Psychology is an exciting and dynamic department where by pupils are encouraged to think deeply, analytically and scientifically about what makes us who we are and to question the reasoning and explanation for a multitude of human behaviours.
All pupils engage in working with both theoretical and experimental approaches and have the experience to conduct their own independent investigations, and this allows them to test their preserving, accuracy and love of empirical enquiry.
Throughout the A level course, pupils are encouraged to deepen this appreciation of the process of scientific enquiry, through the analysis of the ‘canon’ of psychology; from Freud to Zimabardo and a multitude of interesting and ground-breaking contributors in between. – philosophically and ethically thinking . . .
Teaching is focused on developing not only the skills needed for the examination, but it also looks to question and shape pupils’ own ability to interact and think as conscious and engaged citizens. We place a special emphasis on language and the ability to work as a group, as communication in all its many guises is of fundamental importance to the successful appreciation and understanding of Psychology.
In addition, we utilise ICT (smartphone and computer/tablet use) as a method of introducing pupils to the importance of research and investigation, as these are key tenets of the empirical method. We believe that this also ensures that they are developing real-life skills in the classroom which not only encourage them to become independent learners but will also foster a greater sense of being able to seek and find relevant and most importantly, reliable information.
Transferable skills – essay, critical thinking, maths, imaginative problem-solving . . .
The AQA A level course is a robust, rigorous and compelling specification which allows pupils to become familiar with most material presented in a first-year undergraduate course. This is a brilliant opportunity, as it gives pupils a taste of some of the most seminal work in the field alongside the ability to appreciate the way in which the psychology has developed over the past 150 years. This ability to see the shift in paradigms and indeed, acceptability of some areas of empirical study, allows pupils to question the very nature of scientific research and to analyse pertinent ethical issues within research.
The course content covers some of most important aspects of human behaviour: Memory; Social Influence (how being a ‘social animal’ can affect most of our life choices!); Attachment (Infant developmental theory); Biopsychology; Psychopathology (OCD, depression and phobias); Gender; Schizophrenia and Addiction.
Despite being an examination only subject, we engineer times in the course to allow pupils to engage with their own independent empirical research, which not only adds to their examinable understanding of the empirical method and processes but also allows the pupils to appreciate the relative strengths and limitations of various research methods. The chance to engage in preliminary research adds a much-needed ‘practical’ element to the course and creates a culture by which those who are invigorated by the subject are able to see themselves as ‘researchers in training’ and can allow for the theoretical content covered in class to be brought to life. It also enables pupils to see at first hand the importance, and yet elusive presence, of generalisability and replicability in research.
The Department offers the opportunity for pupils to engage in national essay writing competitions, of which, despite no overall success, we have received some very complimentary feedback from the adjudicators.
In addition, we aim to ensure that pupils have the chance to attend at least one day trip throughout the duration of the course; we have planned trips to Bethlem and are investigating visits to local university research labs.
Pupils are encouraged to make use of the College’s library in addition to the numerous books within the department; ranging from extension of course materials to concepts that lie outside of the syllabus.
A Psychology Society, run by the Sixth Form, has had a great membership and is a fantastic opportunity for the pupils to meet to discuss a wide range of issues from the impact of Snapchat to the motivation of serial killers!
The ‘Psychology Club’ option for the Shell and Remove allows the pupils to engage in a taster course of what psychology can offer and allows them the opportunity to discover some of the more unusual aspects of the science; for example, we looked into the psychology of prison tattoos and the effect of urban design on our mental health.
R L Jerstice (Head of Department)
Dr L J Richards BSc PhD (Head of Biology)
J L Brain BSc PGCE