Planting the seeds for the future of Psychology

Year 13 student Aisling reports from a student-organised conference from the Oxford High School Psychology Department.

On Tuesday 5 October 2021, the Oxford High School Psychology Department held a student-organised Psychology conference. Year 12 and 13 students from OHS, along with 90 other schools across the country, came together to hear from leading academics and experts in the field of Psychology.

With a nationwide shortage of psychologists, we wanted to introduce people to the many opportunities within the field, ranging from a career in forensic psychology, to a research position, to teaching and so much more. The conference was titled ‘Psychology: The Future’ and addressed a variety of topics from many speakers; Professor Sarah-Jayne Blackmore on the teenage brain, Dr Felicity Bishop on the placebo effect in medicine, Professor Robin Goodwin on Psychology in Covid-19, Professor Ann Blandford on psychology in designing health technologies, Dr Kate Woodcock on young people and wellbeing, Dr Maja Kutlaca on Allyship, Ms Keely Perham on a career in Forensic Psychology, Dr Arjune Sen on how seizures affect thinking, and Dr Sarah Jelbert on the science of happiness.

As psychology students, the conference helped us to develop a detailed understanding of the scientific and theoretical underpinnings of specific behaviours and phenomena, as well as recognise the variability and diversity of psychological functioning and its significance in so many aspects of life. This is important in our understanding of who we are, our relationships and interactions with friends and family, and society as a whole. In addition, the conference gave us the opportunity to share and demonstrate the uniqueness of the world of Psychology to the many participants.

As the biggest student-led conference in the country with over 4,800 participants, our aim was to inspire, educate and help promote change to ensure more people have access to studying such an all-encompassing and relevant subject. It was intended as a stepping stone, allowing participants to be educated and exposed to the diversity and relevance of the subject to life. The talks also helped us to understand and learn about the current and future advancements in the field as well as the career possibilities available. Based on the feedback we have received from the participants, we know we were successful in not only reaching many but in planting the seed for others to explore the subject.

All the speakers had their own unique perspective on the title. Some showed us how they have combined the field of psychology with another discipline, demonstrating the relevance of psychology in many aspects of life. For example, Professor Ann Blandford, a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at UCL, talked about the invaluable perspective psychology gives when designing health technologies. Ultimately, she explained, the technology needs to be suited to the people it is intended to help, meaning it needs to be easy to use and accessible. Similarly, Dr Felicity Bishop showed how medicine and psychology are intertwined – the placebo effect does not just exist as a psychological theory but also has a practical application to medicine. We also heard from Professor Robin Goodwin about his insights into how an event such as Covid-19 can be used to shape psychological research and how, in fact, the research can be so relevant and necessary to understand the ever-changing world. These are only a few examples but there were many more speakers who illuminated the world of psychology, showing its multifaceted nature and its importance to everyday life.  

The conference would have not been possible without the work of the Year 13 Psychology students alongside a support team here at Oxford High School, including Ms Patricia Dass (Head of Psychology), Mr Mike Gallacher (a leader in conference running at OHS) and Mr Mike Hay (Theatre Manager). Thank you so much for helping make the day such a success.

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