Categories
conferences learning research

Social Psychology Poster Conference

By Ashley Weinberg

Second year students studying Social Psychology presented their own research in a poster conference held recently here at the University of Salford. This year saw the largest ‘marketplace of ideas’ yet, with over 120 individual pieces of work on display. The event was highlighted for commendation by the British Psychological Society visiting panel when they reaccredited the Psychology at Salford programmes last year.


Research into Facebook has mushroomed with particular interest in its impact on communication styles, on our self-esteem and even on helping behaviour. One study invited fellow students to compare their own personality traits with those attributed to online avatar characters they had created. The hypothesis that characters we dream up would be quite similar to ourselves was not supported, which confirms we really are capable of behaving quite differently when online than in person. Another study highlighted the role of emoticons (smiley faces and the like) in our feelings when online.

 

Investigations into the link between personality and physical attractiveness were as popular as ever, and the role of gender differences in our desire to help or conform with others was tested in some novel ways – whether it was the ‘accidental’ dropping of books to see who would help or the use of signs (with appropriate permission of course!) to see if men and women would be subtly directed through one library entrance or another.  The library study by Kirstie Collins attracted most votes from fellow students for one of two prizes on offer. The other prize went to James Dunn for the poster awarded the top mark.

Many congratulations to all the second year students for a wonderful exhibition of talent!

All photographs were taken by #salfordpsych students and posted on Twitter.  Image attributions can be found in our Storify archive here.   

Categories
employability job interviews learning psych and counselling reflection research

Succeeding in job interviews

By Hannah Smith

I have just found myself in the fortunate position of having secured myself a job that will give me relevant work experience for my career goal of being a clinical neuropsychologist. If you’re studying Psychology, you might have a specific career in mind at the moment, the same way I do, and you’ll probably be on the lookout for jobs which will get you on the first rung of the ladder.

I applied for quite a few jobs in the past few months, as with my graduation looming, I wanted to start climbing that ladder as soon as I could. I have had two interviews, including the one for the position I have been offered, and I think the things I learnt from the first one made the difference the second time around. I wanted to share this with other Psychology students at Salford, or anyone else who reads this blog, because interviews aren’t necessarily something we are taught how to prepare for!

In regards to any interview, be it your first or your twenty-first, do your homework. The two interviews I had were both for NHS trusts, and what I found was that each trust will have its own set of values, for example patient focused or accountability. Learn these values, and think of ways in which you already demonstrate similar qualities in your work, studies or personal life. My second interview asked for the values and I was able to recall each of them, as well as go into more depth about what each one meant.

What I’ve learnt from my job hunting process is that the feedback you are offered after an interview is so valuable. Write it down, and read back over it before any other interviews you have. Identify your weaknesses! The feedback I was given after my first interview was that I lacked knowledge around health and safety, as this is obviously important when working within a patient-focused role. Before my second interview, I searched my way around the internet, trying to fill the gaps in my health and safety knowledge. It paid off. Although the question I was asked in my second interview was not obviously about health and safety, it was a scenario question and I was able to identify where the safety risks were and mention these.

Other than the feedback you get from the interview panel, it’s also important to give yourself some feedback. Reflect on what you were asked at interview, how you answered questions, what gaps you think there are in your knowledge. As soon as I came out of my first interview, I knew there were things I should have said, and I wrote these down. I also realised that when giving my answers, I struggled to round them off neatly and ended up repeating myself in an attempt to end what I was saying. I did work on this before my second interview, and when I reflect back on that one, I can see that I improved.

I hope that this helps someone else get their foot in the door of their career path! Just remember to prepare, ask for feedback, reflect on your performance, and learn from it!

Hannah is a final year BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling student, she tweets @hannahbubble and can also be contacted on h.smith4@edu.salford.ac.uk.  

Categories
learning

The Value of Education

By Sharon Coen

In a very provocative recent post on LinkedIn (The Strongest Careers Are Non-Linear), Penelope Trunk encourages young people to avoid the academic career and achieve success following these steps: skip college, focus on internship, start a company instead of writing a resume and refuse to present oneself in a linear way. She concludes by stating:

“The biggest barrier to accepting the radical new nature of the job hunt is the reverberations throughout the rest of life. If you don’t need school for work, and you don’t need school for learning, then all you need school for is so parents can go to work and not worry about taking care of their kids.”

This post elicited a wealth of comments and discussion on the site, to which I would like to add my take. Being a lecturer, and having devoted my life not only to research but also to education, I feel particularly strongly about this argument.  Here are the key points I would like to discuss:

1.      The strongest careers are non-linear

I would agree with this. Often, people reach success after having walked different paths in search of something that fulfils them, and not all paths go through education. An example is the famous and economically successful Lord Sugar, who prides himself for choosing to start a business when he was still a teenager rather than studying. My question is at this point: what are the chances of becoming a Lord Sugar? Out of a hundred teenagers who choose not to educate themselves, instead to start a business, how many will end up on welfare, how many will just get by and how many will become successful entrepreneurs?

2.      You don’t need school for work

Again, I agree with this. You certainly do not need school to get a job and earn some money. After all, some of the most lucrative jobs do not require education. Builders, movers, car mechanics, cleaners and sales people can make a lot of money without necessarily having a qualification. Even footballers, singers, actors and showpeople often reach success without having qualifications. It cannot be denied that this depends on what kind of jobs we are talking about. If someone aspires to be a lawyer, a physician, a surgeon , or a psychologist, they’d better make sure they gain the appropriate qualifications.

3.      You don’t need school for learning

Once again, I agree. I tell students that in my opinion, the best psychologists are people who live in constant contact with the outside world, such as taxi drivers and bartenders for example. One can learn in different ways and school is not the only way to learn.  It would be silly to state otherwise. But again, if it wasn’t for school, I would never have come across some of the most exciting ideas and concepts from Ancient Greek, Latin, Philosophy, History, Physics, Geography, and so on. I did not look for them. I wasn’t interested in these subjects before I HAD TO study them. School offered me the opportunity to come across knowledge which in all likelihood I would not have found otherwise.

4.      All you need school for is so that parents can go to work

Ok, I think this is a very provocative sentence and I doubt the author really believes it herself. But let’s take it seriously for the sake of argument. Schools are a babysitting programme to allow parents to go and earn money for the family. So what? I don’t see the problem here. If you add that babysitting schools also offer knowledge and a (mostly) safe environment where kids can socialise, I would say bless the schools! Especially if you consider how expensive babysitters are nowadays! What would you rather kids do whilst their parents are at work? Work in a factory or in a mine like they used to do in the nineteenth century? Or should parents give up their jobs to look after their kids and be welfare-dependent (where available) instead?

If education is not for money what is it for?

Many students come to me with this question: can this course get me a job? My answer to this question is no. Gaining an academic qualification is not a guarantee to a job, especially nowadays. Certainly, one cannot aspire to become a professional in certain areas without the appropriate qualifications, but there are many other ingredients needed in order to be successful in the job hunt, one of them being luck.

So why bother?

knowledgeBecause knowledge is a value in and for itself. Being aware of the incredible achievements that human beings have accomplished in their understanding of the world around them, being able to be critical and find one’s own voice in the midst of those of others, and being able to formulate an informed answer to the small and big questions in life are all skills that schooling and education help develop. Education is not about finding a job.  It is about fostering an informed citizenship where people are able to look at the big picture and play an active role in shaping the future of the society they live in. Or, at least, this is what I think it should be.

To quote Thomas Hobbes:

Scientia potentia est, sed parva; quia scientia egregia rara est, nec proinde apparens nisi paucissimis, et in paucis rebus. Scientiae enim ea natura est, ut esse intelligi non possit, nisi ab illis qui sunt scientia praediti.

Knowledge is power, but a limited power; because proper knowledge is rare, and not easily detectable if not in very few people and in a very limited amount of issues. Indeed, knowledge is one of those things that cannot be understood by anyone apart from those who dedicate themselves to it. (De Homine, cap. x. In Thomas Hobbes and William Molesworth, Thomæ Hobbes Malmesburiensis Opera Philosophica (1841), Vol. 3, 69. Retrieved online, my translation).

Education is about broadening the circle and making sure that the power is distributed more equally and broadly in our society.

Image courtesy of mtsofan on Flickr, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

Categories
learning media psychology online psychology twitter

The Self Online Week 2013

By Jenna Condie

This is short notice but I am relying on the power of social media to spread the word fast.  I am giving my annual #TheSelfOnline lecture tomorrow morning Monday 22nd April 2013 10-12pm in L312 for students visiting from Xaverian College.  If you are free, Psychology at Salford students are welcome to attend, especially those thinking about increasing their online presence for a summer of graduate job searching.  Also, I’m sure Xaverian students would really like to meet some of you too.

I am also giving the lecture on Friday 26th April 2013 to Level 4 students on the Individual Differences module at 10-12pm in MS G21.  Again if you are free, students in other year groups and on our masters courses are welcome to attend.  Please email me if you would like to attend this one j.m.condie@salford.ac.uk.

Here’s what’s in store:

I’ve titled this post The Self Online Week 2013.  If you can’t make it to the lectures, why not add your thoughts or questions around your online presence on Twitter using this tag #theselfonline.  If you do one thing this week, Google yourself and see what you find. If you do another, check out LinkedIn.

Categories
Blog creative engaging people learning

Psychology Students who Blog

Read all about it: Article in The Salfordian student newspaper about Psych’d

Recently a number of our psychology students have ventured into the world of blogging.  They are writing about psychology in the ‘real world’, their experiences of studying psychology, reviews of events they have attended and films they have seen.  Having a blog can help develop a person’s online presence and demonstrate their ability to communicate on public platforms in a professional manner – an essential skill for aspiring psychologists who may work with vulnerable groups in the future.

Scott Robertson, a second year BSc (Hons) Psychology student, has established a blog and podcast network called ‘Psych’d’. Scott has kindly given permission for us to republish his first post ‘Pop Goes Psychology – Misconstrued Misconceptions’ which launched the Psych’d blog (see below).  The post was originally published here.  Psych’d has already had some local media coverage (see image) and Scott has some interesting plans in the pipeline. To find out more, you can also follow him on twitter @totheendandback.

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Pops Goes Psychology: Misconstrued Misconceptions

By Scott Robertson

As this is the first post, I would like to welcome you to the Psych’d Blog.

This week we will be looking at the generally recognised popular ‘pop’ psychology.

The term ‘pop’ psychology refers to concepts and theories about human mental life and behaviours that are predominantly based on psychology paradigms, these attain popularity among the general population. (Tosey & Mathison, 2006)

This phrase is often used in a somewhat dismissive fashion to describe psychological concepts that appear oversimplified, out of date, unproven or misinterpreted. However, the term may also be used to describe professionally produced psychological knowledge, regarded by most experts as valid and effective, that is intended for use by the general public.

The term ‘pop psychologist’ can be used to describe authors, entertainers etc. who are widely perceived as being psychologists. Not because of their academic credentials, but because they have projected that image or have been perceived in that way in response to their work. Pop Psychology can come in many forms, Self-help books; The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck, TV, Radio and Print Advice; Dr Phil (America) and Dear Abby and Psychological terminology making its way in to everyday language or Psychobabble; Inner Child, Freudian Slip or as it should be known Parapraxis. (Dilts et al, 1980 and Corballis in Sala, 1999)

Pop Psychology is an essential ingredient of the self-help industry. According to Fried and Schulte’s, criteria for a good self-help book include- “claims made by the author as to the book’s efficacy, the presentation of problem-solving strategies based on scientific evidence and professional experience, the author’s credentials and professional experience, and the inclusion of a bibliography”. (Witkowski, 2010 and Stollznow, 2010)

Some potential dangers of self-help books according to are Lum, (2001) are; People may falsely label themselves as psychologically disturbed, People may also misdiagnose themselves and use material that deals with the wrong problem and People may not be able to evaluate a program and may select an ineffective one.

Psychobabble is described as the misuse and or overuse of technical psychological terms as described earlier. Sometimes Psychological jargon is used to dress up sales pitches, self-help programs, and New Age ideas to lend these endeavours a respectable scientific appearance. Other times, people use psychological terminology to describe every day, normal experiences in a way that musicalises a normal behaviour, such as feeling sad after a loss, by suggesting that unpleasant emotions are a type of Psychopathology, like major depressive disorder.

People may use Psychobabble because they believe that complex, descriptive or special esoteric terms more clearly or more dramatically communicate their experiences of social and personal situations, or because they believe that it makes them sound more educated.

Some of these terms that have an origin in Psychological terminology and are typically misused include co-dependent, dysfunctional, meaningful relationship, narcissistic, and synergy.

Despite the various publications, the general public have a minimal understanding of what Psychologists do and what ‘Psychology’ is all about. Many believe Psychology was “mind reading and spiritualism”, (O’Connor, Joseph & John Seymour, 1993) and that it had no real application in everyday life.

In reality, Psychology is more about studying human behaviours and experiences that have strong applications to everyday life.

Written by SGR

With Thanks to Lorna Paterson and her wonderful inspiration for this blog post

References

Corballis, MC., “Are we in our right minds?” In Sala, S., (ed.) (1999), Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and Brain Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons. ISBN 0-471-98303-9 (pp. 25–41)

Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Delozier, J., and Bandler, R. (1980). Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Volume I: The Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications.

Lum.C (2001). Scientific Thinking in Speech and Language Therapy. Psychology Press. pp. 16. ISBN 0-8058-4029-X

O’Connor, Joseph & John Seymour (1993). Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People. London, UK: Thorsons. ISBN 1-85538-344-6.

Stollznow.K (2010). “Not-so Linguistic Programming”. Skeptic 15 (4): 7.

Tosey, P. & Mathison, J., (2006) “Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming Centre for Management Learning & Development, School of Management, University of Surrey.

Witkowski (2010). “Thirty-Five Years of Research on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP Research Data Base. State of the Art or Pseudoscientific Decoration?”. Polish Psychological Bulletin 41 (2): 58–66.

Categories
community creative engaging people enterprise learning volunteering

Volunteering opportunity with CARISMA and Psychology at Salford

By Jenna Condie

CARISMA is a local charity based in inner south Manchester and is one of the three charities officially supported by the University of Salford.  CARISMA do amazing work in their aim to create life chances for young people in their communities.  Some projects that you might already be familiar with are the radio station Peace FM and the Guns into Goods project (in collaboration with the University of Salford).

CARISMA are developing an educational initiative called FACT: Fathers and Children Together.  They would like input from Salford psychology students in the designing of appropriate educational content and social activities for fathers and their children to do together.  The aim is to strengthen father-child relationships.  The content will be available digitally via the FACT website.  How social media can be utilised to build supportive social networks that empower fathers to have a positive impact on their children’s lives will also be explored.

You will work in a creative team supervised by Jenna Condie and Sarah Norgate.  The main communication channel for this project will be a Facebook group to support flexible and distance working.  Project communication via Facebook also enables CARISMA representatives to consult on the development of the educational content and social activities in ‘real time’.

Are you ready to apply your psychological knowledge to a ‘real-world’ project that really matters?  If so, we would love to have you on board.  Working on FACT is a great opportunity for those of you considering developmental, educational, and teaching careers pathways.  There may also be potential here for the development of suitable topics for your dissertation research.

Dennis Philips from CARISMA will be visiting us on Wednesday 17th April 2013 at 1.30pm to introduce the FACT initiative and invite you to join the team.  If you would like to attend, please get in touch with Jenna Condie (Email: j.m.condie@salford.ac.uk) who will provide you with the necessary details.

 

Categories
@salfordpsych community learning psychology twitter undergraduate

Tweeting as @salfordpsych: Q&A with Sophie Coulson

Last week we launched our collaborative Twitter account @salfordpsych.  Every week, a different person tweets for the department – students, lecturers and researchers.  Sophie Coulson, a second year BSc (Hons) Psychology undergraduate, was first up as @salfordpsych and had the account off to a flying start.  Below she reflects on her week and what she hopes @salfordpsych can do for the psychology community at Salford and beyond.  An archive of Sophie’s week as @salfordpsych can be viewed here.

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Q.        How did you find your week curating the @salfordpsych account?

sophcoulsonA.        At first I was a bit intimidated but after the first few hours I absolutely loved my week of tweeting as @salfordpsych. There was so much support and enthusiasm from everyone involved and it was such a buzz to see people retweeting or favouriting something that I had posted.

Q.        What motivated you to be a part of the initiative?

A.        Encouragement from our lecturer, Jenna Condie, but also my belief that we need to communicate more within the university and with others in the world of psychology.  The idea of having someone different tweeting each week is a fantastic one. It brings so many perspectives and promotes input from those who might not usually have a wide or diverse audience.

Q.        What did you enjoy about it?

A.        The part I most enjoyed was researching online to find articles or links that might be interesting to others. I came across such a lot of fascinating information that I wouldn’t usually make the effort to find.

Q.        Was there anything you didn’t enjoy?

A.        I should probably lie about this to avoid sounding incredibly sad but I got a bit addicted, so the least enjoyable times were those when I couldn’t get online.

Q.        Favourite twitter moment(s) of the week?

A.        Every time someone retweeted something I had posted I felt irrationally pleased! Knowing that someone out there liked or valued the information was very rewarding.

Q.        Least favourite twitter moment of the week?

A.        I followed a few people who I thought would like to be involved but they didn’t follow back. That was a bit disheartening.

Q.        How can social media play a role in learning?

A.        I believe social media opens up so many possibilities. It’s a way of discovering things that may not have even occurred to you before. Questions can be asked and immediate responses received from people who never would have been accessible before social media. It removes or at least lowers the boundaries of location, education, class and age.

Q.        Why do you use Twitter?

A.        I haven’t personally tweeted much because, to be honest, I don’t feel anyone would be interested. However, in my part time work with the university’s Student Life service, I tweet a lot, mainly to provide others with information. I suppose I see it as a more professional than sociable way of communicating.

Q.        Would you recommend being a curator to other students?

A.        Definitely!! Apart from the obvious benefit of social media management looking good on your CV, it’s fun! It’s also a bit of a self-confidence boost and is a great way of discovering aspects of psychology that you may not usually give priority to.

Q.        Any tips for future curators?

A.        I know it’s a cliché but just be yourself.  That’s the whole idea. Different personalities, perspectives, styles and interests are what this is about. I’m really looking forward to reading tweets of all future curators.

Q.        What would you like to see @salfordpsych do next?

A.        I would love to see @salfordpsych grow and inspire other university groups to create similar accounts. I particularly like the idea of researchers, lecturers and students working and communicating together. Often they are so remote from each other and divided by position. I think @salfordpsych could also be used to build more links with the Salford community, creating opportunities for students, staff and residents.

_______

Thank you Sophie for an excellent first week on Twitter. Sophie passed the tweet-baton to Hannah Smith, who is currently tweeting as @salfordpsych about what it is like to be the final year of her BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling.  Check it out here.

If you would like to curate the @salfordpsych account, please get in touch with Jenna Condie on j.m.condie@salford.ac.uk.  A rota of upcoming weeks is available here.  Also, there is more information about our Twitter collaboration on the ‘we are all @salfordpsych’ page.

 

Categories
events facilities learning taster event teaching undergraduate

Psychology Taster Event 2013 Reviewed

mary seacole

By Jenna Condie

Last week, we welcomed applicants who currently hold an offer to study one of our psychology undergraduate courses (starting September 2013) to a Psychology Taster Event.  The idea of the day was to help applicants make their decisions about which university to go to and which course to embark on.  Hopefully our Taster Event gave applicants a better insight into the areas of psychology that they would cover at degree level and our interactive approach to teaching psychology here at Salford.

Attendees were welcomed in our main lecture theatre by Anne Pearson, our Admissions Tutor for all Salford Psychology undergraduate courses.  Next up was a taster lecture with Dr Ashley Weinberg who introduced attendees to the area of emotional intelligence, an area of psychology we specialise in at Salford.  Tweets from the University’s press office relating to Ashley’s talk are below.

tweets EI

After the taster lecture, attendees were invited to a number of demonstrations in the Psychology department.  Ruth Laidler, a psychology tutor and PhD researcher, introduced attendees to Developmental Psychology and child development with a video demonstration.  She introduced attendees to Jean Piaget’s work and a Piagetian style task called Conservation.  Students were informed that they would study developmental psychology in their first and second years as it is a core area specified by the BPS accreditation. Also, should they want to do so, students can take an option module in Educational Psychology in the final year of their study.

Lecturers Dr Lynne Marrow and Janine Crosbie had a number of Biological Psychology demonstrations for attendees to try out.  Our guests participated in a number of activities from measuring their Galvanic Skin Response to examining visual illusions.  The handout Lynne and Janine created for the event is below.

Introducing biological psychology handout from SalfordPsych

In our psychology computer suite Dr Adam Galpin introduced students to Cognitive Psychology. Adam first demonstrated how little of the world people pay attention to by showing how we can miss things changing in front of our eyes (“change blindness”). He then described one of the projects our students get stuck into to test their own hypotheses about change blindness. The applicants also came up with great ideas for further experiments, so we’ll look forward to testing them when they arrive!

There was a mental health talk with Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall and a final year student Ashley Carrick, which provided the opportunity for interesting and important debates around mental health and well-being.  Attendees also participated in a true or false quiz on mental health.  Here’s one of the questions:

Among teenagers, the rates of depression have increased by how much over the past 25 years? 

  • 18%
  • 35%
  • 70%

What do you think? (the correct answer is at the end of this post).

Dr Ashley Weinberg returned to demonstrate the kinds of social psychological experiments that are possible in our observation suite which has a two-way mirror.  In CSI style, our guests observed two people and tried to work out whether they were telling the truth by interpreting their non-verbal communication.  This demonstration highlighted some of the challenges of understanding people and social behaviour.

tweets observation

The day closed with refreshments and the opportunity for attendees to get to know one another and ask staff and current students any questions.  We would like to thank our students – Sophie Coulson, Hannah Smith, Ashley Carrick, Rhona Robinson and Nicol Herta – for welcoming prospective students to Psychology at Salford.  We would also like to thank attendees who completed our feedback form too.  It is great to know that they enjoyed the day and the welcoming atmosphere. We now know that attendees would have liked a little more time in each of the demonstrations.  We will definitely make sure that happens in future Taster Events.

On that note, we will be organising more Psychology Taster Events in the future. In the meantime, we also have an Open Lecture Series starting this week on the 5th March 2013.  The open lectures are all first year psychology lectures where you can attend with current Salford psychology students and experience university study and campus life.

If you have any questions, would like to attend one of our events, or would like information about our courses, please contact Anne Pearson (Admissions Tutor) on a.pearson1@salford.ac.uk

Answer: 70% – Source: Time to Change

Categories
brain and behaviour engaging people learning

Read All About It: Communicating Brain and Behaviour in Newspaper Style

By Dr Lynne Marrow

The “newspaper style” report is an assignment that forms part of the Brain and Behaviour module offered to undergraduate Psychology students in their final year. Students are asked to write a report on a current ‘hot’ topic within the field of field of neuroscience, the topic being chosen from a list of options, that is appropriate for publication in a newspaper or online magazine.

The assignment allows students the opportunity to demonstrate literature research skills and their ability to translate a complex set of ideas into a readily understandable form aimed at the non-specialist reader. In addition to providing accurate information, students are encouraged to be creative in their presentation. Below are two great articles written in very different styles and addressing two very different topics:

1. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: the Ladette Legacy? – Joanne Pritchard

2. Are we biologically pre-disposed to believe in God? – Clayton Clough

3. Bankers behaving badly? – Robert Smith

4. The Jewels of Fatherhood – Ethar Bashir

For further information about the Brain and Behaviour module, you can contact Lynne on l.marrow@salford.ac.uk

Categories
learning

Getting Published: Research experience as vital work experience

dawn smailIn 2011, Dawn Smail graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and continued on her academic journey to recently complete her MSc in Applied Psychology (Therapies) here at Salford.  Dawn’s first publication, written during her time here as a student, originally featured in the North West of England Branch newsletter called “The Update”.  In her article, she considers the value of gaining research experience as an undergraduate, and how one opportunity can lead to another such as gaining her first publication.  To see the original version of Dawn’s article click here.  We would like to thank the British Psychological Society for giving their permission for this post to be republished on our blog.

Research experience as vital work experience: reflections on being an undergraduate psychology student in the field 

By Dawn Smail

As an undergraduate student, I was presented with an opportunity to work for an ongoing interdisciplinary research project at the University of Salford.  The main aim of the research was to carry out social survey questionnaires with residents living in areas where construction work was being carried out nearby.      In the third year of my studies, to say I was a tad anxious before going into the field is perhaps an understatement.   However the excitement I felt about getting some much needed work experience soon outweighed any anxieties I had.  I knew it would be challenging work but with my background knowledge in psychology waiting to be put into practice, I felt ready to take on this new challenge.

Before commencing the research I attended a mandatory two-day workshop that was designed to inform and teach us, the trainees, how to comprehensively prepare for every stage of the research process. The interactive programme included discussions around the following broad topics:  communication skills, ethical issues, project management, and cultural sensitivities. This training prepared me for the challenges of social survey fieldwork, particularly door knocking as a method of recruiting participants in research.

Due to my research methods training on my degree course, I knew that developing rapport and trust between the researcher and the participant was an essential element for good quality research.  On the doorstep, I realised how difficult developing a connection with a participant is in such a short space of time. Not being able to develop an instant rapport with the participant made me feel slightly defeated and less motivated. However I did overcome these feelings and realised that ‘real world’ research is very different to what can be known from a lecture or a textbook.

On a daily basis, many hours were spent visiting people at their homes where a substantial amount of doors remained closed and those that opened did so with a ‘no thanks’. When people agreed to be interviewed I felt a great sense of achievement which appeared to have a cascading effect on the rest of the day.  I really enjoyed interviewing residents and what I learned from the experience has, without doubt, given me a better understanding of doing research with people.   I also found that working in a team of researchers allowed me to share my ‘doorstep’ experiences.  Our team meetings were an invaluable source of support which also helped to foster a sense of progress and success.

This experience gave me the opportunity to meet with other researchers, many of whom I have remained in contact with since.   My role as an employee, rather than student, was an excellent way for me to expand my knowledge of Psychology as a science by gaining first-hand experience of research in action and gave valuable insight into the day-to-day work carried out by academic researchers.

I would like to see more work experience opportunities for Psychology undergraduate students on offer. The DIUS (2008) argue such skills are undoubtedly beneficial to a fresh graduate and offer an advantage when applying for further clinical training or job applications.  Therefore I feel very fortunate that I was given the chance to work on this project. It has opened doors to further opportunities for me such as writing this article.

References

Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (2008) Higher education at work – high skills: high value, London: DIUS, (Available at: www.dius.gov.uk/consultations/con_0408_hlss.html)

Categories
learning Level 6 psychology labs research research participant SONA undergraduate

The Benefits of Being a Research Participant

BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student
Nichola Burns, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student

This post is from Nichola Burns, a third year undergraduate BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student at Salford.  In this post, Nichola reflects on her time as an undergraduate and the benefits of participating in research during her studies.

The Benefits of being a Research Participant

When you enter your psychology degree, research designs and methods will not be as familiar to you as they are when you leave.  One sure fire way to gain an in-depth knowledge of research is to participate in research that is being carried out in the university.  The psychology department uses a system called SONA, which is software that enables you to create experiments and take part in research.  On SONA, you are given some information before you apply to participate.   SONA also means that you can experience a range of different studies in order to gain a deeper understanding of psychology.   You can also choose to take part in experiments from one area of psychology.  We all have a dissertation to think about and prepare for, and participating in studies in your chosen area can fill you with ideas.  Also in psychology, you can take part in research that is going on in the psychology department whether this is quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods.

For me, participating in research offers the following advantages: 

  • You get to keep information sheets which you can use to inform your future research assignments.
  • You get to see the questions typically asked on consent forms and possible variables.
  • Participating in experiments helps bring to life the journal papers you will be reading, and adds strength to all your assignments.
  • When filling out other people’s questionnaires, electronic or hard copy, you really get a sense of how much you are willing to complete them. 
  • You can gain an understanding of how to compile surveys for testing new concepts and bringing together two or more concepts.
  • You can gain knowledge of the strengths and limitations of research methods.
  • Being tested on offers insight into your thoughts as a participant. This means you may be more able to anticipate what participants will be thinking when running your own experiments. 
  • When you get to the 3rd year, you will be better prepared to keep participants’ attention and attain quality data. 
  • The Psychology labs are full of equipment that can be used for testing.  You can get a feel for what is really possible when participating in the lab.
  • You can get to see how researchers are adding new equipment or adapting older pieces to current studies. You can see what others are testing and the innovations they perform in testing.
  • Again you get to see the limitations, adaptations and complexities of lab testing first hand.
  • When using this equipment in your dissertation you will be able to understand what it feels like, how it affects performance and if it is compatible with your dissertation study.
  • You can gain a better understanding of participant bias.

Your aim is to have the best knowledge you can gain for your dissertation and one of the best ways to achieve this goal is to become a participant.  Afterwards, you can ask the researcher questions be it methodology, the effect they are testing for, or other papers in the subject area. I am sure they will not mind, everyone answered my questions!    This knowledge adds to your ability to carry out research that is interesting, fun and worthwhile.”

If you have any questions about this post, you can contact Nichola by email: n.burns@edu.salford.ac.uk

Categories
learning Level 6 mental health PGCap psychosis reflection schizophrenia teaching

Labels Hurt!

This post is from Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall, a Lecturer in Psychology at Salford.  Linda is a clinical and counselling psychologist (HCPC Registered) and a BACP Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist.  Below she reflects on teaching Level 6 (Year 3) undergraduates who are taking a module called The Psychology of Mental Health.  The session was on Psychosis and Schizophrenia.  If you participated in the session, Linda would really like your feedback.

“My goal in contributing to the teaching of The Psychology of Mental Health is to help students to develop a personal framework to understand serious mental illness that is humanistic and compassionate. I had previously taught a lecture on “Mood Disorders” where I showed a DVD in which Stephen Fry interviewed several well-known people with mood disorders.  The students seemed to appreciate the DVD as it extended their understanding of the facts about mood disorders to a more personal appreciation of what it is like for someone to live with a mood disorder. I took that feedback on board in planning my lecture on ”Psychosis and Schizophrenia”, and decided that even better than a DVD would be to bring in a service user and carer for part of the session, which I did.

Also, as part of my participation in the PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice) programme, I participated in a mixed-reality game with the other PGCap students to explore teaching and learning directly linked to our practice.  The goal was to come up with innovative ideas to enhance a specific teaching and learning situation. I worked with a partner, Robert Purvis, who really helped me to develop my idea of using plasters to have people experience the painful experience of having a sticky label.  Robert gave me the idea to write specific diagnoses on the plasters. Robert and I won the prize for the best collaborative ideas – the web page about the competition is available here.  

On the 5th of November, I piloted this idea by trying it at the beginning of my lecture on “Psychosis and “Schizophrenia”. I noticed that the class had already been divided into learning sets, so I asked them to try an experiential learning exercise in these groups. I asked them to pick a plaster from the envelope and put it on their wrist, read the diagnosis, and reflect on what their life might be like if they had been given that diagnosis.  They could consider it from the viewpoint that it was a new diagnosis that they just found out about and didn’t even understand, or something that they had for awhile. They were then to introduce themselves to their learning set as follows: “Hi, my name is  ____, I am a ____, and let me tell you a little bit about my life…” I asked them to reflect on the experience, share with each other, and have a representative give a brief report to the larger group, leading to a group reflection.  One of the things which I found interesting was that the learning sets had been communicating with each other via email and did not necessarily even know what the people in their learning set looked like.  I enjoyed everyone’s participation and feedback.  One person put the label on their clothing because it would hurt to put it on their skin – part of my point about labels hurting. People felt confused by their diagnoses and did not know what they meant.  Some people felt very shy because they suddenly had this label and did not want to talk about it.  The paranoid people did not feel they trusted the group in order to talk about it, demonstrating that they were really getting into the role.

I would very much appreciate feedback from students in general about the plaster exercise, and especially from those students who participated.  I would also be grateful for feedback about incorporating service users and carers into the lecture.  My PGCAP tutor recorded part of this exercise, and if students want to give their permission for their recordings to be put on the blog, please email l.dubrow-marshall@salford.ac.uk to give permission for this.”

You can also listen to Linda and Robert pitch their collaborative ideas for teaching and learning below.