What does it mean to you to be a Psychologically Literate Citizen? Demonstrate how you channel not only what you’ve learned formally, but how such knowledge was acquired from other personal and professional settings.
Related Course Objectives:
þ Outline how psychological literacy is fostered through various content areas in the course.
þ Present ideas about the real-world application of psychological knowledge, using various mediums for communication
þ Evaluate various real-world issues critically, and with respect for diversity.
þ Demonstrate appreciation for the personal and communal value of the knowledge and competencies gained throughout the B.Sc. Psychology programme.
Reflect on your journey as a student in this course and answer the following questions:
1. What does it mean to you to be a Psychologically Literate Citizen? Demonstrate how you channel not only what you’ve learned formally, but how such knowledge was acquired from other personal and professional settings.
2. With reference to these three perspectives, Cognitive, Socio-Emotional and Behavioural, demonstrate how you are a Global Citizen.
With psychology’s popularity as a subject showing no signs of abating, a large number of people are gaining some psychological knowledge at some stage in their lives. What impact does this have on those people, and on wider society?
Psychology is being studied by a growing number of people. At pre-tertiary level, it is now the fourth most popular subject, with over 56,000 entries for A-level examinations and 101,000 entries for AS-level examinations this year (JCQ, 2014).
According to the Quality Assurance Agency Subject Benchmark for Psychology (QAA, 2010), psychology is one of the most popular subjects for undergraduate study in the UK (at the time of the publication of the Subject Benchmark, it was the second most studied subject overall, and the most popular science subject at undergraduate level).
There are currently over 91,000 students studying psychology in UK universities, of whom almost 18,000 are postgraduates (see www.hesa.ac.uk/stats).
This implies that there must be an enormous number of people in the UK who have studied psychology in some form, at some stage in their lives, and the numbers can only be increasing each year.
It is therefore worth asking what impact the study of psychology has on these individuals, and, in turn, what is the wider impact on society as a whole?
Insightful and reflective
It may be that substantially more students enter psychology courses with a view to becoming a professional psychologist than actually achieve this goal (Trapp et al., 2011), leading Reddy et al. (2013) to question whether students perceive psychology as a vocational, rather than an academic subject.
In fact, between 15 and 20 per cent of psychology graduates will go on to careers in professional psychology (QAA, 2010), and for these individuals, an appropriate psychology qualification provides the necessary credentials to enter those careers.
However, this leaves a sizeable majority of 80 to 85 per cent of graduates who will take alternative routes. In addition, recent letters to The Psychologist (including Harkness, 2013) suggest that there may be considerable numbers of psychology graduates striving over several years to gain sufficient experience to enter training programmes.
For those who do not achieve training places, there may be a sense of rejection and failure, the feeling of giving up a dream, or of having to follow a less desirable career that may not keep them in touch with psychological knowledge.
Consider those who gain their qualifications and head out into a non-psychological career or continued education. Can they now forget everything they learned about research methods, social psychology, cognition and the brain?
As more people experience psychology education, it is appropriate for us to question to what extent their exposure to the discipline will benefit them, their employers and their communities in ways beyond simply participating in academic study and achieving an academic qualification.
Where the particular discipline of study is of little relevance to the career destination of the student, can it still be of help?
This is where the concept of psychological literacy comes in. The term was first coined by Boneau (1990), to describe the core knowledge and skill set acquired through the study of psychology. More recently, the concept of psychological literacy has evolved to become less prescriptive in terms of content, and more applied in nature.
McGovern et al. (2010, p.11) define psychological literacy as ‘being insightful and reflective about one’s own and others’ behaviour and mental processes’ and having the ability to apply ‘psychological principles to personal, social, and organizational issues in work, relationships and the broader community’.
Cranney et al. (2012, p.4) adopt a similar stance, describing psychological literacy as ‘the general capacity to adaptively and intentionally apply psychology to meet personal, professional and societal needs’.
The concept of psychological literacy thus captures the ability of a psychology student to apply the knowledge and skills that they acquire during their education to all aspects of life: the workplace, their personal lives and the wider social context.
As such, psychological literacy may provide a lens through which we can view the wider benefits of psychology education. It may also hold out some hope to students who may be coming to accept that their aspirations towards a career in psychology are likely to remain unfulfilled, but who remain enthused and inspired by the subject, and are looking for ways to continue to stay in touch with it.
The concept of psychological literacy, then, relates to the ability of students to take their learning from the classroom, and to apply it to their everyday work and lives.
If psychology is the study of human mind, brain and behaviour, then, presumably, psychology is relevant and can be applied wherever one might find people.
The possibilities are fairly limitless; in September 2013, the Guardian reported that psychology, in the forms of social isolation, confinement and experiencing constant surveillance, would be the major challenge facing potential volunteers sent to colonise the planet Mars (see tinyurl.com/ppjk54m).
The applications of psychology in the criminal justice, health and education systems are already well recognised, hence the clearly demarcated professional areas of psychology relating to these, specifically forensic psychology, health and clinical psychology, and educational psychology.
Marketing and human resources departments are also often well informed about psychological theory and strategies that help them to do their jobs effectively; for example, using qualitative research methods to investigate markets, and using psychometric tests as recruitment tools.
The application of psychological theory in a human resources context is also reflected in the rise of psychologically orientated coaching services adopted within UK management and industry; in 2011, 77 per cent of UK organisations used coaching as a leadership development tool (CIPD, 2011).
However, the concept of psychological literacy allows us to take learning about psychology beyond those traditional graduate workplaces and into the much wider world (or solar system, apparently).
At an individual level, good psychology students at all levels learn to think critically, to evaluate evidence and to recognise that knowledge evolves over time, rather than remaining fixed.
They are equipped with the skills to find new information, and even to create knowledge for themselves through the application of their research methods and statistics training.
They are well prepared to communicate their new-found knowledge through reports, articles and essays. The typical undergraduate degree prepares students to undertake psychological research using a variety of methods, and with an emphasis on ethical process (see QAA, 2010, for a comprehensive list of the skills associated with psychology graduates).
Such skills are invaluable in the modern world. Students now are being prepared for jobs that do not yet exist, using technology that has not yet been invented (Reddy et al., 2013; Trapp et al., 2011).
Global knowledge is expanding at a massive rate, and by the time students graduate some of what they learned in their first year at university may already have become outdated.
The modern graduate, on gaining employment, will need to learn new skills, acquire and evaluate new knowledge and learn independently if they are to maintain currency. Employers are desperately seeking curious, creative problem solvers, who are numerate, communicative and independent (CBI/NUS, 2011). Lifelong learning (e.g. Mocker & Spear, 1982) is not optional;
it is essential to ongoing employability.