A demonstration practical: correlation between digit ratio and aggression

Source: wikimedia.org
Source: wikimedia.org

It’s blindingly obvious that students will learn things better if we model them first (see Rosenshine, 2012) and most of us are in the habit of modelling all sorts of things, including the sorts of thinking and writing skills that Psychology requires. However, with the recently increased emphasis on practical skills at A – Level (in Edexcel’s specification, anyway) I’ve found myself planning for lots of practical work and it occurred to me that I’ve never modelled the whole process of a practical investigation for my students. Bits of it, yes, but not the whole thing. On reflection, that strikes me as a bit of an oversight. Here is an attempt to put that right. The aims are twofold: (1) to show, all in one, the steps involved in carrying out a practical investigation so that students have an overview of what they will need to do and how it all fits together; and (2) model good research practices and set appropriate expectations about ethical conduct during research. It is based around a  practical investigation that can be done in 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the group.  It’s a correlational study of the relationship between D2:D4 digit ratio and aggression.  There’s a lesson plan, a slideshow, a PBAQ-SF questionnaire for measuring aggression an  Excel spreadsheet for analysing the results and a sheet for students to record their observations during the demo.  I’ve also written an example report, which is pitched for students studying the Edexcel specification (users of other specifications YMMV).

Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of instruction: research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator, Spring 2012.  

5 thoughts on “A demonstration practical: correlation between digit ratio and aggression”

  1. Hi, I was wondering how you get your students to remember the practical investigations within the Edexcel spec for clinical and crim? Thanks!

    1. Hi Taran. I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer here. Obviously, we stress to the students that they could be asked directly about their own investigations, give them research methods & stats questions that use their own investigations as the context (to try and train them away from giving generic answers) and drop investigations questions into their timed assessments every so often but really it’s no more than we’d do for any topic content. One thing we have introduced, which might be useful, is a standard format for write-ups that anticipates to some extent the questions we think might be asked on exams (obviously, we’re guessing to a great extent because of the lack of past papers). Rather than follow Edexcel’s (weirdly variable) list of write-up requirements, we require our students to write up all their investigations using this as a model: http://www.psychlotron.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Bio12_ExampleReport.pdf ). Please let me know if you have an ideas we could be trying. –Aidan

  2. Write ups sound like a sensible move – cheers. Something I trialled this week with my classes was using a format based on the game/quiz show ‘The Chase’ on ITV. Went down well with students (much better than anticipated, I thought it was possibly too crazy a move at first!) and brilliant in terms of getting them to recall key details from memory… Not to mention how motivated they were to ‘beat the teacher’ (I played the role of the ‘chaser’) so there was some real engagement! Not sure if you’re familiar with it or is something you might be interested in – if so, I’ll be happy to explain how I’ve formatted it to suit the classroom in more detail.

      1. Hi,

        I begin by splitting the class into three groups. I currently teach three classes taking the A-Level, each of which have 15 students so it’s perfectly divisible to give me three groups of 5 students each.
        I then assign them with two practicals each (I like to mix the AS and A-Level practicals up to add a bit of a challenge), for example: Group A would be assigned with Cognitive and Clinical, Group B with Learning Theories and Criminological and Group C with Biological and Social.
        Within their groups, students are then tasked to create a series of questions (and answers) for another group to answer in their ‘final chase.’ It’s important I don’t make the questions up myself or else it would be a pretty unfair ‘final chase’… not to mention the fact that it ruins all the fun and challenge for myself too 🙂 As an example, Group A would generate questions on the Biological and Social practicals for Group C to answer in their ‘final chase,’ Group B would generate questions on Cognitive and Clinical and Group C would generate questions on Learning Theories and Criminological. Example questions might be “What was the DV in your Cognitive practical?” or “What was an ethical limitation of your Clinical practical?”. I ask students to aim to generate at least 20 questions altogether, if not more – the more the better.
        Once the questions have been generated, the modified ‘final chase’ begins. For example using Group A: Group A leaves the room to discuss what they know about their assigned practicals and try to address any gaps (I don’t allow notes so they are using recall only and work together to build the best picture of the two practicals). In the meantime, a member from Group B or Group C plays the role of the host and it’s always helpful to have another member of one of the two groups ready to tally on the board. The teacher (‘chaser’) is then asked a series of questions based on the practical that the group have generated, read out by the host. For every correct answer, a tally is given which is equivalent to a score of 1. Sadly I don’t have the fancy system of push-backs that we see on ‘The Chase’ so instead, for every incorrect answer given by the teacher, a tally/score of 1 is given to Group A. The teacher has one minute to answer as many questions as possible (but you might find you need to vary this depending on the length of the questions generated).
        Once the teacher has completed their ‘chase,’ Group A is invited back into the classroom. They are presented with the chaser’s score (I find telling them this before their ‘chase’ motivates them to do better). They are then given one minute to answer as many of the same set of questions as they can. Again the same rules apply. A correct answer adds a tally to their side but an incorrect answer adds a tally to the teacher’s side.
        After the minute is up, the scores are compared… and maybe celebration from the students if they’ve managed to beat you (they’ll hold it against you for a while). However, for any incorrect answers, I do make sure to review these with the class before we proceed any further.
        The same then applies to Group B and Group C, with their assigned practicals. I like to use the soundtracks etc from ‘The Chase’ for more effect and to make it that little bit more engaging (a YouTube search does the job).

        I hope that explanation is clear. If anything needs clarifying, do let me know and I would love to hear whether you try this out and what you/your students thought of it. Cheers!

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