Hitchhikers guide to planning for 2019

As we approach the last stretch of this academic year, planning for the next academic year may be under way (don’t frown!) even if only mentally. Questions arise like, shall we do the spec in the same order or mix it up a bit for our own sanity? What can we reduce so we aren’t rushing to get through the wealth of topics in the spec again like we did this year following my 2 days off sick that I wish I hadn’t taken now?

I always get to this point of the year and have what I recognise to be quite grandiose ideas of what I will accomplish next year and what I will change – but realistically there is no need to overhaul everything if it works, if it provides a good experience for students and if they are learning and loving Psychology. However that said, AQA spec can feel like (even though it isn’t! I do some work for AQA so I’m not being critical here ok AQA?) a 3 year course at times squashed into 2 linear years, and with the new Ofsted EIF approaching, it is more than ever important to be building in evidence based structures and planning into the curriculum. So here are some suggestions for planning, based on my own wealth of experience – and mistakes!

Put student skills before content! Sure, students want to get stuck into the psychopathology and forensic ideas – after all, they enrol to be the next gen of criminal minds and Luthors. However they won’t last the duration of year 1 let alone progress to year 2 without the skills thst underpin the course. Invest in 2 weeks at the start of the course developing critical thinking, debate, designing studies, using relevant vocab and looking at studies. “2 weeks!” I hear you cry…..but yes! Invest the time in their skills and it will pay off dividends in the long run.

You may want to do approaches and psychopathology one after the other (whichever order, there are benefits to both orders). Doing these topics together means the students will become familiar with the perspectives, the contributions to society, the inherent flaws and the examples you use in both (e.g. Little Albert) will reinforce each other!

Prioritise issues and debates: sure, as a topic it can be dry and won’t really make much sense without any prior learning of psychology – but the students have GOT to have I&D as part of their everyday/every lesson language and discussion skills. At least if you do it this way, when the time comes to do the topic properly, you need only spend 2 weeks on it!

Revising year 1 where possible: talking of issues and debates, this really is a good topic to review In year 2 and use as a vehicle for year 1 revision . Ainsworth and culture bias, Kohlberg and gender bias, behaviourist approach and reductionism, milgram and social sensitivity…This will provide the all important opportunities for synoptic learning and ‘sticky learning’ (I hate that term!)

Cut down on marking: I am a firm believer that the formula is teachers do less, but we do it more effectively. We don’t have to mark everything! Let’s be honest, we like marking everything to check and to make sure we can sleep at night knowing students are doing well. But I am sure some of you don’t sleep well at night due to all of the marking!! Plan in self assessment, peer assessment with marking critiera, varied ways for students to demonstrate learning. Dylan William recommends a quarter approach: 25% of work in the year will be marked by teachers, 25% can be planned as peer assessment….you get the jist. I set homework every lesson (I know, I am mean)but it may be a 2 min task, it may be a doodle about the lesson… I do it so the students are still thinking about the lesson when they go home (long term memory). But I must stress: none of it is marked! I still see it, hear it, look at it…but I don’t feel the need to mark everything. At the end of the day, if a student can’t sit in the exam and read what they have written and judge for themselves whether it’s good or not, then I haven’t done my job as a coach.

Share and support each other – with massive support networks, there really is no need to be a lone ranger in lesson planning or struggling to coach students who need stretching to reach top grades or supporting to move from an E grade. There are vast places to get support and to contribute. Tutor 2 U have so many things available it is amazing! Their YouTube tutorials are great for students (disclaimer: I have associations with tutor 2 u) and I can’t recommend them enough. Psychswot.com will soon be flooded with resources and lesson suggestions and will be updated regularly. Look at what other schools and colleges are doing. Already this week I have booked some great enrichment that I saw another school had done – after 14 years I don’t know everything that is out there!

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