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Advice for teachers -
Psychology

​Unit 1 - Area of Study 3: Student-directed research investigation​

Outcome 3

Investigate and communicate a substantiated response to a question related to brain function and/or development, including reference to at least two contemporary psychological studies and/or research techniques.​​​

Examples of learning activities

  • the teacher provides a list of possible research questions from pages 16 and 17 of the VCE Psychology Study Design; students submit a proposed timeline and research plan related to a research question of interest; a negotiated research question is undertaken by the student and monitored by the teacher
  • groups of students investigate a selected and/or negotiated research question from the set of possible questions on pages 16 and 17 of the VCE Psychology Study Design; each member of the group contributes a nominated newspaper item related to the research question in a class psychology e-newspaper (for example, letter to the editor, a report of a psychological issue, survey results from a public opinion poll related to a psychological issue, a cartoon about a psychological issue, interviews with a psychologist, neuroscientist or other psychological professional)
  • Example icon for advice for teachers
    the teacher selects questions from each of the six topic areas listed on pages 16 and 17 of the VCE Psychology Study Design that have a ‘case study’ theme; students work individually or in groups to provide a response to the case study using an inquiry approach; sample questions in this category include: How can brain trauma in injuries affect cognitive function? How has the treatment of mental illness changed over time? How are different neuroimaging techniques used to study brain structure and function? How does foetal alcohol syndrome affect nervous system functioning?
  • the teacher selects questions from each of the six topic areas listed on pages 16 and 17 of the VCE Psychology Study Design that have an ‘experimental’ theme; students work individually or in groups to provide a response to investigate the research question of interest; sample questions in this category include: Are ‘brain training’ programs effective? Does the use of technology prior to sleeping change sleeping patterns? Are emotions contagious? ​​​ ​​​
Example icon for advice for teachers 

Detailed example

An inquiry approach to exploring a case study in psychology

The research investigation in this area of study must build on knowledge and skills developed in Unit 2 Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2. The focus is on students being able to communicate a response to a selected research question. Teachers must consider the management logistics of the investigation, taking into account number of students, available resources and student interest. The following questions require consideration:
  • To whom will students be expected to communicate their results?
  • What alternative communication formats will students be able to consider?
  • To what extent will students work on their research and response inside and outside class time, and how will student work be monitored and authenticated?
  • Will time be allocated in class for students to present their work to other students?

Background information

This detailed example has been developed with an inquiry-based framework in mind. There are many methods by which students may undertake inquiry-based learning; this detailed example has been informed by an article by Jeni Wilson and Kath Murdoch.​

In essence, the inquiry process involves a question, a hypothesis, data collection and analysis, drawing conclusions, making generalisations, reflection and authentic action. The process of answering their question should involve students considering prior knowledge to gather new ideas. Students should then gather new information (for case studies, this will mostly involve secondary data; however, some primary data may also be collected) and organise this information into new ideas. They will then draw conclusions, reflect upon their learning and also take some sort of personal action related to a specific outcome and audience to conclude their investigation.

Question selection phase

The teacher will need to determine whether students in the class can work independently or in groups to research one of four questions related to content across Unit 1 Area of Study 1 and Area of Study 2:

  • How can brain trauma in injuries affect cognitive function?
  • How has the treatment of mental illness changed over time?
  • How are different neuroimaging techniques used to study brain structure and function?
  • How does foetal alcohol syndrome affect nervous system functioning?

The teacher provides relevant case studies related to these questions, but students are also able to research and provide their own case study of interest.

The task involves students investigating the psychological aspects of the case study and responding to the case study by developing a relevant media product (such as an information pamphlet, YouTube video, multimedia product or community campaign) for a selected audience.

Planning phase

Communication of psychological concepts is the major focus of this task. Students should be clear about the purpose of the intended communication to a specified audience.

Students may need guidance in considering appropriate communication formats for specific audiences.

Teachers should work with students to:

  • set timeframes and milestones for the task
  • determine the nature of the work that is to be completed inside and outside the classroom
  • ensure that ethical guidelines are followed such as confidentiality and respect for persons with and sensitivity to issues around psychological disorders, particularly if the research involves conducting surveys or interviews to collect data
  • check the scientific accuracy of content prior to students working on the response (communication) phase.

Teachers could provide students with a template that structures the investigation into a series of timed phases. Students may subsequently adapt the template as a personal work plan in their logbooks.

Investigation phase

It is important that students structure the research component into a set of manageable tasks that constitute a personal work program. Work in this phase can be done outside the classroom and recorded in students’ logbooks, with class time allocated to check on progress and the quality of material being researched.

This activity provides students with opportunities to learn how to document resources and acknowledge contributions using standard conventions.

Reporting phase

Students could use a variety of formats to present their response to the investigation question to a specific audience. Teachers may wish to limit the number of formats used and to set time and/or word limits. The response communication should clearly address the question, demonstrate that the student understands the relevant psychological concepts and be appropriate for the nominated audience.

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