Speaking of Education

In 2001, when APA hosted its first Education Leadership Conference (ELC), participants developed a vision for education in psychology for the 21st century. They acknowledged our increasingly global society, the growth of psychology around the world and the increased emphasis on global learning in higher education. They also asserted psychology's need to stay current with such trends or risk being marginalized as a discipline and profession.

Among other recommendations, they called for efforts to internationalize psychology's curriculum, ensure training in culturally competent research and practice, promote international exchange programs, consider reinstituting curriculum language requirements, include migration/immigration in discussions of diversity, address international issues in relevant standards for education and training, and facilitate faculty development.

"International awareness" has now been approved by APA's Council of Representatives as a goal for the undergraduate major in psychology (see APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major), and a 2004 collaboration with the American Council on Education described goals and student learning outcomes in five domains: psychological knowledge in international perspective, methodological issues in international research, discipline of psychology in the international perspective, psychology and interpersonal understanding, and psychology and global issues (APA Working Group on Internationalizing the Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum). In reviewing that work, the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and the Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) are considering next steps. BEA and CIRP are also collaborating on a task force examining what roles and functions APA might take with respect to international quality assurance efforts.

Although graduate education has been less systematically addressed, the recent International Counseling Psychology Conference, March 6-9 in Chicago, provided a significant focus on that specialty in psychology, and of course many APA members have engaged in research, practice and policy development to further internationalization. Our Office of International Affairs, Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology) and Div. 52 (International) provide considerable resources for our members on related topics.

But APA's efforts to internationalize in education are not new. In fact, APA published "International Opportunities for Advanced Training and Research in Psychology" more than 40 years ago describing opportunities in 77 countries in an effort undertaken because of growing interest "particularly evident since 1945" given improvements in travel and communications and the growth of psychology itself. Yet study abroad is only one method of internationalizing the curriculum. With the Web and distance-learning programs have come a host of new opportunities.

This year's ELC, set for Sept. 6-9, in Washington, D.C., will bring these issues front and center with its theme of "internationalizing psychology education." ELC participants will address:

  • The difficulty psychologists face in staying current with the research if they have no training in methodologies required for reading international research--an increasingly growing proportion of the psychological literature. What basic competencies in qualitative methodologies are required, and how are we to teach them in the context of psychology's current curriculum?

  • The emerging single global marketplace for health care. Medical educators have been urged to include global health competencies in the preparation of all physicians. What should a well-trained psychologist know about intergroup conflict, health risks and risks to the environment?

  • The increasing number of international students on U.S. campuses (582,984 in 2006-07, of whom 8,307 were studying psychology, according to the Institute for International Education). What issues should faculty attend to, and what do our departments and counseling centers have to offer these students?

  • The internationalization and multicultural education movements on campus, which have many shared values but diverging histories and, sometimes, agendas. What issues need to be addressed to bridge the gap?

In addition to their dialogues on these matters, I will listen closely to how our education leaders see psychology's evolution. Is the goal the internationalization of the U.S. curriculum, or the creation of a transnational curriculum in psychology, or both? The upcoming conference is not designed to address the creation of a transnational psychology curriculum, but I am always wondering about implications and next steps. I know these questions are being raised in other disciplines and professions as the world flattens.

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