School of Psychology
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Challenging Year 12
What do you do when your Y12 return to class after the examinations? Do you start teaching next year's topics? Do you cover something new that isn't part of the specification? This is always the million dollar question.
This year, following discussions with Dr. Yvonne Skipper from Keele University, who I met at an HEA transition meeting, we devised a practical activity that would serve several purposes. For me the task was the golden opportunity to introduce my students to real practical research, to review research methods ready for the topics being covered in year 13 and for students to learn about the conventions of writing a formal psychology report.
They would learn how to research a new topic, devise a method, collect data and analyse it before reporting back to the university lecturers in the form of presentations, giving them essential experience of how they might learn in Higher Education.
Firstly the students attended Keele University for a day, just before they were due to return to classes. where Dr. Skipper gave a brief overview of the task. Students were told about four topics in four half hour lectures. Each lecturer described the theory linked to one of: gender, autobiographical memory, the importance of early attachments in adult relationships and fears and phobias. Each lecture included suggestions for areas to research and Dr. Skipper explained that their work would be judged, with the top three being awarded prizes. The best one would be published in JADE, Keele University's academic journal.
Students were also shown round the university. and the psychology department, by two PhD students, who spoke to the young people in an honest and open way. Many of my students were completely fascinated by the observation room and the eye tracker. Furthermore the students were given the time to explore the campus as a whole taking in the Students union and library.
On return to school we divided the students into groups and nominated a lead student for each group, whose job it was to keep the group 'on task' for five weeks. Their objective were to:
- Select a topic area and a research idea from that area.
- Design and write up a methodology including issues relating to ethics to be approved by the class teacher before starting any data collection.
- Research their topic area for background material and relevant evidence linked to their work.
- Carry out the experimental task and to analyse and write up the results. using descriptive statistics and if they felt able, to apply inferential statistics.
- Write up their work in a formal report style, including appendices and references.
- Prepare a presentations to take back to Keele University.
Our role was more of facilitator than teacher and, yes, we were nervous as to how this would work as there was a lot resting on the success of this!
The students worked extremely hard and took complete ownership of their research and presentations. We. as teaching staff, were certainly very impressed and during the last week of term we all returned to Keele University for the presentations. Each presentation was to take 10-15 minutes and students would have to answer the four judges' questions at the end.
The students did themselves proud, the quality of the research and presentations was truly amazing, and while they were clearly nervous they carried out their presentations and answered some difficult questions exceptionally well. This was verified by Dr. Skipper who, in her final summing up, said that the quality of their work was better than many first year undergraduates would be able to achieve in the same time.
The three 'top' teams could not quite believe that they had actually made it that far. The final winning group, who studied autobiographical memories (and coped on the presentation day with a missing group member) stood out from the rest in terms of their detailed methodology and in-depth analysis of their results which included inferential statistical analysis.
My colleagues and I firmly believe the students have learnt a lot from this task and this will make A2 research methods so much easier to understand. We are extremely proud of our students, for their application, enthusiasm, and dedication we must offer our heartfelt thanks to Keele University and especially Dr. Skipper. We look forward to further collaboration next year.