APA Summit on High School Psychology Education

Participants in 2017 Summit

A weeklong summit on the teaching of high school psychology.

APA Summit on High School Psychology Education

In recognition of the importance of high school psychology as the start of the pipeline into the discipline, the first-ever APA Summit on High School Psychology Education was held July 9-14, 2017, at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. The mission of the summit was to create the best future for high school psychology education. A total of 70 psychology educators from high schools, community colleges and undergraduate psychology programs participated in the summit. Read about the summit in the APA Monitor on Psychology magazine or in the Psychology Teacher Network newsletter. Videos of the summit keynote addresses are provided at the bottom of this page.

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 was 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. (PDF, 503KB)

  • In 2017, more than 302,000 students took the Advanced Placement psychology examination.
  • Also in 2017, more than 20,000 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 addressed several important topics, including administrative, curricular and instructional matters. It allowed teachers, faculty and other stakeholders to discuss and recommend actions that could positively impact the teaching of high school psychology for years to come.

Summit Objectives

The mission of the summit was to create the best future for high school psychology education.

The summit had the following goals:

1. Strengthen the value of psychological science through the teaching of high school psychology.

2. Strengthen the delivery and assessment of psychological science through the teaching of high school psychology.

3. Strengthen the reach of psychological science through the teaching of high school psychology.

The summit had the following objectives to meet the goals above:

1. Make the case that high school psychology is and should be considered a science.

2. Articulate what skills students gain through a high school psychology course, how these skills prepare students for success in college and careers, and how teachers can promote these skills to students.

3. Develop a framework for the next revision of the APA National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula that considers psychology concepts and practices along with content.

4. Recommend best practices in assessment in order to enhance high school psychology teachers’ ability to accurately measure student knowledge and skills in their psychology classes.

5. Identify high school psychology teachers and promote quality in teacher credentialing so that teachers are prepared to teach the course properly as specified by APA’s National Standards.

6. Recommend and support high quality professional development opportunities for high school psychology teachers.

7. Develop a blueprint for enhancing diversity in high school psychology to diversify the pipeline into psychology, ensure that diversity concepts are addressed at both a content and interpersonal level, and increase access to psychology as broadly as possible.

8. Promote best practices in the use of technology and high school psychology education and make recommendations on how technology can best support high school psychology teaching and learning. 

Areas of Focus

The summit brought together 70 participants who worked in eight separate working groups.

Each group worked to 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.

Summit Deliverables

During the summit, the eight working groups developed teaching resources and made recommendations to advance the mission of the summit. Published summit deliverables and outcomes related to the summit are listed below; more will be published throughout 2018.


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, NJ

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)
  • APA Education Directorate  
  • 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
  • The College Board
  • Utah Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools


  • APA Div. 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology)
  • APA Div. 15 (Educational Psychology)
  • APA Div. 16 (School Psychology)
  • Bedford, Freeman, and Worth Publishers
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology

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

2017 Summit Keynote Videos

Summit Opening Remarks

Opening remarks on July 9, 2017, from the APA Summit on High School Psychology Education.

High School Psychology: A Long and Winding Road

Charlie Blair-Broeker, MAT, Hawkeye Community College, delivered an address on July 9, 2017, at the APA Summit on High School Psychology Education.

Introducing Diverse Perspectives in High School Psychology: Sources and Content

Tammy L. Hughes, PhD, Duquesne University, delivered an address on July 10, 2017, at the APA Summit on High School Psychology Education.

Teaching Psychological Science in a Post-Truth Age

David Myers, PhD, Hope College, delivered an address on July 13, 2017, at the APA Summit on High School Psychology Education.