From the CEO

Information from the discipline of psychology pervades many professions—law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and architecture to name just a few. Yet nowhere is psychology more relevant and critical than in the preparation of K-12 teachers. More than 3.7 million people are employed as teachers in public and private schools, and all of them receive some form of preparation that involves psychology. This includes topics such as classroom management, assessment, child and adolescent development, learning and instructional theory, and individual differences. The work of these teachers affects all of us, whether as parents, customers, employers, practitioners or researchers. That's why some of APA's most important work is grounded in our Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education.

About 2,100 APA members work in schools of education or in K–12 schools, providing or modeling instruction in psychologically based content and skills and conducting associated research. APA's Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education, housed in our Education Directorate, serves the needs of both teachers and APA members who are committed to high quality pre-collegiate education. The center provides staff support for a highly productive coalition of 15 APA divisions, six governance groups and 20 deans of education who are psychologists. These dedicated people work to translate psychological science for teachers to use in their classrooms, and they ensure that teacher preparation and professional development courses are evidence-based and used appropriately.

In 2004, APA and its coalition conducted a survey to identify teachers' professional development needs. More than 2,400 teachers responded, giving us a rich vein of ideas. One has already been developed and is up on our Web site: a module dedicated to help teachers work with disruptive students (see February Monitor). Also in the works are 10 other modules, including one that guides teachers in using praise effectively. We've also appointed a new task force to provide evidence-based recommendations for preventing and addressing violence or threats of violence directed against teachers—a problem that affects 200,000 teachers each year.

APA's work in the area also includes identifying the core psychological knowledge that teachers need to be effective. For this project, coalition members are drawing from the literature on learning and development, communication and interpersonal interaction, and assessment. These psychology domains help teachers improve their instruction, manage their classrooms, address diversity and individual differences and improve home-school and peer-to-peer relationships. This project is modeled after an Institute of Medicine project, which is designed to ensure that medical students are offered high quality behavioral and social sciences instruction.

APA is also developing a conference and proposal for a book series called "Teaching and Learning in Challenging Contexts." The first conference will engage experts in intergroup relations to explore how they might apply their work to school settings. Also in the works is a brochure for friends and family members of new K–12 educators to help those teachers cope with the joys and challenges of their new careers. The brochure gives references to the scientific and clinical literature on stress, particularly among new professionals, and ways friends and colleagues can be of assistance.

Two other projects from the center are geared toward education researchers and policymakers. One project is a guide for using multiple methods of research (PDF, 170KB) in education interventions (PDF, 519KB). Another is a National Science Foundation-funded study to determine the effectiveness of specialized secondary school environments on persistence in physical, life, and behavioral science majors in college.

For more information on APA's efforts to promote psychology in education, including the full report on the Teacher Needs Survey, please visit the Center for Psychology in Schools and Education Web site.