Speaking of Education

BEA beams

The spring consolidated APA governance meetings have adjourned and I am digesting how much the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) accomplished during its session. Under the leadership of Ron Rozensky, board members addressed an enormous range of responsibilities, from issues related to its committees on Accreditation and on Continuing Professional Education, to issues in precollege, undergraduate and graduate education as well as the application of psychology to education. This meeting also had a number of historic events, only a few of which I will summarize below.

APA's newest committee

March 15 marked the first meeting of APA's newest committee, the Committee of Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges (PT@CC). The APA membership created this committee (along with an associated affiliate membership category), recognizing that our discipline has much at stake in this community. Nearly half of all undergraduates begin their postsecondary education at community colleges, and many have their first exposure to psychology during those years.

Although the APA membership database identifies 323 APA members with primary employment in two-year colleges, estimates of the number of faculty teaching psychology in these settings range from 5,000 to 10,000. The new APA membership category will provide an opportunity for professional linkage to the discipline that can foster excellence in the teaching of psychology.

Far more students take psychology courses than ever become psychologists, or even undergraduate psychology majors. How our science and profession are presented to this public is critical to our future. Under the leadership of its inaugural chair, Ann Ewing, PT@CC is completing a survey of two-year college faculty, launching a new Web site for community college teachers, contributing to the quarterly newsletter, Psychology Teacher Network, and planning partnership events with Psi Beta at regional and national meetings, among other activities.

Undergraduate psychology

Another seminal event was BEA's endorsement of the work of its Task Force on Undergraduate Psychology Major Competencies. Designed as a resource document rather than a prescriptive one, the task force report outlines 10 learning goals and describes suggested learning outcomes. The articulation of these goals will be very useful to departments under pressure to develop mission statements, goals and objectives for the major. Moreover, they firmly establish the psychology major as a science.

Led by Jane Halonen, the task force built upon previous work within the California state university system and incorporated feedback from more than 90 advisory panel members. See the report APA Reports. Next steps will include developing a compendium of promising practices in outcome-assessment strategies.

Education Leadership Conference initiatives

BEA also reviewed the reports from the inaugural Education Leadership Conference (ELC), supporting with enthusiasm the accomplishments of these working groups and endorsing recommendations for future efforts on the part of BEA and the Education Directorate.

A particularly heartwarming endorsement was related to the work accomplished by the group on doctoral education led by Karen Maitland-Schilling, liaison to BEA from the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology. Although agreeing that specification of a core curriculum was not reasonable in this day and age given the explosion of knowledge and diversity in the discipline and profession, work-group members agreed that doctoral education should emphasize breadth as well as depth of focus, and that psychologists should possess:

  • A substantive understanding of multiple determinants of behavior in individuals, groups, organizations and communities.

  • A "culture-of-evidence" perspective about behavior based on scientific inquiry and reasoning, replicable methods of observation and measurement, and interpretation of qualitative and quantitative evidence.

  • An understanding of ethical principles applicable to practice, research and teaching as well as a value orientation of respect for human diversity.

  • An understanding of what it means to learn as a psychologist and a commitment to lifelong learning.

In addition to providing a forum for discussion of issues and promotion of education advocacy, a purpose of the ELC has been to promote a shared disciplinary identity among education and training leaders in psychology. The work of this group clearly demonstrated progress toward this goal. For a review of all working group reports, see the ELC Web site at www.apa.org/ed/elc/home.html. We welcome your input on any of these issues.

The members of BEA are Ron Rozensky (chair), Bonnie Blankmeyer, Toy Caldwell-Colbert, Manny Donchin, Linda Forrest, Christine Hall, Nadine Kaslow, Marky Lloyd, Doug McDonald, Jonathan Sandoval, Martin E.P. Seligman and Charles Spielberger.

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