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University pilots young researchers scheme for A-level students

The University of Winchester hopes to expand a project to help sixth formers develop research skills after the completion of a successful pilot project.

A group of A-level students from South Wilts Grammar School in Salisbury recently received their Young Researcher Certificates from Dr Liam Satchell, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University.

Liam, together with his department colleagues Dr Amy Warhurst and Dr Kirsty Ross and Charlotte Briton from South Wilts Grammar developed the Young Researcher Programme (YRP) as an outreach activity for students studying A level psychology. 

YRP members receive training on how to do ethical and effective research and were then supervised to conduct high-quality psychological experiments. 

This year the YRP students conducted two studies.

The first exercise involved asking fellow students to watch a video in which a bag theft takes place in a crowd. The YRP team experimented with the attention participants gave to the video and compared how noticeable the theft was. Informing us about everyday attention to crime-like activities.

The second assessed the sources of young people’s mental health knowledge, comparing information received in schools versus that from social media.  

After collecting their information, the teenagers returned to the University to be trained in data analysis and how to write up their findings in a scientific report and engage in reflective practice.

Liam believes the programme gives students a good grounding in the sort of research and knowledge generation they will be expected to do at university and showcased the psychological research being done at Winchester.

“Training young people in thinking critically, ethically, and technically with data and scientific research is good for their wider personal development as well as their future careers,” he said.

“Not only have the students been really engaged, but they have also successfully collected data from more than 200 young people across two studies and yielded results which replicate and expand previous research.

“We’re very excited about this as is the partner school which has appreciated the bilateral engagement.”  

Liam confirmed that the South Wilts Grammar YRP group’s research data would feature in at least three journal publications and the students would receive credit for their contribution.

Charlotte Briton, teacher of Psychology at South Wilts Grammar, said: “It has been exciting to be part of the development of such an innovative programme. It equips our students with practical skills which will undoubtedly be useful in their future studies and careers.

“As there is no coursework component in our Psychology A Level, taking part in this initiative gives students real experience in how science works and allows them insight into “behind the scenes” of the psychological research that we cover in class. I look forward to continuing work with the University on the YRP and am excited to see its evolution in future years”.

Liam said that the scheme will open to more schools in 2024.

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