Eric Buhs - Excellence in Teaching


Adapting in the classroom for career success

There’s one thing that Eric Buhs knows as an associate professor of Educational Psychology; his students are never going to interpret his classroom material exactly how he intended it. But he not only accepts this reality, he embraces it. In fact, it’s become a teaching principle that every educational psychology student needs to understand.

Every learner comes to something from a different perspective and interprets it in a different way. That’s a challenging thing to deal with in a classroom. As students take ownership of that and feel more comfortable contributing to discussions and commenting from their own perspectives, they learn from each other, and that’s when I think things go really well and we have fun in class.
Eric Buhs in classroom listening to student discussion

To facilitate an environment where his students feel comfortable and willing to contribute, Buhs has learned to be flexible about delivering his instructional material. He lets his students guide the discussion based on their own experiences with the topics being discussed. This approach, he believes, leads to more engaged students who dig deeper into the material and draw practical conclusions that will serve them in their careers.

“I’m willing to engage their backgrounds to reflect their interests more closely,” Buhs said. “I also give them pretty broad leeway to develop their papers and projects. I want them to take what we’ve learned and apply it to stuff they’re interested in. As long as they get the ideas from the course correct and can explain them well in a paper, they can go wherever they want with it.”

Being flexible and adaptable has earned Buhs good marks in his course evaluations, but he’s hoping his approach rubs off on his students as they enter careers working with children and youth. Being flexible with kids and adapting to the ever-changing environment of education will serve them well.

Educational psychology is getting under the hood of how people learn and get along with each other. You need a skill set that’s going to allow you to attack problems flexibly.
Eric Buhs looking at student laptop

“You never quite know what kids are going to do and the work environment changes over time. If you spend 30 or 40 years as a teacher, there are going to be all kinds of curriculum changes and reforms in your career. Understanding the psychology and the cognitive underpinnings of those reforms helps you understand what’s going on and what’s going to work for you and your students or clients,” says Buhs.

Buhs says he continues to learn things from his students and applying new knowledge to his own career is personally important to him. He wants his students to understand “what it’s like to be a human being” so that they can help others work to improve social and work environments. He also wants them to realize that lifelong learning can help mold their careers and make them better at it.

Spending time as a middle school teacher early in his career has helped Buhs relate to the challenges his current students will face as they head into professions working with kids. It’s in part why he developed his adaptive teaching style that allows students to hear a variety of perspectives on how to approach problems.

You have to start picking and choosing what’s going to work for you and for your kids,” he says. “When I came back and learned more educational psychology, I realized it would have been really nice to have known that when I first got my teaching degree.


Cynthia Cress portrait

Special Education and Communication Disorders,

Jennifer Jorgensen portrait

Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design,

Dipra Jha portrait

Nutrition and Health Sciences,

Mary Beth Lehmanowsky portrait
Mary Beth

Educational Administration,

Sheree Moser portrait

Child, Youth and Family Studies,

John Raible portrait

Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education,