Tip for Cutting Content #3: Identities, Attitudes and Behaviours

Travis DixonCurriculum, General Interest, Social and Cultural Psychology

If we shear away the excess in the extensions, we can strike to the heart of the core concepts we want to teach.

Seeing as my last post about dealing with the cognitive extensions seemed to help, I thought I’d share this one. For some reason that I’m not too sure of, the new guide has got a trifecta of effects of cultural influences in the third topic: identities, attitudes and behaviours.

On the surface this appears to be somewhat of a problem. What if the examiners ask a really specific question addressing one of these things? And what about the other topics? There’s so much content, right? Not if we’re smart.

You could teach identities, attitudes and behaviours as separate entities. I find this problematic for a number of reasons, none more so than the fact that we only have ten hours. If it was simply a matter of just the effects of globalization on these three factors, that might be OK. But throw in the other topics like “the individual and the group” and “local and global factors” it begins to add up. I’d rather my students explored psychology’s depths instead of flying over its surface.

Another approach could be to just teach “behaviours.” In the IB Psychology world “behaviour” is an umbrella term that covers mental processes and observable actions. For example, if a student is asked about the influence of hormone/s on behaviour they can talk about how cortisol may affect memory. Memory is clearly a cognitive process, not an observable action (which is more in line with a traditional definition of “behaviour”), but this is acceptable in IB assessment world.

What this means for the soc/cult extensions is that you could teach to behaviour (and ignore identities or attitudes) and hope that this would be accepted, or that the term behaviour would be used in the exam question. But this might make some people nervous.

But if you were worried about the exam team asking a very specific question that addressed only “identities” and left out attitudes and behaviours, and you still wanted to reduce content to have more time to increase understanding, I would teach just the influence of globalization on “identities.” The reason for this is that an identity would fall under the umbrella definition of a “behaviour” so if a question asked specifically about behaviour, effects on identity would be OK. And identity could also be classified as a cognitive process, so that’d be OK on that grounds, too. And an identity is simply one’s attitude towards oneself, so if it asked about “attitudes” I think identity would be OK here, also. And remember, if we’re not asking students to distinguish between such an important distinction as “cognition” and “behaviour”, why would we ask them to make an even finer distinction between “identity” and “attitude?”

We can do what we did before as well by reducing overlaps in the topics and the extensions. The three topics are:

  1. the individual and the group
  2. cultural origins of behaviour and cognition
  3. cultural influences on individual identities, attitudes and behaviours

If we define “the group” as a cultural group, we can avoid worrying about topic 1 and merge it with “cultural origins/influences” because these imply an individual is within a group.

Similarly, cultural origins and influences are so similar we don’t need to distinguish them; it boils down to the same variable: cultural influences. As we said earlier, cognition falls under the umbrella term of “behaviour” in IB Psychology, so if you really wanted you could cut out behaviour. And as identity is a form of cognition but a very specific one, let’s just focus on identity.

This means we can condense the there “topics” into one core concept:

  • belonging to a cultural group can influence our identity

Now we just need to connect this with the other HL extension concepts:

  • How globalization may influence attitudes, identities and behaviour.
  • The effect of the interaction of local and global influences on behaviour.
  • Methods used to study the influence of globalization on behaviour.

First, let’s cut this down by crossing out attitudes and behaviour again and focusing on just identity, because as we’ve established an identity can be classed as an attitude or a behaviour, so there’s no need (and no time) to cover all three.

The “local and global influences” seems complex but it’s pretty straight forward. In fact, the effect of a local influence on identity could be studied when looking at enculturation, as enculturation is the process of learning cultural norms of one’s primary culture (i.e. their cultural group). So you’d just need to focus on how enculturation influences identity, and you’d be covered for that. That leaves the global influences on identity, which could be investigated by looking at acculturation: interacting with a secondary culture, perhaps as a result of immigration.

Research methods can just be focused on whatever method was used in the studies that show the above concepts.

To summarize, the core learning outcome for the sociocultural extension is:

  • Discuss the effects of local and global influences on cultural identity.
    • (including understanding research methods).

So here’s one possible way to cover the sociocultural extensions: by investigating the process of enculturation in Islamic communities and the development of identity as a result. Possibly even looking at gender identity and equality within these communities. You could extend this to looking at how this identity may influence behaviour, if you wanted (or could be good differentiation for extension).

Then one could focus on the influence of global factors on the identities of Islamic females and/or young males. For instance, looking at how acculturation may alienate some Islamic youth, pushing them towards extremist views (sample study)  (this covers “attitudes” and “behaviours” as well). Or investigating gender issues in traditional Islamic communities, such as wearing the veil or note. Again, the link to behaviour would be easy to make here as well.

So by cutting out the faff and fluff we can get to the core concepts that students need to understand.

As always, the trouble with teaching Psychology is not how much content we have to teach, but how much content we don’t get to teach!

I don’t feel obliged to teach to the letter of the guide for a number of reasons, which is why I share my ideas on how to improve our teaching of the course. Firstly, there are a number of issues with the clarity of the guide, as we all know, so I’m not going to take it as gospel. I prefer to use my own professional judgement, common sense and curricula expertise when it comes to designing my course around the guide. And remember: it is just that – a guide.

Furthermore, this is such an interesting topic that I want students to explore by themselves, but I also need to ensure that they a solid grounding in the topic first. So I would like to teach the first 5 to 6 lessons (which isn’t much time) on the core concepts I’ve outlined above and let them explore issues of identity and globalization on their own for the remaining time.

Hope this helps?

Feel free to leave comments…