leaders and parents will also find it useful, says Lucariello.
“Generally, when teachers are prepared in schools of
education, they might have just one or two psychology courses,
if that,” she says.
In addition, she says, the timing of those courses makes
them less helpful than they could be, since they’re typically
offered at the beginning of training, well before students get
into a classroom. “Teacher candidates are not getting the key
information from psychological science when it might be very
useful, that is, while they’re in the field doing their student
teaching,” says Lucariello.
Putting the principles into practice
To develop the principles, the coalition — a diverse group of
psychologists with expertise in applying psychological science
to early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education
(see sidebar) — used a consensus panel approach.
“We started off with a thought experiment by asking
coalition members, if they could share only two psychological
principles with teachers, what would they be?” says Rena
Subotnik, PhD, who directs APA’s Center for Psychology in
Schools and Education. “The members come from different
traditions and specialties, so by limiting their choices, we
wanted to free them from having to represent their own
The result was a list of what Subotnik calls the “drop-dead
psychology principles teachers need to know to be effective.”
Educators are already putting the principles to use.
Among them is the Fairfax County, Virginia, school
system, which uses the principles in professional development
for teachers and principals, says Carol V. Horn, EdD, who
coordinates the system’s advanced academics program.
Fairfax County’s curriculum already draws on best practices
in teaching and learning, but the principles are helping to
reinforce the idea, says Horn. In a series of workshops, Horn
asks teachers and principals to break into groups, with each
group reviewing one of the principles, summarizing the key
points and explaining how they use that principle in their work.
“Even though we all know what the research-based
practice is, the principles help teachers, principals and other
stakeholders understand the why,” says Horn. “And because it
was created by experts and quotes the research on which the
principles are based, it has great credibility in the field.”
Teacher preparation programs are also using the principles.
At George Mason University, for example, faculty in the
master’s-level program in educational psychology are using the
document to ensure that courses are aligned with the program’s
standards and sequenced properly.
“Now that the Top 20 Principles have come out, we see
that we’re already teaching them within our classes, but now
we’re able to identify exactly what principles are taught in each
class,” says Erin Peters-Burton, PhD, an associate professor of
education at George Mason. In the past, the annual review
of courses had been more free-form, with faculty checking
the courses against the program’s own standards, says Peters-
Burton. “With 20 of them, it gets into a level of detail we haven’t
Faculty are also using the principles to assess students.
The program uses the principles to outline what students
should know, measuring their progress at the beginning
and end of classes. “The principles are a good foundation
for building a baseline and looking for improvement,” says
The principles may be especially helpful to those outside
psychology, says Jamilia Blake, PhD, an associate professor of
school psychology at Texas A&M University. In fact, she has
already noticed a colleague from the geography department
promoting the principles on a faculty Listserv.
“The principles are very useful for those in higher education
who don’t have a background or training in psychology or
education,” says Blake, adding that the report’s suggestions
for K– 12 teaching and learning also apply to first-year college
students in large, introductory classes.
To help spread the word, Blake plans to send the report to
K– 12 principals and supervisors at schools in her area. She
also plans to share it with Texas A&M’s Center for Teaching
Excellence and urge staff there to incorporate the principles into
its professional development activities.
Teachers already in the classroom can use the principles not
just for their own professional development but also to assess
the quality of in-service trainings, says Rob McEntarffer, PhD,
an assessment and evaluation specialist at Lincoln Southeast
High School in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Unfortunately, says McEntarffer, in-service professional
development for PreK– 12 teachers too often consists of speakers
presenting information of doubtful quality. At one high school,
for example, a speaker brought in for professional development
claimed that students remember only 10 percent of what they
hear, 20 percent of what they read and 30 percent of what they
see and urged teachers to base their teaching on this so-called
“The speaker was making the claim as if this was a research-
based fact about teaching and learning,” says McEntarffer. “A
teacher with the ‘Top 20 Principles’ could quickly double-check
this claim and figure out that it’s an absolute myth with no basis
in reality.” n
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