The concept of ‘learning mats’ appears to be popular at the moment – I see lots of examples of these at various training/INSET sessions. If you are unfamiliar with ‘learning mats’, they are essentially laminated posters that sit on students’ desks that provide them with prompts to help them with their work (call them ‘learning mats’ and they suddenly feel much more creative and exciting!). You can see lots of examples by searching for them in google images.
These learning mats could be utilised for many areas in psychology such as prompts for evaluation and paragraph structure (for example we mention ‘ladders’, ‘PEE’ and ‘burger techniques’ in the Teacher’s Companion).
However, I do think these ‘learning mats’ could be exceptionally useful when teaching the approaches. Imagine a psychology classroom where there is a set of mats for each approach (i.e. cognitive, biological, behaviourist, humanistic, psychodynamic…). Each mat would contain very simple prompts which detail the main features of each approach. For example, the behaviourist approach mat would feature very simple reminders about classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory. It would include key words such as reinforcement, punishment and neutral stimulus. It could even include brief evaluations of each approach.
Why would this be useful? How can I use them when teaching the approaches?
When teaching each approach the students could have access to the learning mat; this serves to visually reinforce the learning and provide a sort of concept mat for the key learning in that topic.
Application of the approaches…
In my experience, students find application skills the most difficult aspect of the course and easily lose AO2 marks. These learning mats could be wheeled out of the cupboard when any relevant exam question or application exercise is attempted in order to help the students select appropriate content to answer that question…. ‘Ooh, I think there is some negative reinforcement going on here’.
Building the bigger picture
Aspects of each approach regularly feature in the AQA specification. For example, the behaviourist approach is relevant to the learning theory explanation of attachment. The approaches also feature heavily in psychopathology-related topics. So, rather than the students seeing each module in psychology as discrete topics, the use of these learning mats will remind students of how different parts of the course link back to the approaches building blocks.
Hmmmm… but this sounds like awfully hard work…
Well… yep, maybe initially. But the pleasing aspect of new specification teaching is that it gives us the opportunity to refresh our resources which we can use successfully for years to come. Short-term pain, long-term gain. If you’re in a large department, share the workload. If you’re a lone-ranger, collaborate with your local schools. Or, just do it yourself and marvel in your creations…. your students are (hopefully) worth the extra effort!