2001 Education Leadership Conference: Executive Summary

Rethinking Education in Psychology and Psychology in Education

Cynthia D. Belar, Ph.D. and Paul D. Nelson, Ph.D.
Education Directorate

February 11, 2002

In February 2001, the Council of Representatives authorized an end-of-year reserve set-aside to fund a Fall 2001 Education Leadership Conference (ELC) sponsored by APA under the guidance of the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA).

The conference was proposed as a national forum at which to address national issues of education and training that affect psychology's future, to recommend coherent policies across levels of education, and to formulate strategies for addressing problems more proactively and more efficiently. In each decade of the past 50 years, there has been at least one national conference focused on issues of education in psychology, either at the undergraduate or graduate level, or of the latter on issues of professional education and training. Never had there been a conference of psychologists that address issues of relevance to psychology across all levels of education, including issues related to psychology's role in enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in K-16. Consequently, there has been neither a unified approach by psychology to issues of education nor a coherent framework of learning objectives from one level of education to another, and educators in psychology have been as fragmented in identity as the myriad topics of their research and teaching.

The present conference is the first of what the Board of Educational Affairs and Education Directorate envision to be an annual ELC to achieve the following long-term goals:

  • Provide a forum for groups and organizations across all levels of education and training to address issues of mutual concern
  • Promote a shared disciplinary identity among education and training leaders in psychology
  • Impact public policy regarding education in psychology and psychology in education
The Conference

Originally planned for September, the conference was rescheduled for October 28-30, immediately following the Fall Consolidated Boards Meeting. It brought together 92 participants representing 23 national organizations of psychology educators and students (from high school through postdoctoral), 25 APA divisions, national credentialing organizations in psychology, and members of BoD, BEA, CoA and CAPP among APA governance. By its title, Re-Thinking Education in Psychology and Psychology in Education, the conference captured the broad mission of the Education Directorate and addressed that mission in the context of our changing society and discipline. The conference was launched by a distinguished panel of psychology educators (Drs. Charles Brewer, Edward Sheridan, Wilbert McKeachie, and Judith Albino) who helped frame the conference agenda on "education in psychology." Challenging the participants to reconsider the issues of "psychology in education" was Dr. Seymour Sarason, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Yale.

Prior to the conference, based on their expressed areas of interest, participants were assigned to a conference discussion group related to one of the following seven questions. They were expected by the end of the conference to answer the question assigned, which they did, indicating the implications of their response for the future BEA agenda in education and further discussion by other groups.

  1. What competencies in the use of technology should every undergraduate major and graduate student in psychology have?
  2. Should there be national standards for the psychology undergraduate major, pros and cons?
  3. Is there a core body of knowledge, skills, and related competencies that should be expected of all doctoral students in academic psychology?
  4. What distinctive contribution to the health care workforce does education and training in professional psychology provide?
  5. What are the goals of pre-internship supervised practice training for doctoral students in professional psychology, and in what order should they be accomplished?
  6. What should every pre-school, elementary, and secondary teacher know and be able to apply from psychological science that is relevant to classroom teaching and learning?
  7. Assuming that psychology was part of the curriculum in public education, what knowledge should students have obtained by the end of elementary school, middle school, and high school? In what psychological/behavioral skills should students be competent at each of these levels?

The final report from each group, edited and reconfirmed by group participants following the conference, is to be on the BEA Spring 2002 agenda for discussion and action, the latter most likely being in the form of a multi-year plan with prioritized initiatives.

Conference participants, in other small groupings, also identified what they considered to be major issues or challenges facing those concerned with education in psychology and psychology in education. They discussed the implications of these issues for psychology as a science and profession, and envisioned ways in which psychology might become more engaged in the societal context relevant to addressing these problems (within and outside the academy). Major issues raised by conference participants in these sessions were:

  • The changing and rapidly expanding knowledge base for psychology as a discipline and profession.
  • The changing demographics of our society and our discipline and the impact of globalization.
  • The impact of advances in technology on education in our discipline.
  • Changes in the employment marketplace for psychology graduates.
  • Changes in higher education and its role in our society.
  • Psychology's relevance to education in our society.
  • Psychology's relevance to teacher education.
  • The importance of psychology's knowledge base as curriculum at all levels of education.
In addition to offering many recommendations for BEA's consideration, prioritization, and future action plans to address these issues, conference participants were offered an opportunity following the conference to prioritize the issues. Each was assigned 1,000 points to distribute across the issues, with an opportunity to write in "other" issues of importance to them. A graphic summary of the priorities assigned by participants is attached as Exhibit 1. The average number of points allocated to each of the issues is analyzed for three groupings, i.e., educators who represented graduate and postdoctoral education organizations in psychology, educators who represented pre-college and undergraduate organizations, and other participants. Exhibit 2 summarizes participants' assessment of the conference.