Part 1: Report
Write a brief report, about the scenario provided below, in which you draw upon psychological principles, theories and evidence to support your explanation and evaluation of the scenario.
You are working as a psychology assistant in a psychology consultancy specialising in training and education. You have been approached by a large school interested in developing a one-day workshop in critical thinking for 16 to 18-year olds, with the purpose of developing more advanced thinking skills. Specifically, they want to equip their students with an awareness of the tendency for people to make errors in their thinking.
In planning the curriculum, the teachers involved in the project have already carried out some research into the topic, but because they don’t currently teach psychology, they are looking to you for some guidance on the workshop. Specifically, the teachers have asked you to provide them with a report on the psychological issues relevant to ‘everyday’ errors, which would be relevant to a course on critical thinking.
Your report will be used by the teachers in the curriculum development team to help design the workshop. The curriculum development team want to educate the students who take the workshop about relevant psychological theories and research, to illustrate thinking errors and why it is important to develop critical thinking skills. The development team want you to provide both explanation and evaluation of the relevant psychological principles, as well as give illustrative examples from both everyday life and psychological studies.
Word limit: 1000 words
Part 2: Applied methods
Answer both (a) and (b) applied methods questions.
Understanding and explaining data
Imagine you have read about a new scientific study that investigated the relationship between beliefs in science and conspiracy theory. The study used two scales measuring ‘beliefs in science’ (Farias, Newheiser, Kahane, & de Toledo, 2013) and the ‘general conspiracy beliefs’ (GCB) scale. The correlation coefficient between the two scales was -.32, indicating that people who believe in science tend to be less likely to believe in conspiracy theories.
Not surprisingly, this study has received some attention from the media and online bloggers. You have found one blog where this study is discussed, and the blogger has added a poll to investigate these findings further. The poll found that about 45% of people said that they believed in a conspiracy theory, and 89% said they had studied science at school. Based on this poll data, the blog author then argues that the scientific study, which found a negative correlation between belief in science and belief in conspiracy theory, was clearly nonsense, because most people who hold conspiracy beliefs also have a scientific education. Therefore, there is no relationship between conspiracy theory and belief in science. Instead the blogger argues that the scientific study was designed to make people who believe in conspiracy to appear to be stupid and uneducated.
Briefly discuss what the data and evidence above show. Also based on this information, and what you learned about the psychology of conspiracy theories in Week 21 of the module, could you claim that beliefs in conspiracy theories and beliefs in science are related? Why or why not?
Word limit: 500 words
Understanding the limitations of methods
One of the critiques of experiments is that they often lack ‘ecological validity’. Using examples of your choice, explain what is meant by ‘ecological validity’ and why this concept is important in understanding and designing psychological research on real world situations?
Word limit: 500 words
This part of the TMA is intended to assess your skills in communicating information clearly and concisely to a non-academic audience. At the same time, it also assesses your skills of critically evaluating the information you present, providing some evaluative discussion of psychological theories and research.
As a report, this part of the TMA requires you to use a mainly textual format, although you can support your points with appropriate additional elements, such as tables, graphs, or other figures.
For this part of the TMA, it may also be appropriate to draw on material that you have found in your independent study time, for example through the Open University Library, as well as the provided module materials.
The command words in the scenario ask you to explain and evaluate some of the psychological theories relevant to everyday errors and critical thinking. This will involve you needing to describe theories and studies, as well as illustrate them with relevant examples.
To evaluate in this context means to provide alternative viewpoints to the ideas you present, so that your report avoids being merely descriptive and one-sided.
Tips for writing
A key part of preparing for any applied report is making sure that you understand your audience and your remit. Here you are writing to an audience of teaching professionals. Even though the content of your report will be used to inform the design of a workshop for teenagers, do not write a report for an audience of 16 – 18 year olds. If there are issues relating to 16 – 18 year olds that are pertinent to your argument, you may of course refer to them in your report.
You need to answer the question and/or address the brief that they have given you (supplied previously in the question ‘scenario’) as fully as possible, without over-stepping the bounds of your remit.
You also need to make sure that your report is written appropriately for its intended reader(s), both by explaining terms, concepts, theories and studies that they may not be familiar with, and in terms that should not assume familiarity with the psychological literature. However, you may assume that the development team includes teachers from a variety of subject specialisms, who have a general scientific knowledge and an understanding of teaching and learning.
You could explain terms, concepts, theories and studies within the text itself, inside a text box, or as a footnote or side note similar to the margin definitions in the module textbooks. You could even provide a short glossary if you have quite a few terms to explain. Remember, however, that all of these explanations are included in your word count, so use them very sparingly. You may even find that a better strategy is to minimise the amount of jargon you use, explaining as much as possible using ‘layperson’s terms’,
You will need to find an appropriate balance between describing examples of errors in thinking, and explaining the psychology behind them. This will take careful planning as you have a fairly short word limit. You will need to avoid being overly descriptive, as this could leave you with little room to show your deeper understanding of the topic (through explaining and evaluating the material). Bear in mind that you do not have to (and should not try to) cite everything ever written on the subject.
If you find that you have a lot of information and are struggling with the word limit, think about how you can use the report format to your advantage:
could you break up a long, complicated explanation into shorter, simpler bullet points?
can you summarise the findings of several studies within a table, using fewer words than it would take to describe them in a paragraph of text?
would a figure (e.g. a diagram) illustrate a complex point clearly, using just a few words of labelling and explanation?
When preparing your answer for Question (a), you may find it helpful to break the task down into separate elements.
There are two claims being made about the issue (the relationship between science beliefs and conspiracy beliefs). What are the claims? What are these claims based on? How should one interpret the data from both studies? And what is the most appropriate conclusion, based on the information and evidence given in the scenario?
When preparing your answer for Question (b), you will need to briefly review the material on ecological validity. There is enough specific material for you to give a few good examples, but remember the question asks for a position on research on real worldsituations, not just juries or animal studies. In order to fully answer this question, you might like to consider how ecological validity might be relevant more broadly to research in other areas (e.g. health, education or organisational contexts).
The module learning outcomes assessed by TMA 04 are as follows:
Knowledge and understanding
Understanding a wide range of basic psychological concepts and how they apply to everyday life.
Understanding a variety of approaches to psychological research, including different methodologies and the role of ethics in research.
Ability to describe, compare and evaluate a range of key concepts in psychology.
Ability to construct arguments based on psychological theories and research findings, recognising the significance of differing approaches and subject positions.
Ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different theories and methodologies in psychology, and the relative value of different sources of data and information.
Ability to carry out directed literature searches to identify a range of sources of information, and apply appropriate criteria to select relevant material for specific purposes.
Ability to communicate psychological knowledge in a variety of formats suitable for both traditional academic audiences and wider, non-academic audiences.
Application of an appropriate referencing system.
Practical and/or professional skills
Producing written work that shows evidence of independent judgement in answer to a set problem.
Ability to use critical, evaluative, practical and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills, which are highly transferable to the workplace and other settings.
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