Environmental psychology and community psychology both focus on improving the quality of people’s lives and both use interdisciplinary approaches to research and practice. However, community psychology is more concerned with the socially constructed environment than with the natural environment.
Like social work, community psychology is concerned with multiculturalism and social welfare, and, like clinical psychology, the results of planned interventions are designed to promote wellness. However, community psychology has a greater research orientation than social work, and is more likely than clinical psychology to promote treatment options that require societal change rather than individual change.
This approach utilizes open-ended or minimally structured questions that allow flexibility and the chance to explore ideas or issues that the researcher did not anticipate in designing the study. This method has advantages over participant observation in that data collection is more standardized and can be recorded for subsequent reanalysis. In addition, the interviewer can develop an authentic relationship with the participants. One disadvantage is the time required of the participants, which can exclude participants in marginalized groups or demanding circumstances (see Campbell & Wasco, 2000).
Although there is a great diversity among quantitative methods, those used by community psychologists share the following common features. Researchers use quantitative methods to measure differences between variables and the strength of the relation among variables. In community psychology, this allows for numerical comparisons across behavioral contexts with the goal of understanding cause-and-effect relations. The advantage to the community psychologist is that these methods may identify social conditions that have predictable consequences. Another important feature of quantitative methods is that they allow for generalization beyond the individual or group being sampled to the population that the group represents. Finally, the quantitative approach has led to the development of standardized measures that provide reliable, valid predictions across studies.
Participant observation, qualitative interviewing, focus groups, and case studies are all qualitative methods used by community psychologists. Most of these methods have the following common features: contextual meaning, which is the quest to understand the meaning of a phenomenon for those who experience it; a personal, mutual relationship between researcher and participant; sampling procedures that include close relationships; active listening and the use of open-ended questions; reflexivity, which requires researchers to be open about their personal agenda; and a data-collection process that promotes checking with participants and acknowledges multiple interpretations of the data.
Until the 1990s, however, little research has been devoted to examining psychology education from the international perspective. 1990-1999 was a period when many publications began to shed light on the national practices in psychology teaching and training. Then, the more global and more purposeful coverage of the topic in publications and research projects appeared. A series of international conferences on psychology education was successfully initiated at the onset of 21th Century. A special issue on international practices in teaching psychology was published in the IUPsyS flagship publication, International Journal of Psychology (2006). The two volumes of Teaching Psychology around the World (2007, 2009) covered the topic from thoroughly international perspectives. Currently, there are a number of compelling arguments for generating a greater understanding and appreciation of the na¬ture of undergraduate and graduate psychology and of how it is taught around the world. In my presentation I will overview the retrospective of international endeavors and talk about global perspectives in the field of psychology education.
Community Psychology is a branch of psychology that examines the ways individuals interact with other individuals, social groups, societal institutions, the larger culture, and the environment. The focus is on how individuals and communities can work together to provide a healthy and sustainable environment. Because of its applied focus, it is different from other areas of psychology in a number of ways, including areas of interest, research methods used, level of analysis employed, and the nature of the interventions that are developed. Community psychology is concerned with social institutions, social issues, and social problems. Research in community psychology explores such topics as poverty, substance abuse, school failure, homeless-ness, empowerment, diversity, delinquency, aggression, and violence.
Unlike many other branches of psychology, community psychology makes no pretense of being value-free. Community psychologists reflect on their personal values, bring their values to the forefront of their work, and acknowledge the effect their values have on what they do. Community psychologists understand that values can influence how we frame research questions. More important, values are an important determinant of human action.
Why We Teach: Education for Psychological Literacy and Critical Thinking
Sometimes, it is easy for even the most dedicated faculty to lose sight of the why question that should be guiding decisions about teaching. Here are a few examples of teaching-related questions that we have all pondered: Do I really want to use essay questions when it means that I will spend many hours grading and then deal with student complaints about their grades? Should I spend more class time on a topic like research methods that most students find boring or should I move on to topics they prefer such as sex, love, depression, and happiness? How can I get students to see that psychology can be a practical subject that they should be using in their daily lives? This is just a small sample of the many questions that implicitly or explicitly guide the way and the “what” of teaching. It is easy to get bogged down in the mundane issues that confront us as college faculty, but if we rethink the reasons why we teach, these questions become easier to answer, and the daily hassles of our professional lives will seem more like opportunities. By focusing on psychological literacy, which is the idea that students need to be able to recognize and use the basic tenets of psychology-using research as a way of answering questions, understanding how classical and newer theories like cognitive dissonance and stereotype threat operate in everyday life, and applying core concepts as a way of guiding their actions, students will become psychologically literate. As global citizens our students will need to know and use psychological research and theories, and they will need to know how to think critically so that they can use their knowledge of psychology wisely.
Over the past two decades, psychology has become global and is focusing special attention to international develop¬ments. Internationalization of psychological knowledge has increased dramatically, not only in research but also in psychology teaching and training. Interest to psychology education has been growing rapidly in many countries.
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