Education Leadership Conference

"Promoting quality is a theme that permeates the work of APA's Education Directorate," Cynthia D. Belar, PhD, the directorate's executive director, told participants at the 11th annual Education Leadership Conference.

With the theme "Promoting Quality," this year's event brought 125 representatives from APA governance, divisions, psychology education and training organizations and other psychology groups together in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8-11.

In addition to visiting elected officials and staff on Capitol Hill to advocate for psychology's educational priorities, participants explored the idea of quality from a variety of viewpoints, including methods for assessing quality, cultural competence as a component of quality and ethical barriers to achieving quality. A major theme was initiatives to improve quality through the teaching of quality improvement methodologies and through infusing quality improvement processes into teacher preparation and continuing education.

Belar kicked off the conference by describing several ways the Education Directorate and APA's Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) promote quality in psychology education and training:

Awards. "Recognizing and bringing attention to quality is one way of promoting quality," said Belar. One new initiative is BEA's Golden Psi Award, which recognizes schools that apply psychological and educational research to promote effective, innovative environments for student learning and development. The BEA Awards to Advance Interdisciplinary Education and Training in Psychology recognized education and training programs that are advancing interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary or interprofessional teaching, research or practice in psychology. APA also participates in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for high school researchers.

Resources. APA produces many resources to help educators provide quality education to their students. At the K–12 level, these include modules for teachers on such issues as classroom management and bullying. For teachers of psychology, there are high school unit lesson plans and an online psychology laboratory with experiments teachers can incorporate into lesson plans. For educators at the college and university level, resources include a new "Practical Guidebook for the Competency Benchmarks," a "Competency Assessment Toolkit for Professional Psychology" and "The Assessment CyberGuide for Learning Goals and Outcomes," which helps departments develop assessment plans. "We believe that advancing the culture of competence in professional education and training is core to promoting quality," said Belar. APA also provides financial resources, such as the $3 million it authorized to help unaccredited internships become APA-accredited. "If we want to be a serious player in health care, we must be able to say our students are trained in programs that are accredited and meet the standards of the profession for quality," Belar said.

Development of guidelines and standards. APA has had its greatest impact on quality through its guideline development efforts, said Belar, citing as examples its "National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula," "Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers," "Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology" and "Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major" (PDF, 164KB). The Education Directorate also manages two key quality assurance mechanisms: accreditation of doctoral, internship and postdoctoral programs and the continuing education sponsor approval system.

"If the public and Congress aren't confident that the products of our educational system meet societal needs and are of high quality, they will begin to regulate us," said Belar. "We need to advance a culture of continuous quality improvement in education and our students."

Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.