Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour. It is a diverse field that incorporates such issues as the nature of thought, consciousness, perception, development and emotion to name but a few. Psychology poses students the unique challenge of becoming adept in a discipline that – uniquely – requires of them both the precision and rigour of the sciences, but also the subtlety and creativity of the arts. Whilst few of our students come to Psychology having studied it before, many soon find it to be the subject that most awakens and stimulates their minds.
Our selection of the AQA A level specification reflects our belief that this popular and well thought through syllabus not only equips students with the skills necessary for further study in psychology, but also with a breadth of knowledge of areas of real relevance to their everyday lives. It is this very relevance, and immediacy, that students often find most appealing about this course. For example, in the Lower Sixth, students will encounter questions such as why people conform, how we learn and whether our earliest attachments really do have an impact on how we come to relate to others in later life. In the Upper Sixth, students will begin to further develop their analytical skills by learning about some of the issues related to research in psychology, for example the issues of bias, reductionism and determinism as well as spending time conducting a more in depth evaluation of current thinking relating to relationships, stress and forensic psychology.
Given its unique status as both an art and a science, Psychology is an excellent choice for students studying a wide variety of subjects. The psychology A level is assessed via three, two hour written papers and the assessment methods include multiple choice, short answer and essay style questions.
- Learning journey - Lower Sixth
In Year 12, students will be introduced to some of the key concepts in psychology as well as learning about some of the most (in)famous studies in the history of the field. The year is structured as follows:
- Social Influence (e.g. conformity, obedience, social roles),
- Memory (e.g. the multi-store model of memory, explanations for forgetting)
- Attachment (e.g. maternal deprivation, care-giver infant interaction)
- Psychopathology (e.g. definitions of abnormality, phobias, the treatment of depression)
- Approaches in psychology (e.g. behaviourism, social learning theory, the psychodynamic approach)
- Biopsychology (e.g. divisions of the nervous system, biological rhythms)
- Learning journey - Upper Sixth
In the Upper Sixth, students will continue to develop their skills in psychology by completing modules on both ‘Research Methods’ and ‘Issues and Debates in Psychology’. Whilst students may have some preconceptions regarding how interesting (or otherwise) they may find these modules, they soon find them to be compelling as they furnish students with the skills of critical analysis and scientific literacy that are necessary for them if they are to successfully navigate our increasingly information-rich society. Having further developed their confidence in psychology, they then go on to study three key topic areas: ‘Relationships’, ‘Stress’ and ‘Forensic Psychology’ in greater depth.
- Research Methods (e.g. the experimental method, data handling and analysis)
- Issues and Debates in Psychology (e.g. bias, nature vs. nurture, holism vs. reductionism)
- Relationships, (e.g. evolutionary explanations, virtual relationships), Stress (e.g. the physiology of stress, the role of stress in illness)
- Forensic Psychology (e.g. problems in defining ‘crime’, offender profiling, biological vs. psychological explanations of offending behaviour)
- Revision and Preparation for final exams
- Providing stretch
In addition to delivering what is an already academically rigorous and stimulating A level course, we provide our students with ample opportunities to further develop their skills and knowledge within psychology. We provide students each year with a fully updated reading list that comprises a combination of classic texts and the latest thinking in the field (for an example of our current reading list, please see here.
In addition to this, we make available to students all of the original academic papers that are covered by the A level and encourage students to read and discuss these at our fortnightly ‘Psychology Society’ meetings.
Should students wish to pursue their own research in the field of Psychology, they are provided with support to complete either a Rouse Award, or an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in the field during the Upper Sixth. Students are also encouraged to enter various essay prizes including those offered by Newnham College Cambridge, the John Locke Institute and Royal Holloway.
- Beyond the classroom
Students are provided with many opportunities to engage with psychology beyond the classroom. For example:
- Our ‘Psychology Society’ meets once a fortnight to discuss both recent developments in the field that may be of interest to the students, and to listen to presentations by Visiting Speakers. Speakers have presented on a range of topics including interoception and body dysmorphia, the parenting styles of parents of children with additional educational needs and the development of gender roles.
- We are incredibly fortunate, being based in Cambridge, to be able to attend some of the free lunchtime seminars put on by the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. Talks include topics as diverse as the emotional modulation of memory and the impact of sensory history on working memory.
- We run an annual trip to the Freud Museum in London as the experience of being in Freud’s treatment room, and of seeing his artefacts etc., helps to deepen students’ understanding of some of Freud’s key assumptions, as well as understanding his significance in the history of Psychology.
- The School’s ’42 Society’ series of lunchtime talks regularly holds talks that are of interest to those studying psychology.
- A weekly ‘drop-in’ session is run for students to provide any additional support as required.
- Psychology at university
Psychology remains a popular choice for students to study at university (either singly or in combination with another subject) and 1:1 support is provided with both UCAS applications and interview preparation.