Speaking of Education

Why do we care about sharing psychology? For one reason, psychology's knowledge base is an important area of study for an informed citizenry. In addition, sharing psychology is fundamental to preparing professionals from other disciplines. In fact, I believe readers could easily name at least two professions that would benefit from knowledge in the following areas of psychological science:

  • Health and behavior.

  • Teaching and learning.

  • Conflict management and resolution.

  • Resilience and coping skills.

  • Intergroup relations and dealing with diversity.

  • Violence prevention.

  • Values and moral development.

  • Communication and persuasion.

  • Crisis management.

  • Critical thinking.

  • Human factors engineering.

  • Leadership.

Psychology's potential to contribute in the preparation of other professions seems obvious, and many psychologists have been actively involved in such endeavors. Psychologists teach in architecture, business, criminal justice, dentistry, economics, education, engineering, environmental sciences, fine arts, gerontology, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and public policy, to name only a few areas. Some professions actually require behavioral science as part of their core curriculum in order for their education and training programs to become accredited. Even more basic, it is well recognized that a liberal education is the foundation on which all professions build. Psychology's potential to contribute to a liberal education through its introductory psychology course and its popular undergraduate major are enormous. Our success in addressing this and how we as a discipline meet the needs of higher education will have a significant impact on our future in the academy and elsewhere.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

One thing we know for sure is that sharing psychology requires interdisciplinary collaboration. We must examine our pedagogy relevant to this work and how this teaching relates to multidisciplinary approaches to scholarship in psychology. We need to identify the disciplinary and institutional barriers that complicate it, and pay special attention to the economic models in higher education that support or hinder our efforts.

The academy has already increased its focus on interdisciplinary centers as a means to address important societal problems for which no one discipline has the solution. Our focus must be on how we prepare psychology's future work force to take advantage of such opportunities, to articulate the distinctiveness of psychology in such contexts, and to address any distinctive ethical issues involved. We must foster the development of the interprofessional knowledge, skills and attitudes required, and examine the impact multidisciplinary programs have on the structure and function of educational institutions. This is fundamentally about psychology's future.

Participants in the 2007 Education Leadership Conference discussed in detail psychology's role in liberal education and in the preparation of other professions, reports of which will soon be available on our Web site.

Risks of noninvolvement

The risks to society of psychology not sharing what we know from psychological science can be poorly informed public policy, less effective education and healthcare systems, and problems in safety related to human-machine interaction and systems design.

There are also risks to psychology itself: Psychology could become marginalized as a discipline if it does not actively participate in the sharing of its knowledge. We could also miss opportunities to access resources within the university and from external grant agencies, and could lose promising realworld laboratories for understanding behavior. Other groups will fill the gaps left, and our strength as a discipline could be devalued. This would contribute to what I believe is an already narrow perception of psychology by the public. Such developments would also have significant marketplace implications for our graduates, and for the pipeline into psychology itself.

This is not to say that psychology's knowledge base will not be used if we are not involved--but it may not be known as psychology. We have already seen how substantive areas in psychology have evolved into new program and degree areas such as cognitive neuroscience, social neuroscience, learning science, behavioral economics, and health and behavior. As we have so often noted, our breadth and diversity is our strength, but can also lead to fragmentation. I worry about the health of the goose that lays the golden egg, and what we should all be doing to ensure its future.

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