Introduction to Community Psychology: Becoming an Agent of Change
Current and future students are facing a significant barrier when pursuing higher education. This barrier is the ever increasing cost of higher education, which is in part due to the increasing cost of educational materials. One glaring example is that textbook prices rose 88% between 2006 and 2016 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). Supplies for students, much of it textbooks, cost an average student $1,200 per year (U.S. PIRG, 2014). As Community Psychologists concerned with eliminating barriers to participation and equitable access to education, we saw a need for a free alternative for students.
Online educational resources presented this potential alternatives for financially constrained students. Freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing, as well as for research purposes. Online educational resources are a way to increase accessibility by giving away pertinent knowledge to a wide audience, which we thought was especially important for Community Psychology given our values and lack of exposure.
A recent study conducted by undergraduates and their mentors found that very few introductory Psychology textbooks referred to Community Psychology, and even fewer provided any definition or explanation of the discipline (Bauer, Glantsman, Hochberg, Turner, & Jason, 2017). This underrepresentation of the field made the mission of the textbook clear. Our team wanted to create a textbook that would introduce undergraduate students to the field, and hopefully grow the number of people who identify as community psychologists in the future. We decided that the textbook itself should be tailored for undergraduates in terms of the writing style, interactive features, and material. And what better way than to offer it online and for free?
The idea for this textbook was initiated a few years ago at the Midwestern Psychological Association’s Annual Conference during a roundtable discussion about the future of the field. Leonard Jason and Fabricio Balcazar discussed creating a new introductory textbook on Community Psychology for undergraduate students. Concrete steps were taken following their discussion. Jason and Olya Glantsman, who quickly joined the project, next emailed the SCRA listserv to crowdsource topics for the textbook and recruit co-authors. Our team was encouraged that 50 individuals, in both academia and practice, from all over the world agreed to write chapters for this edited volume. In each chapter, the co-author(s) provide their own unique expertise in their area of work, and share their professional and practical experience for students to learn from when reading the textbook. The inclusion of perspectives from multiple Community Psychology professionals, in academia and practice, was paramount to our team from the beginning.
Following the grassroots crowdsourcing and solicitation process, the team ended up with 19 chapters. Some of the co-authors knew one another and paired up, and others were paired based on areas of interest and worked with one another for the first time. Authorship groups ranged from a single author to as many as 10! While our team began connecting authors and organizing the content, we also began searching for an online platform for the textbook to call home. We had asked students what type of online textbook features would be appealing to them, and we learned that students wanted to be able to interact and engage with the textbook. We eventually found the Rebus Foundation, whose values closely align with Community Psychology. Their Pressbooks platform provides highlighting features, annotations, an online community through their forum, and the ability to embed interactive links and videos to create a professional looking product for students to enjoy.
We began publishing chapters on a rolling basis, which allowed us to pilot the textbook with two undergraduate classes at DePaul University. The students provided us with their feedback on the chapters, allowing us to make changes to the book content and format while amidst the publication process. We wanted to ensure that the book would be enjoyable for students, and educate them on the field in a way that was easy to engage with and understand. After a long process of editing, revising, computer coding, and formatting, we have now actualized the online Introduction to Community Psychology textbook. All 19 chapters are public, and it would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance from our many contributors.
It is our hope that many people begin to read our online textbook, whether they are students in the classroom or community members with an interest in the methodologies and values of the field. We provide readers with an introduction to the field, the methods and theories, frameworks for understanding communities, intervention and prevention strategies used by community psychologists, tools for creating change on multiple levels, and guidance on the various paths one can take as a community psychologist. There are multiple case studies in every chapter to show real world applications of our field. Since the textbook is free and online, we believe that anyone can start becoming an agent of change today with a simple click of a link. There are also chapter lecture slides and quizzes to assist students in learning, as well as for instructors to use in the classroom. You can find the textbook and supplemental materials here https://press.rebus.community/introductiontocommunitypsychology/.
We hope that this textbook supports Priorities 3 and 5 of SCRA – Membership and Visibility. We encourage anyone with an interest in social justice and a means for taking action to read our textbook, and thank everyone involved in helping us give Community Psychology away!