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Workplace psychology on A level curriculum

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Exam board OCR has confirmed that the psychology of the workplace – and beyond – will be one of the features in its new Psychology A Level (see summary of syllabus below). 

A Level students will refer to research that found that workers in companies which allow ‘desk clutter’ feel a greater sense of well-being and job satisfaction and experience less stress. It showed women often decorate their desks with photos of family and friends while men like to display symbols of achievement, for example in sports. Women also personalise their desks more than men: the research suggests women may feel a greater need to stamp their identity on their workplace because they feel they ‘own’ it less than men.

Psychology is the fourth most popular A and AS Level subject (see figures below) and is one of the most popular degree subjects in the UK. Environmental Psychology is among some new, contemporary issues to feature on OCR’s updated course, which is awaiting accreditation by Ofqual for teaching in schools from September 2015.

Maths skills

Alongside new topical content, ten percent of the new Psychology A Level course will be quantitative work involving data analysis (see below). All students will also now conduct their own practical research. Mark Dawe, OCR Chief Executive, says: “This minimum requirement ensures that students build up strong statistical and numeracy skills. Added to the critical thinking, analytical skills and essay writing the course demands, Psychology is an intellectually stretching but very fulfilling subject that produces highly employable students.”

Psychological literacy

Changes to Psychology A Level coincide with news that one of the world’s top business schools, Yale School of Management, has devised a test to assess students’ emotional intelligence, or ‘psychological literacy’, because leadership demands an ability to read people, understand and manage emotions and communicate effectively.

OCR has also looked closely at the work of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the national body for enhancing HE learning and teaching, to ensure its new Psychology A Level course reflects contemporary theory and practice at university level, including the important area of psychological literacy. 

Dr Julie Hulme, Consultant in Academic Practice at the HEA believes psychological literacy “offers potential solutions to many of the world’s problems – large or small”.

Vicky Hunter, OCR Subject Team Manager, says: “There is no doubt that psychology has a big impact on all areas of life, from education and health, to the economy and crime. Itgives students a greater understanding of why human beings are wonderful, kind, creative and sometimes broken or cruel. It uses rigorous scientific methodology, requiring students to formulate theories, test hypotheses and analyse reports with rigorous statistical techniques, to come up with important findings.”Following accreditation, OCR’s new Psychology A Level will be taught in schools from September 2015.

More details of the draft A Level can be found at

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