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APA Good Practices Guide Public Discussion Series, Part 7: Professional communication

by Amy Ferrer

This post is part of a series of posts soliciting public comment on the APA’s new Good Practices Guide. In the first post in this series, I provided some background on how the APA Good Practices Guide came about and presented its preface and first section. For more on the guide and this series, go back and read that post.

In this seventh post of the series, I’m covering section 7 of the Good Practices Guide, titled “Professional Communication.” This section provides recommendations on all types of communications related to one’s work as a philosopher, including communication across levels within philosophy programs and electronic and social media.

The section begins by addressing electronic and social media:

For most of those who work as faculty members, post-docs, and graduate students in college and university philosophy departments, the use of electronic and social media for professional purposes is a routine, everyday practice. By enriching student learning, scholarship, and philosophical community, and allowing powerful opportunities for philosophers to communicate with the general public, the use of these media can bring remarkable benefits. Members of a department rely more and more on email not only to communicate with each other, but to make collective decisions. Social media can promote inclusivity; for instance, some students who might feel uncomfortable about speaking up in class might be avid participants in an online discussion forum.

At the same time, the ease with which information can be conveyed and amplified electronically can have unintended consequences.

The section goes on to discuss specific recommendations for email and social media (ESM) communication, noting that private communications can easily be made public via social media and, in such cases, can chill a departmental climate and even result in institutional or legal sanctions. As such, after discussing specific recommendations for individuals, the GPG recommends that departments develop ESM guidelines that collect and perhaps build upon existing institutional policies and relevant laws.

This section of the GPG then provides brief discussions of electronic device policies in syllabi and improvements to department websites.

Next, the GPG makes recommendations for communication across levels—that is, communication from those in leadership positions to students and other faculty, and vice versa—suggesting that transparency in such communications is crucial. The section concludes with a discussion of communication in discussions, offering some overall guidelines and continuing with an appendix adapted from the “general norms for discussion” collected by David Chalmers.

As effective communication, especially via electronic means, is integral to the work that nearly all philosophers do, we welcome your feedback on the GPG’s recommendations.

  • If your department has ESM guidelines, are there items included in them that are not addressed in this section of the GPG?
  • Based on your experiences (positive or negative) with electronic and social media, are there things you would like to see covered in the GPG that are not? Are there items you think should be included in departmental ESM guidelines that are not mentioned in the GPG?
  • Have you experienced some of the norms of discussion listed in the GPG in use? How effective were they? Do you have further suggestions for discussion norms or any of the other aspects of communication outlined in this section?

Amy Ferrer has been Executive Director of the APA since 2012.

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GPG Public Comment Series: / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

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