I am spending this week in Ogden, Utah with 80 other educators taking part in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Summit on High School Psychology Education. Held on the campus of Weber State University, the main goal of the Summit is to outline the best future for teaching and learning about psychology in secondary education in the United States.
High school psychology teachers, supported by Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS), and university psychology faculty from around the country are spending five days discussing ways to “strengthen the value, delivery, assessment and reach of psychological science through the teaching of high school psychology.”
Eight teams of educators are working on particular themes (e.g., skills, diversity, assessment, technology, professional development, advocacy) associated with teaching psychology during the high school years. At present, some high school teachers teach a course in Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology (around 300,000 high school students took the AP Psychology Exam in the Spring of 2017), while others teach a more traditional introductory psychology course that follows most or all of the topics found in general or introductory psychology taught at the college-level. The eight working groups will create pedagogical plans and products by the end of their stay in Ogden. These materials (e.g., guides, assessment tools, activities) will then be refined and finalized for dissemination among high school psychology teachers around the country.
Why should people care about this historic Summit? For several reasons: First, a high school psychology course may be the first and last opportunity for many students to be exposed to the science of psychology. Thus, the quality of the scientific material presented in the course is essential. Second, exposure to psychological science at the secondary level can encourage other students to pursue study of the discipline during their college years. Still others may decide to major in psychology in order to pursue a career in the discipline, whether as researchers, practitioners, educators, and the like. In addition, some students will leverage their interest in psychology to follow careers in other helping professions (e.g., nursing, medicine, social work). Finally, high school teachers and their students play important roles in educating the lay public about the science of psychology, including dispelling many myths and misunderstandings that are linked to the critical study of human and animal behavior.