Education SPEAKING OF
Celebrating those who improve
the teaching of psychology
BY DR. CYNTHIA BELAR • APA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR EDUCATION
This year marks key milestones for two important APA committees and
their members: Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges (PT@CC) is
celebrating its 10th anniversary, and Teachers of Psychology in Secondary
Schools (TOPSS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. In looking over the
accomplishments of both groups, we have much to celebrate.
PT@CC is a national APA affiliate membership group
that works to advance quality in the teaching of psychology.
It promotes academic achievement and student readiness, so
that students can transfer to four-year colleges and universities
or directly into the workforce. With the nation’s community
college student enrollment at an all-time high, nearly half of all
undergraduates attend community colleges, where many study
psychology. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics
reports that psychology experienced the largest percent increase
in the number of associate’s degrees awarded between 1999–
2000 and 2009–10 (up 352 percent from 1,500 to 6,600 degrees).
PT@CC gives educators a voice on the national level to
advance issues that are critical to the teaching and learning of
psychology at community colleges. Among PT@CC’s many
accomplishments are creating opportunities for student and
teacher recognition (such as the PT@CC Student Presentation
Contest and the PT@CC Teaching Resources Award),
publications such as the Adjunct Faculty Resource Guide,
partnerships with Psi Beta to sponsor programs for faculty, and
outreach to psychology faculty across the country. PT@CC has
completed two surveys of two-year college faculty: an original
needs assessment in 2004 and an online survey taken by more
than 1,700 psychology teachers at community colleges in 2008.
This survey found that the breadth of course offerings and the
formats for teaching at community colleges have expanded and
there is a slight increase in the number of psychology teachers
who hold doctoral degrees. Enrollment is up at community
colleges and psychology courses are in demand. PT@CC also
proposed the Board of Educational Affairs working group that
ultimately produced a report titled Teaching and Learning and
Assessing in a Developmentally Coherent Curriculum.
TOPSS is the first and only national membership
organization for high school psychology teachers. High school
psychology is an increasingly popular elective course. In
May, about 220,000 students took the Advanced Placement
psychology exam, about an 11 percent increase from the
previous year. In addition, worldwide nearly 16,000 students
took the International Baccalaureate psychology exam.
Under the leadership of TOPSS, APA has adopted two
new policy documents. The first, the National Standards for
High School Psychology Curricula, helps teachers and others
who determine psychology curriculum at the secondary level
develop an accurate, comprehensive and developmentally
appropriate introductory psychology course for students in
grades 9 through 12. It is now in its second revision. The second
important policy document is the new Guidelines for Preparing
High School Psychology Teachers: Course-Based and Standards-Based Approaches, which delineates the kind of training new
teachers should have before they begin their education careers.
TOPSS has also developed 19 lesson plans for psychology
teachers, annual Excellence in Teaching Awards, an annual
essay competition for high school psychology students and
opportunities for professional development, such as the
annual APA/Clark University Workshop, co-sponsored by the
American Psychological Foundation, APA and Clark University.
TOPSS also gives precollege educators a voice on the teaching
and learning of psychological science.
APA has a long history of supporting the teaching of
psychology, and TOPSS and PT@CC are at the forefront of
APA efforts to promote psychology as a science and to educate
the public about the field. To learn more about both groups,
visit the Office of Precollege and Undergraduate Education
Web pages at www.apa.org/ed/precollege, and opt in at http://
my.apa.org to receive the Psychology Teacher Network newsletter
for regular updates about TOPSS and PT@CC.
Please join me in wishing PT@CC and TOPSS a happy
anniversary. Their work is critical not only to the pipeline into
psychology but to society. n