Psychology

Our minimum entry requirement to follow this subject is a B grade in English and C grades in Maths and Science. Priority will be given to those who achieve these grades or better, have achieved the entry requirements for 6th form and have applied to follow this subject by the application deadline.

Consideration will be given on an individual basis, (professional judgement by the department) to any student who does not meet the minimum entry requirement for this course if there is space.

Specification

The WJEC A Level in Psychology proposes that students gain a comprehensive appreciation of the nature of psychology and psychological enquiry. Throughout the course, students will be introduced to historical and current psychological approaches with an element of both classic and contemporary research. In addition, there are opportunities to explore psychological controversies and debates. Learners will also study a variety of methods used by psychologists and will carry out their own investigations. Consideration of the ethical issues and implications of psychological endeavours will be emphasised in all aspects of the course.

This A level psychology course is divided into a total of four units: 2 AS units and 2 A level units.

Overview of Assessment

AS Psychology (2 units) 40%

AS Unit 1 - Psychology: Past to PresentWritten examination: 1 hour 30 minutes (20% of qualification)

Compulsory questions relating to five psychological approaches, therapies and classic pieces of research evidence.

AS Unit 2 - Psychology: Exploring Behaviour

Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes (20% of qualification)

Section A: Contemporary debate

One question linked to the given debates.

Section B: Principles of research and application of research methods

Principles of research

Compulsory questions on the theory of psychological research (including the work of social and developmental psychologists).

Application of research methods to a novel scenario

Compulsory questions requiring a response to a piece of research previously unseen.

A2 Unit 3 - Psychology: Implications in the Real World

Written examination: 2 hours 30 minutes (40% of qualification)

Section A: The Study of Behaviours

Three structured essays from a choice of six.

Section B: Controversies

One question from a choice of two requiring a synoptic exploration of psychological controversies.

A2 Unit 4 - Psychology: Applied Research Methods

Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes (20% of qualification)

Section A: Personal Investigation

One compulsory question based on an investigative activity carried out prior to the assessment.

Section B: Novel Scenarios

Compulsory questions requiring a response to a piece of research.

Course Content

UNIT 1 - Psychology: Past to Present

The purpose of this unit is to give a solid grounding in some of the basic core elements of psychology. The intention therefore is to allow the learner, through the study of classic research to gain an appreciation that psychology continues to develop and evolve. The early ideas should not be dismissed but rather studied in context with consideration of the advances made in more recent years. Learners will be asked to gain knowledge and understanding of the five approaches (biological, psychodynamic, behaviourist, cognitive and positive).

For each of the five psychological approaches it will be necessary for learners to:

  • Know and understand the assumptions
  • Apply the assumptions to explain a variety of behaviours
  • Know and understand how the approach can be used in therapy (one therapy per approach)
  • Know and understand the main components of the therapy
  • Evaluate the therapy (including its effectiveness and ethical considerations)
  • Evaluate the approach (including strengths, weaknesses and comparison with the four other approaches)
  • Know, understand and make judgements on a classic piece of evidence (including: methodology, procedures, findings, conclusions and ethical issues).


Approach

Assumptions and behaviour to be explained (including)

Therapy (one per approach)

Classic research

Biological

Evolutionary influences
Localisation of brain function
Neurotransmitters
Formation of relationships (e.g. siblings)

Drug therapy OR Psychosurgery

Raine, A., Buchsbaum, M. and LaCasse, L. (1997) Brain Abnormalities in Murderers Indicated by Positron Emission Tomography. Biological Psychiatry, 42(6), 495-508

Psychodynamic

Influence of childhood experiences
The unconscious mind
Tripartite personality
 Formation of relationships
(e.g. mother and child)

Dream analysis
OR
Group analysis psychotherapy

Bowlby, J. (1944) Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves: Their Characters and Home-life. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 25 (19- 52), 107 - 127

Behaviourist

Blank slate
Behaviour learnt through conditioning
Humans and animals learn in similar ways
Formation of relationships (e.g. pet and owner)

Aversion therapy
OR
Systematic desensitisation

Watson, J.B. and Rayner, R. (1920) Conditioned Emotional Reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3(1), 1-14

Cognitive

Computer analogy
Internal mental processes
Schemas
Formation of relationships (e.g. romantic)

Cognitive behavioural therapy
OR
Rational emotive behaviour therapy

Loftus, E. and Palmer, J.C. (1974)
Reconstruction of an Automobile Destruction: an Example of the Interaction Between Language and Memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 13, 585-589

Positive

Acknowledgement of free will
Authenticity of goodness and excellence
Focus on ‘the good life'
Formation of relationships (e.g. friends)

Self-efficacy OR
Quality of life therapy

Myers, D.G. and Diener, E. (1995) Who is Happy? Psychological Science 6(1) 10-17

 

UNIT 2 - Psychology: Using Psychological Concepts

Section A - Contemporary debate

The explorations of five contemporary debates provide an opportunity for independent research into areas that psychology has influenced. Both sides of the debate should be considered from a psychological perspective (including the ethical, social and economic implications as well as the consideration of social and cultural diversity). Learners are asked to explore the debates using their knowledge and understanding of the five approaches in Unit 1. This section provides an opportunity to consider psychological work carried out in Wales.

Section B - Principles of research and application of research methods

Principles of research

The focus for this section is that of psychological research, from the initial planning stages through to the final stage of analysis and evaluation. It is designed to introduce candidates to the methodologies used by psychologists in working scientifically and to gain an appreciation of the impact of choices made on the outcomes of the work and consequently the possible applications. Learners should appreciate the limitations of scientific research and when dealing with the complexities of humans as test material, there are several issues which need to be considered. To achieve this appreciation learners are encouraged to carry out appropriately supervised, ethical investigations. To give an appropriate context for the teaching, two pieces of research from the work of social and developmental psychologists should be studied.

Application of research methods to a novel scenario

This section requires learners to apply their knowledge and understanding of research methods to a novel research scenario, making judgements on the details of psychological research.

Contemporary debates:

For each of the five contemporary debates it is necessary for learners to:

  • Understand what is at the core of the debate
  • Refer to psychological studies and theories
  • Explore both sides of the contemporary debate from a psychological perspective
    (including the ethical, economic and social implications)

The ethics of neuroscience

The mother as primary care-giver of an infant

Using conditioning techniques to control the behaviour of children

Reliability of eye-witness testimony (including children)

Relevance of positive psychology in today’s society

 

Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:

Social Psychology: Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371-8

Developmental Psychology: Kohlberg, L. (1968). The child as a moral philosopher. Psychology Today, 2, 25-30

Knowledge and understanding of:

  • Aim of the research
  • Research hypotheses
  • Alternative (or experimental) hypotheses
  • Directional and non-directional hypotheses
  • Null hypotheses
  • Independent variables
  • Dependant variables
  • Co-variables
  • Operationalisation of variables
  • Confounding variables
  • Extraneous variables

Methodologies

Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:

  • Experiments
  • Quasi-experiments
  • Natural experiments
  • Participant observations
  • Non-participant observations
  • Content analysis
  • Structured interviews / questionnaires
  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Correlational studies
  • Case studies
  • Brain scans
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Self-reports

Both quantitative data and qualitative data should be included. Both primary and secondary sources should be included.

Location of research

Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:

  • Conducting research in a laboratory environment
  • Conducting research in the field
  • Conducting research on-line

Participants

Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:

  • Target populations
  • Sampling frames
  • Random sampling
  • Opportunity sampling
  • Systematic sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Quota sampling
  • Self-selected sampling
  • Snowball sampling
  • Observational sampling techniques (including event sampling, time
    sampling)

Experimental design

Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:

  • Independent groups
  • Repeated measures
  • Matched pairs

Levels of measurement

Knowledge and understanding of:

  • Nominal data
  • Ordinal data
  • Interval data
  • Ratio data

Graphical representation

Knowledge of, and be able to construct and interpret:

  • Frequency tables
  • Graphical representation (including line graphs, histograms, bar charts, pie
    charts, scatter diagrams)
  • Distribution curves (including normal, positive and negative skewed
    distributions)

Descriptive statistics

Knowledge, evaluation, interpretation, estimation and calculation of:

  • measures of central tendency (including mean ∑ , median and mode)
  • measures of dispersion (including range and standard deviation

Reliability

knowledge, understanding and application of:

  • Internal reliability
  • External reliability
  • Ways of dealing with issues of reliability

Validity

knowledge, understanding and application of:

  • Internal validity
  • External validity
  • Specific validity issues (including researcher bias, demand characteristics,
    social desirability)
  • Ways of dealing with issues of validity

Ethics

knowledge, understanding and application of:

  • Confidentiality
  • Deception
  • Risk of stress, anxiety, humiliation or pain
  • Risk to the participants’ values, beliefs, relationships, status or privacy
  • Valid consent
  • Working with vulnerable individuals (including children)
  • Working with animals
  • Ways of dealing with ethical issues (including ethics committees, ethical
    guidelines, debriefing)

UNIT 3 - Psychology: Implications in the Real World

Having learnt about the various psychological approaches in unit 1, learners are expected to apply this knowledge and understanding to human/animal behaviours. Learners should be able to explain and draw conclusions about the possible causes of these behaviours and understand that psychology then has the potential to impact on society as a whole by developing methods of modifying behaviour. In addition, learners should explore five controversies that continue to pose challenges for psychology. These controversies can be considered synoptically and draw on the content from the whole of the specification.

Applications

Learners must study three from six nominated behaviours. For each behaviour it will be necessary for learners to:

  • Know the characteristics of the behaviour
  • Know and understand biological, individual differences and social psychological
    explanations of the behaviour
  • Evaluate the biological, individual differences and social psychological explanations
    of the behaviour
  • Apply the explanations to methods of modifying the behaviour
  • Know and understand the methods of modifying the behaviour
  • Evaluate the methods of modifying the behaviour (including their effectiveness,
    ethical implications and social implications).

Controversies

For each controversy it will be necessary for learners to:

  • Understand the issue and why it is controversial
  • Apply knowledge and understanding to controversies in psychology
  • Make judgements and come to conclusions about the controversies from a
    psychological perspective.

UNIT 4 - Psychology: Applied Research Methods

Section A: Personal investigations

It is necessary for learners to know and understand the methodologies used in psychology and be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these. To ensure true appreciation of these methodologies the learners are expected to gain first-hand experience of two research methods. Learners will be required to respond to questions concerning these investigations in the assessment. The two investigations required each year are outlined in Appendix B. Learners are encouraged to use ICT in researching, designing, analysing and presenting their investigation. Learners will be expected to apply their knowledge of research methods to each investigation, including the following aspects: hypotheses; variables; methodology (including experimental design if appropriate); sampling; descriptive statistics; graphical representations; inferential statistics; reliability; validity; ethics.

Section B: Application of research methods to novel scenarios

The second aspect of this component is for learners to apply their knowledge and understanding of research methods to novel research scenarios, making judgements on the details of psychological research. Content to be taught (in addition to content from Unit 2, Section B)

Content to be taught (in addition to content from Unit 2).

Learners will be expected to demonstrate:

Methodologies
Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:
· brain scans
· longitudinal studies
· cross-sectional studies

Assessing reliability
Knowledge, understanding and application of:
· inter-rater reliability
· test-retest reliability
· split-half reliability

Assessing validity
Knowledge, understanding and application of:
· concurrent validity
· predictive validity
· face validity
· content validity
· construct validity

Graphical representation
Knowledge of and be able to construct and interpret:
· distribution curves
· normal
· positive skewed
· negative skewed

Inferential statistics
Knowledge, appropriate application and interpretation of:
· Chi-squared test
· Mann Whitney U test
· Sign test
· Spearman’s rank order correlation coefficient
· Wilcoxon matched pairs signed ranks test
· probability values
· significance levels
· observed (calculated) values
· critical values from tables

Our expectations within the Social Science Department

We require that students attend all lessons and submit the necessary assignments on time.
It is also expected that students engage in additional reading around the topic areas. It is vital that at this stage in education, students behave according to the school policy and maintain a positive and mature attitude during lessons. 

Resources

Within the department, students will have access to a range of text books and the internet. Students will benefit from the use of laptops, which will aid them in their research. In addition to books available in the department, the school library holds a wider range of books suitable for the A Level Psychology course. There will be additional reading sources available on ‘Moodle’, as well as class notes and resources aimed to support students throughout the course. 

Teaching staff
Miss H. Davies (Dept. Leader)
Mrs C. Lloyd
Mrs F. O’Donoghue-Carson