How to use them for quality teaching

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In February 2023, APA approved the revised APA Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology. You may be asking yourself, “Wait, didn’t I just hear about the Guidelines for the Undergraduate Major in Psychology being updated and approved in August? Are these principles the same thing?” As members of the APA Quality Principles Task Force, we are here to explain how the Quality Principles are different from (and complementary to) the Guidelines, and describe how implementing them can help you as a psychology educator.

The difference between the Guidelines and Quality Principles

In brief, the Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major focuses on recommended curricular goals and student learning outcomes for associate and baccalaureate psychology degree programs. The Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology (referred to as Quality Principles for simplicity) describe specific goals and actions that faculty members, departments, and programs can engage in to create research-backed high quality and inclusive learning environments.

Further, the Guidelines and Quality Principles are specifically designed to be used in conjunction with each other. The Quality Principles provides specific and practical recommendations for developing and continuously evaluating faculty knowledge and expertise in content, pedagogy, and EDI commitment, and program quality and effectiveness across similar domains. These faculty and program recommendations aim to encourage the best practices needed to prepare students to meet expected learning outcomes. Think Guidelines for curricular goals, Quality Principles for environment.

Why did the Quality Principles need to be updated? What changed?

Just as syllabi need to be regularly updated based on the most recent research and advances in pedagogy, the Quality Principles need to be updated to reflect recent shifts in the field of psychology. As psychologists, we pride ourselves on evidence-based practices, and the same should be said for the principles that guide our programs and departments. The last iteration of the Quality Principles was approved and adopted by APA in 2011. The 2011 Quality Principles had many effective practices, but after 12 years, a clear need for growth from the original foundation was needed. After meeting and discussing the 2011 Quality Principles, the APA Principles Task Force decided that the focus should be narrower (to avoid overlap with Guidelines 3.0) and include specific recommendations to guide faculty and program policies and practices. Accordingly, the revised version of the Quality Principles has been streamlined to consist of two overarching principles with a total of 15 recommendations, focusing on encouraging culturally responsive effective educators and programs that prepare students to be well-informed lifelong learners.

How can I use the Quality Principles now?

As mentioned earlier, the two main principles focus on 1) educators and their pedagogy, and 2) psychology programs more broadly. As a psychology educator, Quality Principle (QP) 1 and its six recommendations will be most relevant to you. The overarching goal of QP 1 is “Faculty members strive to be ethical (APA, 2017a), culturally responsive scientist–educators who use their educational background, ongoing professional development, pedagogical expertise, and lived experience to teach, mentor, and support students with diverse and intersecting identities” (APA, 2023, p 10.) The six recommendations under QP 1 expand on those goals and provide actionable steps for both pedagogical and professional development improvements.

We suggest reading through the whole document (which can be found here) and then setting personal and professional goals with specific time frames in which you want to achieve them. For instance, if a faculty member wants to be better at engaging in ongoing assessment of their own instructional practice, they might set a goal to create an anonymous midterm evaluation for one class this term. The next step could be to create quantifiable goals (e.g., increasing the percentage of students who agree or strongly agree that assessments align with course learning objectives). Once you have clear goals in mind, we suggest reading the Guidelines 3.0 for more curriculum and pedagogy specific resources. Another option is to encourage your program to review and discuss QP 2 and to engage in a similar process of setting goals and monitoring progress toward them.

Overall, the Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology is meant to be a helpful tool that psychology educators and programs can use, in conjunction with Guidelines 3.0, to become effective educators of psychology students. Creating a learning environment and core curriculum that aligns with the Quality Principles will create a better future for psychology students and the communities where they lead and serve.


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