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December 2011

Multiple collaborations, projects keeping psychology chair busy

As December hit and a winter chill blanketed campus, Avila University faculty busily prepared for finals and finishing up the fall semester before heading into the holiday break. There most likely won’t be a lot of down time for Psychology Department chair Marcia Pasqualini, however. A pair of collaborative projects promises to keep her busy during the intersession.

Her first such project started back in September, when she learned she was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Association for Psychological Science (APS). The grant was in response to a proposal Pasqualini sent the APS entitled, PsychologyKC.com: Connecting Psychology Educators in the Kansas City Area, and the aim was just that – to create an interactive Web site devoted to linking the ideas and curricula of high school, community college and college educators throughout the Kansas City area.

Pasqualini said her grant was awarded from the APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science.

“Right now, I’m compiling a database of all the psychology teachers in the region,” Pasqualini said in October. “By having greater collaboration among psychology teachers, we can promote psychology as a major. And, it’s a two-way street. Colleges can benefit from knowing what high school teachers are teaching, and vice versa.”

Pasqualini said she hopes to have the Web site completed by April and, when finished, its aim will be to provide region-specific information, resources and forums, leading to greater in-person interaction and collaboration among educators in the region.

The next step, she said, will be to organize a focus group workshop in January to discuss what the Web site will eventually look like.

Around that time, Pasqualini also will be taking the second step in a “tuning” project she’s working on with the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) and the Lumina Foundation. “Tuning” is a process through which faculty members establish levels of understanding and skill sets students in specific academic disciplines must demonstrate upon graduation. The initial step in establishing such criteria for psychology students in the Midwest took place Nov. 4 in a one-day kickoff meeting of psychology educators from across Missouri, Indiana and Illinois. Pasqualini was part of that meeting.

“Basically, we wanted to know what are the knowledge and skill sets students in psychology should be able to demonstrate once they graduate,” Pasqualini said. “We want our psychology graduates to have a clear career pathway … to be able to get a job.”

The meeting came about as the result of a $415,000, two-year grant from the Lumina Foundation and was the beginning of a series of meetings and sessions which hopes to have a completed list of criteria by the spring of 2013. The November meeting brought together 30 faculty members along with representatives of MHEC, Lumina and the Institute for Evidence-Based Change to discuss the process. Pasqualini said she was placed among a team of fellow educators, of whom she’ll work with throughout the initiative.

“Our discussions were not course-based,” she said. “It was about having to have a set of skills.”

Pasqualini said her group is scheduled to meet again, this time in Chicago, in January and then will meet once a month for the next 1 ½ years.

“One thing that’ll be helpful to me is getting to know teachers from two-year community colleges and gain an understanding of what they’re teaching,” she said. AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434