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Teaching the Teachers: I-O in the High School Curriculum

Alice Stuhlmacher and Jane Halpert
DePaul University

Like many I-O psychologists, we spend a substantial amount of time explaining what I-O is all about. And, like other I-O psychologists, we each have a story of happening to stumble across the field. Further, as I-O faculty members, we have also seen our share of students accidentally discovering the field. This lack of awareness, even among psychology majors, was why we enthusiastically agreed to pull together a session about I-O for high school teachers of psychology. 

With the support of the SIOP Foundation, SIOP, Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) and APA, we offered a workshop for high school teachers of psychology at the SIOP convention in Chicago on Saturday April 3, 2004. In this article, we briefly share our experience to inform and to encourage further activities to increase awareness of the field.

Increasing Awareness

High school teachers have limited backgrounds in psychology, and many have no exposure to I-O. The workshop was designed to fill a gap in high school teachers knowledge of the field. The goals of session were to provide an overview of the history and core topics in the field along with examples of activities and demonstrations to spark student interest and learning in the field.

Many parties contributed to making the workshop a reality. Katherine Klein and the SIOP Education & Training Committee wrote the initial proposal for funding. The SIOP Foundation provided funding for the 4-hour workshop. APA Precollege Program promoted the event through mailings to high school teachers and Web postings. The SIOP office staff, and especially Lee Hakel, was invaluable in coordinating the space and logistics within the conference.

The Agenda

Based on conversations with high school teachers and others who have run workshops for teachers, we focused on providing information, activities, and resources that teachers could use readily. Our agenda was full.

  • Welcome by SIOP President Mike Burke
  • Introduction to the field
  • History (briefly) of I-O psychology
  • Discussion of how I-O could fit into existing introductory psychology curriculum
  • Demonstrations of two teaching exercises (One on the I side and one on the O side)
  • Review of teacher resources such as the SIOP modules, interesting Web sites, books, and journals
  • Questions and answers, evaluation, and closing


As it turned out, the SIOP conference fell during spring breaks and near the Easter holidays. This affected enrollment; however, the teachers that came were enthusiastic and hoped that the training could be offered to more teachers in the future. On a scale of 1 to 5, teachers agreed that their understanding of I-O was increased (M = 4.7), the information was useful (M = 4.2), they learned of useful resources (M =4.7), the sample activities were appropriate (M = 4.2), and that they were likely to increase I-O coverage in their classes (M =4.2). Even though only six teachers could attend our session, the impact is much broader. These teachers collectively teach more than 520 students in psychology a year. 

The Future

We are pleased that the E&T Committee, with the support from the SIOP Foundation, plans further outreach to high school teachers of psychology. SIOP, with the I-O teaching modules on the Web, already has material in place that high school teachers can use. In offering sessions at future SIOP conferences, we definitely encourage having a local I-O psychologist help with logistics and planning. It also is important to remember that, in reality, there is a lot of material to cover in introductory psychology. Teachers dont need more material but rather ideas on how to integrate I-O into an already full curriculum.

It also is important to explore other venues to reach introductory psychology teachers (perhaps at teaching conferences) and to create connections with local I-O groups or universities. Indeed, our participants were interested in having guest speakers and connections with local psychology programs.

It is exciting to help those who might inspire and inform others about I-O. We look forward to the growth of this initiative. We, as well as the SIOP Education & Training Committee, look forward to hearing any thoughts on teaching I-O in high school. Please contact Alice Stuhlmacher (astuhlma@depaul.edu) or Jane Halpert (jhalpert@depaul.edu) with any comments or questions.

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