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The nature of psychology: Reflections on university teachers' experiences of teaching sensitive topics

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Abstract

This paper describes one aspect of a larger scale qualitative study conducted to investigate psychology-specific issues in learning and teaching in higher education. Participants included academic psychologists from across the career spectrum and from diverse UK universities. A semi-structured focus group methodology was employed, and results were analysed using thematic analysis. A key theme related to the nature of psychology, with a subtheme of teaching sensitive topics. For our purposes, we define ‘sensitive topics’ as topics within the psychology curriculum that may elicit an emotional or distressing response amongst learners. Psychology engages students in academic study and assessment that is relevant to their own personal circumstances or that they can find upsetting. Participants noted particular challenges when teaching sensitive topics, but also observed the value of doing so for students and society more widely. We explore the perceptions of university teachers with regard to teaching sensitive topics in psychology, reflect on the implications within higher education, and by extrapolation, within pre-tertiary education. We close with recommendations for curriculum developers and educators within both sectors.

Acceptance Date Apr 30, 2017
Publication Date Jun 11, 2017
Journal Psychology Teaching Review
Print ISSN 0965-948X
Publisher The British Psychological Society
Pages 4 -14
Keywords sensitive topics, mental health, psychological literacy, employability, higher education, pre-tertiary education
Publisher URL https://shop.bps.org.uk/publications/psychology-teaching-review-vol-23-no-1-2017.html

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