Feature

It's time for a quiz: Which of the following can teachers learn from psychological science?

A. That giving students opportunities to choose what they want to discuss during that day's lesson helps them stay focused.

B. That understanding rhyming is a key predictor of a child's readiness to read.

C. That a positive student-teacher relationship can help children perform better in school.

D. All of the above.

The answer, according to presenters at an APA 2009 Annual Convention symposium, is D. And thanks to a set of 10 new online educational modules developed by the APA Education Directorate's Center for Psychology in Schools and Education, teachers of preschool through 12th grade will soon be able to tap psychological expertise in a variety of education topics through a single Web site.

All of the modules are based on years of research by developmental, school, educational, cognitive, counseling and neuropsychologists. They aim to give teachers the knowledge and support they need to succeed in what can be a difficult profession.

"Approximately 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years of entering it," said University of Rhode Island psychology professor Gary Stoner, PhD. "Our hope is that these tools will help increase teacher satisfaction and retention, enhance teaching effectiveness, and from that, improve student achievement."

The module examining research in brain function and learning, for example, shows that children who have difficulty with writing or other fine-motor skills can build the visual-motor areas of their brains by tracing shapes or working on mazes. Another module addresses the best way to deal with teasing on the playground: Because research shows that most bullying happens in places with minimal adult supervision, teachers should increase their visibility in these areas and respond immediately when bullying occurs.

The modules also provide information on the age ranges that the strategies have been tested on and offer links to more information, said Rena Subotnik, PhD, director of APA's Center for Psychology in Schools and Education.

Currently, the modules are being evaluated by teachers for usability and to make sure they examine topics of importance to this audience. Subotnik said she expects the Web site to be made available to the public early next year.

APA is also working to identify core psychological principles and knowledge to be used in setting standards for teacher licensing, certification and the accreditation of teacher education programs to incorporate the psychological science module curricula, said Mary M. Brabeck, PhD, dean of New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. To date, the group has letters of support for this work from several educational organizations, including the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the teacher certification office of the Educational Testing Service and Teach for America.

"Research has shown that a high-quality teacher makes a difference," Brabeck said. "This project will improve how teachers are taught and subsequently how students learn and achieve."


Amy Novotney is a writer in Chicago.