Updates from APA Council, STP Instagram Account, ACT News, and Column from STP’s VP for Membership
April – the start of baseball season which for me always signals Spring! I hope you have something that gives you those same feelings of hope, beginning again, and starting anew!
Updates from APA Council
I want to share some updates from the recent American Psychological Association Council of Representatives (COR) meetings that have direct relevance for us at STP. For those newer to STP and APA, COR is the governing body for APA. Everything must go before them for a vote. Each division, state association and APA committee has representatives who gather twice a year to discuss APA business. Several items are of particular interest to teachers of psychology.
The Council unanimously adopted revised APA’s Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in psychology and approved December 2032 as the expiration date. These principles offer best practices that faculty members, programs, and departments can adopt to facilitate student learning and development, in ways that fit their institutional needs and missions. This document is designed to complement, and to be used in conjunction with, the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major. (The third revision of the Guidelines was recently approved by the Board of Educational Affairs and has been forwarded to the COR for approval).
The Council voted 151–4, with one abstention, to adopt Educational Guidelines for Equitable and Respectful Treatment of Students in Graduate Psychology Training Programs. These guidelines encourage graduate psychology programs to promote the equitable and respectful treatment of graduate students throughout their education and training so that students may fully benefit from their graduate education and maximize their potential within and beyond their graduate programs.
For those members who may also do some work in applied areas, the Council voted 144-13, with one abstention, to amend the Association Rules to establish a Committee for the Advancement of General Applied Psychology. The Committee’s purpose will be to promote, in settings outside the direct delivery of health care services, the utilization, application and advancement of science where psychologists work to enhance performance, learning, and well-being of individuals, groups, organizations, and society as a whole.
APA declared that the third week in April is Psychology Week. The United Nations participates in this endeavor. The theme for this year’s webinar is Psychological Contributions to Global Peace, Conflict Resolution, and Equity. If you would like to register for the Psychology Day at the United Nations webinar, organized by the Psychology Coalition at the United Nations (PCUN; https://psychologycoalitionun.org/), you may register online for the webinar, which is scheduled for April 27, 11:00am-2:00pm Eastern.
STP Instagram Account
Did you know that STP now has an Instagram account? If you are on Instagram, check us out at https://www.instagram.com/stpteachpsych/.
Annual Conference on Teaching
Finally, the call for submissions for our Annual Conference on Teaching will be available soon. Please consider submitting and joining us in Portland (OR) or online. Director Lindsay Masland is planning some wonderful things for the West Coast!
This month, I am pleased to introduce Dr. Danae Hudson, VP for Membership, as my guest columnist. Danae is working diligently with her committees to increase membership and make membership attractive. They are also working to expand membership to underrepresented groups within the teaching of psychology. Danae is the Coordinator of the Clinical Graduate Program at Missouri State University where she also teaches at the undergraduate level.
The Age of Disengagement?
Danae Hudson, Vice President for Membership
As teaching during a global pandemic shifted back from Zoom to the classroom, many of us were excited to “get back to normal.” Unfortunately, like many other areas of life, teaching and learning felt different. Now three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that students are different. Hallway, Twitter, and STP Facebook group conversations have a similar theme. A recent poster wrote, “This is the first time in nearly 20 years that I've had [exam] scores this bad. I've also taught this course multiple times and have never seen anything like this before. In general, there is something going on with this class where I'm seeing multiple students just being really out of it. Not paying attention, missing deadlines, not participating at all...” The gift of our STP Facebook group is this poster quickly realized they were not alone, and that this overwhelmed and exasperated sentiment is commonplace.
We have experienced the same thing at my institution, Missouri State University, where my three colleagues and I teach over 1300 Introductory Psychology students each fall. Between us, we have over 80 years of teaching experience and none of us had ever experienced a semester like we did in the fall of 2022. We were faced with underprepared and seemingly unmotivated students. We had more academic integrity violations than we had ever issued in the past 10 years (this was confounded because we naïvely thought using video proctoring to monitor students taking exams was a good idea --- it was not, but that is another column for another day.) It was an exhausting and demoralizing semester for all of us. With so many of us having similar experiences, the question becomes: what do we do?
There does seem to be some consensus that students appear disengaged, and it can be tempting to fall back into a defensive position where we claim that our teaching has not changed, our courses have not changed, and therefore the students just need to get the message. But I have always seen myself as an instructor who solves classroom problems, and this problem is one that may need a novel approach.
As with any scientific question, we need to start by generating hypotheses. And in this case, there are many:
· Traditionally aged college students spent most of their high school years during the height of the pandemic. As a result, they did not learn many of the skills needed to be successful in college (e.g., how to read a text, how to study, how to participate and contribute to group work).
· Many students were given the message during COVID of “do what you have to do to get through.” There was nothing inherently wrong with this message, but unfortunately it resulted in many students cheating to complete assignments and exams. Repeatedly engaging in this behavior with few consequences has changed how some students view academic integrity.
· Many of our students have had COVID at least once and therefore there will be a proportion of our students experiencing long COVID symptoms that are undoubtedly affecting their ability to concentrate on their studies.
· Mental health issues have reached extremely high and concerning levels. As Jean Twenge recently reported in Time, close to one in three high school girls seriously considered suicide in 2021, which is a 60% increase from 2011. These are the students in our classes.
· The APA’s Stress in America report from 2022 indicated that approximately 75% of Americans reported experiencing physical or mental symptoms of stress. The majority of adults reported feeling disheartened by government and political divisiveness, plagued by historic inflation levels, and overwhelmed by widespread violence. These are the topics on our students’ minds while attempting to take numerous classes and likely working many hours to pay for their education.
There are likely many more hypotheses we could generate. But even just looking at these, we can appreciate why our students are struggling. The problem is multifaceted, and therefore our solutions must also be diverse and tailored to specific student needs. For example, Wake Forest University uses academic coaches to teach students how to develop a comprehensive syllabus (the term WFU uses) --- a detailed spreadsheet that includes all assignments and assessments for all classes. Academic coaches woven into first year classes may be an answer for underprepared students. However, they are most likely not the answer for our students who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety that are interfering with their ability to complete assignments. In a time of shrinking budgets for higher education coupled with concerns about enrollment, increased funding for mental health services on campus (although desperately needed) is unlikely to occur. Perhaps there is a way for those institutions with graduate programs in clinical psychology, counseling, and social work, to work together to develop assessment, triage, and mental health services for our students who are seeking help.
Maybe it is time for us to rethink some of the content we teach in our classes. Introductory Psychology is a perfect course to address some of the issues we are facing. We know students are unlikely to remember the specifics of classical conditioning much past the end of the course. And, thanks to the APA’s Introductory Psychology Initiative, we now have student learning outcomes for Introductory Psychology that include integrative themes. Theme F states “applying psychological principles can change our lives, organizations, and communities in positive ways.” Could we redesign Introductory Psychology to use the content and skills ingrained in this course to help our “disengaged” students? This transformation would not be quick or easy, but I am convinced that as teachers of psychology, we are in a unique position to help address these issues that are plaguing our students and clouding our educational landscape.
American Psychological Association. (2022). Stress in America. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/
Gurung, A. R. & Neufeld, G. (2019). The Introductory Psychology Initiative. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/undergrad/introductory-psychology-initiative/pilot
Twenge, J. (2023. February 14). Teen girls are facing a mental health epidemic. We are doing nothing about it. Time. https://time.com/6255448/teen-girls-mental-health-epidemic-causes/