Kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers want more preparation in classroom management and instructional skills, according to a teacher needs survey released by APA's Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education.
Members of the coalition-a joint venture between the APA Education Directorate's Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education and 14 child-related APA divisions-presented the results of the survey in a session at APA's 2006 Annual Convention.
"The coalition's goal is to apply the results of psychology research in the classroom," said Stephen Rollin, EdD, a school psychology professor at Florida State University and past chair of the coalition. But to bring useful research to teachers, he said, psychologists first need to know what kind of help teachers require.
Since April 2005, more than 2,300 teachers have taken the online survey. They range from new instructors to those nearing retirement, and from kindergarten teachers to those who teach high school English or math.
Overall, the survey found, teachers want help with classroom management-things like making sure that all students feel safe in a classroom and dealing with students' negative or disruptive behaviors. They also want help with instructional skills, such as motivating students to learn. First-year teachers, in particular, expressed an even stronger need for classroom-management help than their more experienced peers.
The survey also found that teachers prefer to receive their professional development through online courses or small in-district workshops, rather than larger regional workshops.
High school psychology teacher Amy Fineburg, a past chair of APA's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools and a member of the coalition, said that she was pleased to see psychologists asking teachers what kind of professional development could be helpful, rather than simply trying to prescribe what they think teachers need.
The current state of teacher training, she said, can be deplorable: "Someone will come in for an hour, we'll eat donuts and go back to class." The kind of empirical research that psychologists conduct, she said, could give teachers valuable instructional tools-which in turn could help stop the flow of people out of the profession.
"The teacher shortage is due to people leaving the field," she said. "Help them. Help us."