Research Assistant during Covid-19

Written by Gina Halliwell, BSc Psychology and Child Development 2020 graduate.


BSc Psychology and Child Development graduate 2020! YAY! Not the most ideal year to graduate but made it there successfully in the end!

Graduate, check.

Research Assistant position during coronavirus, check!

Who would have thought with all the difficulties of 2020 I would complete my degree and get the chance to be a Research Assistant with Staffs! Coronavirus couldn’t have been a better opportunity really, being able to investigate children’s experiences of the pandemic through collecting their drawings.

This opportunity appeared when my Level 6 Project Supervisor Dr Sarah Rose emailed me to say she was involved in planning some research into children’s experiences of coronavirus and if the ethics and funding were approved would I like to be their Research Assistant? Of course! What an incredible opportunity!

Example drawing submitted for the research

When the project was approved we had our first virtual meeting as a project team, over Microsoft Teams! I got to meet and discuss the project with Dr Richard Jolley, Dr Claire Barlow, Dr Romina Vivaldi and of course Dr Sarah Rose. All of the meetings and communication took place online via email and Microsoft Teams, having always had face-to-face meetings throughout university this was a very odd change! Despite a few device and connectivity issues we managed, and everything worked out.

As the project began I was given responsibility for a number of tasks including background research, recruitment (both sourcing contacts and contacting those contacts), responding to queries and writing up the background research to begin forming the report’s introduction. Recruitment for the project was aimed at the whole of the UK so an important part of my role was to reach out to organisations, schools and social media groups from across the UK. This was difficult due to the varying school term times of the four countries and the general closing down of society due to the pandemic.

Example drawing submitted for the research.

Once recruitment was on its way I was able to get into the background research in preparation for the introduction. Having taken the Children’s Drawings module at Level 6 I already had an understanding of how children’s drawings are investigated and analysed and so I could focus on research more specific to the project such as research that focused on children’s drawings of illness, disease outbreaks and trauma. When conducting the background research searching I was able to use all of the literature searching skills I have gained over my 3 years at Staffs. If you are looking for an easy way to gather research with all the key information in one place I recommended putting it into a table, a tip that Dr Sarah Rose shared with me!

An example table of how to organise literature


If you get the opportunity to do any sort of Research Assistant position, go for it! It’s great work experience, it looks amazing on your CV and it’s fascinating to be able to work alongside the lecturers you see all the time!

If you would like more information on the project please do have a look at the project’s website (www.coviddrawings.org.uk) or if you have any questions please email research@coviddrawings.org.uk (we are still recruiting!). You can also read more about the project in a recent blog by Dr Richard Jolley.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Children’s drawings of their coronavirus experience

Dr Richard Jolley writes about recent coviddrawings research and how you could help!

How has the current coronavirus situation changed the lives of children? What would the children themselves tell us?

The current coronavirus situation presents a unique opportunity to discover the diverse characteristics and consequences of a pandemic upon children. When children are facing changes and challenges to their lives it’s important to allow them to communicate how they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes they’re happy to talk about their experience, but sometimes they prefer to express themselves in other more creative ways, such as making a picture.

Dr Richard Jolley

Since June of this year a group of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University have been asking children and parents across the UK to help us understand how children are experiencing the coronavirus situation through their drawings. It is being led by myself, Dr Richard Jolley, with co-investigators Dr Sarah Rose, Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Romina Vivaldi. It has been funded by the School of Life Sciences and Education (LSE). This has enabled us not only to purchase a dedicated website and database for the project but also to employ a final year student (Gina Halliwell) as a research assistant to manage the day-to-day running of the project. You may like to read Gina’s own blog on her research experience on the project!

So what is involved in the project?

Parents are directed to the website www.coviddrawings.org.uk where all the information about the project and what they need to do is provided. We even have made a video just for children to explain the project! In essence, children are asked to think about their life since the coronavirus entered the UK, how it might have changed their lives, how they have felt about that, and then to draw a picture about it. There is a comments box provided if the child wishes to write about their drawing (potentially with the parent’s help).  A parent then takes a picture of the drawing and uploads it to the website.

So, what themes might you expect children to show in their drawings? The highly transferable nature of the virus? Or perhaps the behaviours we have all been asked to do to limit the risk of transmission – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolation? Then, there is the psychosocial impact upon the children, particularly the isolation from friends during the lockdown. Will children show psychological reactions of fear, sadness or loneliness? And what about the changes in the routine of their lives, such as disruption to school attendance and different family dynamics at home? Has this led to boredom and restlessness, or presented an opportunity to spend more time on activities and family they love? Despite the challenges the current situation has brought children we are seeing children communicate more positive aspects through their drawings. 

What themes can you see in this drawing?

Whatever themes the children communicate we are interested in whether they vary across the ages of the sample, which might indicate that developmentally children have experienced the current situation differently. Also, will there be differences in the themes communicated between boys and girls? In addition to age and gender, we will be exploring whether the themes vary according to a set of demographic and situational variables. For instance, which country the child lives in, whether they live in a rural or urban environment, if either parent is a key worker, and whether the child returned to school – all of these could have an impact on how the child draws their experience of the coronavirus. In addition, we ask the parents to indicate on a scale the extent in which the family health has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and ask the child to choose from a series of faces how they have felt about their life in these times.

Would you like to participate?

And here is the good news – we are very keen to recruit more children and parents! If you are reading this blog as a parent of a child between 4 and 14 years, and you live in the UK, do you think your child would like to draw their own experience of the coronavirus situation? In which case please have a look at the project’s website www.coviddrawings.org.uk If you have any further questions please contact the project email address research@coviddrawings.org.uk and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Meet Level 5 Student Kim Buckless and her experiences of Summer Research Internships

About Me:

Hi, my name is Kim and I’m a mature student. I have just completed level 5 of aBSc Psychology and Child Development degree. Before University I had worked in nurseries, schools and children’s centres across Staffordshire but lacked the qualifications to progress in my career.

As a mature student I wanted to get the most out of my University experience, therefore I applied to be a Psychology Summer Research Intern for the last two years. The process was easy as the positions were advertised on Blackboard and the application involved explaining why you wanted to intern for your chosen project.

My Summer Research Intern Experience this Year:

This year the study I applied for is looking at the experiences of student carers, this appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, I myself am a mum of two young boys, one of which has Autism, this made me curious to see if the experiences I have were similar to others in the same position. Secondly the research is a qualitative study. I feel that I have struggled with thematic analysis before and that this is my weak area in Psychology and I so I wanted to boost my skillset.

I was so pleased to have been selected to work with two lecturers on the project, Dr Dan Heron from Staffordshire University and Dr Jessica Runacres from Derby University. Not being particularly confident in qualitative research, and in my own abilities, they have helped me every step of the way through team meetings and regular emails.

Due to Covid-19 I have been able to join the project at the very beginning. Therefore, I have assisted with recruitment, theme generation and collating information for the introduction of the paper. Recently they have asked if I would like to be a named author on the planned publication. Not only will this look great on my C.V. but the experiences I have had will put me in a firm position to go onto further study. I definitely recommend applying for a summer research internship!


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Staffs Student Stories: My Placement Year Experience: Pros and … Pros!

My name is Meredith Danks and if you’re reading this, I guess you might be wondering whether a placement year is for you?

Well I can only begin by saying YES – deciding to complete a placement year was, without a doubt, the best educational decision I have made. Over the last 6-8 months I have gained invaluable experiences, that will guide me through both my working and academic career.

However, hindsight really is a wonderful thing; if you had asked me the ‘placement’ question a year ago I would have shared my doubts. My biggest worries were whether I should take a year out and if it would be worth it? If you are feeling like this now my advice would be to make sure that you find a placement that suits you and it will be 100% worth it!

Now, finding the right placement can be a tricky business. I wanted to benefit from a year out by finding a placement that offered the experiences that I was looking for. I contacted over 30 organisations(!) to try to find a suitable placement, with the majority of them ignoring me. This was a tough time, but you need to persevere! It wasn’t until a guest lecturer mentioned “Midlands Psychology CIC” that I actually had some luck in finding my placement! So, I guess the moral of the story is to always listen during lectures!!

During my placement with Midlands Psychology CIC I had the opportunity to gain experiences that an undergraduate student could only dream of. I shadowed and worked closely with some INCREDIBLE clinicians, who have taught me more than I ever thought possible. Furthermore, I gained experience within the Looked After Children Service and Supported Living Service. Working with these services has given me many fond memories and broadened my interests beyond the fields that I already knew.

I also spent time working in the admin team, this was invaluable at showing me the other side to Psychology, whilst developing my confidence and resilience. In addition, I attended various courses and workshops which have helped to extend my knowledge in preparation for 3rd year and beyond!

For me, the best thing about my placement was, of course the invaluable experiences, but also having the chance to work within an incredible team of professionals. They have taught me so many things that I will never forget. I am truly so grateful to them all.

So, my advice to you?:
1. Considering a placement year? You might be delaying graduating by a year, but the experiences and skills that you gain outweigh this concern one thousand times over!
2. Looking for a placement? Be patient, do your research and don’t settle for something if it’s not what you want.

A year might seem like a long time, but when you’re on a placement that you love, it flies by and this was definitely the case for me!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

How do teachers perceive and respond to cyberbullying in the school environment?

Our Peter Macaulay writes about his recent publication on cyberbullying, looking at teachers’ perceptions of its severity and publicity, and how these influence their intervention behaviour in the school environment.

Why is this important?

Bullying in the school environment is a challenge that teachers have been expected to address within their role. There are growing fears about the rise of cyberbullying and its impact on children. My article in The Conversation suggests that children need help dealing with it and teachers have a role in addressing the issue.

The aim of this study is to explore teachers’ perceptions towards cyberbullying, specifically addressing the roles of publicity and severity. This is the first known study to address teachers’ perceptions in this area.

What did our research involve?

We recruited teachers from 10 schools in England, across primary (5 focus groups, 31 teachers), secondary (2 focus groups, 11 teachers), and college (3 focus groups, 21 teachers) educational levels. A total of 63 teachers (10 males) participated across the 10 focus groups.

The focus groups explored teachers’ perceptions and responses towards cyberbullying, particularly around the roles of publicity and severity in cyberbullying. Prompt questions included: ‘Would you respond differently depending on how severe the cyberbullying act was, and why would you respond that way?’ and ‘What circumstances would you be more likely to intervene in an act of cyberbullying?’. 


What were our main findings?

Three themes were identified from the reflexive thematic analysis: (a) role of severity, (b) differential roles of publicity, and (c) bystander intentions.

Theme 1: Role of Severity

We found teachers perceived visual acts of cyberbullying as more severe, although the content of the act was more important in determining perceived severity.

“I think if it’s relentless as well. If it’s happened over and over again, then that would be treated more seriously than if somebody had said one comment, it’s still bad, but if its, more relentless then its more severe” (P7, focus group 4)

Differences in reported management strategies according to the type of cyberbullying was also suggested by primary school teachers.

“There’s a difference, text-messaging, in which we would meet and do a cyberbullying session and have a chat. But then that’s different to a photo being sent over which is sexually explicit and actually needs a criminal investigation as well” (P6, focus group 5)

3 people looking and smiling at content on a phone from pexels

Theme 2: Differential Roles of Publicity

We found that teachers tailored their response strategies across levels of publicity, using discussion-based solutions for private incidents compared to whole school strategies (e.g., assemblies) for cyberbullying incidents of wider publicity.

“[Public] has the potential to literally go viral and to go global, but a WhatsApp message between six friends, its semi-public. But, but more containable. Somebody would have to step outside of that and share it elsewhere, to become more public” (P5, focus group 2)

Although some primary teachers respond immediately to public acts of cyberbullying due to the wider audience and potential impact for the victim, other teachers suggested cyberbullying perpetrated privately is just as important to address.

“Yeah, I was just thinking like it might be a bit more, deep-seated if it’s just between the two people and you might need to unpick it a bit more than something as obvious as like a group and everybody’s just joined in, jumped on the bandwagon” (P2, focus group 4)

Theme 3: Bystander Intentions

We found that while most teachers recognised the propensity for negative or positive bystander intentions when victims are targeted in the public domain, primary teachers suggested the challenge to support victims targeted privately.

“Although, if its private it’s just between them, those two individuals, then nobody else knows about it. If its public, yes, you’ve got lots of negative from other people but there’s also the option to have support from other people as well. Whereas if it’s just you and them, nobody else might know about it, nobody’s there to help you” (P3, focus group 5)


What do the findings mean for implications?

  1. Our findings suggest those in the educational community responsible for addressing cyberbullying should take a more cautious approach when interpreting cyberbullying.
  2. They also suggest that schools need to ensure all teachers respond to cyberbullying immediately, through appropriate reporting mechanisms. Teachers should also review the contextual information when managing different types of cyberbullying behaviours.
  3. Our findings suggest a need for strategies to mobilise bystander support in the online environment.

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Theory of Mind experiments to do at home with your children

Last week Dr Sarah Rose, course leader for BSc Psychology and Child Development Award blogged about recreating some of the Piagetian Experiments with her children.

This week they have been having a go at some Theory of Mind tasks. These tasks are particularly suitable for children between the ages of about 3- and 7-years-old. We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments, please tweet us @StaffsPsych or add your comments to this post!

Background

Psychologists are interested in how humans make sense of the world, this includes how they make sense of what others think. This ability to theorise and predict what someone else might be thinking develops with age and is called ‘Theory of Mind’.

This skill of predicting what another person may desire, believe, or feel usually develops between 3 and 7 years of age. The more psychologists have studied the development of theory of mind the more they have realised that it is not a single skill, instead it is a series of complex skills which develop over time.


False Belief Task 1: Sally and Ann

First we have had a go at recreating some of the classic Theory of Mind tasks testing ‘false beliefs’. These tasks require a child to understand that others may not have knowledge that they do, and which is correct. Therefore, they are called ‘false belief’ tasks as they require the child to recognise that someone else may have a ‘false belief’ about a situation.

One of the most famous of these false belief tasks is the story about two dolls, Sally and Anne:

Sally has a marble which she puts in a basket. She then goes on a walk. While she is on the walk Anne moves the marble to a box. Sally comes back from her walk and the child is asked where Sally will look for her marble.

To ‘pass’ this task the child needs to respond that Sally will look in the basket as she doesn’t know that the marble has been moved to the box.

Both my 4- and 6-year old seemed to enjoy this and found it relatively easy. If you would like to see the videos do have a look here. I used a paper prompt for the story about Sally and Anne, if you look on google you will find a few to choose from.


False Belief Task 2: Smarties Tube

Other versions of the false belief task have also been developed. Probably the most famous of these is the Smarties tube task. In this a child is shown a smarties tube (or some other familiar container, we used a pencil box).

The child is asked what they think is inside, as long as you have chosen something the child is familiar with, they should give you the expected answer, e.g. Smarties (or in my case pencils).

However, what the child doesn’t know is that prior to the experiment you have taken the expected contents out and replaced them with something unexpected! You then show the child the unexpected contents, this often gives them a good giggle. Then you close the container again and ask them what someone else, who hasn’t seen inside the container, would think was inside.

My 6-year old really enjoyed this task as he found it very funny. My 4-year old was a little more confused by it though (video can be found here). She thought that Nana would think there were sweeties in the pencil box! I did wonder if this might reflected the box that I had chosen as maybe she thought Nana would not be familiar with the box and therefore that it contained pencils Alternatively, maybe there is something about this task that she just found more difficult than the task about Sally and Anne?


Diverse Desire Task

Since the development of the false belief tasks it has become recognised that these tasks test just one aspect of Theory of Mind. If we are interested in children’s understanding of the minds of others, then we need more tasks as people’s minds are very complex. We need tasks that test children’s understanding of different types of thoughts, not just someone’s knowledge and beliefs.

One of these more recent tasks has been designed to test children’s understanding that the likes and desires of others may differ to their own. To test this, you will need a picture of two possible snacks (we used pictures of a cookie and a carrot) and a soft toy who can be the character in the story.
Now you are ready to engage in the following conversation with your child.

  • Here are two different snacks, a carrot, and a cookie (show them the pictures). Which would you like best?
  • Here is Farmer Tom (the name of the toy we used), and it is his snack time!
  • Farmer Tom really likes (opposite to what child said). He does not like (what the child says), he likes (opposite to what the child said).
  • So now it is snack time, Farmer Tom can choose what he would like to eat. Which snack will they choose, a cookie or a carrot?

To ‘pass’ this task the child needs to choose the snack for the toy character that the character likes – rather than the one that they would choose. Both of my children found this quite easy, you can see them having a go here. I was not surprised by this as understanding of diverse desires has been found to be one of the first Theory of Mind skills to develop, usually before the understanding of false belief


Real – Apparent Emotion Task

As well has having beliefs and desires we have emotions too. Some more recent Theory of Mind tasks, such as this story about Sam have aimed to investigate children’s understanding of the emotions that another person might feel and show – and that these may not always be the same as people can try and hide their emotions.

To test this understanding of emotion you will need a couple of paper props: a silhouette, or outline of a boy, and three face emojis (happy, neutral and sad). Make sure that your child is confident about the feelings that each of three faces represent and introduce the silhouette of the boy explaining that it is ‘Sam’ the boy in the story that you are about to read.

Now you are ready to read the story:

This story is about Sam. I am going to ask you some questions about how Sam is feeling, how he is really feeling on the inside, and how he looks on his face. He might feel one way inside but look a different way on his face. I want you to tell me how he really feels inside AND then how he looks on his face, okay?

  • Sam’s friends were playing together and telling jokes.
  • One of the older children, Rosie, told a mean, unkind joke about Sam and everyone laughed.
  • Everyone thought it was very funny but Sam didn’t.
  • But he didn’t want the other children to see how he felt about the joke, so Sam tried to hide how he felt.
  • So, how do you think Sam felt on the inside when everyone else laughed at the joke?
  • AND how did Sam try to look on his face?

To pass this test children need to recognise that although Sam felt sad inside, he tried to disguise his feelings by looking neutral or happy. I was surprised at how easy both of my children found this task as understanding of emotion has generally been found to be one of the later Theory of Mind skills to develop. This led me to wonder whether maybe taking the ‘test’ in a familiar environment with a familiar adult who they are used to listening to made it easier for them to pass the test?


Finally, some reflections on these tests…

Although the theory of mind tasks are tests of social cognition they also require good language skills as children really have to listen and understand what you are saying otherwise they would be likely to give the wrong answers. I think, like the Piagetian tasks I wrote about last week, that when we are able to present these tasks in a child friendly way that makes sense to the child we may find that some abilities develop slightly sooner than the theorist originally thought. These reminds us how important the environment and context is for children, if they feel comfortable and relaxed they may be better able to show us their true cognitive abilities.

Let us know what you think!


Ambassadors Open Day Staffs Uni

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Experiments to do at home with your children

I am Sarah Rose, the Course Leader for the BSc Psychology and Child Development Award and while I have been at home with my children, I have been having a go at recreating some classic cognitive psychology experiments with them. Today we had a go at some of the classical Piagetian Tasks. These tasks are particularly suitable for children between the ages of about 4 and 8 years old. We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments, please tweet us @StaffsPsych or add your comments to this post!

Background

Jean Piaget developed an influential theory of cognitive development, suggesting that as children grow older the way that they understand and think about the world alters. He was one of the first the argue that the way that young children understand the world is not just an immature version of adult understanding, instead he argued that it was fundamentally different. He developed a series of tasks, known as conservation tasks, which demonstrated this. I have had a go at recreating these tasks at home with my 4- and 6-year-old. If you cannot load any of the videos within the blog piece please watch them here.

Task 1: Conservation of quantity

Materials: Traditionally this task is done with water, but to make tidying up easier we used rice. In addition to this some plastic glasses (ideally transparent) of different shapes and sizes, although two of them need to be the same size, are needed.

Instructions:

  1. First, put an approximately equal amount of rice in the two glasses that are the same size.
  2. Ask your child if there is the same amount of rice in both.
  3. If they say ‘no’ encourage them to move a little from one to the other until they are happy that there is the same amount in both.
  4. Once they are happy with this ask them to pour the rice from one of the glasses into another one (ideally one that is noticeably taller and narrower, or fatter and wider).
  5. Now ask them if there is the same amount in both glasses, or if one glass now has more rice in than the other.
  6. You might be surprised by their answer, you could ask them to explain it to you.

Results: According to Piaget, and also my recreation of this experiment with my own children, under the age of about 6-years might struggle with this, and believe that by pouring the rice from one container to another the amount has actually changed. This suggests that their mental representation and understanding of quantity might be quite different to ours. I was interested to see how my 6-year old’s understanding was clearly still shifting and developing as he explained why it looked like there was more in one glass than the other but actually it was the same amount.

This is how my two children got on:

Conservation of quantity – 4-years old
Conservation of quantity – 6-years old

Task 2: Conservation of number

Materials: 14 counters of equal size, we used pennies as I could not find the counters. You might also like a Teddy Bear to act as an assistant!

Instructions:

  1. Place the counters in two rows so that both rows have the same number of counters and they are equally spaced.
  2. Ask your child if both rows have the same number of counters (hopefully, they will agree that they do but if they do not, just remove a counter from both rows until they agree that there is the same number).
  3. Now either you, or that cheeky Teddy assisting you, could move the counters in one of the rows so that they are spaced further apart. This will make one of the rows appear to be longer.
  4. Now ask your child whether there are the same number of counters in both rows, or whether one row has more counters than the other.
  5. Again, you might be surprised by their answer and you could ask them to explain their thinking to you.

Results: Again, children under the age of about 6-years old may struggle with this. It has been found that making slight adaptions to Piaget’s original task, such as having a naughty Teddy assist, can help children of a younger age to pass this task. It was still a bit tricky for my 4-year-old though!

Conservation of number – 4-year old

Task 3: Conservation of mass

Materials: Two balls of play dough that are different colours. A surface that you can roll the play dough on.

Instructions: Take the two balls of play dough and roll them into balls. These two balls should be the same size, and you should check with your child to make sure that they think they are the same size too! If they do not adjust the size by removing small amounts from the one that they think is biggest until they are happy that they are both the same size. Now, while your child watches, take one of the balls and roll it so that it becomes more of a cylinder shape. Once you have done this ask your child whether both shapes have the same amount of playdough, or whether one has more than the other. Again, you might be surprised by their answer and you could ask them to explain their thinking to you.

Results: Children younger than about 7-years-old are likely to tell you that the amount has changed. Piaget found that children did not show adult understanding all his conservation tasks at the same point, rather as they developed, they would ‘pass’ some before they passed others. This task involving mass is often passed later than those involving quantity or number. Again I found it really interesting to see the difference in my 4 and 6-year olds understanding.

Conservation of mass – 6-year old
Conservation of mass – 4-year old

We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments. Please tweet us @StaffsPsych!

If you have not been able to view the videos within the blog piece you can find them all here.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

5 things to get involved in whilst studying with us!

There are many things that you can get involved in whilst studying a Psychology degree with us! Here are 5 ideas of what you can do outside of your academic workload.

5 things to get involved in whilst studying for your Psychology degree!

#1: We have lots of events and opportunities for you to get involved in throughout the year!
For example you could:

  • Write a blog piece on your experiences or an event you have supported.
  • Run a demonstration at one of our events such as ‘Psychology and Me’!
  • Present your research at one of the Psychology Research conferences.
PitP expert talk

#2: You can attend expert talks

These take place on campus as part of our visiting speaker series and as part of Psychology in the Pub! You can hear about research and different Psychology fields who are invited to talk about their interests.

Group PsychMe

#3: Become a Psychology Advocate!

Learn more about the field of Psychology and develop your transferable skills by delivering workshops, tours and supporting events within the department!

EEG
EEG

#4: Develop your practical research skills

Conduct your own studies, support academic researchers and participate in studies. These might use our amazing technical resources!
You can put your learning into practice on a placement year or one of your option modules.

#5: Join the Psychology society!

Socialise with students from across our Psychology degrees and become part of a wider Psychology community!


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Positive Parenting in a Pandemic: 6 tips

I am Dr. Sarah Rose, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Child Development, and Course Leader for our BSc Undergraduate course in Psychology and Child Development. Also, I am mum to a 4- and 6-year-old, who knows that parenting is hard. Especially, in the time of a pandemic when usual routines and support networks are suddenly taken away.

Although this has been going on for several weeks now and it looks like restrictions are beginning to relax, possibly even with some children going back to school next month, this is not necessarily making the strain on families any easier.

So, I am going to give you six tips based on psychology evidence and theory.

They won’t necessarily make parenting any easier, but I hope they may give you something useful to think about – and maybe make you feel a little more confident about some of the decisions that you make as a parent.


Tip 1: Show connection

A large body of evidence suggests that feeling “securely attached”, connected and loved is important for children’s development and wellbeing.

For young children, physical touch is very important and can reduce stress. Furthermore, there is no evidence that being more affectionate with your children will make them clingy, in fact to the contrary it will help them feel safe and build their emotional resilience.

Older children may not want you to show them physical affection, but it is important to still find time to connect with them. Maybe making some time to exercise together, or sitting down to watch a film as family, may provide an opportunity for this.

Tip 2: Be a balanced parent

While it is important that we listen to and respond to our children’s needs it is also important that we place reasonable, age appropriate demands on them. Psychology evidence suggests that we should aim to be an “authoritative” parent who sets the boundaries and has clear expectations of our children while also being supportive and responsive to our children.


Tip 3: Manage anger (own, child and between children!)

It is completely normal for both us and our children to feel angry sometimes, especially during the stress of a pandemic. Remember that anger is often a symptom of stress and the demands of the environment we find ourselves in.

This means that you should not feel cross with yourself, or your child for showing signs of anger. Instead see it as a symptom, a sign that you, or your child, need to try and take some time to calm down and reduce your stress levels. Maybe now would be a good time to go outside and run around the garden (whatever your age) or lock yourself in the toilet (maybe just for adults this one!).


Tip 4: Develop routine

This pandemic is affecting everybody, but it is affecting people in different ways.

  • You might be at home trying to work or worrying about whether you will have a job to go back to after furlough while also feeling pressured to entertain your children and support their learning.
  • Or you might be a key worker, working extra hours, feeling stressed about the risks to yourself and your family as you drop your child off at school or nursery.

Whatever your circumstances, all our experiences, both as parents and as children, are likely to be very different to what they were. This can be very unsettling for everyone. However, routines can help to give us a sense of control and a sense of predictability within our lives. So, try and develop a routine that works for your family.

There may have to be adjustments and flexibility but knowing that there are certain times during the day when parents will focus on work, children will focus on school work, entertain themselves or everyone will focus on having fun, or maybe exercising together, can be very reassuring for everyone. This can also help with those feelings of parent guilt as you try and meet the demands of working and meeting your children’s needs.


Tip 5: Manage screen time

Something that you may be worrying about is the amount of time that your child is spending in front of a screen, especially as more and more providers are making educational resources available online for free.
Evidence suggests that screen time can be part of a balanced childhood, and indeed it may be very useful to make it part of your daily routine.

I have heard some lovely stories of extended family and friends interacting with children over screens, for example helping out with some schoolwork or reading a story, and evidence suggest that connecting with others in this way is very positive for children.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that although children learn best through interacting with others screen content can support their development. So do not feel guilty about using screen time within your daily routine. With children and young people spending more time online, many parents may be worried about their online safety. Through talking to your child, voicing your concerns and regularly checking in with them when they are online you can support them through promoting dialogue about online safety and what they should do if they feel unsure or threatened.


Tip 6: Build “emotional resilience

It is a fact of life that things are not always easy, we want to try and develop our children so that they have the inner strength to cope with this, I think my dad would have called this having a thick skin!

The suggestions that I have given already will help your child to develop this emotional resilience, or thick skin. Other things that are important are talking to your child, try and let them know what to expect:

  • Talk about times of change that they have experienced – explain that this will be a time of change.
  • Provide clear answers to questions, that are as truthful and as age appropriate as possible.
  • It is okay to tell them that you are worried too, or that you do not know when the virus will end or when they will be able to see Nana and Grandad again.
  • But also reassure them that you will look after them and help them feel safe and help them to keep perspective, for example by shifting beyond the current situation to a time when families will be able to be together again.

Of course, talking may not be easy, but try and open conversations and look for opportunities when your child may feel under less pressure, for example maybe while you are watching TV, taking some exercise together or engaging in a craft activity. Ask them their opinion about what is happening and listen to their answer.


Finally…

Parenting is hard and I certainly make lots of mistakes. But do not be hard on yourself, try and praise yourself and your children when things are going well. Notice and remember the good times as evidence suggests that praise and positive memories are much better for promoting good behaviour than punishment.

Here are some resources that you might find useful:


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Student blog: Raising awareness of autism in children

It is World Autism Awareness Week 2020 and today, 2nd April 2020 is World Autism Awarenss Day. We asked our level four BSc Psychology and Child Development student, Claire, a mother of children with autism, to write a blog on her experiences of children with autism.

What is autism?

The National Autistic Society defines autism as a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them”.

A little about my children:

I have two beautiful little boys and two older children.

  • One of my little boys is diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum condition.
  • My other little boy is currently undergoing assessment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia.

Our journey for an autism diagnosis:

At the age of 9 my son was diagnosed with high functioning autism. The journey to get the diagnosis was challenging. From the age of 4 my son:

  • Had temper tantrums that would last for hours after school
  • Became restless and was struggling with the children at school

Each parent’s evening, I would have the same feedback that my son was “academically really intelligent, but he lacks concentration and fidgets too much!”.

Until one teacher at a parent’s evening said, “I believe you, I can see traits of autism, but they are very subtle”. Due to this teacher acknowledging these traits in my son and adapting his learning environment he:

  • Had fewer major tantrums after school
  • Seemed happy again and was sharing stories about his day

My son is now 12 and has moved from primary school to secondary school. During the transition we are trying to raise awareness of autism and support him, and other children, to achieve their potential.

Why I chose to study Psychology and Child Development:

Based on the journey that I have been on with my boys I decided that I wanted to be able to help other children, caregivers, families and schools during the diagnosis and support of autism conditions.

I am completing my course as a mature student and I am really looking forward to graduating with this degree to put what I am learning into action!

You can read more about autism on the National Autistic Society’s webpage.


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.