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Education, Psychology and Learning: Track Content and Structure

students learning

Important notice on blended learning for all 2021/22 courses

Given the unpredictability of health, safety and travel restrictions over the 2021/22 academic year, students enrolled in courses at the Faculty of Education should expect some form of blended learning.

The Faculty will continue to follow guidance published by the University and by the Government. The specific nature of blended learning will be course-dependent, and may be subject to changes in line with guidance.

Education - with the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge at its heart - is one of the most important and powerful cultural currents of change and growth in the modern world.

These key characteristics are reflected in the structure of the Education Tripos, a diverse and intellectually exciting course which opens up a wide range of employment opportunities and careers. This track is also accredited by the British Psychological Society, which enables graduate basis for chartered membership.

The Education, Psychology and Learning track focuses on education, human development and learning throughout the lifespan in a variety of social and cultural environments. Students will use psychological theory and methods of investigation, to explore people’s intellectual, social and emotional development from birth through to adulthood. 

The course includes perspectives from biological, cognitive, developmental, social and cultural psychology. Knowledge and understanding are enriched by opportunities to conduct investigations in psychology and education, under the guidance of active researchers in the field.

Students on this track gain much from studying psychology within the Education Tripos. Psychological understanding is enhanced by insights and skills from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. For example, you will learn in your wider studies how to argue a point philosophically, how to engage in critical educational debates, and how to conceptualise international issues.

Education, as a major social science, explores the intellectual, social and emotional development of people from birth through to adulthood, and the role of literacy, language and creativity in learning. It examines the historical contexts shaping educational ideas and movements and the underlying philosophical principles and political beliefs promoting notions of meritocracy, equality, social inclusion, poverty alleviation and human rights.

At Cambridge, you will engage with these important contemporary themes and ongoing debates, developing and applying a form of critical literacy suited to addressing the varieties of evidence generated and used by educational researchers, policy-makers and professionals.

number 1First year

In your first year you will take four papers consisting of the following structure:

  • Critical Debates in Education - introducing major themes in education and Faculty research.
  • Language, Communication, and Literacies - exploring the social, psychological and material context within which spoken language and literacy are developed.
  • Learning and Human Development - introducing key concepts in human development and the psychology of learning, as they relate to education.
  • Another psychology paper.

number 2Second year

In your second year you will take five papers consisting of the following structure:

Two compulsory education papers:

  • Designing Educational Research - introducing key methods like interviews, survey-based research instruments as well as discourse analysis and research designs, using a problem-based learning approach with hands-on activities.
  • The Emergence of Educational Thinking and Systems - exploring dynamics shaping the institutionalisation of different forms of education and the implications for communities, societies and power relations.

One chosen education paper:

  • Chosen from a list of options each year

Two compulsory track specific papers:

  • Formal and Informal Contexts of Learning
  • A further psychology paper

number 3Final year

In your final year you will take five papers consisting of the following structure:

All students will complete a 8,000-10,000 word dissertation related to the investigation and analysis of an education issue.

You will then choose two education papers:

  • Chosen from a list of options each year
  • This list may include a second track-specific dissertation

And finally two compulsory track specific papers.

studentsHow will I be taught?

As an Education student you will benefit from a wide range of different teaching and learning styles.

Lectures provide you with the foundations; you will build on the knowledge you gain with your own research and reading. As many of your lecturers will be working at the forefront of their fields, their lectures will enable you to engage with the very latest ideas and debates.

Seminars and classes are more interactive, with lecturers exploring a particular topic in more depth. Some practical sessions benefit from taking place in the purpose built Psychology Observation Laboratory.

Your lectures and seminars will normally take place in the Faculty of Education on Hills Road although lectures for borrowed papers will usually take place elsewhere.

Supervisions - the intensive small group teaching sessions that are one of Cambridge's strongest selling points - are organised by your College's Director of Studies (DoS). You hand in written work in advance and then have the opportunity to discuss it with your supervisor and other students and to explore the subject further with them. This allows you to explore new approaches and discuss both the set topic and other aspects of the course in depth.

As with lectures, your supervisions will usually take place in the Faculty, but supervisions for borrowed papers may take place elsewhere. In addition to arranging supervisions, your DoS will give you regular academic advice and support.

While speed of working will inevitably vary from person to person, you can expect to work for 40-48 hours a week during the eight-week term, to include: lectures, practicals (some papers only), supervisions, preparation for supervisions and private study.

You can also read some of our current students' thoughts on studying Education, and find out more about whether this course is right for you.