APA presented a record number of sessions at this year's American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education's (AACTE) annual convention, in an effort to underscore the need for psychologists and educators to work together to improve teacher quality in K-12 schools.

For the first time, AACTE offered a psychology track, which included five APA-co-sponsored sessions on such topics as the application of psychological science to clinical preparation of teachers and to K-12 teaching and assessment. The convention, attended by deans and heads of education colleges, took place Feb. 7-10 in Chicago.

Psychology-track presenters pointed out how psychologists can supply scientifically based evidence to inform teaching and learning, and thereby improve education, says Mary Brabeck, PhD, AACTE chair and professor of applied psychology and dean of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University.

"The fields of education and psychology are natural allies, and [psychologists] have much to contribute to the important issues facing education," says Brabeck, also an APA Board of Educational Affairs member. "We can contribute so much more if we do it together."

Applying the science

Echoing that sentiment, track presenters called for more collaborations among educators and psychologists to enhance teacher and student learning. They also proposed the following priorities:

  • Mental health professionals and schools should share resources so that mental health goals meld with academic goals.

  • Schools can surpass academic achievement expectations if they implement highly integrated standards-based instruction for all students.

  • Schools of education can improve preparation of teachers by, for example, revising admission criteria for teachers and incorporating more training that simulates realistic teaching situations through computer programs, videos and role-playing.

  • Teacher education models can better incorporate science. For instance, the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education draws from what science suggests works in training by providing mentoring and measuring student performance. More specifically, the school uses video samples of students' teaching to measure their progress, providing multiple approaches to assessment, Alan Lesgold, PhD, dean of University of Pittsburgh's School of Education and a psychology professor, told attendees.

Promoting contributions

Instrumental in organizing the AACTE psychology-track programming was a group of psychologists who are deans of education. The group shares an overlapping membership with APA's Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education, an interdivisional group representing APA divisions, governance and organizations. The coalition has been targeting national teaching conferences to spread its message of increasing science's role in interventions for behavioral and emotional difficulties, literacy, resilience, student learning and achievement.

Next on its list is the American Educational Research Association's 2004 annual meeting this month in San Diego. Group members plan presentations on psychology's contributions to education, academic and teacher training assessment, statewide accountability, classroom management and evidence-based interventions for students and families.

Such efforts by psychologists are key to improving student learning and teacher quality, says Rena Subotnik, PhD, director of APA's Center for Psychology in Schools and Education.

"Psychologists need to grab the reins and gather support from their colleagues in teaching and education to bring to bear what they know," Subotnik says.