Researcher says “cultural expression starts in early childhood”

One of the ethical standards for psychologists is to provide culturally sensitive services. Multicultural Guidelines have also been developed in the past (see below) after the ethics code was revised in 2002.

  • Guideline 1: Psychologists are encouraged to recognize that, as cultural beings, they may hold attitudes and beliefs that can detrimentally influence their perceptions of and interactions with individuals who are ethnically and racially different from themselves.
  • Guideline 2: Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the importance of multicultural sensitivity/responsiveness to, knowledge of and understanding about ethnically and racially different individuals.
  • Guideline 3: As educators, psychologists are encouraged to employ the constructs of multiculturalism and diversity in psychological education.
  • Guideline 4: Culturally sensitive psychological researchers are encouraged to recognize the importance of conducting culture-centered and ethical psychological research among persons from ethnic, linguistic, and racial minority backgrounds.
  • Guideline 5: Psychologists are encouraged to apply culturally appropriate skills in clinical and other applied psychological practices.
  • Guideline 6: Psychologists are encouraged to use organizational change processes to support culturally informed organizational (policy) development and practice.

diversityGiven the growing diversity of the population, it’s more important than ever before to be “culturally competent.” Culturally competency has been defined as a system that acknowledges the importance of and incorporates culture, assessment of cross-cultural relations, vigilance toward the dynamics that result from cultural difference, expansion of cultural knowledge, and adaptation of interventions to meet the culturally unique needs at all levels of service (Whaley & Davis, 2007). During a session (chaired by Shamin Ladhani, PsyD) titled Culturally Sensitivity in Health: Health Psychology’s Role, Health Beliefs, and Assessment (held on Saturday morning), the presenters discussed key components of being culturally sensitive in a health care setting and outlined practical approaches to meeting the needs of a diverse population.

Tips to be more culturally sensitive may include:

  • Understanding communication methods
  •  Recognizing and responding to language barriers
  •  Clarifying cultural identification
  • Identifying religious and spiritual beliefs
  • Managing your own biases and prejudice
  • Being aware of your body language and privilege

diversity2All of these aspects of cultural sensitivity are important. The panel also highlighted that we need to be careful about not recognizing variation and diversity within ethnic groups. For example, Gurung noted that Latino might include individuals who are Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Cuban or Dominican. Each of these groups has its own traditions, beliefs and rituals that may affect how you work with members to address their needs. According to Regan Gurung, PhD, “cultural expression is a developmental process that starts in early childhood.” Given the developmental nature of cultural expression, you can imagine that for anyone different from someone else could have a different world view on causes and coping for a particular concern.

Lunch with the Masters

Dr. David Songco and Dr. John Norcross

Dr. David Songco (right) and Dr. John Norcross

Many of my fellow convention bloggers have posted their reasons why the APA convention is the best convention to attend. While I do not have a list of reasons, I do have one experience that I believe will inspire any graduate student or early career psychologist (ECP) to attend.

APA’s Division 29 — Division of Psychotherapy — hosted its annual “Lunch with the Masters.” It was an incredible opportunity for graduate students and early career psychologists to engage in an informal dialogue with leading experts and role models in the field. Notable guests included Pamela Hays (author of Creating Well-being and Connecting Across Cultures), Joseph White (“godfather” of black psychology), Raymond DiGiuseppe (author of A Practitioner’s Guide to Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy) and John Norcross (author of Changeology – 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions) among many others.

Lunch with the Masters

Lunch with the Masters

During this “Lunch with the Masters,” graduate students and ECPs had the opportunity to take a break and have an informal conversation about their career aspirations, and also ask the “masters” about their career development, personal passions in the field of psychology and their professional journey.

As an added perk, Division 29 and many of the masters provided their books to be raffled to all the students and ECPs in attendance. I walked away with John Norcross’ book, which he was more than happy to sign.DSC_0026

As an early career psychologist, I found it a wonderful opportunity to network and be surrounded by so many like-minded individuals. Each of the masters was willing to listen, encourage and ask about our personal desires and passions. The ability to connect with successful psychologists in such a personal way has been one of the most beneficial experiences that I have had here at the APA convention.

Have you had any pivotal interactions or moments during this conference? Please share them in the comments below.

Social Justice and MOOCs

As part of the amazing diversity that APA convention offers, I had a chance yesterday to make some comparisons across topics that I might not always think about in the same day. I went to a fantastic and thought-provoking session on Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech to APA, and later I went to a talk by James Pennebaker on his experience with MOOCs [massive open online courses]. That I experienced them so close together, as well as some of Pennebaker’s points, led me to consider the social justice implications of MOOCs.

I will start with the positives, as Pennebaker’s talk was mostly positive, and I thought he made some excellent points in favor of his version of a MOOC — the SMOC, or synchronized massive open course.

University of Texas Tower and Littlefield FountainFirst, Pennebaker has always struck me as a curious, insightful and humane researcher, and his approach to his class was no exception. He professed to love teaching intro psychology (he mentioned it as being part of his contract when he came to UTexas). He applied his scientific curiosity and experimental openness to his own class, experimenting with different technologies and approaches to student learning. When approached by Stanford professors to try a MOOC, he was open to the research opportunities it presented.

Second, Pennebaker noted the benefits of collaboration with teaching, finding the back and forth interactions with his co-teacher Sam Gosling incredibly rewarding. He described both Gosling and himself clearing their fall travel schedules so that they could be present for these classes, in a way that they had not done previously. The collaboration clearly freshened up the experience of teaching intro psych for both of them.

176722241Third, Pennebaker paid particular attention to how different social classes did in his SMOC, first noting that differential academic performance by socioeconomic status is a huge problem in intro classes (what he called Big Old Classes, or BOC) and then being optimistic that his SMOC approach seems to particularly help this group of students. I think Pennebaker should be commended for this attention to “telling it like it is,” at least on the baseline of how students performed in previous iterations of intro psych. He also noted the different academic performance of lower SES students as a social scientific puzzle. These students often enter the University of Texas looking great on paper (top 5 percent of their class, etc.) but flail early on in classes. One of the big positives (although tentative) of this class was that Pennebaker noted that lower SES students actually did better in their other classes,both during and after taking this class. Pennebaker speculated that this was likely due to the daily quizzes, instilling good habits (and providing frequent feedback) among students who had likely gotten by without deeper conceptual understanding in (what Pennebaker guessed) lower quality high schools.

Now, the negatives (in terms of social justice). I think the best illustration was an interaction during the question period. There were two, in my mind related, questions. Pennebaker answered one question, “Should I do this with my 30 person class?” with, no, this is a replacement for BOCs. And another question, “Are you able to provide real writing feedback?” with “no, not really, but we weren’t able to do that in the past with 500-person lectures either.” In regard to the writing, he was hopeful that algorithmic approaches like his LIWC [linguistic inquiry and word count] program might in the future be able to offer some rudimentary feedback. So, Pennebaker seems cautious in whether this SMOC should replace courses which are not BOC, big lecture courses. But yet, a few moments later, he expressed excitement about expanding the course, and “moving into the AP market.” This is a huge problem with MOOCs, piloting on high-achieving University of Texas students (even lower SES ones) and then seeking to scale well beyond, in the hope of saving money. I am sure Pennebaker’s and Gosling’s course is a wonderful experience, but I am equally sure that all the online community building and fancy analytics won’t replace the expertise and humanity of a skilled high school Psychology teacher like Steve Jones or Maria Vita.

Related to this negative, I often find that excitement about MOOCs or flipped classrooms is often as much a testament to what they are comparing them to: often poor-quality lectures and inattention to teaching. Pennebaker himself noted how important the daily quizzes are, as well as the interaction between himself and Gosling. Each of these is not a feature of a MOOC, but a discovery of old pedagogical techniques.

In closing, I am still a MOOC skeptic, but I was impressed by some of Pennebaker’s findings, if a little disturbed by his vision of a future of higher education dominated by celebrity superprofessors. I hope that going forward, Pennebaker and his fellow MOOC teachers will recognize that these courses that they are building are not merely fun pedagogical experiments, but are being “weaponized” in a way, in a massive paradigm shift in academic labor (and K-12, too, as his AP comment notes). Pennebaker’s and Gosling’s course might be a wonderful experience, but I don’t think psychology as a whole is improved by an increased reliance on big star celebrities as we further diminish high school psychology teachers, or even teaching of psychology in smaller places like where I teach. Dr. King noted that social scientists have escaped the guilt of the physicists in designing the atomic bomb, but I worry that perhaps in 20 years, we may look back in regret at some of these bold experiments in pedagogy, not seeing the damage that they could do to the profession of teaching psychology.

Some Convention Tips and My (Best Laid) Plans

I thought I would share a few convention-attending strategies that I have developed over the years, as well as my own plans for the sessions that seem interesting. Please share your own in the comments below.

First, I plan, but not too much. If I use a convention book, I will highlight or circle talks and posters that I want to go to, but leave myself some choice to see what I feel like in the moment. I also try to be aware that even if I am interested in *all the things,* my poor limited brain will be unable to concentrate for eight straight hours. So programming in breaks helps, or sometimes just skipping a session is necessary for me to maintain adequate attention to make the other sessions worthwhile. I also think a vital part of conferences is making time to talk to people outside the sessions. This is one area in which I have enjoyed using Twitter at conferences, to connect with people in a back-channel way, see what people are interested in and see people’s reactions to the talks and posters they are attending.

As far as a strategy on which kinds of events to attend, I try to get a good mix of many different types of talks and experiences. I attend some scholarship of teaching and learning talks, some research summaries, some practical job help talks (tenure, work-life balance, etc). Finally, I think it is important to attend some talks, especially at a conference such as APA, that just look interesting, but don’t fit into any of my research interests, or typical teaching examples, or any other neat categories. Allowing for moments of spontaneity and serendipity are part of what makes conferences worth it for me.

So, for this convention, I’ve mapped out some of the sessions I am interested in (these are  all on Friday). I thought I would give just a brief sentence or two to indicate why I am interested. I am already wishing I could be two places at once, as you can see, I’ll have some tough choices to make.

Cedar playing catch with Cedar

Here I am very busy in graduate school (playing with photostitching software)

Friday 9 a.m.

A comprehensive examination of resilience (High Risk/Extreme Environments)

Two years ago, I taught a first-year seminar at Randolph-Macon entitled “Kids these Days.” It was a yearlong interdisciplinary course taught with a partner in the English department. She was an expert in children’s literature, and I taught my portion of the course as a history of psychology, viewing historical approaches in psychology through the lens of how they treated and explained children. We read about resilience, and students (and I) found it quite interesting. I am curious about continuing research in this topic. You can read more about the course on my blog. (Convention Center, Room 103B)

Scholarship of teaching and learning across the faculty lifespan

I am always interested in integrating the scholarship of teaching and learning into my classroom, both for my own research in the classroom, but also to apply it to my pedagogical choices. This approach (how does this change as I become more senior) looks interesting. (Convention Center, Room 146B)

Friday 10 a.m.

How psychologists think about environmental issues

I think it is fascinating to see how psychology is applied to hot contemporary issues that many think do not have an immediate application. Environmentalism and climate change are a great example of how psychological science has a broad reach. I am eager to learn more about this. (Convention Center, Room 302)

Neuroimaging in the courtroom: Promises and perils in the coming decade

Many of my students are interested in psychology and legal issues, and I think this is a fascinating topic. I am in general a skeptic of applications of neuroimaging, as I wrote here, but I am open to hearing more. I’ll also add that I have heard Scott Lilienfeld speak a few times and have always learned something new, even when he is talking about something about which I am quite familiar.  (Convention Center, Room 101)

Martin Luther King Jr. and APA — The legacy of his 1967 speech

This looks like a fascinating session. I did not know that Martin Luther King Jr. had given a speech to the American Psychological Association, and I see that one of the presenters (Dr. Nathaniel Granger Jr, a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar and performer), will be doing a re-enactment and performance of the speech. I hope they have a big room, because I think this will be great. (Convention Center, Room 150A)

Friday 11 a.m.

SAW Woman of the Year – Libby Nutt WIlliams, Ph.D. – The joy of juggling: Ingredients for work-life balance

My wife and I had twin boys when I was a fourth-year doctoral student. When I received my PhD (in my seventh year), my daughter was only 3 months old. Now my wife is entering a doctoral program herself at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. So, yes, work-life balance is a perennial issue. I have made many decisions in favor of spending time with my family, but I know that I am often blinded by the many dimensions of my privilege to the struggles that many face in achieving work-life balance. When I attend these sessions, it is as much for finding tools and strategies for improving my own work-life balance as to remind myself the barriers that others face, and thinking about ways that I might be able to facilitate better balance for others if I find myself in a position to do so.

Deconstructing promotion and tenure – a re-examination of the faculty review process

I just received tenure at the beginning of this summer. While I am happy to have it behind me, I also have thoughts on the process, both at my institution and in general. I am curious about what this panel will discuss, given that this is a topic that is so often political, vague and quite opaque.

Beyond social media – technology tools every student should use

As the new director of our first-year program at Randolph-Macon, I am eager to expand my knowledge of the critical skills and competencies that college students should acquire. I am often amazed that while we may think that our entering students are “digital natives,”  they are often more unfamiliar than we are with even basic elements of technology. This session (should I be able to attend it) should fill me in on some technologies and websites outside of social media that can be helpful for students.

Friday 1 p.m.

Address by MIchael McCrea: Scientific update on sport related concussions: What does the evidence tell us

I am very interested in this, both because I often teach student athletes, and also because my own children are athletes. My boys play soccer, and we watched some horrific looking head injuries earlier this summer during the World Cup, only to see the player quickly get up and go on playing. I am also on the board of my local youth soccer organization, and I hope to be able to pass on scientific insight to my fellow board members and our volunteer coaches.

During the 2-4 p.m. block, I have a meeting scheduled with a colleague to talk about a new project. And perhaps a brief nap or maybe just staring off into space.

Friday 4 p.m.

Capstone experiences in psychology

I currently teach the capstone experience in our psychology department, which is entitled “Systems and Theories of Contemporary Psychology” and is in fact a history and philosophy of science class. I love the history of psychology (I was even a history of science major in college) but students often find this course a bit jarring in that it is different from some of their previous psychology courses. However, I love teaching with Stanovich’s “How to Think Straight About Psychology,” and guiding seniors in some reflection about what makes a psychology major so great. I am hoping to get some more tools and strategies here, and learn what other people do in their capstone courses.

Rethinking massive online classes: The educational, social and economic upsides

I am a MOOC skeptic. What I take that to mean is that I see MOOCs as an excellent supplement to (and even in some cases, replacement for) a traditional college textbook. However, I am highly dubious that a MOOC could come anywhere close to replacing a teacher. I am also wary of pretending we are scaling up to reduce educational costs or solving large educational problems in front of us, when we are merely providing new educational enrichment to the already educationally enriched, what the inestimable Tressie McMillan Cottom refers to as wandering autodidacts. There is a lot of great writing about this, from the excellent Jonathan Rees, but I am curious to see what two excellent teachers of psychology, James Pennebaker and Sam Gosling have to say about their experience.

Friday 5 p.m.

Psychology and Astronauts

Are you kidding me? How could I not turn up for the Right Stuff? I love the example of NASA as a place most people might not expect to have psychologists, whereas in fact there are a wealth of psychological problems, and interesting psychological research. People also often forget that the first A in NASA is Aeronautic — meaning civil aeronautics and commercial aviation. NASA researchers have helped with the design of many air traffic control towers and even in the processes of air traffic control itself. It is a great way of expanding students’ definitions of psychology, as well as a way to see how psychology is out of this world. This panel will talk about behavioral health and performance in high-risk/extreme environments for astronauts. I am really looking forward to hearing what they have to say, and sharing it with students and anyone who will listen to me blabber on about psychology.

What are some sessions you are looking forward to? How do you handle wanting to be two places at once? I’d love to hear your tips and interests in the comments.