Teaching a Psychology of People: Resources for Gender and Sociocultural Awareness

Teaching a Psychology of People: Resources for Gender and Sociocultural Awareness

Teaching a Psychology of People: Resources for Gender and Sociocultural Awareness

Teaching a Psychology of People: Resources for Gender and Sociocultural Awareness


Our original interests in the integration of diversity into the psychology curriculum developed along converging paths. As new teachers of psychology, we both discovered that our widely-used textbooks contained little or no scholarship on women or gender, ethnicity, race, or sociocultural issues. We also recognized the isolation and institutional fragility of the single psychology of women course at each of our respective institutions. In spite of this, we also found many students eager to learn about these topics and extremely supportive of us as teachers and of our efforts to bring this information to them in the classroom.

At the same time, some students were concerned that perhaps what they had learned wasn't real psychology, because it was different from what they had learned in other classes. When we discussed this problem with colleagues, we found that many seemed willing—some even eager—to include new scholarship in their classes but were busy just trying to keep up with their own fields. Clearly, a better exchange of resources and ideas was needed.

In 1980, the New England Association for Women in Psychology was encouraging the formation of interest groups in different areas of feminist psychology. Joined by Mary Kanarian, Mary Roth Walsh, and Bernice Lott, we formed a group focusing on our concerns about the way psychology was being taught outside of psychology of women courses. With the theme "one Psychology of Women course is not enough," we offered symposia on integrating the new scholarship on women into mainstream psychology courses at the 1980 meeting of the Association for Women in Psychology and the 1981 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, with Nancy Henley serving ably as discussant. In the years following, we were pleased to see an increasing number of symposia offered on related instructional issues at national conferences, including curriculum integration of racial and cultural minorities, gays, lesbians, the disabled, and the elderly.

The positive responses to these presentations were evidence that it was time to share this exciting body of information with the rest of psychology. We decided to bring the new theories and data together into a resource work that could serve the needs expressed by a growing number of colleagues: a work that would be stimulating and straightforward, with easy-to-use ideas and references. We invited some of the participants from the various symposia on curriculum diversity, along with other instructors known for their classroom effectiveness in addressing minority and gender issues, to develop their scholarship and teaching practices into the format of this volume.

When we saw the extraordinary work these psychologists were submitting, we realized that a wealth of material existed. Our original plan of covering a few areas in depth would not do justice to that richness. Thus, we decided to try to include as many areas as possible, from a wide range of contributors, even if it meant that some of the areas could only be covered briefly.

It proved to be a challenging task for all of us, as contributors and editors, to condense years of work developing bibliographies and creative exercises into a few pages per chapter. The materials left out were sometimes as exciting as those . . .

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