Speaking of Education

Psychologists are both resilient and resourceful. After the inaugural Education Leadership Conference (ELC) was cancelled with little notice due to national events, 90 participants demonstrated their commitment by reworking busy schedules to attend a meeting held just a month later.

Chosen as leaders in education and training by their own organizations, the ELC participants represented every level from high school through community and four-year colleges; master's, doctoral, internship and postdoctoral programs; and continuing education in psychology. Representatives were also chosen from the variety of types of educational institutions recognized by the Carnegie Foundation. Overall, representatives from 16 education and training organizations external to APA and 28 APA divisions attended. Clearly, the emphasis was on breadth rather than depth in any one particular area of expertise.

Participants' resourcefulness was especially apparent as they tackled specific questions chosen by APA's Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) planning group such as: What are the pros and cons of having national standards for the undergraduate psychology major? What is the distinctive contribution to the health-care work force made by education and training in psychology? What competencies in the use of technology should every psychology student have? What should our pre-K­12 teachers know and be able to apply from psychological science to the classroom?

I am confident that the reports of their deliberations will make substantial contributions to BEA's efforts and provide multiple opportunities for more collaboration among organizations within our discipline.

For me, however, one of the most interesting portions of the conference was listening to participants engage in a visioning process with respect to the future of education in psychology and psychology in education. Participants reflected upon our changing world and articulated implications for our discipline and profession. They also examined psychology's role in education and emphasized our need to maximize our potential for contribution. Next steps will include prioritizing of issues raised by participants, and requests for additional feedback from groups in the field. BEA will consider this input in developing future initiatives and conferences. The results of this first conference will soon be available on our Web site.

Overall, participants reported great success for the ELC in meeting short-term objectives for the meeting and longer-term objectives for the conference. However, what was not known at the time the conference was designed was how national events beginning on Sept. 11 would affect our lives and our students. In response to those events, BEA adopted the following resolution: "to actively encourage the education community to examine the teaching of psychology, the education and training of future psychologists and the application of psychology to education in light of current national needs. BEA seeks to work collaboratively with relevant education and training organizations to promote excellence in these endeavors."

BEA's resolution was in part achieved at the ELC. Participants frequently brought forward themes related to Sept. 11 and identified steps that educators could take in this time of national need. One or more participants recommended that we:

  • Increase the emphasis on public health needs and models in education and training.

  • Increase interdisciplinary collaborations on socially relevant problems.

  • Integrate education and training with research on international and religious/spiritual issues.

  • Foster research training on the aftermath of disaster, terrorism, prevention of terrorist acts, public communications and promotion of resilience.

  • Include disaster mental health training in all professional psychology programs.

  • Develop relevant professional development programs for researchers, teachers and practitioners.

  • Educate the public about resilience via including modules related to resilience in the teaching of psychology at all levels, from elementary school through corporate training.

Psychology's education and training community is clearly cognizant of its important role in meeting the needs of society and our discipline's future. I was heartened and proud, while recognizing the enormity of the tasks ahead in the many areas addressed by conference participants. I was also very grateful for the hard working Education Directorate staff who had managed back-to-back meetings without faltering, especially Bob Walsh, who had to manage twice the logistics for one meeting. As I am writing this column it is Thanksgiving week, and I realize that I have much to be thankful for since I came to APA.

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