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Psychology is taught only at A level at Owen’s, reflecting the academic and rigorous nature of the subject. Psychology is often defined as ‘the science of mind and behaviour’, that is, the scientific study of how people (and sometimes animals) behave, and how their minds work. The subject matter of psychology is extremely wide ranging and the A level course covers topics as diverse as the relationship between biological processes and psychological functions, the workings of mental processes and how people interact.

Psychology lessons are interactive and all students contribute to discussion and debate. Most lessons take place in classrooms with interactive whiteboards and laptops are available for student use. There is also an interactive subject area on the school’s VLE.

We follow the AQA examination board’s Psychology specification course. At AS the topics are;

AS UNIT 1: Introductory topics in psychology

  • Social psychology includes the study of social influence, conformity and obedience, what leads to resisting authorities
  • Memory includes case studies of brain injury, forgetting, research into eyewitness testimony and how our memory works.
  • Attachment includes the study of bonding between parents and their children, how psychologists measure this bond, what happens when a caregiver is not present anymore and how early life influences us as adults.

AS UNIT 2: Psychology in context

  • Origins of psychology: the emergence of psychology as a science
  • The 3 main schools of thought in psychology: cognitive: internal mental processes; behavioural: conditioning and social learning and biological explanations of behaviour: genes, neurochemistry, genotypes, phenotypes and evolution.
  • Biopsychology: nervous and endocrine system, fight or flight response
  • Psychopathology: abnormality, its definition, biological and psychological models of abnormality as well as treating abnormality includes OCD, depression and phobias.
  • Research Methods: how do psychologists study behaviour using scientific method, the features of different types of study: observations, experiments, samples
  • Data handling and analysis

These two units are examined in May of year 1 if the student is only taking AS level.

A level includes Unit 1 and 2 above and in addition:

  • Approaches in Psychology: Psychodynamic approach to understanding behaviour, Humanistic psychology- freewill, self-actualisation, counselling psychology
  • Biopsychology: what parts of the brain do which functions, split brain research, plasticity and functional recovery of brain after trauma, ways of scanning the brain, biological rhythms
  • Research methods: which tests to use and when
  • Unit 3: Issues and debates in psychology – gender and culture bias, freewill and determinism, nature-nurture, holism and reductionism, ethics
  • And 1 of each of the following topics: 
    • Relationship
      Cognition and development
    • Schizophrenia
      Eating behaviour
    • Aggression
      Forensic psychology

Students studying psychology will develop a range of transferable skills. Three types of advanced thinking are needed to learn psychology.

Critical thinking, looking for strengths and weaknesses, particularly in studies and theories.

Creative thinking, designing studies and coming up with your own explanations for psychological phenomena.

Practical thinking, applying psychological ideas to explain real-life phenomena.

Even if students never study psychology again they will benefit from advanced thinking and will probably never accept a ‘fact’ at face value again.

The psychology department is well resourced with journals and a large selection of texts for extended reading tasks. We also have annual ‘Neuroscience’ tutorials for all Year 12 and Year 13 psychology students with Dr Guy Sutton from Nottingham Medical School.

Psychology also invites several speakers in a year ranging from clinical and forensic psychologists to therapists.

Any questions about studying psychology or indeed just the subject itself can be directed to kenta@damealiceowens.herts.sch.uk

Miss A Kent (Head of Psychology)