Happy Anniversary, Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP)! In 2020, STP turns 75 years old, and I am honored and excited to serve as the Society’s President for this historic year. STP was one of the original 19 divisions inaugurated by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1945. In 2020, we will celebrate on our website, www.teachpsych.org, at the various conferences with STP-sponsored and STP-supported programming, and at our Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) in Pittsburgh, PA, in October. Bill Hill, our Society’s archivist, is working on updating our history to reflect more recent events and milestones, and Jordan Troisi, who directs ACT, is working with me and the Executive Committee to incorporate some special events and recognitions. I’m excited to spend some time in 2020 to reflect on where we’ve been.
I hope that we can also take time to dream about our future. We need to ask what resources, programming, and grants are missing or what can be implemented better. We need to engage more people in conversations about what good teaching of psychology looks like in practice. We need to encourage more people to implement the scholarship of teaching and learning so we can be more confident that what we are sharing is effective. We need to gather and encourage more diverse voices. We need to foster graduate and early career teachers through training, mentoring, and partnering. Leaders and members throughout STP’s history have done so much to get us where we are now—financially healthy, respected, and generous with our work. Current and future leaders and members can both continue that legacy and chart a new path for STP that takes us farther than any of us can imagine.
My presidential initiatives for 2020 look to expand STP’s work to emerging and underrepresented groups. I am working with our Graduate Student Teaching Association to reorganize that group and develop a suite of training and mentoring opportunities for graduate students and faculty who work with them. According to APA’s Center for Workforce Studies, “one in five psychologists with a research doctorate primarily work as college or university professors,” with “35% of research and experimental psychology doctorate holders reporting themselves as postsecondary teachers in a science field” (retrieved from www.apa.or/monitor/2019/07-08/datapoint). We know that people in most doctoral programs often get minimal instruction or mentoring in how to teach well, yet they will likely get a job postdegree that involves at least some teaching. We as a Society are well positioned to offer in-person and virtual training and support, and our members have expertise, skill, and willingness to work with graduate and early career psychology teachers. I’m looking forward to crystallizing this work as the year progresses.
I am also working with our Membership and Diversity Committees to create meaningful spaces for underrepresented teachers in our Society’s structure. Our Society welcomes all teachers, from high school psychology teachers to graduate supervisors. Yet, our membership is skewed in many categories, from race/ethnicity to age to region of the country people live and work in to level of student taught. My personal goal is to work to create spaces for people who teach in different contexts to serve and lead the Society into the next 75 years. I want people who teach in high schools, community colleges, predominantly White institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, parochial schools, and any other context to feel as though they have a home in STP. With more than 3,000 members, we can capitalize on our size to create spaces for people who teach in certain contexts to network and join together to develop resources, programming, and grant programs that serve people who teach in those contexts. Often, good teaching is good teaching, regardless of context or student. Yet, more often than not, what works in one context doesn’t always translate to other ones. STP’s members have the expertise and skill to explore when and how practices translate and when they do not. By creating places where people can network and collaborate, STP can foster the type of scholarship about teaching and learning that will help not only our members but all teachers everywhere. What a gift we could give to the world!
Our Society offers members not only the opportunity to explore ways to teach psychology better, but we offer members the ability to use psychology to teach psychology. Even if your area of expertise isn’t teaching and learning, at some point along your professional journey, you’ve learned about how people think and learn. While you may be teaching intro psychology, neuropsychology, geropsychology, or history of psychology, you can apply theories of learning and thinking and memory in your classes, helping students learn the content and, with purposeful planning, learn it better. My hope is that with every meeting or conference, psychology teachers, instructors, and professors can gather to share practices that make learning psychology better.
We have made a difference in our first 75 years. We offer a growing annual conference focused on teaching psychology each year. We offer over 10 different award and grant programs that recognize excellence in teaching and provide support to develop high-quality resources and programming. We support speakers and programming at regional psychological association and disciplinary conferences. We publish e-books and host social media accounts that boast thousands of members and followers. We will spend this next year celebrating those accomplishments and more. What will we accomplish next? What new doors will we open? What useful opportunities will we create? I’m excited to see what STP’s future holds.
Happy Diamond Anniversary, STP…can’t wait to see what you do with the next 75 years!
Amy C. Fineburg
First published online October 31, 2019 in Teaching of Psychology: https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628319884488