Reflections on Practice-Based Teaching in Psychology

Written by Dr Debbie Custance, Academic Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation Centre and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Learning Context

I used to teach a laboratory session on observational methods to first year undergraduates in their Research Methods in Psychology module. The students would come to their regular teaching space, which was a computer laboratory suite, and receive an introductory talk with activities on observational method. After this introduction, the students formed into small groups where they planned an observation that they could conduct out in the college campus. They would then leave the classroom for 45 minutes, and practice conducting these observations. It was up to them what they observed: one group observed how often people held doors open for one another; another group observed self-grooming behaviour in males and females.

Photo showing a typical psychology lab session. Students are studying individually in a computer lab.
Image taken from here.


I realise now that I never considered the need for alternative activities for students who might find leaving the classroom in this way difficult, such as students with mobility or visual impairments. I know that according to the new Disability Act, we are not supposed to wait until students with a disability turn up, and only then make adjustments: we are required by law to design our teaching in an inclusive manner, so as to anticipate, as far as possible, all eventualities. I could easily have prepared video or audio materials to allow students to conduct observations without needing to leave the classroom. Most students (but by no mean all) really enjoyed going out to conduct observations; with the video and audio materials, I could have given everyone a choice between going out and staying in.

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