Speaking of Education

Student interest in the study of psychological science appears to be at an all-time high. Each year in the United States, more than 1 million undergraduates enroll in at least one psychology course and colleges and universities grant more than 90,000 bachelor’s degrees in psychology.

As an association committed to promoting quality in the teaching and learning of psychology as a core scientific discipline, APA seeks to ensure that students of psychology are grounded in the ideas and values of psychological science and able to apply these principles to enhance their work and personal lives. In 1994, APA adopted the Principles for Quality Undergraduate Psychology Programs to serve as guidelines for faculty and administrators in their ongoing efforts to promote excellence in undergraduate psychology education.

In 2008, participants at the APA National Conference on Undergraduate Education in Psychology at the University of Puget Sound designed a blueprint for the future of the psychology discipline. (See “Undergraduate Education in Psychology: A Blueprint for the Future of the Discipline,” APA, 2010.)

Since then, APA has drafted a set of recommendations for enhancing the teaching and learning of undergraduate psychology, known as the Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology. These principles are aimed at creating a world-class educational system that provides students with the knowledge, skills and values they need to succeed in the 21st century work force and their personal lives.

These guiding principles reflect important transformations in the undergraduate landscape that have resulted from innovations in technology, changes in student enrollments, new research about teaching and learning and external pressures for accountability, to name a few. Among the core recommendations is that faculty strive to become scientist-educators who are knowledgeable about and use the principles of the science of learning in their teaching of the science of psychology.

The draft of the Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology is now out for public comment until May 31. This is your opportunity to contribute to a new APA policy focused on quality in undergraduate education.

APA’s efforts to support the teaching and learning of psychology are an integral part of advancing the recognition of psychology as a science and one of three goals in the new APA strategic plan. The Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology will represent an important statement from the national disciplinary association.

This effort is consistent with other major APA projects focused on quality improvement in education. In 2005, APA approved a revision of standards for high school psychology, known as the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula.

In 2006, APA approved the Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major (PDF, 164KB), which describe a set of optimal expectations for student performance at the completion of the baccalaureate degree. Other resources include the Assessment Cyberguide for Learning Goals and Outcomes, which serves as a companion resource for implementing the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major.

Together, these resources help psychology departments and their faculty to design the most appropriate and effective assessment plans (PDF, 1.15MB).

APA also has developed an exciting new collection of teaching resources in its Online Psychology Laboratory, our Web-based library of interactive psychological experiments and demonstrations for teaching the science of psychology. For more information on any of these topics, contact Robin Hailstorks or Martha Boenau.

Note from APA: The appearance of advertisements for educational programs on this site does not constitute endorsement by APA. Programs that describe themselves as accredited may be accredited by another body, but are not accredited by APA unless so stated.