Speaking of Education

When I first came to APA, people often inquired as to my agenda in this new position. I would answer that it was to facilitate the directorate's mission and to continue to work toward the integration of science and practice. I was rarely more specific. I have always viewed education as the infrastructure of our discipline and profession, but wanted to spend my initial months examining the infrastructure of education itself. Having worked primarily in graduate education, the tip of the iceberg, I particularly wanted to examine our base and how psychology was positioned among the other disciplines in national policy. I have pursued this through interactions with education and training groups as well as division and state association leaders, attendance at education policy meetings, consultation with APA's Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and leaders in our governance, and in conversations with my staff. I also used plain old self-directed study and reflection.

Now I do have more specific answers, and I would like to share them with you on the anniversary of my first year at APA.

First, I remain very proud of the work our staff has accomplished in the past year. They worked actively with governance groups to advance the teaching of psychology across all levels of education and training and to promote the application of psychology to education. Be sure to visit our Web site at APA's Education Directorate.

Looking forward

In addition to our ongoing initiatives, there are three areas that need special attention in the coming year:

  • The development of an infrastructure for education in psychology.

  • The promotion of psychology in elementary and secondary education.

  • The allocation of resources to support graduate education and training.

With respect to the latter, we will be seeking an appropriation for a Graduate Psychology Education program in the Bureau of Health Professions, a federal agency with named programs for numerous health professions (e.g., medicine, dentistry, podiatry, nursing, chiropractic, physicians' assistants). Perhaps because we do not have a named psychology program, we were not initially invited to the seminal Health Workforce 2000 Conference sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Conference of State Legislatures. I did attend and heard the director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census remind us that as infrastructure, information is to a knowledge economy as canals and railroads are to an industrial society. National number systems underpin policy, and when I learned that in health professions work-force studies psychologists are listed solely as part of the mental health work force, I realized how much work there was ahead. The importance of federal recognition of psychology as a health profession, plus our students' real needs for financial support, make this advocacy agenda especially important for BEA and the directorate.

A second focus area is the promotion of psychology in elementary and secondary education. The recent report from the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century calls for immediate action on recommendations likely to drive national policy (www.ed.gov/americacounts/glenn). Unfortunately, none of the examples of "science teaching" included psychology as a science. Our Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools do a fantastic job, but we need to do more. Moreover, we need initiatives for elementary school settings, where the pipeline for talent and diversity in our discipline begins. Other disciplines are increasingly active at this level. We are considering APA summer institutes for teachers, the coordination of speakers' bureaus for local school systems, and the development of texts that are developmentally appropriate.

Finally, to develop our own infrastructure we need an annual forum for leaders in education and training to address issues such as those related to distance education, globalization, diversity in the curriculum, diversity in the classroom, and the disconnects between various levels of education and training in psychology. As higher education is held more accountable for learning outcomes, are we ready to articulate what those outcomes should be for each level within psychology? I am happy to report that the Board of Directors has approved a first meeting of the Education Leadership Conference, and we are beginning the planning process for a meeting in September.

Members needed

We need the help of our members for these initiatives. We will need psychologists who are willing to speak to elementary school children, foster the professional development of teachers and participate in school-based science fairs. We are developing a campus-based education advocacy grassroots network, and will need members in key states to help with our appropriations initiative. We need champions and leaders, your ideas and your commitment to psychology's infrastructure. I'm very excited about what's ahead in my second year at APA.

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