This example adopts a co-creation and Psychology Applied Learning Scenarios (PALS) approach on a large third year undergraduate Psychology module – PS346 Perspectives in Clinical and Counselling Psychology. Students work in small teams on real life case studies of individuals with mental health problems. Each team focuses on understanding or treating the presenting issues from a particular theoretical approach. Teams deliver a shared learning to the wider group.


This example draws on two areas of pedagogical literature.

  1. There is a growing literature around co-production of curriculum, emphasising students as partners who provide contributions to the learning and teaching environment. A useful definition is provided by Cook-Sather, Bovill and Felten (2014, p.6-7) “a collaborative, reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualisation, decision making, implementation, investigation or analysis”. The definition highlights the different ways staff and students can work in partnership. Co-production has been found to foster respect, reciprocity and shared responsibility, and also increased enjoyment of learning and teaching for staff and staff members (Lubicz-Nawrocka, 2018; Matthews, 2016; Mercer-Mapstone et al., 2017).
  2. PALS are ‘an adaptation of problem-based learning using hypothetical case studies that represent situations which professional psychologists typically face’ (Norton, 2004). They are phrased in an ambiguous manner; there is no single ‘correct’ answer. This allows space for students to develop critical and flexible thinking. It provides opportunity to practice skills in evidence-based reasoning and decision-making and an appreciation of the contingent nature of knowledge. It is argued that PALS help students to make reflective judgments (King & Kitchener, 1994). They must actively construct their understanding in relation to the presented context. PALS enable students to develop an advanced, higher order thinking (Bloom, 1956). They provide students with an opportunity to develop skills in analysis, synthesis, evaluation as well as application appropriate to a given context, to solve real-world, professional problems (Biggs, 2002).


  • Biggs, J. (2002). Aligning the curriculum to promote good learning. Paper prepared for LTSN Generic Centre Constructive alignment in action: Imaginative curriculum symposium, 4 November, 2002.
  • Bloom, B. (ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay. 
  • Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L., & Moore-Cherry, N. (2016). Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: Overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student–staff partnerships. Higher Education, 71(2), 195-208. doi:10.1007/s10734-015-989
  • King, P.M. & Kitchener, K.S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
  • Lubicz-Nawrocka, T. (2018). Students as partners in learning and teaching: The benefits of co-creation of the curriculum. International Journal for Students as Partners, 2(1). doi:10.15173/ijsap.v2i1.3207
  • Matthews, K. (2016). Students as partners as the future of student engagement. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 1(1).
  • Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Matthews, K. E., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., Swaim, K. (2017). A systematic literature review of students as partners in higher education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1).
  • Norton, L. (2004) Using assessment criteria as learning criteria. A case study using Psychology Applied Learning Scenarios (PALS). Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 29 (6), 687-702.

Measurable Benefits


  1. Increased enjoyment of the learning and teaching environment.
  2. Shared responsibility for teaching and learning.
  3. Partnership collaboration between students and staff.


  1. Development of evidence-based judgement and decision-making skills
  2. Development of advanced higher-order thinking
  3. Opportunity to develop skills in analysis, synthesis, evaluation as well as application appropriate to a given context, to solve real-world, professional problems

How it Works

PALS can be usefully used in both teaching and assessment. They can be incorporated into class exercises, seminars, used in examinations, essays, presentations, or even shape course delivery. For example, in the case of seminars students can be prescribed reading and required to apply this to a PALS. In this way students are encouraged to engage with material that is linked to real world problems and issues. Or an in class exercise might present groups with different PALS and ask them to detect a particular behaviour linked to a theoretical concept introduced in a teaching session. This can then lead to a more in-depth discussion of the concept.

PALS can be generated using the principles outlined in the Table below. The results of the students’ learning is then shared with the wider group – this can be individually or working in teams.


Practical Example

This example is taken from a third year option module PS346: Perspectives in Clinical and Counselling Psychology – there are usually between 100-130 students in the cohort divided into seminar groups of around 25-30 students, Students work in small teams (usually of 5-6 students) within their seminar groups on one case study. Case studies are based on real-life clinical examples of individuals struggling with their mental health. Each small team chooses a theoretical perspective for understanding or treating the presenting issues. They work independently on the case study and share their learning to their wider seminar group through the use of a group presentation – using PowerPoint for example. In this way, the seminar group builds a shared learning of understanding and treating a single case study from three different theoretical approaches. Students are asked to provide a short presentation – around 6-8 mins dependent on number of students in the seminar, with time for questions/brief discussion at the end of each presentation.

Theoretical Approaches: Psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural, person-centred

PALS Case Study Example: Emma

Emma is a smartly presented lady who describes herself as a really strong person to whom people turn to with their problems. She has been married for over 30 years, and has two sons. Her and her husband had met when they were very young, and married and had children not long after that. During their marriage, Emma’s husband had had numerous affairs, which they had always managed to work through. Emma described her husband’s affairs as happening in four- or five-year cycles. Emma had discovered the affair this time about three years previously to coming to the counselling service, and they had been trying to work things out since that time. However, her husband had continued to see the other woman, and after separating and then trying to give things another go for a couple of weeks, they had split, and he is now living with the other woman. Following the breakdown of her marriage, Emma was having problems sleeping and was feeling so low that she didn’t want to be here anymore; she described feeling like she was in a big black hole with no light. She was finding everyday things a real struggle, including going to work, so she went to see her GP, who signed her off work and referred her for counselling.

Individual Perspective

There is an organisational element to this if running on a module with multiple seminar groups. You might want to set some ground rules about the approach, emphasising that it is a shared learning. I have discussions with students about how they feel about individuals sitting in on presentations when they haven’t contributed to the shared learning and whether they are ok with that or whether the rule is that you can only attend if you contribute to the learning of the group. We also share the presentations within the seminar group using Moodle.

Supporting Example:
Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee

Placing Student in Hypothetical Examples

This method asks students to put themselves into different hypothetical situations where they have to make a choice for their well-being. The main benefit of this method is that students can clearly see how their choices might change following a change of context, as well as how their choices are compared to other students’ choices.


The main reason behind this practice is that students are more likely to learn if they get to experience the materials in class. By showing students that their choices can change by a simple shift in context, they should be able to grasp the concept of what created that change better than simply explaining it to them.

Measurable Benefits

  • Students get to see in real-time how their choices change with a slight change in the question
  • Students enjoy seeing how their choices match up with other people’s choices

How it Works

  • The hypothetical questions should be theory-driven.
  • It should be conducted using live polling where students can make a decision anonymously and independently.

Practical Example

For example, when trying to teach students about the role of relative income on our well-being, I ask students the following question first:

  1. If everything between these two worlds is the same, which of these worlds do you prefer?
  • The world where you earn £75k per year.
  • The world where you earn £100k per year.

Once they finish answering Q.1, I reveal the polling results before asking the following question:

  1. If everything between these two worlds is the same, which of these worlds do you prefer?
  • The world where you earn £75k per year, but everyone else you know earns £50k per year.
  • The world where you earn £100k per year, but everyone else you know earns £125k per year.

Most students chose b) in Q.1, but then switched to c) in Q.2. Once I revealed the results, I then explained their irrational choices of wanting to earn absolutely lower income as long as they earn relatively more income than other people using the theory on relative income.

Supporting Video: Dr Christian Soegaard

Peer Assessment

This video is part of a recorded interview between Dr Christian Shoegaard, the pedagogy leader, and Zoe Nobileau, one of the project officers. This conversation contains the a full description of the pedagogy, it's objectives and the potential benefits.