Research-led teaching in Psychology

By Patrick Rosenkranz, Degree Programme Director, Psychology

Teaching in the School of Psychology is guided by empirical research in a number of ways: first and foremost, the design of the programme is research-led ( Healey and Jenkins, 2009):  the syllabus of the modules incorporates both the foundations of the field as well as up-to date developments that include current research problems and practices.

Many of the modules are designed and taught by researchers who are actively working in the field, often at international level, thereby allowing the most up-to-date insights to be incorporated into the curriculum.  Especially at Stage 3 of the undergraduate programme, students can choose their electives from different specialised fields of psychology, which are based on the research interests of the staff leading them and especially designed to give in-depth knowledge of the research within a particular area. To give an example, Professor Dame Vicki Bruce offers a final year option in Face Perception, the field that she has defined and contributed towards throughout her career. Students taking her module have the opportunity of gaining an advanced understanding of the major uses made of information from the face in person identification, expression recognition, lip reading and other aspects of social cognition (

Moreover, training for psychology students involves developing as a researcher from the start: students are taught research skills in dedicated modules and they learn about the various ways of conducting psychological enquiry through conducting their own research. It is also part of the programme for stage 1 and 2 students to participate in psychological research that is conducted by final year students, clinical trainees and members of staff. This research participation allows first-hand experience of study design and of psychological research from a participant’s perspective and is essential in developing inquiry skills and techniques. The rationale of developing the research skills of our students is on a trajectory of increasing independence and self-determination within the research context: At Stage 1, students learn the fundamentals of research design and analysis by collecting data in structured research practicals that replicate seminal research studies. At Stage 2, students make decisions about the research design and topic that they wish to pursue, while still conducting their research in structured sessions (see also Rosenkranz, Fielden and Tzemou, 2014).

Finally all the training culminates in Stage 3 where students conduct original research in their final year empirical research project. Academics act as research supervisors and guide the students through the research process. These projects allow students to make use of the knowledge and skills that they have gained from their training so far. While the projects are undoubtedly challenging, they are often very rewarding.  Some of the projects are subsequently published in academic journals (for example, Ernest –Jones, Nettle and Bateson, 2011, St Clair-Thompson et al., 2017).

A further way in which empirical research informs the way we teach in the School is through pedagogical scholarship and research. The EriP (Educational Research in Psychology) Research group in the school focusses on running projects that inform our teaching practice and helps us evaluate innovative ways of teaching.  Members of the group have conducted projects on peer-mentoring (Rosenkranz 2012), research methods teaching (Rosenkranz, Fielden, Tzemou, 2014), reading (St Clair-Thompson, Graham and Marsham, 2018), transition to university (Fielden et al., 2018), resilience and mental toughness (St Clair-Thompson et al., 2017), the effect of placements (St Clair- Thompson & Chivers (in press)) , entrepreneurial learning ( Rosenkranz et al, 2018) , feedback , academic sheltering and adversity (Elle Mawson and Trevor James, see below poster) , to name but a few.

To summarise, empirical research runs through all the activities of the school: the curriculum and module content is research –led, our students are trained in research-oriented and tutored methods classes, culminating in a research-based final year project. Moreover, educational research conducted by our academics inform many of our teaching practices and innovations.


Ernest-Jones, M., Nettle, D., & Bateson, M. (2011). Effects of eye images on everyday cooperative behavior: a field experiment. Evolution and Human Behavior, 32(3), 172–178.

Fielden, A., St Clair-Thompson, H., Clapperton, T., Suggett, B., Newstead, G. (2018) Building Resilience to Aid Transition to University. Poster presented at DART-P Inaugural Conference, Birmingham, UK.

Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009). Developing undergraduate research and inquiry. York: HE Academy

Rosenkranz, P. (2012). Integrating Peer Mentoring into the Psychology Curriculum: from an extended induction to an academic skills course. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 11(2), 201–208.

Rosenkranz, P, Dunn, A., Fielden, A., James, T., Warin, C. (2018).Enterprise challenges in psychology:  Developing psychological literacy though entrepreneurial learning. Case study for:  Taylor, J. and Hulme, J.A. (Eds.). International Psychological Literacy Compendium, retrieved 19/10/2018 from

Rosenkranz, P; Fielden, A. & Tzemou, E. (2014): Teaching psychological research methods through a pragmatic and programmatic approach. Psychology Teaching Review, Vol. 20, No 2, winter 2014

St Clair-Thompson, H., Giles, R., McGeown, S., Putwain, D., Clough, P, & Perry, J. (2017). Mental toughness and transitions to high school and to undergraduate study, Educational Psychology, 37:7, 792 809.

St Clair-Thompson, H., Graham, A., & Marsham, S. (2018). Exploring the Reading Practices of Undergraduate StudentsEducation Inquiry, 9(3), 284-298.

St Clair-Thompson, H., & Chivers, C. (in press). Perceived advantages and disadvantages of taking a psychology professional placement year. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning.

Leave a Reply