This course examines foundational readings and brings technology into the classroom in order to expose student to some of the tools available to them. Each week, learners were introduced to tools through online learning modules produced by their fellow classmates. Each student had the opportunity to design at least one online learning module, which became part of their course. In addition, students were given weekly readings related to distance learning, including accessibility issues, funding, best practices, etc.

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LDS Perspectives and Psychology (Course Author)

Course created Fall 2012

In collaboration with a faculty member at Brigham Young University, I authored this course for BYU's Independent Study program. This course is designed to equip students with the conceptual tools they need to evaluate contemporary psychological theories, research, and therapeutic practices from the perspective of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Students are introduced to the various approaches of Latter-day Saint and Christian psychologists, therapists, and researchers, and how their religious beliefs have informed their scholarship.

General Psychology

Taught Summer 2012

This course broadly reviews topics of interest within psychology, and examines the contributions and limitations of psychological theory, research, and practice. When I taught it, some attention was also given to the assumptions about human nature that underlie each topic discussed, and the implications of those assumptions for understanding and improving the quality of human life. The purpose of this course is to facilitate students’ understanding of psychological science while developing critical thinking.

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Personality Theory

Taught Spring 2012

Why do human beings do the things they do? Why do individuals differ from each other in their behavior? How do patterns of thought and behavior (both normal and abnormal) form and change? How can therapists help individuals change unwanted or abnormal behavior? These are just a few of the central questions asked by personality theorists. In this course, we explored the ideas of several different personality theorists who are key players in the discipline, and see how they have answered the above questions. In addition, we will explore what these theorists assume about human nature, as well as how their theories are used in therapy. Some of the key players we will focus on are Freud, Jung, Adler, Horney, Fromm, Skinner, Bandura, Kelly, Rogers, Maslow, May, as well as a few others.

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Educational Psychology

Taught Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011

This class was designed to explore some of the psychological theories that are applicable in the subjects of education, teaching, and learning. For example, we explored various theories on what motivates students to learn, how students best acquire new information, and how to best evaluate what students have already learned. The course was targeted towards future teachers, so we also explored both the strengths and limitations of these various theories, in order to help students decide what teaching approach is best for them and their future classrooms.

Course Evaluations

Below is a representative sample of teaching evaluations for four classes that I have taught, with student comments and notes.

IP&T 301: Educational Psychology

Brigham Young University, Fall Semester, 2010

This class was designed to explore some of the psychological theories that are applicable in the subjects of education, teaching, and learning. The course was targeted towards future teachers, so we also explored both the strengths and limitations of these various theories in classroom application. This was my first experience teaching.

Student Comments:

“It is my understanding that this was Brother Thayne's first class. That is surprising because he did an excellent job making the activities meaningful and was very helpful. He had a difficult class to be sure and he made the most of it and was always happy to teach.”

“Jeffrey Thayne really cared about us as his students and was really passionate about the class. I think that the class could have been improved by having more direct instruction. He tried to keep us engaged, which was very commendable but I don't think that all of the activities we did really helped solidify the concepts. Jeffrey did a good job for his first semester. He was really receptive to feedback and ideas from us and provided us with as much help as he could give.”

“The instructor was good. The course lacked a bit. I feel like I didn't learn a whole lot that will help me with my future teaching.”

Psych 341: Personality Theory

Brigham Young University, Spring Semester, 2012

In this course, we explored the ideas of Freud, Jung, Adler, Skinner, Bandura, Kelly, Rogers, Maslow, as
well as a few others, and how they explained differences in human behavior. I taught it during my last
semester as a Master’s student, while preparing and defending my Master’s thesis.

[Note] In this class, I tried a grading experiment: 10 of their weekly 4-page summaries were graded based on completion, and 5 of them were graded and returned with feedback. I did not tell students beforehand which weeks were which, to create an incentive for thorough work. Students expressed frustration with the lack of feedback on some weeks, and so I have not tried this approach again.

Student Comments:

“Jeff is a great instructor and is so knowledgeable about the topics and theories that he is great for this kind of course. The readings were sometimes hard to get through, but Jeff's lectures were extremely beneficial. Sometimes the reading summaries became monotonous when we were basically repeated what had been said in class, but I think they will be somewhat beneficial at some point (maybe for studying for the final exam). Jeff is a great teacher and I think he'll only get better as he keeps teaching.”

“A good teacher. Has some real potential. I really liked that debate we had to review for the test—it was a great way to bring these theorists to the practical fore of our minds (and what we had learned about them). … I especially enjoyed … learning from their very own perspective rather than someone else’s summary of them. So well done, but it did seem like you were a bit ruffled at times and not quite prepared. Of course I can forgive you this, as I am sure you have a very busy slate right now. I would have loved to see what you could have done (teaching wise) with full command of your time devoted to teaching our class--I get the feeling you could have been exceptional. But perhaps I am too selfish, you have a life of your own and priorities must be met. Perhaps I will be content in that you are a good teacher, and may become, (with more time to prepare and flourish) an exceptional one. Thank you.”

“The instructor was flexible and prompt in replying to my emailed concerns or questions. He was good at trying to involve the class and addressing questions therein. He was enthusiastic about what he taught and good at explaining difficult concepts. The homework helped us internalize what we learned in class.”

“Very very well done.”

ITLS 5105/6105: Distance Learning Tools

Utah State University, Fall Semester, 2013

This course introduces students to tools used in distance learning and issues related to distance learning. Each week, learners were introduced to tools through online learning modules produced by their fellow classmates, and each student had the opportunity to design at least one module. Readings were related to accessibility issues, funding models, best practices, etc.

Student Comments:

What aspects of the teaching or content of this course do you feel were especially good?

“I liked the set up of the course. I always knew what to expect each week. I really liked learning about so many different web tools and found this class to be one that I will actually apply in my teaching.”

“I really liked learning new learning tools and being able to apply them. It was also useful to prepare the tools for others to use.”

“I liked the set up of the course. I always knew what to expect each week. I really liked learning about so many different web tools and found this class to be one that I will actually apply in my teaching.”

“I loved the entire outline of the class. It felt like it was more of a learning opportunity than just another class necessary for my minor.”

“I absolutely loved the workshops! I found them to be really beneficial and I enjoyed learning about all of the different tools.”

What changes could be made to improve the teaching or the content of this course?

“It was sometimes hard to wait for new tutorials/assignments to be posted on Monday of the week, but it kept things

“The only thing would be to ensure that the tools can be used on either a PC or a mac.”

“Nothing. =)”

What other comments do you have about the course?

“I was grateful for the suggestion from the instructor to get my tutorials done early. The rest of the semester was manageable and enjoyable because of that.”

“I really enjoyed this class. It was very useful to learn more tools that can be used in distance education and increase the use of technology in class.”

“I overall really enjoyed this class and learned more in this short semester than I can remember ever before. There is SO much that you learn, being in a student in this class, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.”