Psychology, Winter postcards from our modules

A winter postcard from DD803 Evaluating Psychology: Research and Practice

We continue our series of winter postcards from the School’s modules, written by the academics who work mostly closely with students and tutors, the Staff Tutors. They write about what’s happening on each module at this point in the year. Today Sue Nieland writes from DD803, a second-level postgraduate module.

What’s happening at the moment on DD803?

Students on DD803 – the 48-week second level postgraduate module – are halfway through their studies towards an MSc in Psychology, having already completed the first-year module DD801. DD803 covers social, forensic and cognitive psychology, and counselling, explored within a range of topics that reflect real world issues.

By Christmas, DD803 students had completed two TMAs, starting with an essay for TMA01 and a more challenging and exciting audience-focused information resource (brochure, multimedia presentation or podcast) for TMA02. They have also engaged with a peer review process, having the opportunity to review fellow students’ work, and received feedback on their own. All assignments involve the application of psychological theory, so it isn’t just about knowing the theory and research within a topic, it is about applying what psychologists have found to real world contexts and situations. Those contexts so far have included child language brokering, motherhood, expertise in musicians, distracted drivers and panic attacks.

DD803 also introduces more sensitive topics – an example is sexual offending against children – but the module is built so that students can avoid topics they find difficult. But it is part of the real-world application that psychologists have to sometimes research into the more challenging aspects of human behaviour. In the new year, students will be looking at witness interviewing, post-traumatic stress disorder in the military and more about expertise, as well as importantly considering victims of child sexual abuse, as well as the perpetrators.

What are the students enjoying about this module?

Students definitely find the real-world application of psychological knowledge an enjoyable aspect of DD803. They also appreciate how different aspects of one topic can be explained using different psychological approaches. For example, with expert musicians, the topic wasn’t just about what contributes to expertise (practice and skill) but also looked at the social psychology of performing, and what it is like to perform, managing the emotional demands of a performance, and the role of the audience.

Students are also excited about choosing their own topic for their dissertation, which starts after Easter and makes up the final third of the module. They have the opportunity to choose a specialised supervisor for their dissertation and will work with their supervisor from the early summer to complete a significant piece of work for the final assessment, based on a topic they want to study, with a large range of potential topics to select from.

What do you yourself find interesting about DD803?

As a qualitative researcher, I like the exploration of the experiences of, for example, performing as a professional musician, rather than just focusing on how someone becomes an expert. I also like the way the module makes use of simulations and activities that students can work through themselves, as participants would in research, to get an understanding of both the methods psychologists use, and what it is like to actually participate in how those methods are applied.

DD803 represents some of the best of the research that is currently taking place in the university, for example into distracted driving and the impact of mobile phone use on driving performance, so students are receiving the most up-to-date psychological knowledge as they study the module.

What message would you send to current and future students?

This seems like a long module – it continues through the summer – but the fact that the dissertation is the predominant focus from June onwards means that students can become engrossed in their own area of interest up to the module’s end.  Students from the last presentation loved the range of topics, and the insight that they gained into areas they had never considered before, such as children who act as language brokers for their parents, and the implications of that for the children and their families.

The module also shows how diverse psychological study is, with different approaches exploring and explaining different aspects of human behaviour within the same topic. Plus there is something for everyone to be excited about when studying DD803 – who knew that a whole topic could focus on selfies?

You can watch a video about DD803 here 

Sue Nieland is a Staff Tutor in the School of Psychology and Counselling, following 14 years as an Associate Lecturer teaching on a number of psychology and counselling modules including DE100, DE200, DE300, DD210, DD801 and DD803. She is also working towards a PhD in Political Psychology, looking at the political decision-making of the Silent Generation – the oldest members of our society aged in their 80s and 90s – focusing particularly on their views of the UK’s relationship with Europe. You can read about the PhD here

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