Teaching: it is about what makes you tick not box ticking

The BSc Psychology team held an end of year feedback session with our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) today. The day was about reflecting on the teaching this year and looking forward to next year’s teaching, including the new modules that will come on stream for our second year students.

The final session was about applying to be an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and I was lucky enough to be able to lead the session. We talked about the criteria and the logistics of putting in an application through the King’s programme (Teaching Recognition at King’s, TRaK). We asked the GTAs to reflect on their practice in the areas of activity laid out by the UK Professional Standards Framework, which serve as a national benchmark for teaching and learning support in higher education. We also asked them to start to think about their personal statement, a challenging part of the application that has to be reflective, personal and evidence-based. Specifically, I asked them to try to answer the following questions:

1. Why do I teach?
2. Why do I teach the way that I do?
3. How to I see teaching in my career trajectory?

Many of those present are completing their PhDs and therefore engrossed in their research but as we talked about these questions and why they should be thinking about them, I started to reflect more the role of teaching and learning in academia. This might seem strange – you might think surely teaching and learning are central to universities. I would certainly agree that this is the case but often the recognition for educational activities seems to be secondary to research activities. This has always puzzled me because I think the two are best seen as two sides of the same coin, with the coin in question being your passion for a discipline.

I am passionate about my discipline and I love spending time in the lab and writing papers but there is little point in having that passion if it is not disseminated to future generations and teaching is an excellent way to do this. Teaching is also intrinsically rewarding and the rewards are far more immediate than may be the case with research. I have spent many hours, more than care to think about, in a lab working on experiments that do not work or applying for funding without success, but I have never had a single teaching session where I haven’t enjoyed it or learnt something. Of course, research is rewarding, but often I will wait years for the small breakthrough – something teaching gives you when just one student gets to grips with a difficult concept or asks a question that demonstrates a higher level of thinking. Combining the rewards of both teaching and research makes for a career I feel privileged to have. For me, teaching is simply part of what makes me tick because it is an equal partner in that discipline passion but I think I have only recognised this through reflecting on my teaching from very early on in my career. It has never been about ticking a box, and I actually think I would not do it so well if it was just about that. Encouraging people to see teaching as part of that passion for a discipline by supporting reflection and development, through recognition, instead of a box ticking exercise, is also likely to improve standards across the board and probably job satisfaction.

Most universities are now starting to show clear recognition for educational activities. This is evident at King’s with the TRaK programme and I hope many of our GTAs will start an ongoing cycle of reflective practice with the Associate Fellow application and continue to develop in the future to higher levels of recognition. But there are also other ways to recognise education contributions. The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience will shortly be holding and event to recognise the teaching and learning achievements of staff. These steps are a good way to encourage people who are tentative about teaching to engage and reflect on it and let it be part of what makes them tick.


Written by:

Ellie Dommett

Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience

Good results for Psychology in the King’s Student Survey

King’s is committed to listening to student’s views and feedback and one of the ways they do this is via the King’s Student Survey or KSS. This is a chance for students to help the university improve what it does and previous surveys have led to various changes in the services provided. All undergraduate non-finalist students are invited to participate in the KSS and the most recent survey ran from Monday 18 January – Friday 5 February 2016.

KSS imageAs the new BSc Psychology degree began in September 2015 we were especially keen to see how students studying this programme were feeling about their studies, not least as this is the first undergraduate programme run by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. The KSS was completed by 48 students from the Department, almost all of whom are studying on the BSc Psychology.

The response rate of 28.7 %, was the second highest response rate across all Departments at King’s, and meant that the Department of Psychology contributed over 90% of all student responses from the Faculty. Our thanks to all the students who took the time to complete it!

Overall student satisfaction was very high in the Department, with 93.9 % of students feeling that they were satisfied with their overall experience; this led to the IoPPN having the highest overall proportion of satisfied students of any of King’s Faculties on this survey.

There were a number of other highlights in the 2016 survey data for the Department of Psychology. Our students made the IoPPN the highest scoring faculty at King’s (in terms of the proportion of students who agree) for many important descriptions of learning and teaching:

  • Our students tend believe that staff are enthusiastic (96.2 %); the course is intellectually stimulating (86 %); e-learning resources are sufficient (90.6 %); there are opportunities to give feedback (92.5 %), and that feedback is valued (81.1 %) and that they can see how feedback is used (75.5 %).
  • Similarly, in terms of engagement, students at the Department of Psychology made the IoPPN the most highly rated faculty for students and staff creating a joint community (69.8 %) and working together to improve the course (77.4 %).

Overall, the results are very promising and they show that students really value their experience of studying Psychology at King’s. Of course, there are always areas that can be improved upon – and we need to do better for the 2% of students not currently satisfied! – but it is great to see our students engaging with the KSS and providing positive feedback on their experience within the Department of Psychology.

Written by:

Ellie Dommett

Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience

Flowers from the Dean

Addison House has a floral touch this week – a rather delightful bouquet of flowers arrived to thank the BSc Psychology team for all their work in setting up the new programme, following a successful accreditation visit from the British Psychological Society.

The BSc Psychology programme (which accepted the initial cohort of first year students back in September) received provisional accreditation in advance for the first cohort of students in 2015 – showing that the planned course met or exceeded all of the Society’s standards. The provisional accreditation report was very supportive of our planned programme, highlighting some specific areas of strengths in our planning, including:

  • The potential for students to benefit greatly from the research expertise of the IoPPN;
  • Very good physical resources, including equipment and specialist labs supported by specialist researchers
  • Interesting potential for internships
  • Well-thought out integration of content in course modules across the first two years of the programme

We were naturally delighted that the Society approved of our plans in advance – but a lot has happened since then: buildings have been completed (and visited by the Society’s president), students and staff have been recruited, and a planned curriculum has turned into two semesters of real-life lectures, practical sessions and examinations. So the time came for the Society to check that we had actually implemented the plans as well as we had promised, and the King’s BSc Psychology team was delighted to play host to a visit from the BPS Partnership Accreditation Team at Addison House last week.

The partnership team met with the current students, teaching staff and managements, and discussed the course and its development with all concerned. At the end of these sessions, the partnership team provided some very helpful, and positive, feedback to the staff about areas for development of the course at King’s, and the areas where we are doing well – including the staff’s commitment to high quality teaching; our innovative use of problem-based, translational learning from the start of the course; the way in which Personal Tutors are used to support students; the ways in which current IoPPN research informs our teaching; and the integration of content across modules – especially how research methods teaching integrates with other content. While we feel ourselves that these things are among the strengths of our course, we are possibly rather biased – so it is nice to know that other people like what we are trying to do.

Most importantly of all –  we were delighted that the team confirmed the ongoing accreditation of the programme as providing eligibility for the graduate basis for chartered membership of the society.

So a successful end to our first teaching year. A big thank-you to the visiting BPS partnership team for their time and very helpful comments, to the teaching staff and senior management for demonstrating so clearly the institutional commitment to the new programme, and to the students who took time out from coursework deadlines and revision to meet the BPS.

And, last but not least, to the Dean’s office for sending such lovely flowers….

26.04.16 Photo

Written by:

Michael R F Aitken PhD

Reader in Psychology & BSc Psychology Programme Director

Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience

Welcome to the Psychology at King’s Blog

Founded in 1950, the Department of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience has grown to become one of the world’s largest grouping of psychologists undertaking research and education in the areas of clinical and health psychology, in neuropsychology and neuroscience, developmental psychology and forensic psychology.


We provide a number of qualifications including a new BSc Psychology, a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (the UK’s oldest training programme which helped to establish the scientist/practitioner model that is now almost universal in the field), our MSc in Health Psychology, and a range of Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas for mental health professionals, and degrees for medical undergraduates. These courses are made possible by the expertise of the staff within the Department and elsewhere within the Institute of Psychiatry, and our close ties with our NHS partners, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and King’s College London NHS Foundation Trust. Many members of academic staff are qualified Clinical and Health Psychologists providing expert psychological services to our NHS partners are part of their work.

All academic staff within the department undertake research. The major focus is translational and applied research in the areas of mental health and physical health, taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by close collaborations with NHS clinicians and clinical researchers. The department has pioneered new approached to psychological treatments and continues undertake basic research, treatment development and evaluation across a range of mental health and physical conditions. Our research academics in the Psychology Department work closely and collaboratively with researchers from wide range of disciplines in other Departments of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience and more widely across KCL.

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