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Unit information: Debates in Psychology of Education in 2018/19

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Unit name Debates in Psychology of Education
Unit code EDUC10004
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Allen
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


What is normal? Do we have free will? Should boys and girls be educated separately? Is formal or informal education more important?

For decades, psychologists and educationalists have continued to debate a number of controversial yet important issues. Understanding different perspectives on these hotly contested issues is of vital importance because it is these differing perspectives that contributes to our interpretations of human behaviour and to the policy and practice decisions that we make.

This unit aims to provide students with an overview of some of the contemporary and classical debates in psychology and education, and develop their ability to engage with different perspectives on complex issues, weigh evidence, and construct their own arguments. Each week students will engage with a current issue in psychology and education, encountering the range of ways in which problems can be viewed, and the philosophies and stances that lie behind those viewpoints.

Topics may include: ethical issues in research in psychology in education; nature/nurture; mind/body; free will/determinism; what is normal; home-school relations; class size; intelligence testing; the potential for full inclusion in mainstream education; gender segregated schooling; and formal vs informal education.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit students will demonstrate that they can:

  1. demonstrate a good understanding of ethical issues in Psychology in Education;
  2. describe different perspectives in contemporary debates in Psychology in Education;
  3. identify assumptions of different arguments in contemporary debates in Psychology in Education;
  4. present and respond to different arguments in contemporary debates in Psychology in Education;
  5. evaluate different arguments and assess how different perspectives on a topic relate to each other.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of lectures, class discussion, individual activities, and debates. Each week the first session will introduce a new controversial issue through a lecture, as well as class participation and exercises. The second session (1-hour seminar) will provide opportunities for students to discuss and debate the issues, present their ideas, plan possible investigations, and develop their plans for the essay. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis.

Assessment Details

ILO 1-4, Class debate (40%)

Students will be asked to submit an individual summary (1,000 words equivalent) highlighting their key points for the class debate.

ILO 1-5, Essay (60%)

Students will complete a 2,000 word essay outlining and evaluating the key arguments of a contemporary debate in psychology and education.

Reading and References

Bell, A. (2002) Debates in Psychology. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gross, R. (2014). Themes, Issues and Debates in Psychology (4th Edition). London: Hodder Education.

Norwich, B. (2008) Dilemmas of Difference, Inclusion and Disability: International Perspectives and Future Directions. Abingdon: Routledge.

Koocher, G.P. (2008) Ethics in Psychology and the Mental Health Professions: Standards and Cases. Oxford: O.U.P.