Recently we took my 4-year-old granddaughter, Kate, to the science museum. It was her first trip. A helpful guide suggested she go see the monkey show and visit the Lego room. But she had already spied her first computer and was off. During the next 90 minutes, she played a computer game replicating DaVinci's water experiments, she genetically altered a tomato and she experienced the world of the blind through a computer-simulated program.
Will our education system be ready for her?
As a science, psychology provides the knowledge base for behavior change. As a profession, psychology promotes behavior change to enhance health. As a discipline, psychology passes this knowledge to the next generation. Despite these constants, much within psychology has changed and is changing. Change, of course, presents opportunities, but is not without risks.
I invite our members to reflect upon how we as a discipline can manage change in a healthy fashion--how we can seize opportunities and not be paralyzed by fears of risk. How we might get ready for this next generation?
The Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure
Recently I have had the opportunity to reflect on changes in education and training. This past year I was privileged to chair, with Ruth U. Paige and Ronald F. Levant, the Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure. The 30 commissioners represented a diverse set of education, training and practice organizations who convened to examine current policy. We reviewed data on how professional education and training had changed since it was initially codified within APA "to present the public...with a definition of persons qualified to do independent professional work."
The Shakow Report described a four-year process: two years of course work, a year-long internship and then return to the university to conduct a clinically relevant dissertation. Fifty years later, our students in the health-service provider fields average 6.32 years to graduation and with the loss of federal training funds, 74 percent are in debt (averaging from $22,000 to $60,000, depending upon the nature of the program). Moreover, students have more clinical training prior to internship than many early graduates had at the completion of the doctorate. In recognition of these changes, the members of the commission believed that a change should be made in APA policy regarding eligibility for licensure for independent practice. Clearly, policy must change to reflect these changes and the market place.
How to manage change
Change in education and training will continue, perhaps at an even more rapid rate as technology, globalization, economic forces and the marketplace impact the content, process and outcomes of our educational institutions, and the careers of the one-third of our members whose primary employment is in an educational setting. As one who has facilitated change at both the individual and systems levels, I challenge us to consider how we will manage these changes as a discipline and a profession, and the interdependency of these changes with external groups and social policies.
My experience with the commission was most rewarding. A group of experts from all relevant constituencies assembled to address important questions; the group came to conclusions, communicated with their constituencies and then reconvened for final consideration. Each statement they voted upon was the result of a careful, deliberative process, and the outcome reflects the coming together of psychology's expertise on the matter at hand. I respect that process and the integrity of the psychologists involved, and by respecting the process and our colleagues, I also trust the product.
I view APA as having the responsibility to provide psychology with the forum for conversations at a national level. Recently APA's Board of Directors approved plans to develop a regular forum for educators and practitioners to address issues, to formulate strategies for problem-solving, to reach out to members committed to education in psychology, to examine pipeline issues for the discipline and its need for more diversity, to facilitate feedback between the educational system and its graduates, to create opportunities for education advocacy and to position psychology within the community of disciplines and professions. The first Education Leadership Conference is planned for this fall. Let us be bold in addressing the issues of psychology education and training, for the next generation is here.