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'The collegiate approach is the key'

Chris Gibbons marks 21 years of the Association for Psychology Teachers, a Northern Ireland network.

09 April 2018

The Association for Psychology Teachers (APT) celebrated its 21st Annual Psychology Conference in Belfast in March 2018.

The not-for-profit body was set-up by Dr Chris Gibbons, a Dublin-based lecturer and chair of the APT, as a support network for educators and students of psychology in Northern Ireland. The annual conference for pre-degree students attracts delegates from across Ireland and the UK. Chris tells us: 'Following requests from students and teachers, its focus in recent years has been to provide an intensive one day A-level revision programme. However, it continues to appeal to students who are not necessarily studying the A-level but who are interested in considering psychology at university.'

The conference offers a mix of lectures and seminars and is delivered by speakers with a track record as educators and communicators. 'In its earlier years APT played a pivotal role in introducing students and lecturers to many of the key figures in the discipline,' Chris says. 'Its alumni of past presenters includes Professors Michael Argyle, Richard Gregory, Alan Baddeley, and Michael Eysenck, along with a range of textbook authors who have had a significant impact too. These include Richard Gross, Hugh Coolican, Mike Cardwell, Simon Green, Nicki Hayes and Julia Willerton.'

Chris is also a regular presenter at these events, and acknowledges the outstanding contributions of Paul Gardner of St Andrew's University and Jackie Abell of Coventry University. 'Both are outstanding educators and presenters and attended the conference for more than ten years,' Chris says. 'Through these conferences APT has inspired a generation of students to pursue degrees and then careers in psychology and many universities, especially the two in Northern Ireland, have been huge beneficiaries from the impact APT has had in inspiring students to pursue psychology.

Along with the conference, APT offers CPD events for teachers and lecturers. These take place in June each year and Chris describes them as 'collegiate affairs drawn from the network of teachers and lecturers that make up APT. They share and demonstrate resources and activities that work well in the class. Heads of psychology and Admissions tutors from universities across Ireland are offered slots to showcase what psychology involves at their institutions.

'The feedback from teachers, whether experienced or new to teaching, bears testament to the invaluable support APT offers. The secret to its continued success is the collegiate approach it adopts. Attending one of these events is not a passive affair but one where you are engaged from start to end, whether it is taking part in the demonstration of some new psychology or educational software or role-playing a student while another colleague runs through an activity that they've found useful in class. All who are involved are committed to helping colleagues to provide the best learning environment to help their students.'

Chris concludes that he is 'immensely proud' of the work done through APT. 'The teachers who bring their students to the conference put in a lot of effort to make it happen. They do so because they value what the conference offers and because they are passionate about their students' success. The CPD event is very different in a good way to anything I've experienced before or since – it's the instrumental, practical and broader support that we offer each other that is key. The sharing of expertise and the acknowledgement that we are none of us that good that we can't still improve is its hallmark. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed.'

The support offered is not just face-to-face events but virtually year round through the website forum. More information can be found at the or by emailing Chris at [email protected]