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June 28th 2017

Spotlight on Psychology

This week, we speak to Ms R Sivyer, Head of Psychology, about the subject at BHS.

How long have you been teaching Psychology here at BHS?
I am in my third year at Blackheath High.

Can you tell us about your background?
I have an MA in Neuroscience and 20 years of experience in Psychology. I was originally an Educational Psychologist so have practised Psychology but decided to move into teaching. I enjoy teaching but only teach at A-level. I think it is hard to teach Psychology at GCSE. At that level, it is too superficial. 

What is covered in Psychology?
We look at memory (both long term and short term) including why it is vitally important, why people forget, how our brain works cognitively, and how we understand. We cover Development Psychology including early care, adult stress, and how we are the only mammal that can think. We also look at mental disorders (such as schizophrenia, OCD and depression) and madness – is it a social construction? We look at the Holocaust and whether it was to do with obedience. We also look at neuroscience – the functional view, how brains build itself from birth to adulthood, how it repairs itself, and how connections are formed in the brain. We definitely do not psychoanalyse anyone!

Is it a popular choice of subject?
It seems to be really popular around the country although people think it is about psychoanalysis and mind reading! When they first start, a lot of students are surprised that it is not an easy subject. People do not realise that Psychology is a science, it is research based and analytical. It is not about our ideas but the quality of research, looking at all the different variables and unravelling them. We look at the evidence, not a subjective point of view. 

Research methods are very important in Psychology and we look at the research process with the aim of completely understanding it. We analyse statistics and do lots of practicals including studying ourselves. We recently looked at conformity and also carried out a study on attraction with real life couples. People think it is a soft option but Psychology is a neuroscience, an evolutionary science. It is a subset of Biology.

What are the benefits of studying this subject?
If you can understand how the mind works, you can understand everything - why people suffer from mental illness, behavioural economics, the possibilities are endless. You will learn skills that extend far beyond a career in Psychology. 

What are the benefits of studying Psychology at BHS?
My approach is to be challenging and proactive as a teacher. I provide extensive resources including links to websites, journals and exemplary essays. We have an extensive library and I write a lot of my own resources. I also support students individually and using my own experience of published research, teach them how to write. By the time they reach university, they really are exceptional students.  

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