Upfront

High school psychology teachers who want to enhance their skills have new resources at their fingertips. Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS), APA's national membership organization for high school psychology teachers, now offers its members a new unit lesson plan, a new teacher's manual, 16 online videos and a Facebook page.

These resources include:

  • "Resource Manual for New Teachers of High School Psychology," a guide for first-time psychology teachers on lesson planning, selecting textbooks, bringing course content to life with interactive activities, establishing class rules and much more. Members can access the manual online.
  • Learning, a new unit lesson plan that includes information on classical conditioning, instrumental learning and operant conditioning, and cognitive learning and the role of biology and culture in learning. TOPSS offers 19 unit lesson plans on such topics as the biological bases of behavior, memory, motivation and psychological disorders. Several of the plans have recently been updated, thanks to funding from the American Psychological Foundation. Members can find the lessons online
  • Online videos from APA's 2012 Annual Convention and from the 2012 APA/Clark University Workshop. The videos feature talks by distinguished psychologists discussing their research and master teachers discussing activities and best practices. Topics include evolutionary psychology, development, the biological basis of behavior, microaggressions, adolescent sleep, race and achievement, sensation and perception, learning science and research methods. An APF grant supported these videos. To watch them, go to videos.
  • TOPSS Facebook page, offering an online community for high school psychology teachers. The page also enables APA and TOPSS to communicate and share information with members. To join, visit Facebook.

In addition to enhancing and updating teaching resources for members, TOPSS and APA have been working to promote two important policy documents: the revised "APA National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula" and the new "Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers: Course-Based and Standards-Based Approaches." The standards provide teachers and others a foundation for designing introductory psychology courses for high school students. The guidelines outline the training new high school teachers should have before they begin teaching.

TOPSS and APA sent letters last spring to all 60 state, provincial and territorial psychological associations and to all U.S. state boards and departments of education, as well as Washington, D.C.'s, outlining the importance of both documents.

"The guidelines promote quality teacher preparation, and the standards are important for providing learning benchmarks for the high school class," says Emily Leary Chesnes, assistant director of precollege and undergraduate education at APA. "They define what content is appropriate to teach 16- to 18-year-olds about psychology."

— Robin Tricoles