Psychology AS and A2
Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behaviour. Psychologists are interested in why humans think and act as they do. The AS and A2 courses at Davenant Foundation School provide a fascinating insight into many aspects of human behaviour including memory, stress and social influence, aggression, relationships and depression. There are currently two Psychology classes in Year 12 and one in Year 13. There is likely to be expansion going forward, making Psychology one of the the most popular subject for our Sixth Form students. From September 2014 there will be three AS and two A2 classes.
Psychology in the Curriculum
At AS and A2 the Department follows the AQA A specification Psychology course. Both the AS and A2 Level courses are split into two modules. In the AS course students cover the PSYA1 and PSYA2 modules. From September 2013 both modules will be assessed at the end of Year 12. The modules are all assessed by examination: 90 minute papers for PSYA1, 2 and 3 and a 2 hour paper for PSYA4. There are no assessed pieces of coursework or controlled assessments.
In the AS course, PSYA1 covers the topics of Research Methods, Developmental Psychology and Memory. In Research Methods, students are introduced to the methods psychologists use to gather data and are guided through the research process. In Developmental, students learn about the attachment process between an infant and its primary care giver and consider questions such as why and how does attachment take place and what happens if an infant does not form an attachment. Finally, in the Memory topic, students are introduced to different models, or psychological explanations, of how memory works. They consider the differences between short term and long term memory, the reasons why we forget and the different ways to recall information.
A The second AS unit, PSYA2, covers the topics of Stress, Social Influence and Abnormality/Psychopathology. As part of the Stress topic students learn about the sources of stress, how the body responds to stress, stress related illness, stress in the workplace and the effects of personality on stress. They also complete a practical session on stress management techniques. In the Social Influence topic questions such as: Why do we conform? When are we likely to conform to others and when are we likely to act independently of them? Obedience and disobedience are considered: why humans often obey, even when they shouldn’t. The topic concludes by analysing minority social influence; there have been many occasions when one individual or a small group of people have brought about immense social change. Students look at how this process happens and at what makes a minority successful. The final topic of PSYA2 is the classic Psychology topic of Abnormality/Psychopathology. Students have to consider competing definitions of abnormality, the causes of mental illness and its treatments, and the nature v nurture debate.
Students begin the A2 course immediately after their return from study leave after the AS examinations. Their first assignment is to carry out a piece of independent research relating to the first part of the Relationships spec for Unit3. It is expected that students will produce a report set out in the correct format to include Abstract, Introduction, Method, Findings and Discussion. The students will then have an opportunity to present their findings to other students in the school who are invited into the Sixth Form Centre.
The A2 course is assessed through two units: PSYA3 and PSYA4. PSYA3 includes the topics of Relationships, Aggression and Eating Behaviour. In the first topic students learn about the formation, maintenance and dissolution of relationships, the relationships between sexual attraction and human reproductive behaviour, sex differences in parental investment, the influence of childhood on adult relationships and finally the influence of culture on romantic relationships. and sleep-walking. The Aggression topic returns to the nature v nurture debate, considering the causes of aggressive behaviour in crowds, prisons and other environments. Finally, the Eating Behaviour topic assesses the factors which influence our food choices, the ways in which the brain controls our eating behaviour and considers anorexia as an eating disorder.
The final A2 module, PSYA4, covers the topics of Depression including the different explanations of the causes and treatments. Addiction is the Psychology in Action topic where students have to apply their knowledge to a scenario as well as to know about the vulnerability factors and interventions. The final important section is Research Methods, a vital and essential topic which builds on what has been learned at AS level and essential for carrying out and analysing all psychological research.
In the run up to examinations students are supported by revision sessions which are aimed at consolidating their knowledge of key subjects and developing crucial revision and examination skills. A one-to-one discussion takes place between each student and a subject teacher after each examination series. Students are encouraged to read a wide selection of textbooks. There is a library of books which can be borrowed from the teaching room and the Sixth Form library is well- stocked as well. Students are encouraged to subscribe to the magazine ‘Psychology Review’, which is also available from the school library.
Events such as free lectures on related topics are signposted to students. They are encouraged to watch scientific programmes such as Horizon and other quality documentaries. There are numerous fascinating radio programmes on Radio 4 such as All in the Mind and the Life Scientific which students are recommended to listen to as well as Blog talk radio. New research studies are discussed and can be read about online. There is a wealth of opportunities available to students to improve their depth and breadth of understanding of this fascinating science.