Speaking of Education

Given the growing national interest in community colleges, the importance of these institutions in higher education and to work force preparation, APA's Committee of Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges, known as the PT@CC Committee, has taken a leadership role in learning more about the teaching of psychology at community colleges. In 2008, the committee surveyed psychology teachers at community colleges to give us a glimpse of who they are and the classes that are being offered by these institutions.

PT@CC received responses from more than 1,800 faculty representing more than 600 community colleges on such issues as employment status, educational level, demographics, work load, courses taught, professional activities and modes of teaching. Most of the respondents were female (63 percent) and white (89 percent; African American 6 percent, Hispanic 3 percent; others such as Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern were less than 1 percent). Similar to national profiles of community college faculty, 53 percent hold master's degrees and 41 percent doctorates. Including those who are pursuing their doctorates, this figure increases to 43 percent. This finding is significant in that the national average for community college faculty holding doctorates in the social sciences is 25 percent.

Most reported that their primary place of employment was a community college (80 percent), with 4 percent stating that their primary job was at a four-year college or university, 2 percent in a high school, and 12 percent stating other categories. Thus, 20 percent claimed that a community college was their secondary place of employment, indicating that they were adjunct faculty.

The respondents also indicated that they were fairly new to college teaching, with over 50 percent having less than 15 years experience. Only 2 percent had over 40 years experience and one respondent reported 60 years' experience!

Community college faculty teach a large number of classes per term. More than 50 percent teach 13 or more hours per week. In addition, 67 percent have 20 to 40 students per class, and this is true for both face-to-face and online classes. Over half of the respondents teach distance classes; approximately one-third use "service learning" approaches; and about 25 percent teach in "learning communities."

The survey provided interesting data about the range of psychology courses community colleges offer. More than 90 percent of the respondents teach introductory psychology, 66 percent teach developmental, 36 percent teach abnormal; taught less frequently (at only 10 percent of community colleges) were social psychology, personality, human sexuality, human relations, educational and research methods. Other classes include statistical, physiological, cognitive, sport, cross cultural, adjustment and industrial-organizational psychology; psychology of religion, gender, marriage, parenting and many more. This variability in course offerings raises some interesting questions about articulation agreements between community colleges and four-year institutions. These faculty are also engaged in other professional and community activities. More than 60 percent belong to at least one professional organization. The most commonly listed were APA (50 percent), APA Div. 2 Teaching (23 percent), and the American Psychological Society (15 percent). Over 90 percent attend professional meetings; 42 percent engage in professional writing and 27 percent are actively engaged in scholarly research.

Why does APA care about the teaching of psychology in community colleges? Because, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, 44 percent of undergraduates begin their studies at community colleges. For many students, this is their first exposure to psychology as a discipline and psychologist role models. Teaching psychology as a science is important not only for the pipeline of undergraduate majors and graduate education in psychology, but to educating our nation's citizens about psychology as a science—a significant goal of APA's new strategic plan. Community colleges are central to educating a psychologically literate public.

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