Speaking of Education

In my March 2001 column, I noted three areas for special attention during my second year at APA--the need for infrastructure for education in psychology, promotion of psychology in elementary and secondary education, and resources to support graduate education and training. As my third year at APA begins, it is timely to reflect upon developments in these areas to date.

Resources for graduate education and training. A landmark for psychology was our successful pursuit of federal funds to establish the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program in the Bureau of Health Professions, an agency that historically had programs for numerous health professions (including medicine, dentistry and nursing), but none for psychology. (See related article.) APA members' advocacy, especially that by Herb Goldstein, was invaluable in establishing the GPE program; their work will be essential to its survival. Integral to these endeavors is the development of a campus-based, grassroots advocacy network through our new Federal Education Advocacy Coordinators (FEDAC). APA's Nina Levitt and Sheila Forsyth led the inaugural FEDAC event in December--a very successful combination of advocacy training and Capitol Hill visits.

We need the help of all educators in conveying the importance of advocacy to their students. Advocacy is an integral part of professional life for psychologists, whether one is advocating for one's ideas, space for one's department, a budget for one's unit, research funds for the discipline, reimbursement for services rendered or equitable treatment under the law. To promote advocacy training in graduate programs, we recently convened a panel of experts to develop a model curriculum related to public policy that will be posted on our Web site.

Developing infrastructure for education. Infrastructure requires connections. Given the diverse groups in the psychology education community, having an annual forum where organizations and their leaders can meet is fundamental to building infrastructure. The inaugural Education Leadership Conference (ELC) held in October (see January Monitor) was a unique APA conference in that participants were chosen by the organizations themselves and represented all levels in the teaching of psychology, from high school through postdoctoral education. In "Rethinking Education in Psychology and Psychology in Education," participants identified important issues related to an expanding knowledge base in psychology, changing demographics, globalization, advances in technology, changes in higher education and the marketplace, education reform and national needs. They prioritized issues to address, and examined questions of particular interest to APA's Board of Educational Affairs. Plans for ELC-2 this September are now under way.

Promoting psychology in elementary and secondary education. Working with the Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) we have continued to foster high-quality teaching through activities such as workshops, Web-based resources and lesson plans. This coming year marks TOPSS' 10th anniversary and under discussion is the possibility of a high school "Psychology Awareness Week." Working with Phil Zimbardo and Gary VandenBos, we have also made progress on the development of a premier high school psychology textbook. With respect to psychology in elementary education, BEA will soon be considering recommendations from ELC participants on initiatives to promote psychology in the curriculum.

The application of psychology to education is also integral to the directorate's mission, and our efforts have been significantly enhanced by the addition of Jennifer Smulson, formerly of Sen. James Jeffords' (I-Vt.) office. She is our senior legislative and federal affairs officer. In addition, Rena Subotnik has just assumed leadership of our Center for Psychology in Schools and Education, and psychology's role in teacher education is bright on her radar screen. This past year we also met with a number of high-ranking government officials regarding psychology's role in education reform, specifically the translation of psychological science to good educational practice and policy, and research to develop evidence-based practice. These efforts, often in collaboration with our Science Directorate colleagues, have been welcomed as psychology is clearly recognized as a key discipline. Yet we have much to do to realize our discipline's potential for contribution to education reform. A disconnect frequently noted is between psychologists in colleges of arts and sciences and those in education and public educational systems.

The areas described will continue to be emphasized in future work. But it is also important to note that in support of its mission and governance groups, the Education Directorate has an extensive portfolio of activities related to precollege, undergraduate and graduate education; professional education and training; and lifelong professional development that require continued attention and development. I will comment more on these in my next column; we have much to accomplish in my third year here at APA.

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