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 with biological sciences at one end and social science at the other. The A level course covers a range of topics – what happens if you split someone’s brain in half, what happens if you raise a genetic boy socially as a girl, how does drug therapy work in schizophrenia, why do you bond with your family, which area of the brain is in theory responsible for speech?
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.
Students will probably never accept a ‘fact’ at face value again.
We follow the AQA examination board’s Psychology specification course.
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.
Psychology in context
- Origins of psychology: the emergence of psychology as a science
- The main schools of thought in psychology (called approaches): cognitive, behavioural (conditioning and social learning) biological, psychodynamic and humanistic
- Biopsychology: nervous and endocrine system, fight or flight response, 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
- 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
Issues and debates
Gender and culture bias, freewill and determinism, nature-nurture, holism and reductionism, social sensitivity, idiographic and nomothetic approaches to research
The options for the 2nd year of study are gender, schizophrenia and aggression
At the end of 2 years, students are assessed in 3 examinations which comprise longer style essay questions, short answer questions along with multiple choice questions.
The psychology department is well resourced with journals and a large selection of texts for extended reading tasks. We have hundreds of new books in the psychology section of the library and up to date reading lists for each topic we study and also more general further reading. We encourage students to subscribe to the Psychology review magazine, with articles to extend understanding and consolidate learning from class and the library is subscribed to the entire back catalogue.
We have annual ‘Neuroscience’ tutorials for all Year 12 and Year 13 psychology students with Dr Guy Sutton from Nottingham Medical School and attend London Zoo for workshops on phobias, animal intelligence and animal behaviour. Psychology invites several guest speakers in a year ranging from clinical and forensic psychologists to therapists to speak to students about practical applications of the subject (e.g. how to deal with stress as an A level student) and also careers.
Any questions about studying psychology or indeed just the subject itself can be directed to [email protected]
Mrs A Rutlin – Head of Psychology