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Developing students as researchers: the experience of psychology students. Michelle Lee Senior Lecturer Dept Psychology, School of Human Sciences. Overview. Context – what is psychology? QAA benchmarking and research oriented teaching Training students as researchers

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Developing students as researchers: the experience of psychology students

Michelle Lee

Senior Lecturer

Dept Psychology,

School of Human Sciences


  • Context – what is psychology?

  • QAA benchmarking and research oriented teaching

  • Training students as researchers

  • Implications for the RLT approach

  • Future developments

Psychology as a discipline

  • The second largest discipline in UK HE

  • 2004-5: 70,000 psychology students in the UK!

  • BPS accredited programmes are a prerequisite for professional training

    • 1 in 5 graduates become professional psychologists

  • Psychology graduates prepared for many careers

    • 1/3 work in the public sector

    • 1/3 in business and commerce (marketing, HR, accountancy)

    • 10% enter teaching professions

  • Able to contribute to a knowledge society/economy

The nature and origins of psychology

Analyse and explain behaviour in a systematic way



Psychology as an empirical science

Social Sciences

Rigorous research methodology

Natural Sciences

Strong relationship between theory and empirical data

Neuroscience: understanding brain function at a molecular level

Brain systems and neural mechanisms underlying behaviour

Individual differences

Attitudes and beliefs

Socio-cultural influences

Group processes


Application of theory to


Health and clinical

Criminal justice system, policing

Industry and business


Sustainable development

Fast moving

Techniques and methodology

Hot topics e.g. ageing, obesity, binge drinking, gambling, autism, forensics

The nature of psychology

QAA benchmark statement – subject-specific skills

  • On graduating students should be able to:

    • Generate and explore hypotheses and research questions

    • Integrate ideas across multiple perspectives

    • Analyse data using sophisticated techniques

    • Present and evaluate research findings

    • Employ evidence-based reasoning

    • Examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with different methodologies

QAA benchmark statement

  • Carry out an extensive piece of independent empirical research; including defining a research problem; formulating hypotheses; planning and carrying out a study efficiently; demonstrating awareness of ethical issues and codes of conduct; ability to reason about the data and present findings effectively; discuss findings in light of previous research; evaluating methodologies, analyses and implications for ethics; collaborate effectively with colleagues and participants…

Level 1: Begin training in statistics and research methods (30 credits)



Practical classes

Drop-in clinics for basic maths help (peer-led)!

Complete 4 scientific reports written according to American Psychologcial Association publication guidelines

Level 2: Advanced methods (30 credits)


SPSS workshops


Drop-in clinics for SPSS help

Complete 4 reports

Begin to explore ideas for independent research in L3

How we develop students as researchers: training in L1 and L2

Centred around core curriculum domains and reflect staff research interests

Test a hypothesis using a set methodology

Discuss ethical issues

Collect data within the class

Share data for select appropriate analysis

Complete write-up

Introduction to a research topic representative of staff interests

Generate a testable hypothesis

Work in a small group to design a study and select appropriate methodology

Ethical considerations

Collect data outside of class

Share data with group

Decide on analysis

Compile report

Level 1

Level 2

Research participation

  • Students required to participate in research projects during L1 and L2 (approx 12 hours worth of ‘credits’)

  • Web based participant pool using an experimental management system

  • Staff, PhD, MSc and UG research advertised

  • Earn the right to use EMS for their own independent research in L3

Final year project – 45 credits and a must for accreditation

  • Staff publish list of research interests in TB2 for L2 students

  • Students meet staff with overlapping interests to generate ideas

  • Select supervisor by end of summer term

  • Develop ideas over summer; begin early October, submit at Easter.

  • Ethical procedures identical for staff, post-grads and UG research proposals

  • Risk assessment

Final year research project – related to staff research profile

The media and male and female body image

The effect of breakfast on concentration in school children

The role of pro-anorexia web communities in eating disorders

Water intake and attention in the primary classroom

Eating Behaviour and Nutrition Research Group (5 staff, 5PhDs)

Cortical activity in response to food cues in lean and overweight adults

Stress-induced eating

Childhood eating patterns and overeating in adulthood

Access to labs and latest technology and methods


Skin conductance


The benefits of developing students as researchers

  • Fosters enquiry-based learning across the curriculum

  • Develops critical thinking

  • Enhances student experience

    • Understanding the role of academics

    • Understanding the role of research in society

    • Tackling the ‘them and us’ culture

    • Managing expectations!

  • For staff - pilot new ideas and methods

Challenges and future developments

  • Covering the core curriculum areas

  • Improving key skills further

    • Critical review of primary source material

    • Search skills

    • Plagiarism

  • Move away from traditional essay format

    • Nature News and Views style article

    • Critique or summary of new research papers through posters

    • Interviewing staff about their own research

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