Speaking of Education
Another year has begun, but I didn't expect to be writing another column. When I initially accepted this position, I expected to return to the University of Florida to resume teaching, patient care, research and administrative activities in my area of health psychology. What I did not expect was that the more we accomplished on behalf of education in psychology and psychology in education, the more I would find needed to be done-and the more sustained passion I would feel about doing it! Regarding our efforts I say "we" because it is the outstanding staff of the Education Directorate and those throughout the organization with whom we work that have made those accomplishments possible. To continue our work together I retired from the university, although I proudly remain professor emerita in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology.
Some of the constants in my current position include the promotion of infrastructure for education and the effort to integrate across diverse communities of interest. In addition there is the struggle to wrap one's mind around the "big picture" of psychology, as well as psychology's role among the other disciplines and professions. I am always considering how these issues relate to education and training, and in addition to thinking about student learning outcomes, I am constantly pondering context and upstream determinants.
A well-known upstream determinant for both health and education (and their interrelatedness) is the impact of globalization. Are we preparing future psychologists to work in a global society? Now open for member comment is an initiative on internationalizing the undergraduate psychology curriculum based on our collaboration with the American Council on Education (see Education Directorate). I encourage your participation.
I do know one upstream determinant relevant to health, education and our public's welfare that has not been systematically addressed during my tenure, and I believe it needs more attention. It involves an important application of psychological science about which I was repeatedly reminded by personal trips in recent years. For example, I visited Slovenia to participate in "Belar Days," an educational event in honor of my grandfather, who was instrumental in founding the Triglav National Park to protect its natural environment.
And most recently I traveled to the Galapagos (a mecca for my biologist-photographer husband), where the value of conservation is so clearly evidenced by the healthy populations of native species. These trips, and the dedicated naturalists and educators whom I came to know (Joze Mihelic, Janez Grasic, Etienne DeBacker, Martin Loyola), reminded me that many causes of environmental problems are the result of human behavior, and that behavior change will be required to address them.
Behavior and the environment
Psychology has much to contribute to efforts to sustain a healthy environment-on which we all depend. Dedicated psychologists such as those in our Div. 34 (Population and Environmental) provide relevant research and strive toward its application. However, it has also been noted that psychology and environmental sciences have not been well integrated in educational settings, and that very few programs in environmental science even include psychology at all! That news is disturbing if our science is so fundamental to solutions for the future. Perhaps we need more sustained attention to promoting the teaching of psychology to the other disciplines involved, and to include more focus on this important topic in our own curricula.
Globally there is increased awareness of the need to address environmental issues. In 2003 the United Nations declared a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014): "The international community now strongly believes that we need to foster-through education-the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future. Education for sustainable development has come to be seen as a process of learning how to make decisions that consider the long-term future of the economy, ecology and equity of all communities. Building the capacity for such futures-oriented thinking is a key task of education."
In the United States, resolutions for sustainability education have been endorsed by over 300 college presidents and other higher-education associations. Within APA, our Board of Educational Affairs has forwarded a proposed resolution to other governance groups for consideration this spring. An excellent set of resources for teaching psychology for sustainability were developed by Britain Scott and Susan Koger and are currently available at www.teachgreenpsych.com. I do hope we can sustain momentum to promote the teaching of psychology as part of education for sustainability.
Note from APA: The appearance of advertisements for educational programs on this site does not constitute endorsement by APA. Programs that describe themselves as accredited may be accredited by another body, but are not accredited by APA unless so stated.