Education Leadership Conference

As a field dedicated to analyzing the human condition, psychology has become a basic ingredient in nearly every discipline. But the training menu in most fields includes only a sprinkle of psychological science--and sometimes none at all. Faculty and administrators in fields such as communication, criminal justice, law, architecture, business and education shared their recipe for integrating more psychological competencies across disciplines at APA's 2007 Education Leadership Conference (ELC), in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8-11.

  • Find common ground. Many fields are grounded in the field of psychology, and see it as a core aspect of the discipline, said Gerald C. Davison, PhD, dean of the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. The gerontology and communications fields, for example, both incorporate the analysis of the human condition into their teaching and practice, he said. Psychology can provide similar expertise in the field of law, which involves the study, prediction and shaping of human behavior, said Linda J. Demaine, PhD, JD, of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. One way to promote psychology's relevance to other professions is for psychology faculty to teach and conduct research for other departments for a year. By taking a multidisciplinary approach, psychology educators can learn how to best address the needs of other fields, said Alan G. Whittaker, PhD, of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., where he teaches psychology to national security leaders as well as foreign service personnel, such as ambassadors. "Politics is a people business," said Whittaker. And as psychologists continue to get involved in this field, he said, they can help develop "more knowledgeable, skilled and effective" national leaders.
  • Observe new trends and offer expertise. Psychology faculty can also latch on to emerging trends and help promote them. For example, with the recent emphasis on charter and lab schools, psychologists can provide expertise in human development, said Jane Close Conoley, PhD, professor and dean of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Similarly, student interest in psychology's relevance to the criminal justice field continues to grow due to the popularity of television shows such as "CSI" and "Law and Order," said Maureen O'Connor, JD, PhD, chair of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. To bone up on these emerging trends, psychology educators should consider attending conferences and subscribing to publications outside of psychology, said O'Connor. And psychologists might find a broader audience if they published their findings in other disciplines' academic journals, said Demaine.
  • Design professional development courses. In addition to teaching psychology to students via another discipline's curriculum, which can be crowded with courses required by that field, consider offering professional development opportunities to established professionals. In education, for example, these lifelong learning forums may even be better for encouraging the incorporation of psychological knowledge into practice because so much of what teachers learn comes after they begin their profession and are dealing with students every day, said Conoley."Psychology's influence is of utmost importance [to teachers] once they're working," said Conoley. "Providing continuing-education courses will help them use their skills more effectively."