by Amy Ferrer
This post is the first in a series of eight posts that will appear on the blog over the next few weeks. The posts are part of a public comment process on the APA’s newly released Good Practices Guide. In the series, I will be briefly discussing each of the sections of the draft Good Practices Guide and inviting your thoughts, suggestions, questions, concerns, etc. You can share your feedback in the comments to each post or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also host three listening sessions in the coming year—one at each of the divisional meetings—so that we can receive feedback in person and have conversations about how to make the guide as useful and effective as possible.
Since late 2014, an APA task force has been working toward the development of what was originally called a “Best Practices Guide.” The task force—Peter Railton (chair), Mi-Kyoung “Mitzi” Lee, Diane Michelfelder, and Robin Zheng—was originally inspired by the Good Practices Scheme (GPS) created by the British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy in the United Kingdom; the board’s vision in creating the task force was to build on the foundations the GPS provided and expand them to other contexts. As the task force worked, its goals evolved, and in the end, it proposed a new guide, a somewhat different strategy than the GPS but with some of the same aims—specifically, to help philosophers “realize the sort of academic community we aspire to.”
Last fall, the draft guide was presented to the APA board of officers. The board decided to open a period of public comment on the guide before finalizing it, and this post marks the beginning of that public comment process, which will continue into next spring. At the end of this public comment period, we will revise the guide in light of feedback received and distribute it broadly. However, even then, the guide won’t be finished—we see this Good Practices Guide as a living document, one that will be revisited, reviewed, and revised from time to time as the needs of philosophers and the field of philosophy change.
In this first post, by way of introduction to the guide, I invite your feedback on the preface, the list of topics, and the first section of the guide, which discusses how the guide might be used. I will briefly describe each below, but I encourage you to read them in their entirety.
The preface explains how the APA, and the task force specifically, views the Good Practices Guide:
A Good Practices Guide—we decided this was more accurate than “Best Practices”—does not attempt to draw lines regarding what is strictly permissible or impermissible. Rather, it is a set of recommendations based upon the accumulated experience of faculty, administrators, and students, intended in part to address some of the underlying conditions that can give rise to the problems with which a Code of Conduct deals. More positively, these recommendations are meant to suggest policies and practices that may help us to realize the sort of academic community we aspire to—a community of mutual respect and fairness, of commitment to scholarship and learning, of open-mindedness and inclusivity, and of concern for nurturing the next generation of philosophers and members of the society at large.
The preface goes on to explain that interpretation of these values will differ and that the guide is not “a definitive statement, but… a starting point, and a basis for continuing discussion.”
In the list of topics that follows the preface, the guide outlines the areas in which it will attempt to offer some good practices:
- Use of the Good Practices Guide
- Teaching, supervising, and mentoring
- Professional development and placement
- Interviews and offers of employment
- Implicit bias
- Social events
- Professional communication
- Mental and emotional health
And the first section of the guide, titled “Communication and Implementation of Guidelines for Good Practices,” outlines how philosophy departments might consider using the guide. It begins,
We would encourage departments and other academic units to circulate this guide to faculty and students and hold open discussions of the issues herein. The governing idea of such guides is that it is not enough for a department to affirm values or goals—there must be a continuing commitment to developing and implementing policies and procedures that can give these values or goals reality.
Departments might consider formally adopting their own good practices guides, perhaps adapting or building upon (sections of) this guide. Departments might keep copies of the APA Good Practices Guide in department offices for reference when planning social events or hiring processes. Departments might offer trainings related to topics in the guide, such as mentoring training and professional development workshops. There are myriad possibilities—and we hope to learn from you how you use the guide in your own departments and institutions.
I look forward to receiving feedback on the more substantive sections of the guide in the coming weeks. For now, though, I hope you’ll offer your thoughts about these first parts of the guide. In particular,
- Is the intent of the Good Practices Guide clear? If not, how could it be clarified?
- Are there other topics not listed that you would like to see the Good Practices Guide cover?
- How do you think you or your department might use or benefit from the Good Practices Guide?
Amy Ferrer has been Executive Director of the APA since 2012.