The Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP): Internationalization during COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic upended our world and has had ongoing tragic consequences, especially in some parts of the world. But it has also highlighted our interconnectedness, from the devastating global spread of the disease to the remarkable efforts by international teams of scientists developing vaccines in record time. This international connectedness, highlighted by the pandemic, has affected teaching and learning, too, most notably by emphasizing stark inequities in access to education, but also inequities in access to the technology, healthcare, employment, and childcare that foster conditions that enhance learning.


In light of these challenges, those of us who teach psychology at the secondary and tertiary levels have had to reinvent ourselves pedagogically. But many of us have also forged new connections. Even as the pandemic prevented us from crossing international borders, it increased the globalization of teaching and learning in myriad ways. As many of us moved our teaching online, our students could be anywhere. As an instructor on the East Coast of the U.S., I now had students tuning in from all over the country and from several other countries as well. We faced the challenges of time zones, but benefited from perspectives beyond our region with students weighing in from California or Ontario, from Germany or Belgium. As COVID-related content entered our courses, the range of global perspectives deepened our (virtual) discussions.





It was during this upheaval that I became the 2021 president of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP). STP is both a freestanding organization and Division 2 of the American Psychological Association (APA). STP was founded in 1945 with the goal of supporting psychology teaching and learning at secondary and tertiary levels. As a division of APA, we were founded as a U.S.-focused organization; however, in 2010, STP restructured, and one of our five Vice Presidents now oversees the areas of diversity and international relations. That same year, STP also created a standing committee on international relations and a few years later appointed a Director of International Programming. Since these structural changes, our international reach has expanded somewhat. 7.5% of our official members are now from non-U.S. countries and almost half of the members of our public Facebook group are from outside of the U.S.


Before the pandemic, as we worked to grow our reach, STP collaborated with our international counterparts, including ESPLAT and AusPLAT (Australian Psychology Learning and Teaching). Members and leaders of these and other teaching organizations have joined each other’s organizations, attended each other’s conferences, collaborated on publications and presentations, and reviewed for each other’s journals. But as the pandemic eliminated in-person collaboration, even in our own cities, it felt as if a barrier had been lifted. If collaborations must be virtual, why limit our partners to those in close proximity? Time zones can be a challenge, but one that is surmountable. Moreover, much work can be done asynchronously.


One example of such barrier-breaking relates to the upcoming conferences of ESPLAT in early September, AusPLAT in mid-September, and STP in October. Leaders from these three organizations as well as from the European Federation of Psychology Teachers´ Associations (EFPTA) will participate in a panel titled Psychology Learning and Teaching Globally: Forging Connections Among Professional Organizations. Our discussion will focus on the roles that our organizations play in our professional lives, as well as ways in which international collaborations among us might benefit psychology learning and teaching. We will present virtually but synchronously from our four time zones at ESPLAT, and will record the session to play virtually and asynchronously at AusPLAT and STP’s Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT).


STP is eager for more partnerships like these and to forge relationships with our international colleagues. If you have an idea for a collaboration, please email me (susan.nolan@shu.edu) or the relevant person in our leadership (http://teachpsych.org/STPLeaders). Feel free to post announcements on our Facebook page about conferences or other teaching-related opportunities within ESPLAT or other psychology organizations. You also may email our Executive Director, Tom Pusateri (stp@teachpsych.org), to advertise opportunities in our newsletter.


Please also check out our website (http://teachpsych.org/) where you can learn how to become a member for US$25, but also find a wealth of free resources ranging from e-books to peer-reviewed syllabi. We are always seeking contributions, and hope to make these resources more international. You also may join our free public Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachpsych/). You might even consider attending the virtual parts of ACT (http://teachpsych.org/conferences/act.php) for US$50 for nonmembers, which includes membership. We at STP hope you’ll connect with us!


Susan A. Nolan is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, USA. Her favorite classes to teach are introductory psychology, abnormal psychology, international psychology, and statistics, and she co-authors statistics and introductory psychology textbooks. Susan is the 2021 President of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP), a past President of the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA), and a former representative from the American Psychological Association (APA) to the United Nations. Susan is a Fellow of EPA, APA, and the Association for Psychological Science, and was a 2015-2016 U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She received the 2020 Fukuhara Award for Advanced International Research and Service from the International Council of Psychologists.