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BSc (Honours) Psychology - Learning Outcomes

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Educational aims

The degree aims to provide students with:

  • an understanding of key concepts, theories, methods and debates in psychology
  • an appreciation of different perspectives within psychology and the ability to evaluate them critically
  • practical experience of designing, carrying out, analysing and reporting psychological research using a range of research methods
  • an understanding of the application of psychology to social, educational, practical and professional issues
  • a range of generic skills as detailed in the Benchmark document for Psychology
  • a degree which fulfils the requirements for the Graduate Basis for Registration of the British Psychological Society* and which provides the basis for further postgraduate study in psychology. [*provided students commencing their OU degree study from 1 September 2006 onwards achieve at least the equivalent of a 2:2 classification]
  • support and guidance to improve their own learning and performance and develop as independent learners.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the following:

  • the key approaches to psychology, and the contribution of different theorists to psychological ideas and thinking
  • knowledge of the core domains within psychology as detailed in the Benchmark document for Psychology: biological, cognitive, developmental, personality and individual differences, social
  • an understanding of what constitutes a scientific approach to psychology, and of the differences between common sense and psychological explanations of human behaviour
  • an understanding of a range of research methods in psychology and their appropriate use
  • an understanding of ethical issues in the design and conduct of psychology enquiry
  • how psychological theories and research are applied in different practical and professional contexts.

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • define and use key terms and concepts in psychology
  • construct arguments with appropriate use of psychological concepts, theories and evidence
  • interpret, use and evaluate different kinds of evidence
  • compare and evaluate conceptual arguments, particularly psychological explanations derived from different theoretical and conceptual frameworks
  • understand and evaluate a range of research strategies and methods used by psychologists
  • work with and explore hypotheses, using appropriate psychological theories and evidence
  • design and carry out research projects grounded within the academic literature, prepare relevant materials and deploy established research methods, using analytical tools and presenting and interpreting the results appropriately.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to demonstrate the following key skills:


These skills are matched against QCA levels 3 and 4.

  • select and read material in an appropriate way and efficiently and effectively take notes
  • select, summarise and synthesise information from different psychological sources, including primary text and other multimedia forms
  • present written material in a coherently organised form, with arguments and information in a logical sequence, communicated effectively and referenced appropriately.

Application of number

  • perform basic numerical operations
  • interpret tables, graphs, diagrams, bar charts
  • work with quantitative data and apply appropriate statistical procedures
  • present and summarise data in extended reports.

Information technology

  • access, process and prepare information using computers
  • use information technology to access library resources.

Learning how to learn

  • analyse tasks, make plans for tackling them and manage time
  • identify and use sources of support and learn from feedback
  • monitor and reflect on personal progress, identifying own strengths and weaknesses.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • design and conduct psychological investigations using a range of methods and types of data analysis and report these in appropriate formats
  • conduct research that complies with established ethical principles and guidelines.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding are acquired in a variety of ways: through printed items such as specially written module texts, study guides, methodology handbooks, and assignment and project guides; through a range of multimedia material; through work on original texts; and through feedback on assignments. Associate lecturers (locally based part-time tutors) support your learning in tutorials and day schools and through their detailed comments on assignments.

The Level 2 psychology modules provide a wide-ranging introduction to the key concepts, theories, and methods of psychology. Exploring psychology (DSE212) provides teaching and guidance on research methods and on effective writing of psychological research reports. The one-week residential school makes a particular contribution to teaching in this area. Child development (ED209) provides further experience of carrying out, analysing and reporting research in other areas of the curriculum.

The Level 3 psychology modules focus on the distinctive contributions of cognitive psychology and social psychology. The compulsory modules will develop your skills in independent research. Social psychology (DD307) explores ways of using qualitative methods to conduct, evaluate and communicate your research; Cognitive psychology (DD303) looks at quantitative methods. The DD303 one-week residential school provides further experience. Understanding and competence in all areas is assessed through project work submitted as tutor-marked assignments.

In the modules at both Levels 2 and 3 there is an increasing development of your skills in understanding, evaluating, and comparing psychological theories using evidence from different sources.

Throughout the degree, assessment is through tutor-marked assignments (both essays and practical reports) and, in some instances, an end-of-year examination. Running through the compulsory psychology modules is a developing emphasis on cumulative practical experience of psychological research methods, culminating in the ability to carry out independent empirical research; therefore, written reports form a substantial component of the tutor-marked assignments.

Skills development and assessment beyond the compulsory modules in the degree will depend on your choice of modules according to your needs and intentions.


The open nature of entry to the OU means that at Level 1 there is considerable emphasis on reading and writing skills. These are integrated into the study material and specifically taught and developed in separate texts, via student notes for the tutor-marked assignments, and through tutor feedback. At Levels 2 and 3 you are assumed to have developed abilities in these areas, although tutor feedback on writing and reporting skills continues to be important. However, the material from which you work becomes increasingly complex and diverse and more sophisticated skills of interpretation, selection and synthesis are required. These skills are central to the presentation of written assignments and, consequently, throughout the degree receive continuous assessment and examination.

Application of number

At Level 2, DSE212 develops number skills through activities in the module books; three projects (supported by project booklets, reports and two methodology handbooks); and, in particular, the one-week residential school. ED209 also provides extensive opportunities to develop number skills through in-text activities and three assessed projects, which are supported with detailed advice and guidance. The module also has a Methodology Handbook. At Levels 2 and 3 projects are assessed through research reports submitted as tutor-marked assignments.

Information technology

You have the opportunity to work with information technology on each of the modules. Many students use word processing packages to prepare and present their tutor-marked assignments.

Learning how to learn

As you will be studying at a distance and part time, a strong emphasis is placed on helping you to develop as an independent learner. At Level 1 this means developing basic skills (e.g. of time planning, using support). It also means laying the foundation for increasing emphasis on reflection at Levels 2 and 3. This is not assessed directly but is demonstrated by your ability to study autonomously. Self-assessed activities are also built into the teaching texts. Your tutors’ written responses on your assignments are intended, in part, to help you learn from feedback and enable you to improve subsequent submissions.

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