Speaking of 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, and opt in at MyAPA 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.