PSYC4032 Advanced Topics in Psychology

Graduate Diploma Course Unit

PSYC4032 Advanced Topics in Psychology

Duration: Trimester One

Level: 4th year

Credit points: 4 (out of total of 24)

Prerequisites: None

Mode(s) of delivery: On-campus

Core/elective: Core

Unit co-ordinator: Professor Mike Innes


Unit description

This unit is one of the coursework units in fourth year psychology for student in the Bachelor of Psychology Science (Honours) and the Graduate Diploma of Psychology. This unit will cover recent theoretical and research developments drawn from different areas representing the diversity of the discipline.

The content of this unit will vary from year to year to take account of theoretical and research developments within psychology. Each year students will select topics that will provide a representational cross-section of the discipline of psychology, including its applications. The four domains of the biological bases of behaviour and experience, learning and cognition, developmental and socio-cultural influences will be covered. Students will spend two weeks evaluating current theoretical positions, examining developments in theory within the area, and discussing how theory informs research and research informs theory. The role of methods in development of psychological theory and understanding, and the part they play in the developing paradigms of investigation will be included.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit students should be able to:

  • describe at an advanced level the theoretical underpinnings of research areas within the discipline of psychology and the methodological debates which affect the development of these areas
  • describe recent advances in a selection of research areas in the discipline of psychology
  • engage in discussion of recent developments in key areas within the discipline
  • evaluate research in the context of its theoretical and methodological underpinnings
  • evaluate the practice of science and psychology and the individual, social and organisational processes which influence that practice

Unit coordinator

Professor Mike Innes

Level 6, 11 York Street, Sydney

Email: mike.innes@acap.edu.au

Lecturing staff

Professor Mike Innes

Learning and teaching process

This unit comprises 10 weekly three hour seminars. Students will identify a broad topic for study and within that, different areas, theories, or views that each student will contribute to individually in presenting the overall topic. Each student is expected to identify a list of up to four related references from the contemporary literature that will support their contribution. Students will then be required to submit their choices and the associated reading list to the unit coordinator for approval. Upon receiving approval they will work on the assessment tasks as specified below. The topics and the associated readings will be circulated by the unit coordinator to all class members. Classes will be concerned with the presentation by members of the results of their investigations, so as to provide all class members with an overall picture of the contemporary research on their topic. The class will therefore cover a number of areas of current interest in the discipline.

While student members are researching the topics for further study and preparing their presentations the unit coordinator will present some orienting lectures and will lead discussion sessions on issues relevant to the development of theory and method in psychology. These will include the nature of the practice of psychological experimentation and survey research and the factors which affect the development and direction of research. Issues such as the biases and forces which operate upon institutions and individual practitioners, the nature of the publication process in psychology and in the sciences generally and the extent to which present day corporate and business forces operate to affect the way in which science and psychology are practised will be examined.

Graduate attributes

The material covered in this unit will contribute to the development of the following graduate attributes:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of core topics in psychology. These topics include abnormal psychology, biological bases of behaviour, cognition, information processing and language, learning, lifespan developmental psychology, perception, social psychology and intercultural diversity and indigenous psychology.
  2. Research methods in psychology. This attribute covers an understanding of the characteristics of the science of psychology and the different and varied research methods used by psychologists. It also includes the acquisition of practical skills in laboratory-based research and other methods, the design of studies to address psychological questions, critical analysis, the formulation of testable hypotheses, the choice of an appropriate methodology, the question of reliability and validity and their meanings and operations, the analysis of data, and the writing of reports.
  3. Critical thinking skills. The attribute includes the application of scientific method to the study of mental and behavioural problems, the examination of other modes of understanding the world and the development of other world views, and recognition of the fallacies and the biases that can affect human thinking and analysis.
  4. Values, research and professional ethics. This attribute includes the evaluation of the behaviour of psychologists in psychological research and other professional contexts and is in the context of the Australian Psychological Society “Code of Ethics” and the Australian “National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce”. Values and professional ethics must also be understood and evaluated in the context of social ethical principles and ethical conduct in legal, medical and institutional behaviour.
  5. Communication skills. Students need to learn how to communicate effectively orally in various settings (group discussion, presentations, both formal and informal) for various purposes. Written communication, in the form of written reports, should be according to professionally accepted formats. In psychology we follow the American Psychological Association structure and formatting conventions.
  6. Learning and the application of psychology. This attribute includes the application of knowledge of legislative frameworks and the application of knowledge about laws and conventions in work settings, consumer and carer participation and in the general matter of the conduct of application of psychology. It also considers how there may be variation of legislation across different areas of application. 
    Students also need to be cognisant of the need to sustain independent learning for professional and personal development over their life, in the changing social and cultural practices in society and in the practice and development of the scientific basis of psychology.

Learning outcomes

Graduate attributes

a) Describe at an advanced level the theoretical
underpinnings of research areas within the
discipline of psychology and the methodological
debates which affect the development of these
areas

  • Knowledge and understanding of core topics
    in psychology
  • Research methods in psychology
  • Values, research and professional ethics

b) Describe recent advances in a selection of research
areas in the discipline of psychology

  • Knowledge and understanding of core topics
    in psychology
  • Research methods in psychology
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Values, research and professional ethics

c) Engage in discussion of recent developments in key areas
within the discipline

  • Knowledge and understanding of core topics
    in psychology
  • Research methods in psychology
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Values, research and professional ethics
  • Learning and the application of psychology

d) Evaluate research in the context of its theoretical and
methodological underpinnings

  • Knowledge and understanding of core topics
    in psychology
  • Research methods in psychology
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Values, research and professional ethics
  • Learning and the application of psychology

Assessment summary

Type

Weighting

Word Count

Submission Week

Review article: Structure and outline

Learning outcomes: a, b, c, d

30%

1500

5

Review article: This article is to be submitted in a
format that would meet the requirements for
publication in a journal. Students should nominate the
journal that the article would be intended for and
follow the requirements for that journal.

Learning outcomes: a, b, c, d

Note: Submission is in Week 12 (Sunday 20th May)
rather than at the end of the 10 week teaching 
trimester.

70%

3500 words

12

Special provisions

The topic selected for submission by an individual student must be in an area different from that in which their thesis is being undertaken.

Recommended text

There is no recommended text for this unit. 

Other significant references

Reference will be made to significant articles which have appeared in the primary psychological literature of recent years.

Relevant journals and resources

Articles will be selected from a broad range of journals across the wide range of psychology. Journals which will be of particular help in sparking ideas about current trends and developments include:

American Psychologist
Review of General Psychology (American Psychological Association)
Current Developments in Psychological Science
Perspectives on Psychological Science
Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Association for Psychological Science)

The standard sources of reviews and theoretical developments include:

Psychological Bulletin
Psychological Review
Annual Review of Psychology

Although these latter three journals tend to be more retrospective in content; particularly exciting empirical papers will appear in the journals available through EBSCOHost.

Academic misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. This includes plagiarism of any nature. It is your responsibility to make sure that you understand what constitutes plagiarism in order to ensure that you do not engage in it. Please refer to http://currentstudents.acap.edu.au/assets/Managing-My-Course/A-Z-Policies/Academic-Misconduct-Policy.pdf for full details of the Academic Misconduct Policy.

Disclaimer

This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it throughout the trimester. Your lecturer will advise when there are updates on the site and also when readings are available for class discussion.