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Month: September 2011

Past Division 15 in the Brain!

Past Division 15 in the Brain!

Discuss how you came to be the President of Division 15.  Why did you agree? What other issues did you have to consider before agreeing to be President?

BA:  There were a lot of issues, but when they asked me, I said, “yes, because it is a major honor.”  When I ran the first time, I did not win, which is fairly typical. But, they were encouraging, and I think they waited a year or so and they asked me again.  I said, “yes,” again, and I won.

I really think that, unlike some of our Division 15 Presidents who are just outstanding, brilliant scholars, and highly productive, I probably won because about five years before that they had a person who chaired the Fellows Committee who got no Fellows at all. So, the President asked me if I would chair the Fellows Committee, and I said, “yes.”  We got a large number of nominees. I did that for the three years I was chair, and so we must have gotten about 25 or 30 Fellows over those years.  When you have that many people becoming Fellows and that many people who are nominating them and making recommendations for them, you get to be known fairly widely.

From your perspective, what was the state of Division 15 before and during your presidency?

BA:  Well, Division 15 always had gotten along on a pretty minimal budget. As I recall it was $1,300 or $1,400 dollars per year, and the Executive Committee allocated it as best they could.  So nobody had a lot.  Everybody tried to do things cheaply. About the time I became President-elect was the time that the Handbook of Educational Psychology was proposed. One of the first things I did was go to the two men who would be the co-editors and say, “I am going to give you every possible support I can during the three years that I am President-elect, President, and Past-president.” One of the things the co-editors did about the second year was say, “You know we may make some money on this thing. You had better start figuring out how you are going to spend it.” It was totally unheard of and a relatively huge amount of money compared to what we had. So I think theHandbook of Educational Psychology was the big thing that, although I really did not have much to do with starting it, I certainly was there to help support it. We started to think about where we might start to use some of the money, and that resulted in other publications. So what really has made the Division prominent in the last 20 years is all the books, pamphlets, and writings that have come out as a result. We finally had enough resources to take some chances and they have worked nicely.

Based on your experience as a researcher and President, what were the salient issues in Educational Psychology around that time?

BA:  As a research methodologist, the thing I noticed then and later as much as anything else, was meta-analysis. The physical and biological sciences have always been able to relate their results across studies and build more inclusive theories. The behavioral and social sciences were never really able to do this in any good way. Gene Glass, who is a Division 15 Member and Fellow, really developed the meta-analysis of experiments. (Industrial Psychologists developed the meta-analysis of correlational data.) It was Glass who developed meta-analysis in Education and Educational Psychology, and it was Larry Hedges, who was a Professor of Education at the University of Chicago, who put the very solid statistical foundations under it and has continued to help develop it. It was education faculty and educational psychologists who developed meta-analysis. I am proud of that. Meta-analysis as an underpinning development of theory throughout the behavior sciences and education was developed by people in educational psychology as their contribution to the research methodology in general in the behavioral and social sciences and also in medicine.

What has been the relationship of the discipline of Educational Psychology to APA, and how has APA shaped Educational Psychology as a discipline?

BA:  Well, I think APA has not looked to Division 15 as much as they could have by APA and their Education Directorate. I am sure it is more than that, but over the last 25 to 30 years APA has gone from primarily researchers and professors to a majority of clinicians of some kind.  On most of the state licensing tests when they think about research they think statistics. Statistics is important but there is also measurement and research design. Whether APA knows it or not, as a major basis of making decisions meta-analysis is important. We suddenly have realized that statistical testing really is not a very good system for making decisions in psychology and has actually, to an extent, diminished the development of the science of psychology. There are too many Type II errors because the effect sizes and samples are too small and the measurement systems are not that precise.  So you have a large number of Type II errors except when you have very large samples, and then most everything is statistically significant. Meta-analysis has helped overcome these problems. We now use effect sizes much more in reporting research results. I admire Glass enormously.

Division 15 has been the historical home of Educational Psychology, but APA is becoming more and more clinically focused. What do members of the Division and the Division as a whole get from their relationship with APA?

BA:  As I said, not a whole lot. Division Five keeps getting squeezed as well.  Division Five people can go to the Psychometric Society and if they really want to, AERA. We keep getting smaller, and we have less convention time. Although one of the things we did to try to alleviate this was, in addition to having Fellows and Members, is to have Associates. I think that is one of the things we were getting started when I was still on the Executive Committee. Those Associates have become an important part of Division 15.

If you are pressed for income, you can become an Associate of Division 15. You can do everything as an associate except become President, Vice-president, Treasurer, and Secretary. You can be everything else. Also, I would suspect sooner or later the Association for Psychological Sciences will accept Educational Psychology more.

Further, as a Past-president after my protest, I was asked to be on the committee to select the new editor of theJournal of Educational Psychology. When we got the list of people to be considered they mostly were Developmental Psychologists and Experimental Psychologists and no Educational Psychologists as such. I objected to that. I think that is kind of the way things have been in APA for quite a while.

What do you recommend for people going into the field now?

BA:  Well obviously Cognitive Psychology is now very important and Social Psychology constructs are now used much more. The field of Educational Psychology has expanded. The social psychology of education with the emotional and social aspects are far more considered now than they used to be. Also take as much measurement as you can. Item response theory is important in educational testing and the No Child Left Behind law, with its emphasis on testing in education, has created many opportunities in educational measurement.

Is there a question I have not asked you that you think is important? I really appreciate your thoughtful answers. You’ve given me some directions to go with as far as following my own interests. You have piqued my interest in some things, so I really do appreciate the time that you spent. You have also given me a good bit of history, and I do appreciate that.

BA:  Well, that is one of the things that I can do.  I have been in Division 15 since 1954, which is now 51 years, so I can give you a lot of the history of the Division.