A Journey to Graduation… and Beyond!

One of our recent graduates recently completed writing a blog for us. Owayne worked really hard as a student, and took the opportunities that the programme offered. It is great to see how he engaged with the programme and to know what he plans to do now. 

I recently graduated with a 1st class degree in Psychology from Cardiff Metropolitan University, something that from the outset I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams. My University experience began in August 2012, when I decided almost on a whim to visit the UCAS website and see if I could access higher education through the ‘clearing’ process. I was uncertain as to whether such access was possible, because I had achieved very little in college academically. I had studied Maths (grade E) and Design Technology (grade U) three years prior, evidently and my motivation was poor. After college I focused on working with children with additional learning needs, and these experiences taught me the significant role that Psychologists play in understanding developmental conditions. Owing to this, despite it being completely new to me, I decided to apply for Psychology as a subject – without having any other real plan or direction in life.  I was accepted onto the Foundation in Social Sciences, which had a pathway leading to Psychology.

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So there I was, ready to begin university a few weeks later in September, with a history of poor grades, and little or no understanding of the subject I was about to pursue. Therefore, it would be fair to say that when compared to many of the other people starting on the course I was not in the best of positions. However, like everyone else, I quickly realised how interesting Psychology is. When I went to the effort of reading around the various modules I had assignments for, I found it was a tolerable and even rewarding way to spend my time. One of my favourite things about Psychology is how the information you learn can relate to and be applied to real life. This is especially true of when attempting to understand the behaviours and opinions of other people. I also found that other people tend to view Psychology as a particularly interesting subject, and this increases when the matter of conversation involves the research that is conducted.

As I progressed through my first year at University, I learned that, despite past shortcomings, anyone is able to succeed so long as they choose to take an interest. Psychology is fantastic in teaching people this idea from the very outset, that is how humans learn. I feel students should be taught this much earlier in their education. Theories on how humans remember information (great for exams), how they are motivated, and perhaps most importantly, how belief that learning is always happening helps us to develop and grow our brains further (it causes us to be more effortful) is helpful to understand how we learn. I found this to be of particular importance, because I attribute my success in university to the effort and time I put into the work I handed in.  However, we came to understand that putting our best into our assignments not only improved the grades we attained, but also advanced the skills and writing techniques we needed if we were to get 70+ (a first) in the long run.

To summarise, thanks to Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University I have a goal for my future that before I could never have even dreamed of. This year I will be gaining experience as an Educational Psychologist Assistant whilst I apply to a doctorate course in Educational Psychology. Not only is this career path very well paid, but I will also be able to continue to work with people with Additional Learning Needs, and even support them on a much larger scale, which is something I always thoroughly enjoyed. By accessing the support that is available from the tutors and various other services, my career path was offered something I had not previously thought possible – a fresh start.

 

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Shirley had this to say about looking after Owayne:

It is hard to believe that it has been four years since Owayne joined our Foundation leading to BSc/BA in Social Sciences course, and three since he transferred to the BSc (hons) Psychology course here at Cardiff Met – my memory is so fresh that it seems like only yesterday!

Owayne’s determination, to work to the best of his ability in his studies, was obvious from the start. A testimony to this dedication is the fact that he won the British Psychological Society prize for Best Performing Student at his Graduation. This prize was very well deserved, along with his first class BSc (Hons) Psychology degree.

His innovative approach to his work often revealed an ability to integrate his learning effectively across different psychological perspectives. Owayne’s motivation and intellectual capacity demonstrate the potential for successful research in a postgraduate study – I look forward to hearing from him when he gains his PhD in Educational Psychology!

However not only has he been outstanding in his commitment to his own studies over the last four years, but I also know that he played an integral role in encouraging and supporting his peers throughout this time.

Owayne is a credit to this university and I have no doubt that he will succeed in his future career. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have been his personal tutor during this time.

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Psychology Visit: Athens

Developing the cultural capacity of Cardiff Metropolitan University students through internationalising the curriculum is a key theme in our learning and teaching strategy. As such, our Psychology Study Abroad Week went a long way toward achieving this. Dr Clare Glennan and Dr Tina Alwyn accompanied 11 Psychology students from Levels 4,5 and 6 to Athens during the Easter break. City University College (CUC) and our Cardiff Metropolitan students integrated very well and discussed the importance of culture and diversity within the discipline. CUC and Cardiff Metropolitan students developed relevant presentations and delivered these through joint symposiums. There was debate about internationalisation and what this meant for the students and how their future careers in Psychology would be influenced by these factors. The staff from both universities met and discussed how internationalisation could be facilitated through shared experiences, teaching and joint teaching. All in all this was an enriching and enjoyable experience for all involved.

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 Charlotte Hepburn

I am a second year Cardiff Metropolitan Student, who was accepted to go on the Psychology Study Abroad week. This took place in City Unity College (CUC) Athens in April this year. It was an amazing experience, amongst the many highlights were the cultural historical sights and exploring the amazing city that it Athens; it helped that it was 24 degrees and bright sunshine!

At first when I was told we were going I was very excited but the thought of  sitting in on lectures and contribute to a symposium was daunting and I even thought It might have been a bit boring. However I could not have been more wrong, the lecturers were fascinating, and we were particularly impressed by one who presented a lecture on forensic psychology. The symposium was also really great. It was interactive and offered such an eye opening experience in how both cultures view each other and themselves.

It was also an excellent opportunity to meet the Athenian students who are studying the same Psychology degree. They were all so welcoming and friendly and we had a real laugh with them and bonded really well. The trip gave me a real insight into how other cultures live, it was fascinating to see first-hand the everyday lives of people from another culture. I feel I have been able to apply this into my work; thinking critically about psychological research and its applicability to other cultures.

I was also really taken a back at how close all of the students that went on the trip became. It was an opportunity for Cardiff Metropolitan students from across all levels to come together and bond as a group.  It was also lovely to meet the Athens student, some of whom I have stayed in contact with and will probably remain my friends for life.

If I could recommend you do one thing this year it would be to apply for the Athens trip!

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Hannah Rowlands

This year I was able to attend the Psychology study abroad week, it was amazing experience and I thought I would share with you!

Firstly, I really enjoyed the lectures, considering psychology from a different perspective was so interesting. During our visit we were able to present at an Internationalisation Symposium. In preparation our lecturer split us into groups and each group were assigned a task. The focus for my group was looking at the impact of child poverty in Wales and illustrating from a psychological perspective, how poverty can impacts upon the individual. The symposium and the visit in general highlighted the importance of culture to me especially after the internationalisation discussion and this has helped me so much with my academic understanding of culture, especially when considering social psychology.

The Greek students and lecturers made us feel so welcome at the CUC and it was really nice talking to them about their psychological interests and ideas. This really helped spark some ideas from my dissertation for next year!

Finally, the group of Cardiff Met students we went with were amazing, we all got on so well and we have all stayed in contact, speaking almost every day! The trip was a great way to meet people in higher and lower years as I was able to give advice to the L4 students but also seek advice for module and dissertation ideas from the L6 students.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend, I really enjoyed it and found it such a valuable experience!

 

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Dr Dan Heggs, Programme Director for Psychology, says “It’s great to see that out staff and students have once again visited CUC in Athens.  As we build the links between the two programmes it is clear that we can all learn from one another, and that the opportunities given to the students from both colleges to come together enables them to think about how psychology can be applied in broader cultural contexts.” Dr Amie-Louise Prior, Moderator for the BSc Psychology Programme at CUC, says “This trip provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience of teaching and learning within a different cultural setting. Symposium and discussion sessions encourage students to discuss and share their ideas relating to the topic of Psychology and develop presentation and networking skills.”

 

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We look forward to further trips to build the relationship with Athens and to allow more students to experience psychology in Athens!

 


After Graduating… One year on

Looking back over the year, I have been taken aback with what I have achieved since completing my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree and graduating from Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2015.  I was lucky enough to have secured a position with the Office for National Statistics which was dependent upon my graduating with a 2:1 degree – which I did!

Upon starting the job I was wondering ‘Would my degree be useful for this job?’ and ‘Would this degree help me progress further?’.  The answer to the both questions was yes. When I started with the ONS I had a case of the statistical jitters. As it turns out, the experience was great and the ONS was an excellent stepping stone to starting my career in the right direction.

I worked in Methodology for the ONS.  This is the department that quality control all the methods used to gain the data and fix any problems that may occur. It was a demanding role and I had to use a variety of statistical methods that I learned from the research and statistics part of the Psychology degree. I then had to build up my statistical knowledge, for example to learn more about weighting and sampling. In addition I had to learn coding for specialist statistical software to be able to analyse and assess whether the statistics were correct or not. Another area that was important from the Psychology degree was report writing. In the ONS I was required to present my results in professional reviews and reports. As a student it is sometimes difficult to understand the importance of report writing especially when the deadlines come closer, however I found that I was in good stead to clearly communicate my findings.

I was proud to be able to work on a few important projects that influenced decisions within the Government. I was also keen to develop my skills and so I got involved with different groups including the Research, Analytical and Statistician Committee and the Positive Action Group. I was President for the Psychological Society at Cardiff Met and involved with the BPS which I feel gave me the confidence to be part of these ONS committees.

During my time at the ONS I was awarded a prize for Best Departmental Poster

During my time at the ONS I was awarded a prize for Best Departmental Poster

As my time drew close to the end of my ONS contract I knew I had to start looking for another job or apply for a promotion. So I applied for a position within Ministry of Defence working for the Defence, Equipment and Support Group. I attended the assessment day having met the competitive job specification, and there were lots of psychologists there. Six weeks later I got the promotion with the MoD as Commercial Officer (Management Level) dealing with budgets of up to £14 million.

All in all, I found that all of the degree was relevant in my working environment. I use writing skills I learned from the degree as well as being open minded to different theories. The degree taught me good work management skills, which I needed on a daily basis due to the high demand of work. I also found that the Psychology degree helped me with my communication skills, which is essential in any job and helped me to get the promotion.

My advice for students is to start planning ahead. If you have the time, take the opportunity to get involved with committees and expand your work experience. Doing a degree with Cardiff Metropolitan University gave me this opportunity and the lecturers there gave me the chance to make my life a better one.


BSc (Hons) Psychology Undergraduate Student Conference 2016

In the spring term of 2012 the Department of Applied Psychology ran a volunteering fair for students.  The idea was to bring in third sector organisations so that students could find out about different volunteering opportunities.  It went well, and while chatting about it later someone had the idea that we could build on the fair by having a full day that would include information for each level, keynote speakers and, of course, the volunteering fair.  At the end of February, we held our third undergraduate conference, with attendees from all years and the Foundation in Social Sciences Programme too.  We seem to have come a long way in four years.

Dr Dan Heggs: Welcome

Dr Dan Heggs: Welcome

The day started at 1030 with around 300 delegates in the main hall.  Dr Dan Heggs introduced the day, before a brief talk by careers, and then the keynote speaker, who had come all the way from Aberystwyth University.  Saffron Passam talked about her doctoral research, looking at employability and identity.  Saffron started with outlining a brief history of employability considering a shift in thinking from a focus on the unemployable, to the idea of a career and improving productivity as part of human capital, before introducing the idea of the protean worker who has choice, skills and is flexible.  Saffron then talked about the findings from her research, looking at what employability means for students completing degrees.  Saffron’s talk was an excellent way to start the day, with a focus on skills and how they can be seen but also as a way of thinking about how psychology can be used to understand and grasp complex issues.  Saffron’s enthusiasm and care for her topic shone through, and that was really appreciated by all.

 

The year groups then went their different ways, for sessions that would help them prepare for the next level of the programme, and also to later meet volunteer partners over lunch at the fair.  For students already volunteering it was an opportunity to see other areas of work, and for those considering where they might like to gain experience they could see a number of our partners.  There was also an opportunity to find out about Erasmus exchanges and applied projects with partners.

 

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The final session of the day included presentation from Rachel Roberts and Stuart Abbott about the Healthy University initiative, and was followed by the keynote talk by Dr Debbie Clayton entitled Psychology Isn’t Just About Reading Minds.  These two showed how we all need to be able to recognise our skills, and to be able to work together to improve our environments.  Debbie talked about COAL (http://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/health/research/Pages/Center-for-Outdoor-Activities-and-Leisure.aspx) and her research in outdoor activity showing how outdoor and green exercise, linking how psychology students have the skills and knowledge appropriate for helping meet policy agendas for the Welsh Government’s Future Generations Act (http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/people/future-generations-bill/future-generations-act-video/?lang=en).

Catherine Harrison from Career Development Services said ‘Being part of the conference and having an information stand at the employability event was a great way of meeting students, talking to them about work experience opportunities and making job applications.’

For more information about how the Careers Service can help you, contact careers@cardiffmet.ac.uk  or book an appointment via CareerHub www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/careerhub.

The presentations at the beginning and end of the day offered an opportunity to critically reflect on the purpose the day, programme and skills gained through it.  As always, thanks need to go to Alison, Helen G., Nick, Leanne E., and Shamima, and staff and especially students for helping out on the day.  We look forward now to next year!

 


Student Research: The Poster Conference

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.

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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.

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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!


Psychology at Cardiff Met: Happy 50th Blog Post!

At the end of March 2012 we published our first blog, https://psychcardiffmet.wordpress.com/2012/03/.  Over the years the blog has achieved our goals of providing longer pieces of news from the department, from the programmes, and, of course, from our students.  Three years later we have now reached our 50th blog, having published, on average, more than one blog per month.

In that time, we have had more than 8500 views, with visitors from over 80 countries.  Unsurprisingly, most visitors to the site are from the UK, yet we have had visitors from all corners of the globe, including Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, to Australia, many African countries and then South North American countries too.  The map below is a glimpse of our global readership:

 

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In that time we have posted on social events, graduation and the undergraduate conferences we have organised.  More excitingly, and often with more views, are posts from students.  We have had posts on student projects, on attending conferences, on Erasmus exchanges, and on volunteering experiences across the world.

Looking back through three years of posts is a nice reminder of the things that we have been doing, and also of things that our students have done.  The best thing about the blog is how it tells stories of what we are about in supporting students to get the degrees they want, and especially how students get involved in all sorts of things and do brilliantly in so many ways.  Dr Lalage Sanders, Head of the Department of Applied Psychology, writes: “We are so proud of our blog, of the successes it describes, the variety of topics we cover, especially the spotlight on individual student stories and we are thrilled by worldwide extent of our readership!”

We look forward to the future and the next 50 posts, and hope that the variety and range of events continues to grow and that students continue to astound us with all that they are doing.  Of course, if you’d like to let us know then please do get in touch, and we may well ask for a post from you!

 

 


Psychology BSc: Three years is not such a long time after all…

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.

Jed with the Army Officer Training Corps in the Brecon Beacons

Jed with the Army Officer Training Corps in the Brecon Beacons

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.

Jed testing some of the equipment in the PARC

Jed testing some of the equipment in the PARC

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