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Psychology - A level

In Psychology we have developed different teaching methods and tasks. Students become psychologists from day one, devising and carrying out experiments, analysing results and drawing conclusions.

Students carry out observations by watching classic experiments such as Milgram or Ainsworth or watching films with abnormal characters in them. This allows students to apply theories to real life – a skill that universities want to see in future psychology students. 

A favourite psychology topic is forensic pPsychology. In this topic, students analyse criminals and why they commit crime. In Year 13, students recap the topic and apply previous knowledge of different approaches such as the biological, cognitive, psychodynamic and behavioural.

Often something happens in real life that demonstrates psychology in action. This year students have just learnt about the case study of Genie, a girl kept in a cage by her cruel father. The day after the lesson, the story about the American family who had also been trapped in their home for years broke. 

Psychology is challenging but interesting. It tests the limits of retaining and applying knowledge, but still grasps the interest of students.
Ethan Davison, Year 12 student

Year 12

Learning outcomes

Students follow the AQA A level specification which encourages students to gain knowledge and understanding of the subject with the goal of being able to apply theories to real life issues. This A Level course will enable students to be inspired by their psychological understanding, to engage critically with real world issues, and to apply their psychological knowledge, theory and skills to the world around them. Students will grow as independent thinkers and as informed and ethically-minded citizens, who understand the role and importance of Psychology as one of the key disciplines relevant to understanding how to cope with the fast paced society we live in today.

Topics taught

  • Social Influence – minority and majority
  • Why do people conform and/or obey?
  • Key studies: Zimbardo, Milgram, Asch
  • Models of memory
  • Experimental methods to test memory
  • Types of memory
  • Interference and retrieval failure
  • Eye witness testimony
  • Attachment – explanation and types
  • Animal studies of attachment
  • Key study: Ainsworth Strange Situation
  • The effect of institutionalisation on children
  • Definitions of Abnormality
  • Causes and treatments of OCD, Depression and Phobias
  • Biopsychology
  • Biorhythms
  • Research Methods – mean, mode, median
  • Graphical skills
  • How to carry out the Sign test
  • Issues of reliability and validity
  • Ethical issues and guidelines
  • Experimental design and sampling
  • Carrying out observation
  • Carrying out content analysis
  • Approaches: Biological, Cognitive, Psychodynamic, Behavioural, Humanistic

Year 13

Learning outcomes

Year 13 offers students the chance to individualise their learning as they can choose what options they study.  This allows an engaging and contemporary issues-based approach which scaffolds on to previous theoretical knowledge. The content gives students the opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of psychological topics, the complexity of people and the issues in drawing concrete conclusions of causes of behaviour. Through the study of Issues and Debates, students will become critical, reflective and independent learners. Content is framed by essay questions that encourage an investigative and evaluative approach to learning. It will encourage students to make synoptic links between different psychological themes, ideas and concepts as the main approaches of Biological, Psychodynamic, Cognitive, Behavioural and Humanistic are prevalent throughout the A-Level specification.

In addition, students are required to extend their knowledge of Research Methods.  In year 13 there is more emphasis on Inferential statistics and drawing conclusions from data.  Students don’t need to calculate statistics but will be taught how to construct results statements and use critical value tables to find significance levels.

Topics taught

  • Issues – Cultural, Gender, Ethical
  • Debates – Nature-v- Nurture, Reductionism
  • Year 12 Research Methods embedded
  • Inferential Statistics: Spearman’s rho, Pearson’s r, Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney, related t-test, unrelated t-test and Chi-Squared test
  • Significance and Type I/II errors

Option ONE (one choice only)

  • Relationships
  • Gender
  • Cognition and Development

Option TWO (one choice only)

  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating Behaviour
  • Stress

Option THREE (one choice only)

  • Aggression
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Addiction

What's been happening in the psychology department lately?

Students have been learning about abnormality and watched the film Girl Interrupted. Based on a true story, students were able to see what it was like to live in a mental institution in the 1960s. They made notes on their observations and then chose one character to write a case study on. From this, they then developed exam style questions and a mark scheme. This was a piece of formal homework and the quality of the work was high. Students showed excellent knowledge of psychology questions and how to create an exam stem (a case study).

Girl Interrupted.