Psychology Club, Spring Term 2013
Organised by SBS for Year 12.
21st January: “John goes to nursery”- the original film of a famous research study from the 1950s.
Organised by SBS for Year 12.
28th January: How good is your memory?
Organised by Year 12 students for Years 7 and 8.
4th February: Do you conform?
Organised by Year 12 students for Years 7 and 8.
18th February (A level mocks): Support/revision for A-Level Psychology
25th February: What would you do if your perception changed?
Organised by Year 12 students for Years 7 and 8.
4th March: Born this way? Nature versus nurture.
Organised by Year 12 students for Years 7 and 8.
11th March: No Psychology Club this week
18th March: Support session for AS/A2 Psychology (SBS)
Revising the bible of psychiatry- DSM 5!
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental health disorders. It is used by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers. The current version, DSM-IV-TR, was produced years ago, but the 5th edition is due to be published in Summer 2013. For this, the diagnostic criteria for all conditions have been reviewed, based on the latest research, and some will be changed. We were therefore delighted to welcome a member of one of the workgroups, Dr Cynthia Graham, to OHS in November 2012 to talk about the process of revision. Dr Graham described some of the major controversies and issues that the DSM Task Force have been grappling with. It was a fascinating insight, and very timely since Sixth form students had been watching the Horizon documentaries “How Mad are You?” in Psychology Club and using these programmes as a basis for discussion of mental health conditions, the reliability and validity of diagnoses and the perception of mental health conditions in society.
On May 3rd 2012, we welcomed Dr Michael Pilling to Oxford High School to give a talk about illusory perceptions and the brain. Girls of all age groups in the Senior School were invited, and he certainly “wowed” them with a whirlwind of illusions (not just visual ones, but auditory and cross-modal ones). There was a lot of pointing and exclamations of “Can you see that?” “Ooh… I get it now!” “That’s weird!” and (what psychologists are ultimately interested in) “How does that work?” Those in the audience were left literally not believing their eyes (nor their ears, nor their nose, nor their taste…).
Sixth Form Psychology Conference 2012
Our third Sixth Form Conference, a record number of schools applying for places, and a really informative day of cutting-edge research! The undergraduate presentations covered the topics of eating attitudes and personality traits in 16-18-year-old girls and the experience of cultural transition among Hellenic immigrants in Oxford. Workshops and activities run by current lecturers and researchers included “Who do children believe?” “The Psychology of musical preference” and “Understanding and measuring sleep”. The keynote lecture was on “Understanding Autism” which raised some intriguing questions about creativity.
The British Psychological Society – October 2011
Mrs Nikki Newhouse spoke to The Year 12 and 13 Psychology students about how she has combined her previous career in publishing with her more recent research in Psychology, to become Editor of “Psych-Talk” (A British Psychological Society publication for Psychology students). She discussed how to write an engaging Psychology article, relevant to a wide audience of students (from A level students to post-graduates) and encouraged Oxford High School students to submit articles to her for consideration.
Sixth Form Psychology Conference 2011
We were delighted to be able to help organise this event again. This was a highlight of the year, as it was an opportunity for around 150 students and teachers from local schools (Bartholomew, Headington, Lord Williams, Cheney, Cherwell, Abingdon-Witney College, Oxford High School) to meet with psychologists and find out about the latest developments in research in a series of workshops and lectures. It was quite an eye-opener to see the range of work taking place. We started the day with Kiera Fines, a Psychology undergraduate, describing her fascinating research project into gender differences in attitudes to organ donation and the implications for advertising campaigns. It was inspiring for students to see someone just a few years ahead of them producing work with such a potential impact for everyday life. Other stimulating talks during the day included current research into the use of weighted blankets to aid people with sleep disorders, and philosophical questions about consciousness raised by split brain patients. Oxford High School students had the chance to talk with psychologists in the smaller workshops on “Reading and its challenges,” “Physical Attraction” and “How do we find out what babies know?” (which included a trip to the BabyLab with Professor Gert Westerman and an opportunity to try out the visual eye tracking equipment).
Psychology Film Night
In the run-up to A level exams, some of the Psychology students (and other interested sixth formers) took a well-earned break from revision to watch “Shutter Island”. I’m not sure whether this Psychological Thriller could be described as relaxing, but while munching on crisps, doughnuts and chocolate cake (thanks to the Year 13s for organising snacks), we did ponder everything from frontal lobotomies to the “criminally insane,” and proposed various interpretations of Martin Scorsese’s ending of the film. Thanks to all involved for a great evening. This was our second film night; in 2010 we watched “A Beautiful Mind” which also provoked interesting discussion. All suggestions for future films welcome- please share your ideas with Dr Squire.
On Tuesday 26th April 2011 Dr Georgina Krebs, a clinical psychologist and a former student of Oxford High School, came to Oxford High School to talk about her work with children with OCD at a specialist clinic at the Maudsley Hospital in London. Dr Krebs gave a fascinating insight into the difficulties experienced by some of the children that she works with, described effective treatments that she helps to deliver and answered questions from the large audience of Sixth form students and staff.
Sixth Form Psychology Conference 2010
This was organised jointly between Oxford High School and Professor Margaret Harris, Head of the Psychology Department at Oxford Brookes University. We had around 150 Sixth Form Students and teachers attend from nine different schools. The day was a huge success, and included presentations and hands-on sessions from various researchers about topics as diverse as children’s belief in Father Christmas, to sleep disorders, mood, physical attractiveness, how to study whether babies understand emotions and psychological aspects of the design of the MINI E car! The conference was held on a glorious day, which provided a wonderful opportunity for students to picnic together, whilst others sought advice in a drop-in session on UCAS applications in Psychology. In the afternoon we were fortunate to be joined by Dr Simon Green, who is the chief examiner for the A level Psychology course that we follow, and who gave a helpful session on how to make the jump from AS to A2 Psychology. We are currently planning a second conference for June 2011!
Pleasure, Mobile Phones and Psychological Research!
We have had psychologists from a wide range of areas come in to tell us about their research. We were delighted that Dr Nenagh Kemp (a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Tasmania) was able to join us to tell us about how she has extended her research in children’s literacy to young people’s reading and writing of text messages: “Texting vs. txting: A study of students reading and writing text messages.” Students were actively encouraged to get out their mobiles and have a go! Dr Morten Kringelbach, from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, also gave a fascinating talk on “Finding Pleasure in the Brain,” covering everything from leading treatments involving implanting electrodes in the brain, to brain activity when drinking chocolate milk versus tomato juice!
First Prize Winner of Cambridge University Psychology Essay Competition
Many congratulations to Rebecca Hewstone who won First Prize in the Cambridge University Psychology Essay Competition! This was a national competition for A level students which ran for the first time this year, and there were around 100 entries. Rebecca wrote an essay entitled: Inoculation against adolescent depression: Reality or Illusion? and she won a prize of £1000. Also congratulations to Nicola Jones, whose entry was short-listed. Oxford High School was the only school to have two essays in the “top ten.” On 12th September, Rebecca, Nicola and Dr Squire were invited to lunch at Newnham College, Cambridge, to celebrate this achievement with various prestigious members of the Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies (PPSIS).
Romanian Orphans (Talk from Mr Ben Wells, March 2009)
In AS level Psychology, students study the potential long-term consequences of institutionalisation and, in particular, consider the potential effect of institutionalisation on the development of Romanian orphans. It was therefore highly relevant for Year 12 Psychologists to hear from Mr Ben Wells about his on-going work in a school for Romanian orphans. It was a fantastic opportunity for Year 12 to supplement their theoretical knowledge with Mr Wells’ first-hand experience, and a number of students have subsequently expressed an interest in doing voluntary work at the school during a GAP year.
Ethical issues surrounding health-related research – Talk from Professor Tony Hope – April 2009
We were delighted to welcome Professor Tony Hope, Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, to give a talk and run an excellent discussion session with the Psychology A level students in April 2009. Professor Hope used fascinating examples to illustrate the complex ethical issues associated with conducting health-related research, especially when the research takes place in a different culture. The students benefited tremendously from his expertise, the questions that he posed and the discussion that took place.
Visit to the Institute for Research in Child Development at Brookes University – November 08
In November around 25 OHS Psychologists were delighted to be able to visit Professor Margaret Harris and the research team at the Institute for Research in Child Development at Brookes University.
We had a fantastic afternoon, seeing and hearing about research “in action”. Of special interest was the state-of-the art observation lab, where researchers can view parents and children (or, in our case, OHS girls could observe their friends) through a one-way mirror, with sound and pictures being relayed to computers in the control room – very “Big Brother!”
We also had a fascinating talk from Dr Anna Barnett about how she set about devising the recently published Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH), and we tried out part of the assessment ourselves.
Dr Gert Westerman explained how he studies brain activity using ERP and also how it is possible to use the latest eye-tracking technology to investigate infants’ language acquisition. Again, we thoroughly enjoyed trying out some of techniques ourselves and greatly appreciated this unique opportunity to have such a “hands-on” afternoon alongside discussions with experts in the field.
The Truth about Hypnosis – 2008
On Wednesday 23rd April an enthusiastic group of Year 11, 12 and 13 students visited Science Oxford to hear Dr Peter Naish from the Open University explore the science of hypnosis and take part in a group demonstration to see if they were responsive! Other events that took place as part of Science Oxford’s “Into the Brain” series and which were attended by psychology students from Oxford High School included sessions entitled “What is Intelligence?” and “The Teenage Brain”.
Trip to Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research, February 2008
For the first time this year, Year 13 Psychology students have studied the Brain and Behaviour topic at A2 level, and have been learning about methods of studying the brain. We were very privileged that we were able to see brain imaging in action at the JR hospital in February. Dr Norbury gave us a talk and a safety briefing (the girls were most concerned that participants undergoing a brain scan must remove all jewellery and make-up!), and we then entered the main console room. The girls were able to communicate with their volunteer via the control centre while “live” images of his brain appeared on screen!
Psychology Conference, March 2008
Oxford High School hosted an A level Psychology conference in March 2008 and were delighted that students from Cheney School were able to join us – Oxford High School has never had 70 A level psychologists in the building before! We were very fortunate that both Professor Charles Spence (a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Oxford) and Dr Simon Green (the chief examiner for our A level course, author of parts of our text books, and lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London) were able to run sessions. Professor Spence talked about some of the exciting applications of his Crossmodal research, including his collaborations with Heston Blumenthal (as seen on TV…), wine tasting, the use of mobile phones in cars, vibrating car-seat warning signals, and the effect of different scents when rating attractiveness (ask a Sixth Form psychologist!) On a more exam-focused note, Dr Green had excellent advice for students on improving their evaluation of research in essays and achieving a top grade, as well as some amusing stories about exam howlers…
Look at the BBC website to see Charles Spence’s work with Heston Blumenthal and to try out some experiments of your own!
“Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour.”
(British Psychological Society, 2007)
“…The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged.”
(American Psychological Association, 2007)
Students who are intrigued by the way people think and behave, enjoy the rigour of science subjects and are ready to challenge findings and to discuss theories are bound to enjoy Psychology.
Why people do the things they do is an age-old question. The roots of modern Psychology go back to the ancient Greek Philosophers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. However, Psychology – the science concerned with behaviour – only became established as a discipline in its own right around 125 years ago. One of the exciting things about this is that the studies and theories that students learn about at A level are relatively new, and we are often learning about work that has only been carried out in the last few decades.
A level Psychology has become an increasingly popular choice among students in the UK in recent years and was introduced at Oxford High School in 2005. Although a relatively new subject, it is a successful one. In 2007, one third of the students at Oxford High School who studied the subject at A2 enjoyed it so much that they applied to read Psychology at University. In 2008, all Psychology AS students chose to continue studying the subject at A2 level in Year 13.
This club provides the opportunity for all year groups to find out more about Psychology. It is held during a lunch-break (dates advertised on Daily Digest); sometimes sessions are run by Dr Squire and sometimes by Sixth Form Psychology Students. This year activities have included testing short term memories, investigating visual illusions such as the Necker cube, taster lessons in AS Psychology and hearing about the Year 13 A level investigations.
Some Psychology Club sessions are aimed at Sixth formers who would like to find out more about Psychology (or broaden their A level knowledge), discuss topical studies and issues in psychology, read popular psychology books or help organise psychology events in school.
Books discussed so far have included “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert (Royal Society Science Book of the Year 2007) “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre. Come along and discuss whether you find the books entertaining or irritating! You don’t have to have finished the book, you just need to be interested in it.
Dr S. B. Squire
MA Cantab, Natural Sciences, DPhil. Oxon, Experimental Psychology
Dr Sarah Squire joined Oxford High School as Head of Psychology in September 2007 and also teaches science.
She is passionate about Psychology! Prior to becoming a teacher, she lectured and gave tutorials in Psychology while carrying out research at the University of Oxford. Her main interests are cognitive developmental psychology, parent-child interactions and eating disorders. She maintains links with the university and psychology students to see research “in action”.
Facilities and Resources
The Psychology department has a wide range of text books, videos and DVDS which are used to bring psychology “to life” and to supplement students’ learning. This is complemented by a collection of books (both textbooks and popular reading) and the latest issues of Psychology Review in the School Library.
Psychology Review is a magazine that is written for A level students; it helps develop an understanding of topics covered in the specification and engages students in topical issues and up-to-date research (it is also possible for individual students to subscribe to this magazine at a small cost). Each student has a copy of the AS or A2 text book endorsed by the exam board; alternative textbooks are also available in the library.
Psychology lessons are taught in a classroom equipped with a networked PC and digital projector which facilitate the use of relevant video clips, websites and interactive resources. Discussion, debate, and practical investigations also form an integral part of Psychology lessons. Psychology involves a wide range of skills – everything from essay writing to statistics – and students learn in different ways; the varied activities adopted in lessons reflect these facts.
The specification that we follow at Oxford High School is AQA-A.
AS Level Psychology
Unit 1: Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology and Research Methods
- How do we remember things?
- Can we rely on eyewitness testimony?
- Do all children form similar attachments with their parents and those around them?
- Does day care have an effect on children’s social development?
- What scientific methods can be used to study behaviour?
- Can psychologists deceive people about the purpose of their study?
- Is it ever ethical to observe people without their knowing?
Unit 2: Biological Psychology, Social Psychology and Individual Differences.
- What is the body’s biological response to stress?
- What methods exist for managing stress?
- Why do people obey authority?
- Why do people change their behaviour as a result of peer pressure?
- How do we draw the line between what’s “normal” and what’s “abnormal?”
- Units 1 and 2 are each worth 25% of the full A level (50% of the AS). They are assessed in two 1½ hour exams at the end of Year 12.
Units 1 and 2 are each worth 25% of the full A level (50% of the AS). They are assessed in two 1½ hour exams at the end of Year 12.
Unit 3: Topics in Psychology
Three topics will be selected from the following:
- Biological rhythms and sleep
- Eating behaviour
- Intelligence and learning
- Cognition and Development
Unit 4: Psychopathology, Psychology in Action and Research Methods
Psychopathology (Schizophrenia, Depression or Anxiety Disorders)
- Clinical characteristics
- Issues surrounding diagnosis
- Biological explanations of the disorder and biological therapies
- Psychological explanations of the disorder and psychological therapies
The Psychology of Addictive Behaviour
- Models of addictive behaviour
- Factors affecting addictive behaviour
- Reducing addictive behaviour
Psychological Research and Scientific Method
- The application of scientific method in psychology
- Designing psychological investigations
- Data analysis and reporting on investigations
Units 3 and 4 are each worth 25% of the full A level. Unit 3 is assessed in a 1½ hour exam and Unit 4 is assessed in a two hour exam (both at the end of Year 13).