Executive Director's Column

More on Continuing Education

Discussion of the value of Continuing Education Workshops

By Steven Breckler, PhD

The annual APA convention is right around the corner. We meet in Boston, and this month’s Monitor on Psychology features some highlights of the meeting. A great program has been organized, and we are especially proud of the science-oriented symposia, workshops and poster sessions.

As I flipped through the Monitor, I came across the substantial insert on Continuing Education Workshops. I’m pretty sure that similar inserts, flyers, and mailings are produced every year. But I must confess that I have never paid much attention to them. I’ve never had a reason.

As I’ve observed in prior columns, researchers and scientists have little need for formal continuing education credits. Of course we need (and seek out) continuing educational opportunities, but we do not connect them – as practitioners do – with professional development that requires certification and verification.

I have always assumed that the continuing education workshops offered at the annual convention are there for those members of the psychology practice community who need to earn continuing education credits every year.

I think my assumption is shared by most researchers and scientists. After all, most of the workshops offered under the continuing education banner focus on some aspect of professional practice. And a fee is charged on top of that! I obtain my continuing education by attending the symposia and talks that are included in the price of convention registration. I can attend as many as I like, and I have plenty of subjects from which to choose.

This year, I did something new. I removed the Continuing Education insert, and I looked closely at the workshops being offered. I was curious; I had never done that before.

As I browsed the catalog of workshops, I noticed something interesting. I found a number of workshops that I want to attend. Workshops on statistics, ethics, and applications of psychological science. Workshops taught by and designed to appeal to members of the scientific research community.

And I started to dream about an annual meeting consumed by workshops and new learning opportunities. It would be like going back to school – attending seminars and acquiring new knowledge. As the number of professional meetings have proliferated, it would be a refreshing change of pace. Rather than running frantically from one talk to another, I could take some time to become immersed in a new subject.

Of course, the APA Science Directorate offers a number of Advanced Training Institutes every year. These are great learning opportunities, but they are organized as stand-alone events rather than as a part of convention programming. What if similar advanced training opportunities were made part of the convention itself?

I predict that scientists would love it; they would appreciate the chance to update their skills and acquire new knowledge. I predict that practitioners would flock to it; they would savor the opportunity to learn about new advances in their discipline’s science.

Best of all, scientists and practitioners would all be students together in the same classes, learning with and from each other. That’s where we all started. Perhaps going back to school is what we need to put aside differences that emerge as we pursue our own professional paths, and to learn that we are far more similar than we imagine.

Annual meetings are time for all of us to gather and exchange information. Let’s not push continuing education to the side, or assume that it is not for us. Instead, let’s embrace it, broaden it, and make it the hub around which we all gather.

For a listing of Continuing Education Workshops offered at convention this year, view the CE Workshop Catalog.