Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education Report (CPSE)

The author provides an overview of the CPSE activities included at the APA Annual Convention and proposes new ideas for increasing the presence of division within the CPSE

By Karin Hodges, PsyD

It is a pleasure to be involved with Division 49 and to represent our group within the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (CPSE). Here I will offer you an overview of the CPSE, share some CPSE activities that I enjoyed at the APA Convention, and propose some ideas for increasing the presence of Division 49 within the CPSE (and vice versa).

Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (CPSE)

The mission of the coalition is to bring together interested psychologists to promote and make publicly accessible applications of the research that psychology has developed to assist the nation in improving the quality of public and private Pre-K–12 education. The coalition further hopes to influence APA’s involvement in policy making and legislation associated with the nation's educational agenda. In addition, the mission of this coalition is to encourage cooperation among those APA entities and affiliates whose focus is on children and youth, and the teaching and learning processes. Available on CPSE website.

The Goals of the CPSE

  • Improving the quality of the psychology offered in teacher preparation and professional development;
  • Collaborating with other professions that address the needs of children in schools; and (3) Making education and schooling more central to APA’s agenda. Available on CPSE website.

While the mission and goals of the CPSE are geared towards application of research, I have observed that there is a great deal of research being conducted by members and leaders of the coalition. The members of the coalition are producing research and then creating initiatives that are in keeping with the mission of the CPSE. I have been impressed with the depth and breadth of the work of the CPSE. For example, they created a teacher needs survey, which they utilized in a study with 2334 respondents. They wrote up a report from that survey (PDF, 1.8MB). Not only has the coalition considered direct interventions for reducing teacher stress (PDF, 1.4MB), but the coalition has also considered indirect ways to support teachers, such as by offering information to spouses of teachers.

Activities Enjoyed With CPSE While at The APA Convention

Breakfast Meeting

While attending the Annual Convention of the APA, I had the pleasure of meeting approximately a dozen members of the CPSE. We enjoyed a breakfast meeting. The breakfast was primarily geared towards greeting new members to the CPSE, introducing new members to the work of the coalition, and also brainstorming ideas for the coalition.

At the breakfast were Dr. Rena Subotnik of the American Psychological Association and Dr. Mary Brabeck of New York University, leaders and longtime members of the coalition. Represented at the breakfast meeting were: (a) members of the Center for the Study of Schools and Education, (b) representatives from various APA divisions, and (c) Deans of Universities, all who were focused on the mission of the coalition.

  • Drs. Subotnik and Brabeck introduced new members to the history of the coalition.
  • Drs. Subotnik and Brabeck introduced newer members of the group to the recent activities of the coalition, including online modules for classroom teachers (and for those who educate class- room teachers).
  • The group discussed various agendas of the CPSE, with special attention to the need for more nationally regulated and mainstreamed standards for K-12 educators, as opposed to a somewhat haphazard way in which teachers become teachers. We spoke a great deal about the need for more consistent inclusion of psychology in K-12 educational (e.g., psychology taught in K-12 curriculum, methods for classroom management, informed by psychology, etc.).
  • Following much sharing and brainstorming and reviewing of the history and initiatives of the group, the question arose, “How might we bring initiatives and recommendations to the schools in a way that they will be reliably implemented?” We considered various ways that we might have an impact on K-12 schools (rather than creating initiatives that might not be implemented).
  • We discussed legislative change. The leaders of the CPSE recommended that those who were present at the meeting consider the APA Congressional fellowship in Washington, DC.

Sessions at the APA Annual Convention

I also attended sessions at the APA Annual Convention that were hosted by the coalition. One remarkable session, presented under the auspices of the CPSE, was titled, “Using Psychology to Improve the Climate for Teaching in K-12 Schools.” Presenters were

Drs. Dorothy Espelage, Linda Reddy, and Isaac Prilleltensky. The session included two problems within K-12 schools. The first problem presented was that teachers experience too much violence in their workplace. Findings from a national survey were presented. The speakers concluded that teachers manage a significant number of threats and assaults in their workplace. Such experiences, the speakers argued, would be considered unacceptable in most work settings.

The research highlighted not only that teachers experience threats and physical assaults, but also that perpetrators include parents and co-workers (not only students, as one might initially expect).

The second, related problem presented was workplace stress. Such stress reportedly leads to teachers dropping out of the profession within the first few years of becoming a teacher. Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky and his colleagues presented a program aimed to reduce teacher burnout and attrition. The program includes support groups for teachers. This program could be of interest to the Division 49 because it is an example of an integration of psychology and education, with a focus on the value of social support in group settings.

In the above-mentioned APA offering (and also at the APA coalition for psychology in schools and education breakfast meeting), I was introduced to modules on teacher stress (available on the APA website for individual educator use, as well as for organized professional development). The modules, were initiated and conceptualized by Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky. In a nutshell, these modules are psycho educational videos regarding teacher stress in schools, which includes a narrator, and also personal testimonials from teachers regarding their experiences of occupational stress. Within the modules, emphasis is paid to mentorship, dysfunctional behaviors and cognitions, affect, physical manifestations of stress, coping, conflict management, and phases of acclimation and adaptation to the teaching role.

While at the APA conference, I also attended sessions that taught me a great deal about the ways that psychology and education are bridged. I attended a presentation at the APA Annual convention titled, “Increasing the Role of Psychological Science in Improving K-12 STEM Education.” Within that presentation, Dr. Rena Subotnik presented her research on gifted children’s motivation to be in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) higher education and careers. She looked at the effect of specialized versus typical K-12 settings on children’s motivation to move towards STEM careers. Within her research was a surprising finding regarding gender, as it related to the need to belong to the school or feel a part of a school.

While at the APA convention, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Sylvia Rosenfield, who is representative of Division 13—Counseling Psychology. She and her colleagues on the CPSE are focused on under- standing adult teams/working groups within schools and improving the functioning of these working groups. Dr. Rosenfield and her colleagues have come up with some clear recommendations for bolstering success in these adult working groups (e.g., SPED meetings, student support meetings) within the schools – making the adult team meetings more productive and professional.

Ideas for Increasing the Presence of Division 49 Within the CPSE

While I am quite new to the group and only learning about their programs and agendas, I have some preliminary ideas about how Division 49 might get involved. First, we could consider the ways in which group-based knowledge might influence and support the work of the coalition. We (members and leaders from Division 49) could think together about the ways in which our group-based knowledge can influence the work of the coalition by: (a) reducing educational disparities, (b) supporting gifted learners, (c) increasing positive climate in schools, (d) improving the development and functioning of adult working groups in schools, (e) creating support systems for teachers to decrease burnout and in- crease teacher longevity (many drop out of profession after 1st year), (f) reducing violence in teacher workplace, (g) increasing standards for educators in K-12 settings, and (f) better regulating teachers/more uniform educational standards for becoming a teacher.

Below are some initial proposed projects (broadly defined) that I would like to consider with Division 49 (some of which would be new to the coalition and some of which are in keeping with current projects of the coalition):

  • Teacher support groups—what might distinguish the program in Florida from other systems that have been unable to motivate teachers to attend support groups?
  • Fostering work in adult working teams—what distinguishes productive groups who work well together from those where there is a negative climate, poor cohesion, and no “work”?  What sorts of recommendations might lead to healthy group process, keeping in mind that these are essentially peer-led groups in work settings?
  • What are the school-based factors (e.g., rituals, expectations, norms, boundary setting, adult relationships) that might moderate (e.g., child population) or mediate (e.g., positive climate) a cohesive school environment in which children and adults are motivated and working towards a positive goal together?
  • What types of prevention-focused whole-classroom interventions groups help (e.g., strength focused) or hinder (e.g., problem focused) a healthy school environment?
  • Small school-based group treatment for children diagnosed with mental illness: How might increasing the social skills of disruptive and socially immature children improve the overall climate of a classroom?  How might improvements in these children’s functioning affect classroom cohesion?

Here are the questions that I have at this time for Division 49 leadership:

  • Might it be possible to put together a Division 49 working group for supporting my work within the CPSE?
  • I wonder if there is some funding available within Division 49. Perhaps there is a stipend available to support reviews of the literature or fund a bit of empirical research in the above areas of interest. Alternatively, might there be funds available for another project, perhaps determined by more members of Division 49? I would enjoy a project related to schools and education that may compliment my work on the coalition.
  • I would welcome any mentorship and leadership training that might accompany this role. For example, I would enjoy consult regarding the activities that I am participating in within the CPSE.

The next CPSE Coalition meeting that I will attend is scheduled December 2- 4, 2011 in Washington, DC. It will begin at 6 pm on Friday and end at Noon on Sunday.