Psychology

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.

SUMMARY OF ASSESSMENT

This specification is divided into a total of four units, 2 AS units and 2 A level units.

AS (2 units)

AS Unit 1

Psychology: Past to Present

Written 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: Theory of Research

Compulsory questions on the theory of psychological research.

Section B: Personal Investigation

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

Section C: Contemporary Debate

One question from a choice of two linked to the given debates

Full A Level (the above plus a further 2 units below)

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 qualificationSection 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.

UNIT 1

Psychology: Past to Present

Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes 20% of qualification

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).

Unit 1: Content to be taught


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: Investigating Behaviour Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes 20% of qualification

Theory of Research

The central aspect 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 students 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.

Personal Investigation

To ensure true appreciation of the principles of psychological research the students are required to gain first-hand experience of research methods in their own investigation. Learners will be required to respond to questions concerning this investigation. The investigation required each year is given out by the exam board.

Contemporary Debates

In addition, the exploration of a contemporary debate provides an opportunity for independent research into areas that psychology has been influential in making changes

Unit 2: Content to be taught

Learners will be expected to demonstrate:

Deciding on a research question

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

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
  • Appropriate symbols (= , ≤ ,< , > ,≥)

Reliability

knowledge, understanding and application of:

  • Internal reliability
  • External reliability
  • Ways of dealing with issues of reliability
  • Assessing reliability (including inter-rater reliability, test-retest reliability,
    split-half 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
  • Assessing validity (including concurrent, predictive, face, content and
    construct 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)

Contemporary debates:

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

  • Understand what is at the centre of the debate
  • Refer to psychological studies and theories
  • Explore both sides of the contemporary debate from a psychological perspective
    (including the ethical 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

 

UNIT 3

Psychology: Implications in the Real World

Written examination: 2 hours 30 minutes 40% of qualification

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.

UNIT4

Psychology: Applied Research Methods

Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes 20% of qualification

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. However, unless first-hand experience is gained of carrying out investigative work, the appreciation of the impact of choices made on outcomes will be shallow. This unit therefore focuses on the practical work carried out by the learner in their studies of psychology, as well as dealing with novel scenarios.

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

Learners will be expected to demonstrate:

Location of research

Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of:

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

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

Descriptive statistics
Evaluation, 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
  • Assessing reliability (including inter-rater reliability, test-retest reliability,
    split-half reliability)

Entry requirements
Students are expected to achieve a minimum of 5 GCSEs to include:

  • GCSE English               grade B
  • GCSE Maths                 grade B
  • GCSE Science               grade C

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

Mrs C. Lloyd and Miss H. Davies