A new set of guidelines is delineating the kind of training new teachers should have before they begin their teaching careers. APA's Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers: Course-Based and Standards-Based Approaches outline the courses, knowledge and skills needed to teach an introductory high school psychology course that aligns with APA's National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula (PDF, 814KB)(see "New standards for high school psychology" in the January Monitor).
Together, the documents address a significant challenge in psychology education: The fact that many new high school psychology teachers are not trained specifically in psychology, but rather credentialed in social studies. As a result, they are often ill-prepared to discuss, for example, how psychological research methods are used to study behavior or to explain important brain functions.
"That's a national challenge," says Kenneth Weaver, PhD, dean of The Teachers College at Emporia State University and chair of APA's Working Group on the Certification and Training of High School Psychology Teachers.
There are two models in the guidelines. In one, new teachers of high school psychology are suggested to have taken at least 30 credit hours of college-level psychology coursework in both such "core" areas as research methods and such "breadth" areas as biopsychology. "New teachers who can demonstrate depth and breadth of content, understand research methods and statistics, and apply psychological science to the world around them can make psychology come alive to their students," says Weaver.
APA is encouraging state departments of education and teacher preparation programs to adopt the guidelines and is urging states to develop a teaching credential endorsement for psychology that's independent from the social studies certification.