Psychology students continue to go ‘beyond the headlines’ by Dr Alan J. Gow

Psychology students continue to go ‘beyond the headlines’
Psychology students continue to go ‘beyond the headlines’
For the second year, the work of some of our recent Psychology graduates has been showcased on “Research the Headlines”, a blog that “addresses the way in which research is discussed and portrayed in the media”. Alan Gow from the Department of Psychology tells us why he uses that approach as one of his assessments.

We often think about research-informed teaching, in which our own and others work might shape how we approach key topics and issues in our courses. There are different ways research-informed teaching can help students engage with a topic, especially in highlighting current trends or new questions being tackled. As well as research informing my teaching, there’s something I might call “engagement-informed” practice that I’ve been using in the 4th Year Psychology of Ageing course.

In any course, we want to ensure that our students not only get a firm grasp of their topic but that they develop a range of skills that might be relevant after they graduate. So one of the pieces of coursework is designed to help develop their abilities in communicating their specialised knowledge. The task was to describe an original research report exploring how lifestyle affects brain health in a manner accessible to non-experts, as well as evaluating the media coverage of that. At the end of June, Research the Headlines again showcased some of that work.

Research the Headlines is a blog from members of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) which discusses research and the media to help the public understanding of research and the process that takes this from “lab to headline”. Many of the Research the Headlines contributors use the ideas in their teaching. In the Psychology of Ageing coursework, a key aim of the “brain blogs” was to explain the important concepts and take-home messages, and to highlight issues in interpretation either in the media report or the underlying research.

Over the course of a week, the Research the Headlines “brain blog” showcase included the work of three students, all recent graduates in Psychology at Heriot-Watt:

Does keeping active have the potential to protect the brain’s functioning? by Sophie McWhirter

Use it or lose it: Can intellectual engagement offset cognitive decline in older age? by Calum Anderson

Alcohol: A Leading Health Risk or Protective Factor against Dementia? by Jennifer Stephen