An Inside Look at CGA's Psychology Classes

18/04/202412 minute read
An Inside Look at CGA's Psychology Classes

Ever wondered if psychology class was for you? Or curious about working in this field? Then this blog is for you. We recently had the chance to meet with our CGA expert psychology teachers, Miss Jay from Greenwich, Miss Jeffcott from Aoraki, and Mrs Haresnape who shared their secrets for making psychology engaging, their favourite classroom moments, and advice for students interested in this field. They also give insight on what it means to be part of the Psychology Club and how it can add an extra layer of fun and discovery to your schooling.

Meet Our Psychology Teachers

Hear from our psychology teachers themselves, as they give us a look into their background, educational experience, passion for teaching and why psychology was the subject for them.

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Miss Jessica Jay (Greenwich)

Psychology was not available as a subject when I was in school but I discovered it after studying Marketing, within my Business and Finance A level; it interested me how magazine double-page spreads were visually designed to attract the interest of either our right or left hemisphere depending on whether the information was visual or verbal respectively. 

I studied for my BSc in Psychology and first started teaching psychology to first year students when I was in the third year of my degree.  After this, I taught statistics to postgraduate students for a while before moving to Canada for a few years. 

My passion for psychology never waned, and I began to teach psychology again from 1999 and have continued to do so ever since.

Miss Barbara Jeffcott (Aoraki)

I gained my Psychology degree in my early twenties and although I’d loved it, decided I should gain some more life experience before going on to further study in the field. Life happened and I ended up teaching English for twenty years, but when Psychology became a part of the secondary school curriculum, I jumped at the chance to go back to my first passion.

Incidentally, during that time I’d had two sets of twins - one identical set and one fraternal set - so now I have my own little Psychology laboratory!

Mrs Beth Haresnape

I first discovered Psychology from a humanities perspective, through a Philosophy of Mind module in the first year of my Philosophy degree in 1997, and then went on to study Psychology from a scientific perspective through Linguistics and Neuropsychology modules as part of my MSc in Cognitive Science. By that point I was hooked, and started to teach A Level Psychology during my teacher training year alongside my Computer Science subject specialism.

By the time I was 5 years into my teacher career, I was Head of Psychology and was clear that Psychology was my passion. To me, Psychology is the only subject that combines science, philosophical debate and real life application, and can really help us lead better lives.

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Making Complex Concepts Engaging for Students of All Levels

I know how difficult it is to learn some of the more complex parts of psychology first hand. To help myself explain some such areas, I may turn them into a story. For example, how neurotransmitters travel across the synaptic gap is a bit like invaders trying to get across a sea to invade another country. Some will be successful, others will return to their homeland.  It is in more detail than that, obviously, but we then convert the story into the biological key terms.  This enables not just the facts to be understood but also the action at the synapse to be learned in the correct order.

Students also learn from fun examples, giving their own experiences and from short video clips showing the behaviour or treatments that we are learning. I believe learning should always be enjoyable and that, although most of us have a certain preference for learning in a certain way, we all benefit from discovering new information using a range of formats. - Miss Jay

Everything in Psychology is about human behaviour, so by using real life situations, case studies and even running our own experiments, my students are able to apply their learning in fun and interesting ways. - Miss Jeffcott

Inside a CGA Psychology Class

Every student in my classes brings interest, experience and fun to our lessons. I see our classes as a team that all work together to gain the best results.  There is always a good level of discussion, ideas and examples in each lesson.  I find them so enjoyable and look forward to seeing my students begin to use psychology with confidence in explaining human behaviour. - Miss Jay

In my psychology classes we’ve done everything from performing ‘brain surgery’ on an orange, to creating our own brain hats, to designing experiments. We also learn about classical and contemporary studies, learn about interesting case studies and look at psychology across different cultures. - Miss Jeffcott

Why Should Students Choose Psychology?

We are all natural psychologists but, when students learn the theories and studies that demonstrate the influences on human behaviour - such as the role of genetics, the different mental illnesses, personality types and the impact of society - they can begin to base their initial ideas in fact. 

Academically, psychology greatly develops a student’s ability to consider issues from many sides and debate them thoroughly.  This is a wonderful skill throughout our work and personal life.  We also learn about the differences and similarities between individuals, and the effects we may have on those people through our actions or inactions. 

There are some studies that the students will never forget, such as that of Milgram or the video of the Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes Experiment, and I would hope they use what they have learned for the better in terms of thinking carefully about their words and actions towards others - ie: making the world a nicer place for everyone - and to use this knowledge in their careers in the future. - Miss Jay

I have used my own psychology study in many aspects of my life and I know many of my students have too. Demystifying the brain and behaviour can be very empowering. - Miss Jeffcot

Hear Why our Students Chose Psychology

Although there is a set curriculum to follow, psychology lessons feel less like work and more like a relaxed educational undertaking as there is always room for debate and discussion and that's what sets it apart from the other subjects I study; even in an online environment it creates opportunities for socialisation through its inherent nature.

Studying psychology has allowed me to connect the two seemingly conflicting worlds of science and philosophy that fascinate me and view them from the meaningful angle of human behaviour and society, erasing that false dichotomy. - CGA Student, Mayoora

If you decide to pick psychology, there is likely an aspect about psychology that interests you. You can use that to help you when learning other studies/theories and trying to evaluate them. Try to link them to what you like about psychology.

I'm interested in learning the mechanisms behind how people think, and how those mechanisms vary creating different types of people. I enjoy the more quantitative studies that give insight into how people think rather than just how people act. My favourite study is the Raine et al study because it's very empirical and gives insight into how more violent people have different cognitive processes. - CGA Student, Donda

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Discover Psychology Club

The goals for the psychology club are for all students to be welcome, involved and for them to gain even more interest in the subject. Students do not have to be studying psychology to join the clubs. This means that if a student has maximised their number of subjects at GCSE or A Level, and if psychology isn’t one of them, they can still enjoy chatting about psychological ideas and concepts with those students that do study the subject.

The clubs have been running successfully for some time. We now have one on a Tuesday and another on Thursday - run by different students and covering different topics. Psychology is a very broad subject because, although it is a science, it also covers many areas of humanity that are hard to prove scientifically, such as consciousness and dream theory, as well as the biological side such as genetics and brain structures.

How Does Psychology Club Work?

Psychology club has a new discussion topic each week that is created by someone in the club voluntarily. There are so many interesting areas that can be covered and I learn something new each time - even after teaching for so many years!.

Students volunteer their interest and then create a short presentation or find a video on the topic - then we just discuss it and usually end up going off topic somewhere by the end of the hour, which is always fun.

The psychology curriculum for GCSE and A level is broad and very interesting but we are still confined by the specification and by the time available. Psychology club allows us to explore the wide variety of other psychology topics that are not able to fit into the specifications. I believe this broadens my students’ knowledge of the subject and its applications in the world of psychology and work more generally.  Additionally, the club allows all students to find out more about the subject, which may lead them to studying it in the future.

The Role of Community in Psychology

All the students in Psychology class and club are involved in discussions and invited to give examples of their own. The conversations are well considered regarding the impact on others and I have always found my students to be very respectful of their classmates when discussing more sensitive subjects.

Students support each other too and my IA2 class have made a SLACK channel called ‘everything psychology’ where students of psychology can chat and ask each other questions or contribute interesting findings or videos to support their learning.

Advice for Aspiring Psychologists

There are so many different career paths when you study psychology further. Here is a list of just a few:

Clinical Psychology - the study of mental and physical health problems
Coaching psychology - the study of performance, achievement and wellbeing
Counselling psychology - helping others with a range of life issues 
Educational psychology - enabling children to experience life better
Forensic psychology - working with people affected by crime and the criminal
Health psychology - studying underlying processes involved with health & illness
Neuropsychology - working with the structure and function of the living brain
Occupational psychology - improving the performance/efficiency of people at work
Sports psychology - studying and improving factors that influence performance of athletes.

However, there are many other applications of psychology within the workplace. For example, all jobs involve understanding and working with others - whether it is being a lawyer, a human resources manager or a teacher, knowing how to effectively influence and communicate with others is important in all job roles. 

Even if psychology is not your degree major, learning it at GCSE, A level or as an option topic within an undergraduate course will unlock your mind to understanding more about your own behaviour and that of others - which really helps us get through the ups and downs of life!.