APA's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) and APA's Education Directorate teamed up for a one-day workshop in October to demonstrate how high school and community college psychology teachers can introduce psychology concepts through hands-on student activities.
To do this, presenters Ludy T. Benjamin Jr., PhD, and TOPSS member Charlie Blair-Broeker used an interactive exhibit, "Psychology: It's more than you think," at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. The exhibit boasts psychology lessons on social interactions, the human brain and behavior, child development, obedience to authority, interventions and emotions. The exhibit, developed by the APA Science Directorate in the 1990s, is on loan to the Hall of Fame from the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron. APA donated it in early 2003, after touring the exhibit among U.S. museums.
"We wanted to encourage teachers to make their classes more interactive and to return to the exhibit later with their psychology classes," says Benjamin, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University. He says active learning that involves interactive demonstrations that illustrate psychology concepts can ignite students' desire for lifelong learning.
Benjamin and Blair-Broeker used such museum exhibits as a full-scale Ames room to show how teachers can create a small model trapezoid-shaped room out of wood or cardboard to teach students about visual perception through distorted perspectives. They also demonstrated how teachers can illustrate the Stroop Effect using computers.
Such experiments complement the psychology concepts identified in APA's National Standards for the Teaching of High School Psychology, which were developed in 1999 by the APA Task Force on High School Psychology Standards. The standards serve as a road map for teaching high school psychology in five domains--methods, biopsychological, developmental, cognitive and sociocultural--with an emphasis on the scientific basis of psychology.
Blair-Broeker, a psychology teacher at Cedar Falls High School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, has used such interactive activities in his classroom to strengthen the impact of psychology content on students.
"[These experiments] also create a buzz in the hall with students talking about what they did in-between classes," Blair-Broeker says. "When you're teaching an elective, that's important."