Outward mobility to Florida
This year two colleagues in forensic psychology (Drs Nic Bowes and Karen de Claire) were successful in gaining funding for an outward mobility visit. Building strong international collaborations is vital to how we critically understand our own practices and knowledge, and helps us develop research into new areas, and to design courses to better support students. Here, Dr Karen de Claire outlines the trip, what was covered and some of the outcomes.
The Santander funding allowed us to visit the Miami Dade University. Miami Dade is the largest HE provider in the US, with more students than any other college. They lead the way in activities to widen access to study and improve employability for people who would not be typically expected to attend university. This University has a School of Justice and has similar practice concerns and research interests; weapon crime, violence and community issues related to offending. Miami Dade University were very interested in meeting and working with us and arranged an amazing itinerary. On arrival we met with the Dean of the School of Justice and his team and toured the campus. They explained the Police and Correctional Officer Academies that they run, which are both based on the psychological concept of procedural justice. A concept we are working on currently in the UK. They also talked about their role in promotion boards for criminal justice organisations, something we as a university could consider exploring.
We followed this with attendance at a gun crime conference, meeting gang leaders, victims, police chiefs and national experts. Obviously this is a huge issue for the American people. While it was great to see all of these groups working together with academics to deal with the problem, it was concerning to hear the message that the gun control laws are not widely or effectively applied. While we were in Miami there were a number of shootings including the murders of two high school students.
On day two of our visit we were invited to observe a disaster recovery exercise by Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System (FEMOR). They had created a disaster scenario (terrorist attack) and had established a body recovery and identification exercise including the use of real human remains to test out all aspects of the emergency team response (including cadaver dogs). Miami Dade trains crime scene investigators and mortuary staff. In America they do not have Forensic Psychologists and our title confused them. This misunderstanding lead to them thinking we would be comfortable surrounded by cadavers and body parts. We were able to fake insouciance. It was fascinating to see how a mobile mortuary operates following a major incident of multiple deaths and it was great to see Bella the cadaver dog in action.
The trip gave us a wonderful insight into the way American university funding works and the entrepreneurial nature of the academics work. In the School of Justice all of the staff were practitioners in their field prior to joining the university and the ethos is innovation. The motto being try anything we will support you and if it works great. The academic team is multicultural and multilingual and southern hospitality was offered by everyone we met.
As part of their practitioner contact we were taken to a low security prison. Here we met the education, drug treatment and industries staff who work tirelessly to rehabilitate men who may have been in prison all their adult life. This experience was nothing like the view of American prisons presented by the media. Staff and prisoners worked alongside each other and showed considerable respect to each other. We met a group of 20 prisoners who had undertaken a treatment programme with university staff and students. They were welcoming to us and spoke positively about the experience as did the students.
On the final day we met the Virtual Campus team their professional approach was amazing with the University offering 300 MSc programmes on line. We learned how to develop our own programmes to provide a more blended learning approach and this discussion sparked many ideas for the future.
This turned out to be a very productive visit and has the potential to lead to the following collaborations, including research and student exchanges.
Our visit ended with a meeting with red Dragon radios Dr Johnny Love, but that is another story.
Symudedd allanol i Florida
Eleni, bu dau gydweithiwr mewn seicoleg fforensig (Drs Nic Bowes & Karen de Claire) yn llwyddiannus wrth ennill cyllid ar gyfer ymweliad symudedd allanol. Mae adeiladu cydweithrediadau rhyngwladol cryf yn hollbwysig i’r modd yr ydym yn deall yn feirniadol ein hymarfer a’n gwybodaeth ein hunain, ac yn ein cynorthwyo i ddatblygu ymchwil i feysydd newydd, a dylunio cyrsiau i gynorthwyo myfyrwyr yn well. Yma, mae Dr Karen de Claire yn amlinellu’r daith, yr hyn a gwmpaswyd a rhai o’r canlyniadau.
Caniataodd arian Santander i ni ymweld â Phrifysgol Miami Dade. Miami Dade yw’r darparwr AU mwyaf yn yr Unol Daleithiau, gyda mwy o fyfyrwyr nag unrhyw goleg arall. Maent yn arwain y ffordd mewn gweithgareddau i ehangu mynediad i astudio a gwella cyflogadwyedd ar gyfer pobl na fyddai disgwyl iddynt fynychu’r brifysgol fel arfer. Mae gan y Brifysgol hon Ysgol Cyfiawnder ac mae ganddi bryderon ymarfer a diddordebau ymchwil tebyg; troseddau arfau, trais a materion cymunedol sy’n ymwneud â throseddu. Roedd gan Brifysgol Miami Dade ddiddordeb mawr mewn cyfarfod a gweithio gyda ni a threfnwyd taith anhygoel. Ar ôl cyrraedd, gwnaethom gyfarfod â Deon yr Ysgol Cyfiawnder a’i dîm a theithio o amgylch y campws. Esboniodd yr Academïau Swyddog yr Heddlu a Chywirol maent yn eu rhedeg, sy’n seiliedig ar gysyniad seicolegol cyfiawnder trefniadol. Cysyniad yr ydym yn gweithio arno ar hyn o bryd yn y DU. Buont hefyd yn sôn am eu rôl mewn byrddau dyrchafiad ar gyfer sefydliadau cyfiawnder troseddol, rhywbeth y gallwn ni fel prifysgol ystyried ei archwilio.
Dilynwyd hyn gyda mynychu cynhadledd troseddau gwn, gan gyfarfod ag arweinwyr gang, dioddefwyr, penaethiaid yr heddlu ac arbenigwyr cenedlaethol. Yn amlwg, mae hwn yn fater enfawr i bobl America. Er ei bod yn wych gweld pob un o’r grwpiau hyn yn cydweithio ag academyddion i ddelio â’r broblem, roedd yn ymwneud â chlywed y neges nad yw’r cyfreithiau rheoli gwn yn cael eu defnyddio’n eang neu’n effeithiol. Tra’n bod ni yn Miami roedd yna nifer o saethiadau gan gynnwys llofruddiaethau dau fyfyriwr ysgol uwchradd.
Ar ddiwrnod dau o’n hymweliad, cawsom wahoddiad i arsylwi ar ymarfer adfer trychineb gan System Ymateb Gweithrediadau Brys Marwdy Fflorida (FEMOR). Roeddent wedi creu senario trychineb (ymosodiad terfysgol) ac wedi sefydlu adfer ac adnabod corff gan gynnwys defnyddio gweddillion dynol go iawn i brofi pob agwedd ar ymateb y tîm brys (gan gynnwys cŵn darganfod cyrff meirw). Mae Miami Dade yn hyfforddi ymchwilwyr lleoliad troseddau a staff marwdy. Yn America, nid oes ganddynt Seicolegwyr Fforensig ac mae ein teitl yn eu drysu. Arweiniodd y camddealltwriaeth hwn atynt yn meddwl y byddem yn gyfforddus o amgylch carcharorion a rhannau o’r corff. Llwyddom i ffugio dihidrwydd. Roedd hi’n ddiddorol gweld sut mae marwdy symudol yn gweithredu yn dilyn digwyddiad mawr o farwolaethau lluosog ac roedd hi’n wych gweld Bella y ci darganfod cyrff meirw yn gweithio.
Rhoddodd y daith gipolwg gwych i ni ar y ffordd y mae arian prifysgol America yn gweithio a natur entrepreneuraidd gwaith yr academyddion. Yn yr Ysgol Cyfiawnder roedd yr holl staff yn ymarferwyr yn eu maes cyn ymuno â’r brifysgol ac mae’r ethos yn arloesol. Yr arwyddair oedd rhowch gynnig ar unrhyw beth, byddwn yn eich cefnogi ac os yw’n gweithio, gwych. Mae’r tîm academaidd yn amlddiwylliannol ac yn amlieithog a chynigiwyd lletygarwch deheuol gan bawb a gyfarfuom.
Fel rhan o’u cysylltiad ymarferydd, cawsom ein tywys i garchar diogelwch isel. Yma fe wnaethom gyfarfod â staff addysg, triniaeth cyffuriau a diwydiannau sy’n gweithio’n ddiflino i adsefydlu dynion a allai fod wedi bod yn y carchar trwy gydol eu bywydau oedolion. Nid oedd y profiad hwn yn debyg i farn carchardai America a gyflwynwyd gan y cyfryngau. Roedd staff a charcharorion yn gweithio ochr yn ochr â’i gilydd ac yn dangos cryn barch at ei gilydd. Cyfarfuom â grŵp o 20 o garcharorion a oedd wedi ymgymryd â rhaglen driniaeth gyda staff a myfyrwyr y brifysgol. Roeddent yn groesawgar i ni ac yn siarad yn gadarnhaol am y profiad fel yr oedd y myfyrwyr.
Ar y diwrnod olaf, gwnaethom gyfarfod â thîm y Campws Rhithwir, roedd eu hymagwedd broffesiynol yn rhyfeddol gyda’r Brifysgol yn cynnig 300 o raglenni MSc ar-lein. Fe wnaethon ni ddysgu sut i ddatblygu ein rhaglenni ein hunain i ddarparu dull dysgu mwy cymysg a thaniodd y drafodaeth hon lawer o syniadau ar gyfer y dyfodol.
Bu hyn yn ymweliad cynhyrchiol iawn ac mae ganddo’r potensial i arwain at y cydweithrediadau canlynol, gan gynnwys ymchwil a chyfnewidfeydd myfyrwyr.
Daeth ein hymweliad i ben gyda chyfarfod gyda Dr Johnny Love, red Dragon radios, ond stori arall yw honno.
On Monday 4 April 2016 the Applied Cognitive Expertise held its first networking event at Cardiff Metropolitan University. The day was an opportunity for researchers, both inside and outside the university, to disseminate and discuss a range of diverse topics in an informal and relaxed environment.
Sessions were held on Distraction and language; Decision-making and reasoning; Emotion, mood, and cognition; and Hedonic cognition. Within those sessions, for example, Dr Robert Mayr talked about how native languages sound foreign, Dr Nick Perham informed us how a deficit in processing order information may explain some features of dyslexia, Dr Niall Galbraith explored how jealousy and paranoia are (not) associated with data gathering, Dr Andy Watt explained how decision-making in psychiatry is not as optimal as it should be, Professor Phil Reed examined how schizotypy and internet use are related to each other, Dr Deiniol Skillicorn focused on a novel Stroop methodology to explain cognitive control deficits schizotypy, and Dr Martin Graff regaled us with decision-making in online dating. To round things off, Professor Bob Snowden gave us an insight into the cognitive underpinnings of psychopathic individuals replete with fascinating anecdotes of his research experience.
We are very grateful to all those who presented and attended and hope to organise a similar event next year.
Some feedback from the event:
Professor Phil Reed from Swansea University felt that the “day achieved three main things: 1) it allowed me to make some contacts with people doing similar work to me, so that we can develop research collaborations; 2) it kept me up to date with research in the local area, and a bit beyond; and 3) it was a good research conference in itself”.
Professor Bill Macken from Cardiff University said that “the Applied Cognitive Expertise networking event organised at Cardiff Metropolitan Uni provided a broad and stimulating forum for discussion of the of ways in which the methods and concepts of cognitive psychology could be usefully applied to a variety of ‘real world’ settings and problems. As a showcase for the range of research expertise in the area, it will hopefully provide a starting point for valuable collaborations in the future”.
Dr Martin Graff from the University of South Wales commented that “the day enabled me to discuss and make contact with several colleagues from different institutions sharing research interests to my own. I have now had the opportunity to contact delegates with the idea of conducting further research in cognate areas”.
Dr Simon Dawson from Cardiff Metropolitan University initially was “a little sceptical to attend as many aspects were not directly related to my field of expertise. However, with the high calibre of speakers, well designed presentations and regular breaks to interact made the day worthwhile. There was a clear synergy between each speaker, highlighting the sterling efforts the psychology department had put in organising this event. This has opened ideas for potential collaborative research within areas I had not considered before. Looking forward to the next event”.
Professor Bob Snowden from Cardiff University “was really pleased to get a chance to hear of these activities taking place on our doorstep. I hope the enterprise of the Applied Cognitive Expertise Network can continue to bring together scientists and practioners from our region to form strategic collaborations and exchange ideas”.
Research provides the foundation for understanding psychological phenomena that anyone interested in our discipline will read or hear about. It also provides skills and techniques to explore and understand social phenomena and also to ascertain whether claims about the world are valid, reliable and ultimately true.
This week witnessed we held our inaugural Poster Conference in which Level 6 students presented posters of their final year research projects to members of staff and also Level 4 and 5 students. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to show their enthusiasm and knowledge of their chosen project to an eager audience who may be participating in those studies (Level 4 and 5 students) or marking their work. Further, it gave an opportunity for Level 4 and 5 students to see what kinds of studies can be undertaken within our department which should provide plenty of food for thought when considering their research projects over the next two years.
To round off the event, our keynote speaker was Dr Katherine Shelton from Cardiff University who spoke about her research looking at the background and needs of young people who have been homeless. The timely talk was an excellent example of how psychology research and theory can be applied to better understand important social issues and how this can lead to better support for people in need.
At the end of the day, staff and students enjoyed mince pies and mulled wine to celebrate Xmas and the end of term.
Dr Dan Heggs said “This was an excellent event, which helps bring all students together. It fits really well with the careers conference we have later in the year, and reminds us about how psychology touches on so many areas of life. I enjoyed the way that the variety of student projects could be seen and was really impressed by the quality of their work and range of their interests. They all did really well”
Dr Nick Perham, with help from Shamima our administrator, deserves big thanks for arranging and organising everything.
We look forward to our second Poster Conference next year. We would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a very happy 2016!
One of most recent graduates, Jed Clarke, was fortunate enough to work as Research Assistant with us briefly, and in chatting with him it seemed like a good idea to ask him to reflect on his time as a psychology undergraduate at Cardiff Met.
Looking back, I never would have thought that I would have achieved this much in the space of three years. The undergraduate degree has allowed me to explore concepts that now I love and find things in the world that I am truly interested in. My first two years in Cardiff Met were difficult but exciting. I took on a lot, including training with the Army Officer Training Corps part time. This involved going on exercises in the Brecon Beacons over some weekends and over summer. Support in my first year was always available, whether it was personal or academic. Being able to have a personal tutor during this period was excellent, as it meant that I could find my feet during the early stages of the degree.
One of the most valuable experiences I had was being able to work with Hafal charity as part of my work and volunteering module in the second year. Hafal provide services for people with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders and I was able to get service-users involved in community projects such as gardening, and help them acquire new skills to be able to re-join the community after they had come out of hospital. On paper this seemed daunting, but it was only when I went to go and do it that I realised that they were just people with burdens (no matter what the films and TV programmes tell you).
During my degree I especially enjoyed modules related to cognitive psychology and research methods and statistics. There was something exciting about being able to discover first-hand how another person’s brain functions, and so when it came around to choosing what I wanted to do for my final year project I was immediately overwhelmed by the options available but I did have some ideas. It was only when I met up with my supervisor, Deiniol Skillicorn, that all the pieces fell into place. I had already taken an interest in schizophrenia, and I knew that Deiniol specialised in Schizotypal traits, so after some negotiation my topic ended up being about context processing in schizotypal and depressive traits (don’t let that put you off!), and it proved to be one of the best experiences I have had. Not only was the research literature enjoyable, but conducting the research in the labs was a thoroughly gratifying experience. I was able to meet other third years properly and meet first and second years who came in to do take part in my experiment. Deiniol was a great supervisor, and Geraint Davies and other lecturers made the process personal, and much easier to deal with.
During my third year I decided that I wanted to do more research, so I decided to take on a placement for work and volunteering module working with the Digital Literacy Project part time throughout the year. This involved conducting focus groups to explore how students engage with technology when at Cardiff Met. This was particularly exciting because this was going to be included in a journal article, something I couldn’t let pass!
After I had written my dissertation, I was offered a summer position as a Research Assistant with Deiniol and Andy Watt to develop a new learning task. This was phenomenal, as this is the kind of experience that future employers/course directors would be looking for on a CV. I spent my final month at uni conducting more research, and I enjoyed being able to work in the labs for more time, as I felt my project wasn’t enough!
I have now been accepted onto an MSc in Research Methods in Southampton, something I would have only dreamed about achieving.
The support from the department has been outstanding, and the staff clearly have a passion for their subjects. They have tutored, taught and supported me through a character defining period and I wouldn’t have come this far without them. The degree has had some lows as well as highs, but that is to be expected during such a time in a person’s life.
My advice to students that are coming onto the course — or even who are already on the course –would be that “you get what you give”. Grades don’t necessarily reflect ability, but rather how much effort you put into understanding the content and the processes involved in writing, such as critical evaluation. The myth of “I’m naturally not good enough” seems to be common amongst students, and you need to be able to challenge that throughout your degree. Don’t be put off by joining extra-curricular activities, as this will only serve to increase your motivation and better your uni experience. There is enough time in the day to work, relax and party. The challenge is being able to balance all three! I would also recommend taking on the Work and Volunteering modules, as this would enhance your CV and provide you with excellent life experiences, something that I am very grateful for. Opportunities will come, but it is your responsibility to go out and find them. I am sad about leaving Cardiff Met, but I am now anticipating a new journey laid out for me in the coming year.
Jed’s supervisor, Deiniol Skillicorn has this to say:
Jed has worked hard during his three years, and clearly made the most of the opportunities in front of him. I was lucky to supervise Jed with his level 6 project that examined contextual processing abnormalities in schizotypy and depression. It was a challenging project but Jed had a willingness and commitment to tackle these challenges. This enhanced his learning experience by further developing independent thinking and problem solving skills. These skills were put to the test when Jed joined us for 4 weeks as a research assistant working on a project to develop a learning paradigm for use with people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. With the demands of level 6 study out of the way, Jed flourished in this new role. I took great delights in seeing one of our undergraduates develop and grow over the three years of his degree and then apply these skills as an independent researcher on this short project. I wish Jed all the best in his future and hope that our academic paths cross again.
If you would like to find out more about our Psychology BSc (Hons) Programme please have a look at: www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/psychology
It’s a strange time of year. Things feel like they ought to slow down for the summer, but it doesn’t work quite like that. As students finish their exams and coursework the process of marking then awarding grades takes place, with the important aspect of letting students know how they’ve done. This is obviously especially a concern for final year students as they come to the end of their degrees, and want to see how they’ve done. As staff, while we are marking and entering grades, there is delight in seeing how well students have done and recognising how much they have learned with us.
We asked Daniel Carr to reflect on completing his degree and his final year project, which won this year’s prize for best project:
Last week, after months of anticipation, I was informed that I would be awarded a First Class Honours Degree in Psychology! Among the emotions I felt (relief, pride, joy), I was also overwhelmed with gratitude – gratitude for having had the opportunity to undertake study at Cardiff Met.
My experience of studying Psychology at this university has always been a positive one. The teaching staff are knowledgeable and passionate, easy to follow during lectures and available to answer questions in person or via email. I found all the staff to be very personable, and I have only positive remarks to make about each lecturer individually. In particular, I could not have wished for a more suited supervisor to help me with my final year project, Dr. Jenny Mercer. Jenny’s knowledge, guidance, and friendliness encouraged my progression throughout, and I shall be eternally thankful to her for this.
To become a practicing Psychologist has been my goal since I first pursued started in the university. Though my desired area of practice has changed (mainly due to learning about so many different topics within psychology) my passion for the discipline has only grown, and I am thrilled to be continuing my studies this year as I pursue a Masters in Health Psychology. My decision to stay at Cardiff Met was an easy one. After my experiences here as an undergraduate, I would not even consider study at another institution, and have full confidence that my development and transition into a practicing Health Psychologist will be guided by the lecturers I have grown so fond of. I would without a doubt recommend Cardiff Met to anyone wishing to study Psychology, and am humbled by the opportunity to have been taught by such admirable and accomplished individuals.
After Dan mentioned the support from his supervisor, Jenny, we had to ask her about how Dan had done:
Dan’s project was an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study entitled ‘The Lived Experience of a Fashion Model’. I have to say that Dan was a delight to supervise because he came to me with a clear idea of what he wanted to look at – the experience of being a model. However, on a practical note he also had links in the industry – which is an important point when selecting a project – you may have grand ideas, but have you though through how you might access potential participants? The other thing (which he does not tell you in this blog) is how hard he worked. He read a lot background literature, some very challenging papers about the principles behind IPA, and was very organised (even getting ethical approval before the beginning of the final year). Also Dan was always prepared to ask me lots of questions, often coming to see me with a long list (don’t be afraid to challenge your supervisor at all times!).
Your dissertation is an opportunity to explore in more detail a topic which you select and are interested in; it allows you to demonstrate the research skills that you have acquired during your degree. It is hard work, but it can also be the most rewarding part of your studies. So as you enter the summer vacation start to plan and think of potential ideas….you never know, it could be you writing this blog next year!