TOPSS: 20 years of excellence and 20 more to come

Reflections on the important accomplishments of TOPSS

By Michael McLane

Like many other first-year psychology teachers, I was excited to be given the opportunity to teach psychology. However, when it came time to start planning and developing a curriculum I was a bit overwhelmed. I was not sure where to begin, and I did not know who or where to go for assistance and suggestions. When I asked other psychology teachers, which at that point were hard to locate, I was told there was an APA organization called TOPSS that provided guidelines and materials. When I checked out the website, I quickly joined.

For the past 20 years, TOPSS has continued to meet the demands of new and experienced psychology teachers. Recently, TOPSS released a resource manual which provides suggestions and resources for teachers who are new to teaching psychology. In addition, new teachers can also find the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula, Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers, unit lesson plans, sample PowerPoint presentations, pacing calendars for different schedules, online modules, student competitions, information about awards for teacher recognition through the TOPSS website and other resources for effectively and accurately teaching psychology.

I have stayed a member of TOPSS for the past several years; but some may question why teachers should continue their membership if they are experienced psychology teachers with an established curriculum. I have found that even as an experienced teacher, I am continuously updating the materials and curriculum. This is largely the result of the interaction I have had with so many TOPSS members over the years. I have noticed throughout my career how freely psychology teachers are willing to share the ideas and methods they use in their classroom. In short, I have never had an email sent to a fellow psychology teacher that has gone unanswered. I love the fact that even though I stand alone in front of my students, I can still represent the ideas of so many. There is a saying that there is strength in numbers, but I also believe there are more ideas with numbers. The more members we can get to join and stay involved in TOPSS, the more benefits each teacher will have.

As I look over the TOPSS timeline for the past 20 years, I am grateful for the teachers who were the founding members of TOPSS who took the time to develop this wonderful group. I am grateful to APA that TOPSS had so much support from the beginning; now I look to the future, and I am excited about the possibilities for what we can achieve.

APA/TOPSS resources for preservice psychology teachers include:

  • Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers: Course-Based and Standards-Based Approaches 

  • National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula

APA/TOPSS resources for new psychology teachers include:

  • Resource Manual for New Teachers of High School Psychology 

  • National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula 

  • Psychology Teacher Network newsletter 

  • TOPSS unit lesson plans 

  • APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers 

  • TOPSS invited addresses at the APA convention 

  • New videos and modules for teachers (thanks to APF funding) 

  • Sample course calendars for teachers 

  • TOPSS competitions and award certificates for psychology students

APA/TOPSS resources for intermediate psychology teachers include:

  • Resource Manual for New Teachers of High School Psychology (for resources) 

  • National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula 

  • Psychology Teacher Network newsletter 

  • New/revised TOPSS unit lesson plans 

  • APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers 

  • TOPSS invited addresses at the APA convention 

  • New videos and modules for teachers (thanks to APF funding) 

  • TOPSS competition and award certificates for psychology students 

  • PowerPoint slides from APA divisions 

  • TOPSS Speakers Bureau 

  • Conducting Psychological Research for Science Fairs: A Teacher’s Guide and Resource Manual

  • APA TOPSS Excellence in Teaching Awards

APA/TOPSS resources for experienced psychology teachers include:

  • Resource Manual for New Teachers of High School Psychology (for resources) 

  • National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula 

  • Psychology Teacher Network newsletter 

  • New/revised TOPSS unit lesson plans 

  • APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers 

  • TOPSS invited addresses at the APA convention 

  • New videos and modules for teachers (thanks to APF funding) 

  • TOPSS competitions and award certificates for psychology students 

  • PowerPoint slides from APA divisions 

  • TOPSS Speakers Bureau 

  • Conducting Psychological Research for Science Fairs: A Teacher’s Guide and Resource Manual 

  • APA awardsat the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and ISEF-affiliated fairs 

  • APA TOPSS Excellence in Teaching Awards

All the above resources can be found  through the TOPSS website.

2012 TOPSS Committee. From left to right: Emily Leary Chesnes, Steve Jones, Janie Wilson, PhD, Tonya Hinton, Caitlin Crowley, Tammy Hughes, PhD, Katie Clark, Ken Keith, PhD, Jann Longman, Jeanne Blakeslee, Michael Hamilton, Michael McLane.

2012 TOPSS Committee:  (from left to right) Emily Leary Chesnes, Steve Jones, Janie Wilson, PhD, Tonya Hinton, Caitlin Crowley, Tammy Hughes, PhD, Katie Clark, Ken Keith, PhD, Jann Longman, Jeanne Blakeslee, Michael Hamilton, Michael McLane.

Michael McLaneMichael McLane is currently serving as a member-at-large on the TOPSS Committee and is also a regional coordinator for TOPSS. He has been a teacher at Sterling Heights Highs School in Sterling Heights, Mich., for the past 14 years where he teaches AP Psychology and Transitional Psychology. He holds a BS from Eastern Michigan University and a MA in Teaching from Marygrove College.