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Starting Now: From Science to Psychology

posted by Savannah on Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Lifelong Learning is For Everyone

Matthew finds time every day to read and improve his knowledge

The great thing about home learning is that it attracts people from all kinds of educational and professional backgrounds. Many people jump at the opportunity to explore their interests and learn a new topic from the comforts of home! That includes those that have university degrees and well-established careers. Why? Because learning more can lead to career development, or it can take your career in a different direction. All with the flexibility to study how, when and where you want!

Our learner Matthew had this in mind when he enrolled on our Psychology Level 3 course. From chemistry to psychology, his curiosity drove him to pursue more knowledge that would open up varying opportunities within his career field.


 

Always Learning, Exploring and Developing

I like to read, mainly academic books about science or personal development. I find it fascinating.

Meet Matthew, an easy-going 38-year-old guy, who enjoys running, swimming, and getting outdoors as often as he can. He’s also a fan of cooking and enjoys reading in his spare time. He said, “There’s nothing quite like stepping out into the countryside! It’s the simple things in life I really appreciate, like fresh air, moving my body, and the chance to learn and explore new ideas. When I’m not exercising, I like to read, mainly academic books about science or personal development. I find it fascinating.” 

One book that’s had an impact on Matt is The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Prof Steve Peters. In fact, Matthew has applied the book’s theory to a wellbeing project that he’s implemented at work for his team. He told us, “The project aims to support the team’s mental health and help them to better manage stress.

It’s been a real eye-opener for the scientists I work with, as they’re learning how to better understand and reflect on their emotions. It’s helped them become more resilient, happier and more productive at work.” 

Working in Science

In Matthew’s eyes, there is so much to experience in life and he wants to do as much as possible.

Matt got his degree in Analytical Chemistry and Microbiology from Plymouth University. He now works in the safety department of a scientific institution in Oxfordshire. Matt commented, “I do enjoy my job as it lets me work in Science and directly with people; it keeps me interested in new challenges every day! But it also offers work that satisfies my curiosity in science and the mind.  

My job involves encouraging people to complete certain requirements for safety and wellbeing in the workplace. However, for busy scientists with conflicting priorities, it’s a task to get them to see the value in my requests sometimes. I realised that learning about the mind and how people think would help me get the best out of everyone, so, I enrolled on the Psychology course with Oxbridge!”

The human mind is the most complicated and intricate creation of the universe, and the rules that govern it have captivated researchers for centuries. The study of Psychology seeks to understand, explain and clarify how we think, act and feel, but also answer why. Our cognitive, emotional and social development influences our adult aspirations, achievements and level of contentment, but why? How? Understanding the answers to these questions help many professionals working within teams because people are human, not just workers, after-all.   

The human mind is the most complicated and intricate creation of the universe, and the rules that govern it have captivated researchers for centuries.

“I’ve always been interested in psychology and planned on studying the subject for my own interest, initially. I suppose it’s natural to have a fascination with what seems unexplainable, especially coming from a science background when I’m taught to analyse everything and find the answers. But I also knew studying Psychology would enhance my CV, supporting my work in safety whilst propelling me forwards in the field of science. This course was the logical step to higher or more advanced study. Then I could think about career development into areas such as clinical psychology, (although that’s an arduous route to get into) or, a healthcare setting.” 

The Home Learning Experience

Whilst working full-time, Matthew finds time to study in the evenings and on the weekends. He’ll dip in and out of his course when he has a spare hour or two. 

Matt remarked, “The flexibility allows me to fit the course around my family and work-life; I’ve got three teenage boys who keep me busy! My eldest is doing his A-Level Psychology at the same time as me, so we often study together which is nice. And my middle son is a natural at cross country running and will be representing England. So, I make time to train with him and support his goals. Not having a tight schedule or strict deadlines makes my learning more fun and less of a chore – it’s something I choose to do around my other commitments.”  

Matthew’s sons are very outdoorsy thanks to their adventures from a young age with their dad

Home learning suits being a parent, and for Matt, being a dad motivates him to study more: I’m motivated to be the best version of me because I want to set an example to my sons. I have more curiosity these days and hope my sons see that and learn to follow their curiosity too. Curiosity is one of the main driving forces behind me studying. I love that there’s always something new to learn or a new skill to develop. And this is what I want to teach as a dad.” 

The flexibility allows me to fit the course around my family and work-life; I’ve got three teenage boys who keep me busy!

We asked Matt how he felt this course differed from his experience at University. He said, There is definitely more of a requirement for me to direct my own study and to find my own motivation, but it’s a model which suits my learning style. I think that learning as an adult is completely different from my university experience, where learning sort of felt imposed upon me. That’s because when you’re young, education feels like something you just have to do, it doesn’t feel like a choice.”  

Eye-Opening Knowledge

The important thing is to enjoy what you’re learning. Matthew has found certain parts of his Psychology course fascinating…

“The biggest eye-opener for me was learning about how people react to authority. It’s surprising what people will do when they’re told to do something by someone in an authoritative position. Frightening really, but fascinating too. We studied the Milgram Shock Experiment from 1963, which tested how far obedience to authority could dominate human conscience and free-will.

Volunteers were told to administer electric shocks on people, gradually increasing in volts to a severe and dangerous shock level. The experiment would never be ethical to conduct now, but what it revealed was that people are completely influenced by authority. Even to the point where they will act against their conscience. It’s a lesson for people in authority to never abuse their power by manipulating others against a moral framework.”  

The thing about Psychology studies is that it can be applied to many career pathways. This is something Matthew has realised, as he discovered how useful it is to analyse people’s traits, behaviours and actions to get the best out of his team. He added, “I guess what I’m taking away from studying a different field is that there are many opportunities to branch into other areas and perhaps change career; the possibilities are unlimited.” 

The thing about Psychology studies is that it can be applied to many career pathways.

Advice For You: It’s All About Starting Now

‘Focus on being 1% better every day,’ is Matt’s advice!

Here’s Matt’s advice for all adult learners: “Don’t look at your learning journey as a metaphysical mountain. Instead, focus on being 1% better every day, just making 1% improvement, which is more realistic. Everyone struggles, but it’s harder if you expect too much of yourself; release the pressure that you have to study, and you’ll find that it becomes something you want to do.  

Don’t look at your learning journey as a metaphysical mountain. Instead, focus on being 1% better every day.

What works for me is to break my work into bitesize chunks and do 20 minutes at a time, followed by a reward. I applied the same approach to fitness when I started running.” 

Referring to ‘The Chimp Paradox’ book, Matthew explained that the chimp is what controls the emotional part of the human brain, and when learning, it can often cause you to self-doubt. The rational brain, on the other hand, will tell you to take things one step at a time. Ignoring the chimp won’t work though. The thing to do is to signpost it, talk it into small actions that lead to your real goals. Don’t let your emotional chimp fully take over, work with it.  

This is a really important part of psychology, and it’s important for Matthew to understand when working on his wellbeing project. The way the brain reacts to situations is a key indicator of how to prevent future problems.  

Being Mindful on the Learning Journey: It’s Not About the Ending

There’s a lot of merit in just beginning. Merit in just starting something new.

I think that I’d like to pursue Psychology at a higher level next and see where that takes me, who knows! I’ve done a lot in my life because I’m the kind of person who will have a go at everything. So, I know there is so much more for me yet to experience. But if you ask me what my life will look like in 10, 20 or 40 year’s time, I wouldn’t know. I’m happy to not know the ending of all my ambitions and adventures. There’s a lot of merit in just beginning. Merit in just starting something new. 


It’s great to share Matthew’s story and discover how his journey has taken him from a chemistry degree through to work in the field of science. And then to his Psychology course with Oxbridge! It shows that whatever stage in life you reach, there’s always more to learn and more pathways for you to explore.