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Psychological Applied Learning Scenarios represent a teaching method designed to encourage students to get actively involved in the teaching and learning process by applying their psychological knowledge to “real world” situations.

Cognitive Scenario

Or as the OCR Exam Board puts it:

“One of the central skills required in any psychology exam is being able to apply psychological theory to real world situations…students will have to show their practical application skills by recognising the psychological content in a novel source, making evidence-based suggestions in relation to the source and consider the strengths and weaknesses of the suggestion(s) they have made.”

To this end the PALS resource provides 7 examples of scenarios drawn from different psychological areas (social, cognitive, biological, individual differences, developmental) and perspectives (behaviourist, psychodynamic), plus some suggestions for further possible scenarios that are identified but not developed.

The basic idea here is that students are required to analyse the scenarios psychologically in order to understand and explain them, something they do by following a relatively simple 4-step structure applied to each scenario:

1. Identify the psychological content / issue / problem embedded within the scenario.

2. Select and outline the psychological research that could be applied to an understanding of the scenario and show how it relates to the issue or problem previously identified.

3. Apply the research / knowledge you’ve identified to the scenario and suggest how it could be modelled in real life.

4. Evaluate your suggestion across a range of areas – from strengths and weaknesses through practical or ethical issues to methodological issues and debates.

While this is a resource created by and for OCR to reflect the specific requirements of their particular exam, the basic principles involved in the PALS system could easily – and usefully – be adapted and applied to teaching and learning across a range of Specifications, for both Psychology and Sociology.

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