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Fostering Coverage of I-O in High School Psychology Courses

Doug Maynard
State University of New York at New Paltz

As part of a talk on I-O in the introductory psychology course at SIOP in April, I asked audience members when they first heard of our field. No one (out of about 15 SIOP members) had heard of I-O prior to taking introductory psychology. Surprisingly, no one learned about I-O while taking that introductory psychology course either. This suggests that part of our visibility problem may be addressed by ensuring that students learn of I-O while taking their first course in psychology. For more and more students, this first course is high school, not college; this includes students who do not then attend college.

Over the past academic year, the High School Outreach Subcommittee of the SIOP Education and Training (E&T) Committee has worked on improving the visibility of our field within high school-level psychology courses. This article serves as a report of the subcommittees work during the year and outlines some ways in which SIOP members can get involved.

As chair, I would like to begin by thanking the hard-working members of the High School Outreach Subcommittee (in alphabetical order): Elise Amel, Adrienne Bauer, Alexandra Luong, and Tahira Probst. Other SIOP members have helped in various ways, including Laura Koppes and past subcommittee members Alice Stuhlmacher and Jane Halpert. Student affiliate Rachel Fetters provided enthusiastic assistance and was our sixth member. For most of our initiatives, we worked closely with Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS); past chair Debra Park and current chair Amy Fineburg both made working with TOPSS a pleasure. Both SIOP and TOPSS provided financial assistance. Finally, thanks to Steven Rogelberg for his leadership as E&T Chair.

The Unit Lesson Plan

We noticed that, on their Web site, TOPSS offered their members access to unit lesson plans in various areas of psychology but that I-O was not one of these plans. The past and current chairs of TOPSS were both very interested in having us develop such a lesson plan, and the committee is currently working on this.

The materials will include a 7-day plan on I-O topics and is being written to be representative rather than comprehensive. One lesson will provide an overview of the field, and the other six will each tackle a specific topic, such as justice or leadership. Although some material is being adapted from the SIOP instructors modules (http://www.siop.org/Instruct/inGuide.aspx) for the high school level, the unit lesson plan will contain mostly new material. Each lesson will include notes, transparency masters, and relevant critical thinking exercises and demonstrations. Suggested readings will also be presented at the end.

The Workshop

We also wanted to find some way to connect with the teachers themselves. Last year, the subcommittee put together a workshop in Chicago to coincide with the SIOP conference. This workshop was designed to help inform teachers about our fieldmany of whom may have never themselves had any coursework in I-Oand to provide resources that could easily be implemented into their courses. Although attendance was light, teacher reactions to the workshop were positive. 

This year, we learned of a TOPSS-sponsored, all-day workshop for teachers of psychology in central New Jersey and were invited to give a guest presentation on our field. About 25 high school teachers registered for the workshop, and we had their undivided attention for an hour. Here was our agenda:

  • Introduction to the field and careers within I-O
  • Demonstration of an activity on contrast effects in applicant evaluation, with suggestions for use and integration into their courses
  • Discussion of two hot topics in I-O (organizational justice and OCB) along with tie-ins to traditional introductory topics, critical thinking exercises, and other resources (e.g., videos)
  • A packet of resources including everything discussed up to that point, along with a SIOP brochure and information about the SIOP modules and introductory textbooks with good I-O coverage
  • Question and answer session

We have been asked to write an article based on our presentation for the Psychology Teacher Network, a quarterly publication published by the Education Directorate of the APA.

What Can You Do?

If you are interested in helping to secure a place for I-O in the high school psychology curriculum, there are a couple of things you can do. First of all, you can join the E&T Committee and express an interest in joining the High School Outreach Subcommittee. There are many ways in which we can positively impact high schools and would appreciate your input.

In addition, TOPSS is creating a Speakers Bureau of psychologists who are interested in volunteering to either visit local high school psychology classes to speak with students about their work and career or to allow high school psychology students to tour their labs and facilities. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with teachers and students and share with them our passion for the field of I-O. If you are interested in participating in the TOPSS Speakers Bureau, please contact Emily Leary at eleary@apa.org or (202) 572-3013. Please include your name, contact information, location, and area of expertise or experience.

We welcome any thoughts or insights on this subject. Please contact Elise Amel elamel@stthomas.edu), the incoming chair of the subcommittee, with any comments or questions.

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