Outreach course and community partnerships
Undergraduate students work with schools and organisations around Edinburgh to deliver Psychology-based resources
What was the problem?
Supporting project-based learning initiatives gives students a chance to engage with real projects and help minimise barriers between the university and the wider community. It also places more responsibility on students by giving them an opportunity to engage with groups outside of the University and solve real problems, thus creating more employable graduates.
What did we do?
An innovative final year course was introduced to allow undergraduate Psychology students to develop new projects aimed at meeting the needs of local community partners as part of their degree. Students receive course credit for collaborating on projects with local groups, and in the process, they develop their communication, relationship building, and project management skills.
The course, organised by Dr Bonnie Auyeung, builds on a similar module in the School of Geosciences but requires students to implement their knowledge of Psychology into practice. An important part of the projects is the legacy that they leave behind, such as resources that can be re-used and built upon in future years by the community partners.
What happened next?
Each year, fourth-year Psychology students match up with a variety of community partners to develop valuable reusable resources.
My psychology outreach project was one of the most meaningful experience in my university degree. I was able to work with a high school in a deprived area where I taught workshops on practical skills for developing emotional resilience. The experience combined academic rigor and theory with the opportunity to place my skills and knowledge in practice and contribute to the wider community. I’m thankful I had the chance to work with the children and I fundamentally believe that having done the outreach project made me a better psychology student and more prepared to tackle the world after university. I believe the outreach course is an excellent initiative.
Below are some examples of projects that students have completed as part of the course.
Psychology in schools
Students worked with teachers to deliver Introduction to Psychology sessions at Craigroyston High School. Topics covered included the brain, prejudice, mental health awareness and building emotional resilience. These topics all helped young people to better understand how psychology applies to them in the real world. As well as the sessions themselves, students developed lesson plans, activities, and open access resource for teachers.
Psychology methodology can seem intimidating and may act as a barrier to people who are considering Psychology as a degree. For one project, students developed and delivered workshops on psychology methods for high schools. These sessions allowed high school students to try out psychology methods first hand, by designing and carrying out their own research.
Other students developed a part-exhibition, part-workshop on the psychology of perception for primary school students. This was designed to introduce learners to psychology at a young age and involved a class trip to the University of Edinburgh where they interacted with current Psychology students.
Children with attachment difficulties often display communication and social behaviours that are mistaken for other conditions such as autism. These sort of attachment difficulties are especially common in children who have had challenging backgrounds. In this project, students designed a website and animated video to provide more information about possible behaviours, aimed at adoptive and foster parents.
Dynamic Earth is a visitor attraction providing a multi-sensory experience. For many people with autism, this experience is overwhelming and inaccessible. Students aim to improve the experience of autistic visitors by developing resources such as communications cards and a social narrative to tell visitors in advance what to expect.
The Welcoming is an organisation that works with migrants and refugees who have recently arrived in Edinburgh. Students worked with The Welcoming to plan and deliver workshops on stereotyping, and on identifying strengths. The students also provided lesson plans and information for session facilitators so that the sessions can continue in future years.
Mental health and resilience
Students worked with a self-help group for people with depression, to identify some of the most common questions from group members. They then produced folders with information about these topics and further sources of support, for group members to take away.
For one project, students provided sessions on mental health resilience at Craigroyston High School, with lesson plans and resources. Other students developed workshops for young people which aimed to address some common myths and misinformation about mental health and mental illness.
About the organiser
Dr Bonnie Auyeung (Reader in Psychology)