Animal Antics at Marwell Zoo

On 10th February, the last day of half term and following a late night at the Sixth Form Winter Ball, weary Year 12 Psychology students visited Marwell Zoo for a conference that included the learning of and application of observational studies. This is an important research method on their exam board specification. They also re-visited their learning of classical and operant conditioning.

After a short nap for some on the coach, we arrived to cold but sunny conditions, thus, we were blessed with the rare appearance of the snow leopard. The students took part in a pilot study to trial their observation procedure and then refined their method with the guidance of the conference leaders.
They then carried out a comparative observational study of their two chosen animals and their behaviours. Analysis of data and presentation of their findings to each other and Marwell staff was next. Students were encouraged to evaluate their methods and many recognised that opting to compare their favourite animals wasn’t a wise choice…it’s hard to find useful behaviours to compare between a giraffe and a penguin! It was a great way to end the half term.

Olivia Baggott, 12 Andrewes, gave her thoughts on the day:

“On our day at Marwell Zoo we had the opportunity to gain primary data by observing our chosen animals. We chose from all the animals available in the zoo and observed their behaviour and identified coding categories. In my investigation I observed the meerkats and ring-tailed lemurs. We looked for their similarities and differences in the way they interacted, moved, ate and presented.

“The findings from our observation found that lemurs were a lot more static and less alert than the energetic meerkats, who were always standing to attention.

“The trip altogether really helped to put into practice the observational sampling techniques we have studied: time and event sampling and recognise the limitations and strengths of these methods. It was also a very fun day out.”

Ms T Marchant, Teacher of Psychology

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