Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Brett L. Beck,
Bloomsburg University,


Teaching the History of Psychology can be a difficult task as students tend to focus on recent vocational trends and ignore the rich international heritage that has shaped the discipline. Beck (2004) proposed that faculty visit historical sites as an adjunct to teaching the course in order to generate excitement and relevancy. Beck (2006) reported the results of an initial attempt at guided travel abroad while teaching the History of Psychology. Subsequently, the trip has been made again with a different itinerary so comparisons can be made about what worked and what did not. Each guided trip lasted 16 days and was conducted between academic semesters.

Several steps were necessary to accomplish the guided travel. First, administrative support was obtained by explaining the rationale for the course. A textbook was compiled from past history lectures and several methods of class assessment (e.g., exams, scavenger hunts) were constructed. From a practical standpoint, advertising for the trip, arranging a tour company, handling costs, and fundraising were vital issues.

Prior to the course, students read an overview of the history of psychology and completed an exam. During the trip, they completed readings/exams and had lectures on the tour bus. The historical sites were selected both in terms of availability as well as their representation of major periods in psychology’s history (e.g., prehistory, founding, structuralism/functionalism, modern period). An integrative oral/written final exam was required.

There are many places where I know little tidbits that relate to psychology's international history. However, I would list the top five stops from our trips as follows:

1. Sigmund Freud Museum—London. Wonderful video of the Freud family preparing to escape the menace of the Nazis. Has the famous couch.

2. Sigmund Freud Haus—Vienna. Excellent artifacts and photos from Freud's career. Very useful for a scavenger hunt.

3. Mauthausen Concentration Camp—Southern Austria. I have an entire lecture about the torture of the mentally ill during the Holocaust. It was amazing to combine this with an actual tour of gas chambers and crematoria.

4. Museum of the Public Hospital—Paris. Excellent presentation of the history of mental health in Paris from its original religious mission for the poor to the works of Freud, Charcot, Babinski, and Tourette.

5. Wilhelm Wundt Room—Leipzig. Excellent collection of artifacts from Wundt’s laboratory. It was thrilling to see his original machines and evidence as to how many psychologists he influenced. It also was distressing to see how little effort is being put into preserving this legacy.

Overall, I would say that I am as proud of this class as anything I have done in 20 years of college teaching. Each approach to the class has had its strengths and weaknesses, but all have resulted in young adults challenging their cultural preconceptions. Conversely, this was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Substantial commitment, resources, and support are needed for it to succeed.

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© 2008 Victor Karandashev