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This content is taken from the University of Liverpool's online course, Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture. Join the course to learn more.
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Peter Kinderman, lead academic

Different ways to learn

Welcome to the course.

There are two different approaches to education; teaching and learning. Teaching involves giving students information, with the student being something of a passive recipient. That might work well when facts are important, but it’s perhaps less effective when the facts are in dispute, it’s the interpretation of those facts - what they mean - that’s more important. Learning involves the student developing their understanding in a much more active fashion.

We have deliberately structured this course to encourage learning. Each week, you will be given papers to read that will stretch and challenge your understanding of the fundamental nature of mental health problems. As the course leader, I will offer some guidance and explain the context to the reading materials (in videos and the captions to course articles). But I am deliberately not giving too many facts or technical information. Instead, I would like you to read the articles and papers that are supplied, consider what they say, and make up your own mind.

I have included some optional steps. Sometimes these are quite long documents (such as the British Psychological Society report on serious mental health problems, which is a full 180 pages long). We have also offered some websites in Week 1, to help people who are unused to psychological topics orientate themselves, but they are completely optional.

Interpretation

In mental health, perhaps more than any other area of science, there are huge differences of opinion. The ‘nature-nurture’ debate is important; people differ profoundly in respect to how much they believe our mental health and wellbeing are products of our biology (on the one hand) or life-events (on the other).

I have my own views, and these will be clear, but I don’t think it’s the business of a University to tell you how to think. I believe that we should help you find, and then think about, the most important scientific and professional articles published in this area, and help you think for yourself.

As you go through the course, you’ll find that it consists of a different topic each week, some brief videos that set the context for the week, and then some important papers. These articles are often deliberately chosen to disagree with each other. Your job isn’t to absorb my point of view, but to debate the different perspectives. We hope that will involve discussion on the interactive comment section that’s part of the FutureLearn platform.

So… read, think, debate and learn. Don’t just take it from me.


As an example - Wikipedia describes ‘mental health’ as “…an absence of a mental disorder”. But the World Health Organisation’s definition of mental health suggests that mental health is “… more than the absence of mental illness”. These two statements can’t BOTH be right… so you’ll have to think for yourself.

It might only be a small, semantic, point, but it’s an important one. Is “mental health” more than the absence of “mental illness”? There are two contrasting perspectives… your job is to critically evaluate them and make your own mind up.


An invitation to think about things differently

I find learning much more exciting and engaging than being taught. But some people find it a little unstructured. As you go through this course, you will be offered the chance to read (or download) a paper, and we hope you’ll read it, think about it, and discuss it with other people. But you might not find that there’s a clear gap in your knowledge that the paper is supposed to fill; rather that the paper invites you to think about things differently.

Try not to find this anxiety-provoking and try not to be frustrated at the lack of clear structure. Instead, try to see this as exciting, and try to see it as giving you more control over what you learn.


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Peter Kinderman

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This article is from the free online course:

Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

University of Liverpool

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