Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour.  Psychologists use the methods of science to understand how people think and why they act the way they do.  Psychology encompasses a wide variety of topics including the fundamental processes of thinking and feeling, the effects people have on each other’s behaviour and the nature and causes of developmental change in thinking, feeling and action.  Applied Psychology uses this knowledge to solve problems in a variety of areas including mental and physical health, criminal behaviour, sports performance and the functioning of organisations.  In our Psychology courses at King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls we introduce students to a variety of pure and applied Psychology topics and educate them in how to think and conduct research as Psychologists do.  In doing so we aim to develop our students as critical, scientific thinkers who are intellectually engaged with the world around them and well prepared for further study in any discipline at university level.

Students with a wide range of interests get a great deal from studying Psychology. It is all about people and people are fascinating. Studying psychology we explore fundamental questions about the way we experience and make sense of the world around us and how we behave in it. What makes us who we are? Why do we behave in the ways that we do? Studying psychology is interesting and challenging and makes students think about abilities and social behaviour that they take for granted. They develop their oral and written communication skills, their scientific thinking and their powers of critical analysis, in a lively, yet focused, productive and supportive atmosphere.

Psychology at AS/A Level may be viewed as an Arts or a Science qualification. It combines well with humanities, creative arts, languages, mathematics or the physical sciences. The course provides an introduction to the field for anyone considering a career in applied psychology areas such as sport, criminal behaviour, mental health or education. It is an approved science subject for many medical and dental schools as well as being ideal for those intending to follow higher education courses in business, law, journalism, media, theatre studies and many others. Besides academic study, because it focuses on people and their interactions with each other and their environment, knowledge of psychology is useful in careers as diverse as product design, advertising, management, computing and IT, health care, teaching, policing and the military. Indeed, psychology has applications in nearly every career and the combination of scientific, literacy, critical and analytical skills a psychology student develops can only enhance any C.V. or job application.

Curriculum

Years 12 and 13

Term 1

Why should I study Psychology?

Psychology is about people and people are fascinating. Studying psychology we explore fundamental questions about the way we experience and make sense of the world around us and how we behave in it. What makes us who we are? Why do we behave in the ways that we do? Studying psychology is interesting and challenging and makes you think about abilities and social behaviour that you take for granted. You will develop your oral and written communication skills, your scientific thinking and your powers of critical analysis, in a lively, yet focused, productive and supportive atmosphere.

What will I learn about?

Paper one – Foundations in Psychology (taught in Year 12)

The content of this paper introduces students to important psychological ideas and ways of thinking through study of four key areas in Psychology. Social psychology is all about the ways in which people understand and affect each other. Students learn about destructive obedience to authority and the causes of prejudice.  In biological psychology students learn how behaviour is influenced by the brain and nervous system and their relationship with behaviour such as aggression. Cognitive psychology is all about how human memory works and students apply their knowledge to questions about the best way to study and the accuracy of eyewitnesses. Learning theories is a topic that addresses the ways in which people’s behaviour is influenced by their environment. Students learn, amongst other things, about how phobias can be explained and treated.

Paper three – Psychological Skills (taught throughout Years 12 and 13)

Throughout the course students develop a range of psychological research skills by carrying out their own practical investigations. They also develop thinking skills, and explore broad debates that appear repeatedly within the field. These skills and understandings are assessed on paper three, which draws together the entire content of the course.

How will I be taught? We use a wide range of teaching and learning techniques to deliver the subject in a dynamic and engaging manner. In a psychology lesson you might find yourself applying psychology to real-life problems, analysing your own or others’ behaviour, discussing theories or research or pulling apart a (model) brain to find out what’s inside. You will always be expected to get involved, try things out and explain or defend your ideas, views and conclusions. Outside class you will have preparation tasks for new topics, essays and exam questions to help you consolidate your understanding and develop your skills in thinking and writing like a psychologist. But you might also conduct a survey or observation so your class can analyse the data or ask your family members about what you were like when you were two years old. In the summer term Year 12 students undertake a group project on a topic of their choosing.  Everything you do outside class will be relevant to making you a better psychologist and helping you get the best examination grade you can.

Application beyond school: Psychology at A Level is a Science qualification but it combines well with humanities, creative arts, languages, mathematics or the physical sciences. The course provides an introduction to the field for anyone considering a career in applied psychology areas such as sport, criminal behaviour, mental health or education. It is an approved science subject for many medical schools as well as being ideal for those intending to follow higher education courses in business, law, journalism, media, theatre studies and many others. Knowledge of psychology is useful in careers as diverse as product design, advertising, management, computing and IT, health care, teaching, policing and the military. Indeed, psychology has applications in nearly every career.

 

Term 2

Paper two – Applications of Psychology (taught in Year 13)

The content of this paper invites students to study two topics in considerable depth. In Clinical Psychology, students learn about how psychologists classify, diagnose and treat psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. Criminological Psychology is all about how psychology is applied within policing and the criminal justice system. Students learn how psychologists explain criminal behaviour and role that psychology can play in police investigations and criminal trials. By applying to these topics the concepts and theories studied in paper one students develop a more sophisticated understanding of how Psychology works as a science.

Assessment Format:

Overall grade is determined by performance on three written papers, all taken at the end of Year 13.  Practical investigations must be completed throughout the course; these are assessed on the written papers.

Level Component Requirements Duration Marks
A – Level Paper 1: Fundamentals of Psychology 4 topics (cognitive psychology, social psychology, biological psychology, learning theory).

4 practical investigations.

2 hours 90 marks (35% of A – Level)
A – Level Paper 2:

Applications of Psychology

2 topics (Clinical psychology, criminological psychology).

2 practical investigations.

2 hours 90 marks (35% of A – Level)
A – Level Paper 3: Psychological Skills Research methods.

Key studies.

Themes, issues and debates.

2 hours 80 marks (30% of A – Level)

Are there any special requirements? A*-B in GCSE English is required as is an interest in why people do the things they do. You also need self-motivation and discipline and the ability to work independently and as part of a team. You must be prepared to learn scientific and mathematical ideas throughout the course.

Staff

  • Mr AB Sammons (Head of Department)
  • Mrs C L Hubble

Additional Information

What topics your daughter will study.

AS Level

PSYB2 (September-January of Y12)

  • Perceptual Processes
  • Social Influence
  • Anxiety Disorders

PSYB2 focuses in on three important areas of psychology, which are studied in depth. Cognitive psychology is all about the processes of thinking and understanding. Students learn about how people come to know and understand the world around them and the extent to which the taken for granted ‘realness’ of the world they perceive is in fact influenced by a range of psychological processes including emotion, motivation and expectation. Social psychology is all about the ways in which people understand and affect each other. Students learn about the ways in which their behaviour – and that of those around them – can be influenced by the actions of others through processes of conformity and obedience, amongst others. Individual differences is a topic about the ways in which people differ from each other. An important aspect of this is psychological abnormality and students learn about two psychological disorders –phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder – their symptoms, causes and treatments.

PSYB1 (January-May of Y12)

  • Approaches to Psychology (including Bio-psychology)
  • Gender Development
  • Research Methods and Statistics

PSYB1 introduces the main theoretical approaches to psychology. By examining the contributions of several key figures and movements within psychology, students learn how genetics, physiology, upbringing and the wider environment all exert an influence on the way people think, feel and act. This knowledge is applied to understanding the psychology of gender and, along the way, obtain an insight into how psychologists, as scientists, investigate the causes of human behaviour.

Summer Project (June-July of Y12)

Following the AS Level exams in May-June, our students undertake an extended research and writing project, leading to a presentation and university-style essay on a psychological topic of their choice.  This helps them to adjust to the increased demands of A2 Level study and gives them a taste of the requirements of university level study and academic writing.  Successful completion of both the essay and presentation are prerequisites to carrying on with Psychology in Year 13.  Prizes are awarded to the best presentation and essay of the year.

A2 Level

PSYB3 (September-January of Y13)

  • Cognitive Development
  • Schizophrenia and Mood Disorders
  • Forensic Psychology

PSYB3 is a topic-based paper like PSYB2 but the shift to A2 Level study is reflected in a greater requirement for breadth and depth in students’ knowledge, understanding and skills.  Three topics are studied.  In cognitive development, students learn about how children’s ability to understand, think and solve problems develops over the course of their childhood, taking in the work of key psychological thinkers including Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.  The topic of schizophrenia and mood disorders builds on what students learned about anxiety disorders in Year 12, extending the same principles and theoretical perspectives to the understanding of two serious psychological disorders and their treatments.  In forensic psychology, students learn to apply their psychological knowledge and skills to the problem of criminal behaviour through a consideration of the causes of crime, the role of psychology in police investigations and the ways in which society responds to crime, including judicial punishments and psychological rehabilitation programmes.

PSYB4 (January-May of Y13)

  • Approaches to Psychology
  • Debates in Psychology
  • Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology

PSYB4 is a ‘synoptic’ paper that draws together students’ understanding of everything they have studied since the start of Year 12.  The emphasis is on the common perspectives, themes and debates that emerge from the course content.  ‘Approaches to Psychology’ extends students’ understanding of the key theoretical perspectives in psychology and the work of leading psychologists like Sigmund Freud, B.F.Skinner and Carl Rogers.  ‘Debates in Psychology’ addresses a number of important theoretical questions that pervade the subject including the issues of whether people have free will and whether psychology should be approached as a science.  ‘Research Methods and Statistics’ extends students’ understanding of how Psychologists conduct their research and analyse data within a scientific framework, including the ability to design psychological investigations.

What your daughter may do in lessons

We use a wide range of teaching and learning techniques to deliver the subject in a dynamic and engaging manner. In a psychology lesson students might find themselves researching issues on the Internet, planning and carrying out some practical research, solving problems in applied psychology, analysing their own or others’ behaviour, preparing presentations, discussing theories or research, pulling apart a (model) brain to find out what’s inside or even recording a radio programme about a topic they are studying. But regardless of whether it’s an individual, small or large group activity they will always be expected to get involved, try things out and explain or defend their ideas, views and conclusions.

Students will have plenty of work to do outside class. This might be background reading or preparation for the next topic to be taught or essays and exam questions to help them consolidate their understanding and develop their skills in thinking and writing like a psychologist. Or it might be taking part in an on-line discussion, conducting a survey or observation so their class can analyse the data or asking their family members about what they were like when they were two years old. But everything they do outside class will be relevant to making them better psychologists and helping them get the best exam grades they can.

Students are encouraged to develop independent study skills, to use texts, journal articles and the Internet in order to broaden their awareness of contemporary and controversial issues in research and the current applications of psychology.

How your daughter’s progress will be assessed.

Internal Assessment
Students’ progress in Psychology is assessed regularly through homework activities and essay-writing assignments.  Students complete two formal assessments (under exam conditions) each half-term.  These follow the format of whichever exam they are preparing for.  Students are given detailed feedback on all their essays and assessments and are expected to show that they are using this feedback to make progress in their learning.

External Assessment
Assessment format: two units at AS and two at A2.  All assessment is exam-based; there is no coursework component.

  • AS – PSYB2 – Individual Differences, Social & Cognitive Psychology: 1 ½ hr written unit test (taken May/June of Y12).
  • AS – PSYB1 – Introducing Psychology: 1 ½ hr written unit test (taken May/June of Y12).
  • A2 – PSYB3 – Child Development and Applied Options: 2 hr written unit test (taken June of Year 13).
  • A2 – PSYB4 – Approaches, Debates and Methods in Psychology: 2 hr written unit test (taken June of Year 13).

Each unit contributes 25% to the final A-Level grade (AS units contribute 50% each to the AS Level grade).

How can parents help?

How can parents and carers help?

Psychology students start to flourish when they develop the habit of using what they learn through their studies to understand the world around them.  You can help by encouraging students to develop the range of their psychological interests beyond the curriculum and pursue topics and ideas of personal importance to themselves.  Doing this can be as simple as asking them about what they have been learning, or being prepared to offer your own experiences and insights to a conversation about a recent topic.  Those psychology students who achieve the most are frequently those who have extended their knowledge of the field through their own research and reading.  Encouraging them to subscribe to a relevant magazine, join the British Psychological Society as a student member, attend university masterclasses on psychological topics, watch or listen to documentaries on TV or radio or simply to borrow and read psychological books from the library can only help.

Parents and carers can also play a crucial role in helping students to develop the beliefs and study habits that support achievement in Psychology.  This would include:

  • Stressing that achievement in any subject is the result of sustained effort, not innate ability.
  • Discouraging students from comparing themselves with others and focusing them on whether they are making progress against their previous performance.
  • Encouraging them to follow the advice given in feedback on their written work.
  • Prompting them to prepare sufficiently for assessments and exams by spacing their learning out – not cramming at the last minute.
  • Encouraging the use of active learning techniques involving lots of self-testing.
  • Prompting them to practise important skills like essay writing under timed conditions.

Useful links

If you are interested in finding out more about psychology the following web links may be of interest:

The Research Digest of the British Psychological Society – All the latest Psychology news.

Very Well Psychology  – Lots of interesting articles.

The Open University –  Information on careers in Psychology (Open University).

 

If you have any further questions about how we teach psychology at King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls, please contact the Head of Department: asammons@kingedwardvi.bham.sch.uk