APA's Continuing Professional Education Committee is seeking input before Sept. 1 on a proposed revision to the document it uses to evaluate organizations that offer continuing- education (CE) programs. The new draft of its Standards and Criteria of the APA CE Sponsor Approval System streamlines the standards and provides sponsors with requirements for acceptable program content, among other things.
Last revised in 1996, the proposed criteria seek to provide sponsors with more direct guidance. While the current criteria offer separate rules for home-study and co-sponsored CE programs, the revised document will apply the same criteria to all sponsors. (APA approves continuing-education sponsors, not the individual CE programs they offer.)
The new draft also includes language that will help the committee determine whether sponsors are offering quality programs, say committee chair Ellen L. Nuffer, EdD, associate professor of education at Keene State College in New Hampshire, and past-chair Alan M. Goldstein, PhD, professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and CE chair for the American Academy of Forensic Psychology.
"Psychologists attending continuing-education programs often complain that it's either offered at a level below that for doctoral-level psychologists or that the content isn't relevant to the field of psychology," explains Goldstein. The committee hopes that more precise content requirements will be able to prevent that from happening, he says.
Some of the major proposed changes include:
Clarifying a standard on curriculum content. The proposed standard would require sponsors to demonstrate that their CE offerings are based on a methodological, theoretical, research or practice knowledge base. It would also require them to describe the efficacy, effectiveness or validity of the material presented, including any limitations.
Integrating ethics standards throughout the document. The proposed draft eliminates a separate standard on ethics in favor of embedding ethical content wherever relevant.
Modifying the program-evaluation standard. Sponsors are currently asked to evaluate whether participants are satisfied with a CE program. The new draft would require sponsors to also evaluate whether participants learned the material.
"We are not asking sponsors to make a decision about credit based on what people have learned," explains Nuffer. "We just want them to assess what people learn and expect that they'll use that in improving their programs in the future."
Deleting co-sponsorship criteria. Rather than hold co-sponsors to different standards than solo sponsors, the new draft proposes to hold all sponsors--whether they are the sole sponsor or teaming up with other organizations--to the same rules. That doesn't mean that the co-sponsors would both have to fulfill the same APA requirements, says Nuffer; rather, if an APA-approved sponsor signs onto a program, it is responsible for ensuring that everything meets APA's standards.
Eliminating home-study criteria. The current document offers specific standards for home-study programs. However, the new draft deletes this section and instead proposes a single set of rules for all sponsors, regardless of how they deliver their content--through home study, in-person programs, online courses or another emerging model.
"The document as it now exists is not written in stone," says Goldstein. "The committee is certainly looking to learn of other people's reactions to it and revise as appropriate."
To gather feedback on the proposed criteria, the committee will send the draft to the approximately 730 APA-approved sponsors as well as state psychological associations, APA divisions and state licensing boards.
APA members are also encouraged to submit their feedback. In fact, a forum at APA's Annual Convention has been planned for just that purpose on Saturday, Aug. 8, 10-11:50 a.m., in the Niagara Room of the Crowne Plaza Toronto Centre Hotel. Comments can also be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com.
REVIEW THE NEW STANDARDS ONLINE
The new draft of the Standards and Criteria of the APA CE Sponsor Approval System, an accompanying memo explaining the proposed changes and the new Standard and Criteria Implementation Manual are available through APA's CE Sponsor Approval System at (202) 336-5990; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.apa.org/ce.