Teach “topics in Psychology” using a spiral curriculum

I am currently teaching AQA Spec A Unit 3 – “topics in Psychology” – using a Bruner inspired cycle of topics. Since my students returned from study leave in Year 12 I have been teaching Aggression, Biological Rhythms and Sleep and Cognition and Development in a 3 layered spiral curriculum. I started by exploring each of the topics through the main concepts, theories, explanations and conclusions of research, ensuring that students have a good understanding of the topic at this level.

Having completed this cycle/layer for each of the 3 topics I am about to start revisiting each topic in turn focussing on the evidence base, using evidence to support conclusions and analysing the research. Finally I will revisit each of the 3 topics again to explore the higher level approaches, issues and debates in seminar style lessons. I am hoping this will aid retention of concepts to ensure I am not spending lessons closer to the exam re-teaching concepts and instead can focus on revision and more importantly extension.

I think it’s working so far, especially as I have made explicit to my students that this approach is derived from theory in Psychology. The students are more motivated as they seem to see the topics as more manageable studied in a gradual manner. Hopefully they will also have a schema to add their new knowledge to as we revisit the topic for a second and third time. An added, somewhat unexpected, benefit is that as the students already have an overview of each topic, they are making links that aren’t always noticeable when a topic is studied in one solid block. I’m definitely excited to see whether this has an impact on their retention, understanding and performance by the end of the term!


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