Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and human behaviour, and it aims to uncover the reasoning and origins of not only mental ill health, but the functionality of our brain and how we, as humans, are able to communicate and interact in the way that we do. Everything can be linked back to psychology, which is exhilarating, and therefore a curious mind and indeed, a flexible mind, is a must, as being a ‘young science’, psychologists often produce more conflicting research than ‘answers’.
Within the Psychology Department, pupils are encouraged to think deeply, analytically and scientifically about what makes us who we are and to question the reasoning and explanation of human behaviours. The transferable skills from the study of Psychology are vast, from essay writing and critical thinking to maths and imaginative problem solving. All pupils engage in working with both theoretical and experimental approaches and conduct their own independent investigations. This allows them to test the accuracy of their empirical enquiry and to strengthen their love for experimentation and research.
Throughout the A level course, pupils deepen their appreciation of the process of scientific enquiry through the analysis of the canon of psychology; from Freud and Zimabardo to a broad range of contemporary contributors. Teaching goes beyond embedding the skills needed for the examination; our approach enables pupils to question and shape their own interactions and to think as conscious and engaged citizens. We place a special emphasis on language and the ability to work as a group, as communication in its many forms is of fundamental importance to the successful appreciation and understanding of Psychology.
Housed in the newly refurbished Old Bursary building, we utilise ICT as a sound method of introducing pupils to the importance of research and investigation, as these are key tenets of the empirical method. We aim to encourage our young people to become independent learners with an understanding of where and how to seek relevant and reliable information.
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. 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 subject has developed over the last 150 years. This capacity 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’ affects 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. This not only adds to their examinable understanding of the empirical method but also allows pupils to appreciate the 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.
The Department offers the opportunity for pupils to engage in national essay writing competitions including the Royal Holloway Psychology Prize and pupils are encouraged to make use of the College’s Library in addition to the numerous books within the Department. We aim for pupils to attend at least one day trip during the course. In addition to visits to local university research labs, we enjoy trips to Bethlem hospital and museum and other sites of historical and contemporary relevance to our subject.
The Psychology and Social Sciences Society, run by the Sixth Form, has a great membership and is a fantastic opportunity for pupils to meet and 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 pupils to engage in a taster course of the subject and offers them the opportunity to discover some of the more unusual aspects of the science; for example, we explore the psychology of prison tattoos and the effect of urban design on our mental health.