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PRESENTATION ABSTRACT Poster presented at the Pre-conference Teaching Institute ‘Teaching Integrative Psychological Science’. Title: The psychology curriculum in European secondary schools: what should we teach? Presenter and Co-Author Information 1. Morag Williamson. Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland.<>. 2. Dorothy Coombs. Association for the Teaching of Psychology, UK.<>. 3. Renate Schrempf. Verband der Psychologielehrerinnen und –lehrer (German Association of Psychology Teachers).<> 4. Lenka Sokolová. Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia.<> Presenters/co-authors’ website The European Federation of Psychology Teachers’ Associations* (EFPTA) hosted this research.<> Background and aim This poster reports the findings from participatory action research into the nature of psychology curricula for 15-19-year-olds in Europe. At a conference held in Copenhagen in 2012, psychology teachers took part in focus groups discussing the purpose, content and development of the pre-tertiary psychology curriculum. In at least eight countries in Europe, psychological science is taught at pre-tertiary (pre-university) level, including qualifications conferring eligibility for entry to higher education (HE). A-level (England), International Baccalaureate, Abitur (Germany), SQA Higher (Scotland) and Matura (e.g. Slovakia, Switzerland) are some examples of such qualifications. These are predominantly academic courses, in which psychology is taught as a discrete subject, delivered mainly to 15-19 year-olds in secondary schools and further education colleges. The importance of pre-tertiary psychology has been highlighted by Robert Roe, president of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA), who said: ‘psychology is for EVERYONE.......a worthwhile aim for the future is to promote EU citizens’ psychological literacy through teaching psychology in secondary schools’ (2011). In contrast to the vast body of literature on the teaching of psychological science at university level, very little research has been conducted into pre-tertiary psychology education (PTPE), yet the sector is affected by a number of concerns: the subject is very popular (Walker, 2010), yet teacher education and professional development opportunities are often scarce, sometimes resulting in delivery of classes by non-specialist teachers; curriculum revisions are frequent in some countries, yet the involvement of teachers and students is limited; in making the transition from school to university-level psychology, students often find that the university first-year curriculum repeats the content they have studied at school; some governments require universities to take the lead in developing pre-tertiary curricula, yet teachers tend to see school education as being multi-purpose, not just for preparing students for university study (Radford, 2008). The current research aimed to discover psychology teachers’ views on existing and future pre-university psychology curricula. It is a small-scale, exploratory study of a much-neglected though very important area of psychology education. Method At a conference of the European Federation of Psychology Teachers’ Associations (EFPTA)* which took place in Copenhagen in April 2012, roundtable workshops were held to discuss curriculum issues. Consent was obtained from conference participants to audio-record discussions and use the data for the purpose of this research. 47 participants from 10 countries took part, in three parallel groups. Most were teachers at pre-university level; a small number were involved in some other way in PTPE (e.g. psychology teacher educators, educational psychologists, researchers in the field of psychology education). Discussion was prompted by a semi-structured schedule of open-ended questions on key aspects of curriculum. Results and conclusions Thematic analysis was applied to the qualitative data; a number of themes / sub-themes emerged. There was substantial agreement on the purposes and content of psychology courses in schools, however the need for dialogue amongst teachers, students, national education bodies and other stakeholders was frequently emphasised; the voices of teachers and students were not always heeded. Although this study was modest in its aims and scale, key areas of concern in PTPE have been highlighted. The authors suggest questions for much-needed further research. * EFPTA exists to promote contact and collaborative activity amongst psychology teachers and students across national boundaries, and is affiliated to EFPA.
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