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The Piggott School

A Church of England Academy



To be an inspired community of literate, articulate and independent Psychology students (and teachers) capable of reaching high levels of academic rigor, positioned for success in post Piggott learning environments.

Student Knowledge, Skills and traits expected for achieving this 

  • Building on Prior Learning Mathematical Skills: Can make links between A-Level demands numeracy and GCSE 
  • Building on Prior Learning Literacy Skills: able to use non-fiction writing strategies for constructing arguments in Year 12
  • Building on Prior Learning: Scientific Methods of Research: Variables (IV and DV)
  • Knowledge: has depth, accuracy knowledge, application of theory in real life, 
  • Academic: coherent argument, attention to detail, precision, explanation
  • Personal Traits of students: work-seekers not work- avoiders, independent preparation for lessons 
  • Making links between Year 12 and Year 13
  • Learning: students employ effective learning in lessons and outside lessons (retrieval practice – high stakes (Topic tests and PPEs) and low stakes testing -digital learning Socrative)
Curriculum Intent

The intent of the Piggott Psychology curriculum is to ensure that students experience this STEM subject assessed through the AQA Psychology A-Level Specification by emphasising its scientific nature in the design and structure of the curriculum whilst simultaneously developing students’ ability to think like a psychologist. This means that there is a holistic approach to the sequential teaching. This should enhance the learning of students with special educational needs such as dyslexia as students have been provided with a context for studying the content. Students would also understand that the processes of scientific inquiry [theory construction, experimental and non-experimental testing, including the role and importance of, descriptive and inferential statistics] is not only the beginning of the ‘story’ but that this is also the narrative thread that runs through all compulsory and optional topics concerning the psychology of human behaviour right up to the end of the course, at which point they are then able to think more critically of the degree to which the subject is, could and should be, a science. 

In this iterative narrative, students of Psychology will learn to think like a psychologist by drawing on their knowledge of scientific inquiry continually throughout the two years of the course when thinking critically about explanation of the specific behaviours addressed in all of the compulsory and optional topics. The contiguous focus on ethics at the start of the course highlights the importance of ethics in the research process; students learn the significance of integrity in the discipline of psychology. Knowledge, understanding and evaluation of scientific inquiry is continually assessed through low stakes retrieval practice in lessons and regular summative and high stakes assessment at key points, the outcomes of which they are required to reflect on as a means to achieve deeper processing, resulting in permanent knowledge rather than mere rote learning, whilst also building literacy skills. The importance of the STEM aspect of the curriculum, as reflected in how it is assessed across all three examination papers, drives the conceptualisation of the lesson sequence which starts with a significant focus in the first term on scientific enquiry relating to all the key concepts in the deductive method of scientific inquiry and the steps taken in the scientific method and ends in the summer of Year 13 with higher order thinking through considering science [and psychology as a science] as a social construct and how this influences epistemology and the development of knowledge about human behaviour.

Year 12 (Year 1)

In year 1, students will have the opportunity to learn about how social influence affects human ‘behaviour and experience’ through theories and studies addressing conformity and obedience, resistance to these, the role of disposition in conformity, minority influence and how this all contributes towards social change. Students are introduced on a basic level to, for example, the concepts of bias that are part of the compulsory Issues [and Debates] topic in Year 2. They then also study the memory topic because like the social influence topic, it focusses on experimental methods and therefore consolidates prior learning on scientific inquiry, but the topic also introduces the use of non-experimental methods through case study, so drawing on [and revisiting] knowledge from the first half term of the course, consolidating prior learning as well as its application in a different context. In this topic they have the opportunity to learn about information processing in memory, theoretical models of memory, factors affecting its accuracy and how research in memory is applied in real life as a contribution of the discipline of psychology to policing and the justice system. They are also introduced on a basic level, to the concepts of reductionism, and idiographic and nomothetic approaches to research, preparing them for the [Issues and] Debates compulsory topic in Year 2. Students learn the theory of how memory works through participating in mini experiments in lessons as a way of engaging their interest and ensuring deeper processing of the knowledge of how memory works, and embeds understanding of the practical application of scientific inquiry. 

Students are expected to do non-assessed independent research and therefore have the opportunity at this stage to conduct a research project independently, further embedding knowledge in memory whilst improving their insight and potential to be more critical of issues in investigation of human behaviour. 

Following the learning of social influence and memory functioning, in the second half of year one students study human development through a focus on attachment: this being the third topic they learn because it shifts in the nature of scientific inquiry to a strong focus on observation, meta-analysis and correlations as non-experimental methods. Students learn about caregiver infant interactions, the role of the father in attachment formation, various theories of attachment formation amongst others, in explaining the same behaviour, beginning to diversify students’ thinking to include the possibility of alternative explanation. They continue to study cross cultural studies in attachment and draw on earlier learning of gender and cultural bias. The topic then moves to the implications of maternal deprivation, which is taught later in the topic as a whole to avoid confusion with the same theorist’s earlier theory and, logically following this: the effects of institutionalisation. The topic is then completed by exploring how early relationships affect later relationships and is last because it draws on much of the prior knowledge learnt in the attachment topic. Therefore, whilst learning a new application of prior learning, the prior learning is consolidated and thus moves to permanent knowledge, reducing the risk of rote learning. Psychopathology - the fourth compulsory topic- is taught in the second half of year one as it requires a shift in some aspects of the critical thinking and is more closely linked to two of the optional topics studied in year 13. Teaching it last serves as the foundation of Year 13 learning of complex disorders in more depth. Students learn about the concept of ‘abnormality’, focussing on diagnostic categories and clinical characteristics as well as the explanation and treatment of phobias, depression and OCD in the scientific schools of thought. To expedite independent learning, students are required to prepare material ahead of lessons, which is then checked for understanding so that they are ready to engage with what they have learned outside of the lesson in a critical way.

Interleaved with these four Year 1 topics in year one, as previously indicated, are concepts from the compulsory Year 2 topic of Issues and Debates and the Year 1 topic of ‘Approaches’. Regarding ‘Issues and Debates’ the concepts are learned and then applied to specific theories or investigations in the compulsory topics as a way of evaluating them. This interleaving of topics in the curriculum also applies to learning about the different schools of thought in psychology - referred to as ‘Approaches’ in the specification: the behaviourist, biological and cognitive approaches are interleaved with the year one topics based on their specific relevance to that topic. These are learned on a just in time basis to provide a wider context for the topic content and to increase depth of understanding when thinking critically about theories and studies in the topics. For example, behaviourism is taught just prior to learning about the Learning Theory of attachment and the biological approach is taught just before students learn about Bowlby’s monotropic theory of attachment, whilst the cognitive approach is taught prior to starting the memory topic. This empowers the student to think like a psychologist as it enhances understanding of explanation of causality, explanatory power and application of the topic in real life. 

Year 12 (Year 2)

The Year 2 curriculum intends to raise the level of challenge by drawing on significant aspects of the year one curriculum and to then extend this knowledge and understanding through further oral and written debate applying higher order and more holistic thinking about topics in psychology at a more complex level of explanation. Students have the opportunity to use their knowledge to make links and connections across topics, drawing them together at the next level, in the wider context of Psychology as a discipline. To exemplify this, students draw on their knowledge of research into attachment types and conformity research to argue the issues of cultural bias in psychological research as a whole and then explore solutions, thereby developing synthesis thinking skills. To empower students to do this effectively, students usually write a Paper One assessment in the autumn term to ensure that there is a solid foundation of prior knowledge making Year 2 knowledge more securely embedded.

At the start of the Autumn term, the curriculum broadens their knowledge and understanding of schools of thought from merely scientific approaches to the schools of thought that lie outside of the scientific perspectives’ understanding of causality in studying the humanist and psychodynamic approaches. Students also complete the inferential statistics topic by studying a wider range of statistical tests and so have an opportunity to revisit the concepts of probability, significance and type 1 and type 2 errors learning in Year 1. They also have the opportunity to synthesise their understanding of validity and reliability by examining ways to assess and improve these in psychological research. Also in the autumn term, students learn biopsychology. These topics are taught in this sequence as they complete all knowledge required for Paper 2 of the A-Level AQA specification examination before moving on to more complex higher order thinking in the topics of paper 3. This also enables full summative assessment of this aspect of the curriculum in the spring term. This allows time for students to reflect on their knowledge and understanding and therefore informs their revision on this topic between then and the final summer half term.

In the Issues and Debates topic taught in the second half of the autumn term, students learn to argue orally and in written work, about bias in psychological research, and about debates concerning: the relative contribution of nature and nurture; free-will versus determinism; the problems of reductionism and holism; idiographic and nomothetic research and, ethical implications and socially sensitive research in psychology. Their ability to move quickly through this topic is enhanced by their encounters with the basic concepts during their learning of the topics in Year 1 and is assessed in the final examination paper [3]. It is taught before the optional topics as these topics draw on knowledge from this topic, so it also forms a building block for thinking critically about optional topics later in the course.

At the start of the spring term students study the relationships topic in which they have the opportunity to learn about evolutionary theories of partner preferences; factors affecting romantic relationships: for example, attraction: self-disclosure, and demographics, amongst others. They also learn about the formation, maintenance and breakdown of relationships and relationships in the virtual world and finally para-social relationships. This topic is placed at this point in the curriculum as students are more mature and entering young adulthood which means they are more able to relate to the material taught, in a meaningful way, thereby learning it more effectively. Furthermore, having learnt the relevant aspects of cultural and gender bias required to think critically about the theories and studies, they are able to make more effective judgements on theories relating to these topics.  Having completed the biological approach in year 1 they have the opportunity to revisit the concept of ‘evolution and behaviour’, thereby revising this topic and entrenching this as permanent knowledge. 
At the start of the spring term, students are given the opportunity to learn in more depth, about a single and significant psychopathology in the second optional topic. The Schizophrenia topic is learnt using the same structure as for the psychopathologies studied in year 1. This would have formed the building block for a more incisive and speedier grasp of the more in-depth approach that this new topic takes to the explanation of this psychopathology, thus developing their understanding of the complexity of how disorders are understood in psychology. Since they study the causality and treatment of this disorder from a biological, cognitive and psychodynamic school of thought for example, they are building on their prior knowledge (Year 1 and Year 2) of the assumptions of causality in these approaches. Furthermore, these concepts in turn, form the building block for a new way of understanding explanation of mental disorders i.e. being more complex than what they would have learnt in Year 1: explanation of depression through single cause, [e.g. that faulty schema causes depression] but now, that there are multiple levels of causality in mental disorders. Their ability to do this is enhanced by the continual reference to the cycle of scientific inquiry. This means they are revisiting basic prior learning as well as extending their application of prior knowledge in a more complex way. 

In the second half of the spring term students learn about addiction. This is placed last as it revisits the other scientific schools of thought, which means students are revisiting these for the 6th time in the duration of the course, albeit in a different context, which means this prior knowledge should now be permanent. Therefore, the revision burden at this last leg of the course is reduced because their knowledge is more permanent. Additionally, the topic ends on extending their understanding of treatments as being more complex and that any single approach to treatment that they learned about in Year 1 is a limited view. Consequently, students’ depth of knowledge of the theory of behaviour change and understanding multi-disciplinary approaches to treatment is formed.
Finally, the final element of ‘comparing approaches’ draws on the previous building blocks of when these topics were learnt and so is approached in the curriculum from the perspective of revision and consolidation of both the ‘approaches’ and ‘issues and debates’ topics. Students’ thinking is challenged in terms of understanding of human behaviour using a single approach versus eclecticism as the best way of doing so. This sequencing of this final subtopic in the paper 2 Approaches topic is deliberate as it requires a synthesis of information and students are more able to provide a coherent and integrated account of their knowledge on this topic by the end of the course. It also serves as revision and consolidation, just prior to their final examination, again reducing the burden of revision and cognitive load. The same logic is applied to the final debate of whether psychology is, can be or even should be a science.

Learning Journey