Education Leadership Conference

When Florida legislators started questioning the value of a bachelor's degree in psychology a couple of years ago, psychologist Jane S. Halonen, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of West Florida, took it as "a call to arms."

Legislators were saying the psychology major was so popular, it must be too easy and therefore cheapening the value of education, Halonen told participants at APA's Education Leadership Conference in September. They said a psychology major was worthless for getting a job. And they called it diversionary, because if it weren't so popular, students would go into valuable science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers instead.

"Were you counting the errors in that?" asked Halonen, explaining that psychology is not only a STEM discipline but also a rigorous major that provides skills students can use in any job.

To combat such misconceptions, Halonen is leading the charge to revise APA's Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major (PDF, 165KB).

Developed by an APA Board of Educational Affairs task force led by Halonen and approved by APA in 2007, the original guidelines outline 10 goals and suggested learning outcomes for undergraduate psychology majors.

The draft "version 2.0" eliminates jargon. It emphasizes workforce issues, including applying psychological content and skills to professional work, honing project management and teamwork skills and developing a meaningful professional direction for life after graduation. And it reduces the number of goals by half. In the revised version, these goals include the knowledge base, scientific thinking and critical thinking, ethical and social responsibility, communication and professional development. The point of that last domain is to "get at the edge students should have if they're psychology majors," said Halonen.

See the draft of Undergraduate Guidelines 2.0 and offer feedback.

—Rebecca A. Clay