A Level reforms and the future of Psychology: My letter in print courtesy of the BPS!

The Psychologist (October 2012)

I was delighted to open my copy of the October (2012) edition of the BPS member’s publication The Psychologist and find my name in print.

After reading the proposed OfQual A Level reforms this summer I found myself slightly concerned that the plans to change, or drop, all of the A Levels for teaching by September 2018 might signal the end of A Level’s not regarded as “facilitating” (to use the words of the Russell Group) including Psychology. My concern, that the Government and public regard for Psychology as an A Level subject (anyone else concerned by the cut in PGCE places for this subject?) might not match mine, prompted me to write to the BPS expressing these thoughts.

My letter, published in full, highlights the concerns I have already mentioned but on a more positive note also outlines some of the areas in which I feel intelligent changes could be made to improve the validity of A Level Psychology if these reforms take place.

A chance for some positive change

As The Psychologist is a BPS members-only publication I have included an extract from the letter (highlighting the areas where change could be focussed) below for any interested non-BPS members.

“To ensure that the A Level is as valid and valuable as possible, some creative thought needs to be given to a number of issues including:

  • Whether it is possible to avoid the duplication of Year 1 degree study and A Level Psychology to ensure that the choice to study A Level is enriching.
  • How the inclusion of independent or practical work can be achieved without simply bringing back the old coursework (which was removed because it lacked validity).
  • Educating those that teach and publicise the subject (including GCSE Science teachers) that it is the scientific approach to research in Psychology as a discipline that makes it science not the inclusion of Biological Psychology and neuroscience content/topics.
  • Ensuring that it is possible to determine which candidates are more learned about Psychology and the issues involved in research, rather than those who are simply better at English.
  • Supporting those teachers who find themselves teaching a subject that they do not have a degree in.
  • Investigating how the skills of a researching Psychologist can be assessed as well as knowledge of Psychological theory and research”.

Opening up discussion

I really hope other BPS members will comment and shed some light on the perception of A Level Psychology as a subject from within the discipline and I hope all Psychology teachers will get involved in making sure Sixth Form students do not lose the opportunity to  study Psychology at this level .

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