Lesson Idea: Brain dumping on psychology

Travis DixonCognitive Psychology

The idea of schema is quite abstract, so the more concrete they can be made the better students will comprehend this concept.


Aim: There are a few purposes for this activity, which are outlined below. I do this activity in Unit 1: Topic 1: Introduction to Psychology.

Activity: On the very first day of IB Psychology, I always give students a blank A3 piece of paper that just has the word “psychology” in the very middle (here’s the document: Brain Dump Psychology). Before we do anything else, I ask them to “brain dump” everything that comes to mind when they heard the word psychology. I then collect these and keep them in my files until they’re needed later.

Purpose One: This serves as a piece of informal pre-assessment (albeit of little use).

Purpose Two: When we come to study schema theory about half way through the social influence unit, I return the students’ brain dumps. They then use a different coloured pen and do the same as they did on day one: write everything that comes to mind when they hear the word “psychology.” By seeing how much they’ve learned and visualizing their learning progress, I’m sure it must boost their self-esteem and pride (I can’t say definitively that it does, because I haven’t measured this effect).

Purpose Three: This also makes the very abstract idea of “schema” a little more concrete. I explain to students what the word schema means and how in the beginning of the course they had very limited schemas of psychology, so when they had this schema activated little came to mind. But over their experiences and learning through the first couple of units of the course, they’ve developed their schema and now when it’s activated, a whole bunch more comes to mind. They now have more developed schemas of the word psychology.

Schema is so abstract that I’ve found the best way to teach this concept so students fully comprehend it is to provide multiple examples, most coming from studies. But this little activity ticks a few of my planning boxes:

  • Quick
  • Effective
  • Minimal prep time
  • Provides some learning data

I’d love to hear how this idea works in your class if you decide to give it a go.