Learning
Psychology

 

Why Study Psychology?

VCE Psychology provides students with a framework for exploring the complex interactions between biological, psychological and social factors that influence human thought, emotions and behaviour. In undertaking this study, students apply their learning to everyday situations including workplace and social relations. They gain insights into a range of psychological health issues in society.

In VCE Psychology students develop a range of inquiry skills involving practical experimentation and research, analytical skills including critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students use scientific and cognitive skills and understanding to analyse contemporary psychology-related issues, and communicate their views from an informed position.

VCE Psychology provides for continuing study pathways within the discipline and leads to a range of careers. Opportunities may involve working with children, adults, families and communities in a variety of settings such as academic and research institutions, management and human resources, and government, corporate and private enterprises. Fields of applied psychology include educational, environmental, forensic, health, sport and organisational psychology. Specialist fields of psychology include counselling and clinical contexts, as well as neuropsychology, social psychology and developmental psychology. Psychologists also work in cross-disciplinary areas such as medical research or as part of on-going or emergency support services in educational, institutional and industrial settings.

Structure

The study is made up of four units:

Unit 1: How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?

Unit 2: How do external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?

Unit 3: How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?

Unit 4: How is wellbeing developed and maintained?

 

Unit 1: How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?

Human development involves changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviours. In this unit students investigate the structure and functioning of the human brain and the role it plays in the overall functioning of the human nervous system. Students explore brain plasticity and the influence that brain damage may have on a person’s psychological functioning. They consider the complex nature of psychological development, including situations where psychological development may not occur as expected. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary studies have made to an understanding of the human brain and its functions, and to the development of different psychological models and theories used to predict and explain the development of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Area of Study 1
How does the brain function?

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe how understanding of brain structure and function has changed over time, explain how different areas of the brain coordinate different functions, and explain how brain plasticity and brain damage can change psychological functioning.

Area of Study 2
What influences psychological development?

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to identify the varying influences of nature and nurture on a person’s psychological development, and explain different factors that may lead to typical or atypical psychological development.

Area of Study 3
Student-directed research investigation

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to investigate and communicate a substantiated response to a question related to brain function and/or development, including reference to at least two contemporary psychological studies and/or research techniques.


Unit 2: How do external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?

A person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. In this unit students investigate how perception of stimuli enables a person to interact with the world around them and how their perception of stimuli can be distorted. They evaluate the role social cognition plays in a person’s attitudes, perception of themselves and relationships with others. Students explore a variety of factors and contexts that can influence the behaviour of an individual and groups. They examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of human perception and why individuals and groups behave in specific ways.

Area of Study 1
What influences a person’s perception of the world?

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to compare the sensations and perceptions of vision and taste, and analyse factors that may lead to the occurrence of perceptual distortions.

Area of Study 2
How are people influenced to behave in particular ways?

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to identify factors that influence individuals to behave in specific ways, and analyse ways in which others can influence individuals to behave differently.

Area of Study 3
Student-directed practical investigation  

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to design and undertake a practical investigation related to external influences on behaviour, and draw conclusions based on evidence from collected data.


Unit 3: How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?

The nervous system influences behaviour and the way people experience the world. In this unit students examine both macro-level and micro-level functioning of the nervous system to explain how the human nervous system enables a person to interact with the world around them. They explore how stress may affect a person’s psychological functioning and consider the causes and management of stress. Students investigate how mechanisms of memory and learning lead to the acquisition of knowledge, the development of new capacities and changed behaviours. They consider the limitations and fallibility of memory and how memory can be improved. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system, and to the understanding of biological, psychological and social factors that influence learning and memory.

Area of Study 1
How does the nervous system enable psychological functioning?

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain how the structure and function of the human nervous system enables a person to interact with the external world and analyse the different ways in which stress can affect nervous system functioning.

Area of Study 2
How do people learn and remember?

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to apply biological and psychological explanations for how new information can be learnt and stored in memory, and provide biological, psychological and social explanations of a person’s inability to remember information.


Unit 4: How is wellbeing developed and maintained?

Consciousness and mental health are two of many psychological constructs that can be explored by studying the relationship between the mind, brain and behaviour. In this unit students examine the nature of consciousness and how changes in levels of consciousness can affect mental processes and behaviour. They consider the role of sleep and the impact that sleep disturbances may have on a person’s functioning. Students explore the concept of a mental health continuum and apply a biopsychosocial approach, as a scientific model, to analyse mental health and disorder. They use specific phobia to illustrate how the development and management of a mental disorder can be considered as an interaction between biological, psychological and social factors. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of consciousness, including sleep, and the development of an individual’s mental functioning and wellbeing.

Area of Study 1
How do levels of consciousness affect mental processes and behaviour?

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain consciousness as a continuum, compare theories about the purpose and nature of sleep, and elaborate on the effects of sleep disruption on a person’s functioning.

Area of Study 2
What influences mental wellbeing?

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the concepts of mental health and mental illness including influences of risk and protective factors, apply a biopsychosocial approach to explain the development and management of specific phobia, and explain the psychological basis of strategies that contribute to mental wellbeing.

Area of Study 3
Practical investigation

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to design and undertake a practical investigation related to mental processes and psychological functioning, and present methodologies, findings and conclusions in a scientific poster.


Assessment

Satisfactory completion

The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s performance on assessment tasks designated for the unit.

Levels of achievement

Units 1 and 2
Emmaus College students complete graded Assessment Tasks and Semester Examinations as part of the Assessment process for Units 1 and 2. 

Units 3 and 4
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority supervises the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Geography are as follows:

  • School-assessed Coursework Unit 3: 16 per cent
  • School-assessed Coursework Unit 4: 24 per cent
  • End-of-year examination: 60 per cent