Given the Advanced Placement Psychology course, psychology is more often taught in high school these days than in previous times. As a result, parents who are homeschooling may never have taken a course in this area. Thus, many homeschoolers will feel that additional background on this subject, and this article will help you lay a foundation. One step you should take is to research any information your state education department may provide on curriculum or standards for a psychology course. You can find the website for the education department in your state by going to the United States Department of Education site: nces.ed.gov
The National Standards and Homeschool Psychology
The National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula are available through the American Psychological Association (APA) at http://www.apa.org/ed/topss/apa_natlstandards.pdf The Standards sets out five content domains for psychology – methods, biological bases of behavior, development, cognition, and individual and group variations – and then defines standards areas within each one for content and performance standards. In summary, the content standards are as follows:
I. Methods Domain
STANDARD AREA IA: INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH METHODS
In this area, students are introduced to the development of the field of psychology and contemporary perspectives in the field. They learn about the subfields of psychology, career opportunities, and how psychologists use various research strategies and statistics. Ethical issues are also covered.
II. Biological Bases of Behavior Domain
STANDARD AREA IIA: BIOLOGICAL BASES OF BEHAVIOR
In this area, students are introduced to the structure and function of neurons, the nervous system, the brain, and the endocrine system. They also learn about how the nervous system is organized and the roles of heredity and environment in behavior. Technologies and methods for studying the brain and the influence of evolution on psychological mechanisms are also covered.
STANDARD AREA IIB: SENSATION AND PERCEPTION
In this area, students learn about attention and how interactions of a person with his or her environment shape perception. They also learn the basics of the sensory process.
STANDARD AREA IIC: MOTIVATION AND EMOTION
In this area, students learn the basics and major theories of motivation, including the role of values and expectancies in shaping motivation, and the affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological aspects of emotion. They also learn about the roles of biology, learning, and culture in motivation and emotion, as well as the effects of motivation and emotion on behavior, cognition, and perception.
STANDARD AREA IID: STRESS, COPING, AND HEALTH
In this area, students learn about sources of stress, as well as physiological and psychological reactions to stress. They also learn behavioral and cognitive strategies for coping with stress.
III. Developmental Domain
STANDARD AREA IIIA: LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENT
In this area, students learn about theories of development and research techniques used to study development. Coming to see development as a lifelong process, they also learn about issues in the developmental process such as nature vs. nurture and continuity vs. discontinuity.
STANDARD AREA IIIB: PERSONALITY AND ASSESSMENT
In this area, students learn about approaches and theories that touch on personality, how to distinguish personality from personality constructs, and assessment tools used in the realm of personality.
IV. Cognitive Domain
STANDARD AREA IVA: LEARNING
In this area, students learn about learning, including the characteristics of learning, the components of cognitive learning, the principles of both classical and operant conditioning, an the roles of biology and culture in determining learning.
STANDARD AREA IVB: MEMORY
In this area, students learn about how memories are formed and how they are retrieved. They also learn about three types of memory – sensory, short-term, and long-term – and the biological bases for memory. Methods for memory improvement and memory constructions are also covered.
STANDARD AREA IVC: THINKING AND LANGUAGE
In this area, students learn the elements of thought and study the processes of problem-solving and decision-making. They also learn the structure of language, how language is acquired, and theories of language. Finally, they study connections between thought and language.
STANDARD AREA IVD: STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
In this area, students learn about the nature of consciousness the characteristics and theories of sleep. They also learn about the nature and uses of hypnosis, psychoactive drugs and their effects, and theories of dreaming and dream interpretation.
STANDARD AREA IVE: INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES
In this area, students learn about how heredity and environment contribute to individual differences and how such differences can be measured. They also study the nature of intelligence and intelligence testing.
V. Variations in Individual and Group Behavior Domain
STANDARD AREA VA: PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS
In this area, students study what abnormal behavior is and how it arises, major categories of mental disorder, methods used to understand it, and the impact that mental disorders have.
STANDARD AREA VB: TREATMENT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS
In this area, students study treatment methods, types of providers for psychological disorder treatment, and legal and ethical questions involved in such treatment.
STANDARD AREA VC: SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF BEHAVIOR
In this area, students study social judgments and attitudes, social and cultural categories, and social influence and relationships.
After reading this summary, you may have a better idea about whether this is a course that you feel you could teach or whether you would wish to explore some other approach, such as signing your child up at a local public or private school, investigating online options, or hiring a tutor.
References for Homeschool Psychology
Another valuable reference for Homeschool Psychology is the AP/College Board website section devoted to the AP Psychology course. http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/sub_psych.html?phych If you examine the topic outline, and compare it with the standards, you will find that it covers nearly every part of every content standard, even though it does group and order material a bit differently. You may find the 2007 AP® Psychology Teacher’s Guide, available from the College Board store, to be helpful.