APA Summit on High School Psychology Education

Courtesy of Weber State University

A weeklong summit on the teaching of high school psychology.

APA Summit on High School Psychology EducationJuly 9-14, 2017
Weber State University
Ogden, Utah

The American Psychological Association (APA) Education Directorate and the Board of Educational Affair's Steering Committee on a Summit on High School Psychology Education are pleased to announce the APA Summit on High School Psychology Education. The summit will be held on the beautiful campus of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, from July 9-14, 2017.

The goal of the summit is to promote the value, delivery, assessment and reach of psychological science through the teaching of high school psychology in order to plan for the best possible future for high school psychology education.

This summit is not structured like a typical conference where the primary goal of participants is to learn about or receive information. Participants will be expected to work toward accomplishing their working group’s outcome(s) and participate in advocating and disseminating the work after the conclusion of the summit. 

Why the Summit?

APA has convened a number of important national conferences on education and training in psychology, including two national conferences on undergraduate education in psychology, over the last three decades. This summit is the first national conference on high school psychology education.

High school psychology courses are frequently students' first — and maybe the only — formal exposure to the discipline. And their popularity grows. Enrollment in high school psychology courses continues to rise annually.

  • In 2015, nearly 277,000 students took the Advanced Placement psychology examination.
  • Also in 2015, more than 17,000 high school students worldwide either took the International Baccalaureate (IB) psychology exam or wrote their IB extended essay in psychology.
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009 (the most recent year of available data), nearly 30 percent of graduating students earned credits in a psychology course during their four years in high school (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).

Furthermore, high school psychology teachers play an important role in educating the public about psychological science.

The summit will address several important topics, including administrative, curricular and instructional matters. It will allow teachers, faculty and other stakeholders to discuss and recommend actions that could positively impact the teaching of high school psychology for years to come.

Areas of Focus

The summit will bring together approximately 60 participants who will work in eight separate working groups.

Each group will create specific outcomes related to their assigned strand. The steering committee also intends to produce an overarching publication to capture the summit deliberations and recommendations.

Psychology as a Science

Psychology is a science, but its recognition by the public, school administrators and other stakeholders is inconsistent. We will investigate where psychology belongs in the high school curriculum and make the case for psychology as science (e.g., for science credit at the high school level).

This group will develop a position paper regarding the role of psychology in the sciences and connect the current science standards (e.g., the Next Generation Science Standards) with the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula.

Skills That Promote Flourishing

This group will examine and recommend skills promoting emotional well-being (e.g., resilience and gratitude), metacognition (e.g., “study” skills), and employability (soft skills, such as cooperation).

Outcomes include activity development, assessment and rubrics relative to teaching activities, and a document outlining best practices.

National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula

This group will develop scientific core skills and practices in psychology and develop a framework for updating psychology’s content standards.

The next working group to update the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula will use the framework developed by this group to develop the next set of psychology standards aligned with guidelines for teaching introductory in psychology at postsecondary institutions.

Assessing Student Knowledge and Skills in Psychology

Assessment is integral to teaching and learning. This group will create:

  • Exemplars of best practices for assessment in the high school psychology course.
  • A guide to develop and plan assessments for high school psychology, including how to evaluate and use the data gathered.
  • A toolkit to promote scholarship of teaching and learning among high school teachers as a means for assessing and evaluating student learning.

Credentialing and Identifying the High School Psychology Teacher

The preparation of pre-service high school psychology teachers and the identification of current teachers are both critical to consider. This group’s outcomes include:

  • Templates with prompts to enable TOPSS members and regional networks of high school psychology teachers to craft state-based advocacy plans to:

a. Accept the high school psychology course for social studies and/or science credit.

b. Advocate a state-issued teaching credential for high school psychology for states where no credential currently exists, or assess the integrity of the current teaching credential in states where a credential currently exists.

  • A plan to create a state-by-state database of high school psychology teachers that includes data gathering, data input, and a plan to refresh the database every three years.

Ongoing Professional Development

This group will work to recommend online and in-person professional development opportunities for psychology teachers.

The group will work to develop templates for online professional development modules that will build content and pedagogical knowledge, and recommend both online and in-person professional development opportunities as needed.

Diversity and Access

The participants will consider issues of diversity in the teaching of high school psychology, including ways to promote greater awareness and understanding of diversity issues among high school psychology teachers and students.

The group will develop resources for teachers addressing diversity issues, such as implicit bias and stereotype threat, with high school psychology students.

They will also develop or recommend guidelines on how teachers can introduce and infuse diversity in all areas of teaching psychology; these guidelines will include psychology content, explanation of topics to address, and in-classroom resources.

Technology and Online Learning

This group will produce a document sharing best practices in the use of technology for high school psychology teachers. The document will include exemplar tools, apps and examples on how to use tools to enhance teaching and learning.

This group will also make recommendations regarding online teaching and increasing the reach of psychological science, particularly in rural or underserved areas.

Finally, this group will produce a list of useful technology tools that are pedagogically appropriate for teaching specific psychology concepts.


BEA Steering Committee

Co-chair: Randal M. Ernst, EdD, Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln, Neb. (retired); Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Neb.

Co-chair: Amy C. Fineburg, PhD, Jefferson County Schools, Birmingham, Ala.

Charles T. Blair-Broeker, MAT, Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa (retired); Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo, Iowa.

Regan A.R. Gurung, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, Wis.

Ladonna Lewis, PhD, Glendale Community College, Glendale, Ariz.

Yadira Sánchez, PsyD, Academia María Reina, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Daria Schaffeld, MA, Prospect High School, Mt. Prospect, Ill.

Kenneth A. Weaver, PhD, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kan.

Kristin H. Whitlock, MEd, Davis High School, Kaysville, Utah.

Weber State University Liaison

Eric Amsel, PhD, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah.

Summit Co-Leaders

Tina Athanasopoulos, MA, CAS, John Hersey High School, Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Elizabeth Yost Hammer, PhD, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans.

Tammy L. Hughes, PhD Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.

Rob McEntarffer, PhD Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Debra E. Park, MA, Rutgers University, Camden, N.J.

Steven D. Turner, MEd, Albemarle High School, Charlottesville, Va.

Brad Wray, Arundel High School, Gambrills, Md.

Contributing Sponsors

Platinum Contributing Sponsors

$10,000 and above
  • APA Board of Directors.
  • APA Board of Educational Affairs.
  • APA Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology).
  • American Psychological Foundation (APF/Education Directorate Lee Gurel Fund for Professional Development of High School Teachers of Psychology).
  • David and Carol Myers Foundation.
  • Weber State University (Office of the Provost and the College of Social and Behavioral Science).

Bronze Contributing Sponsors


  • Anonymous. 
  • APA Div. 9 (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues). 
  • APA Div. 14 (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology). 
  • APA Div. 54 (Society of Pediatric Psychology). 
  • APA Div. 56 (Division of Trauma Psychology). 
  • National Council for the Social Studies Psychology Community. 
  • Psi Beta. 
  • Utah Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools. 


  • APA Div. 8 (Society for Personality and Social Psychology). 
  • APA Div. 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology). 
  • APA Div. 15 (Educational Psychology). 
  • APA Div. 16 (School Psychology).

Please contact the APA Education Directorate if you would like to contribute to this summit.