Mapping Experiences and Belief Systems

Start by having students analyze themselves then have them come together and share their stories.

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Mapping Experiences & Belief Systems


This project was designed for a high school honors level psychology class, however, it can be adapted for multiple age groups, disciplines and levels. Start by having students reflect on their own thoughts, feelings and actions. Once they have unearthed who they are, then they come together and share their experiences and stories.

How to:

  1. Introduction:
    1. How do individuals and groups think, feel and behave toward one another? For this project we are going to take this knowledge of psychology and apply it to society. How can we take theory and turn it into practice? To begin this journey we will start with ourselves.
  2. Start with a discussion on Big Questions:
    1. How do the psychological theories play out in your life?
    2. What are your personal principles/values? Where do they come from? How do you practice them?
    3. How do you interact with different people? How do you see them? How do they see you?
    4. How do we learn to understand the experiences of other people?
  3. Process:
    1. Create a representation of your experiences and belief system.  This can be done in any format you choose (podcast, video, artistic piece, map, sculpture, performance art, graphic novel- anything).  
    2. Start with reflecting on your life. Look at your behaviors and interactions. Talk to your parents/siblings/teachers/friends/religious leaders/etc. Look at your environment.  Deconstruct your values.  Reflect on your choices in difficult situations- use them as evidence. Be as honest as possible.
    3. In class we will be discussing different content about why/how individuals and groups think, feel and behave the way they do. (It’s not just you!) In addition to creating your representation of experiences and beliefs, reflect on the experience diving into the self and make connections to the psychology content.
  4. Deliverables:
    1. Representation of your experiences and belief system
    2. Reflection on your process (feel free to redact words/phrases that are too personal)  
  5. Debrief/Share  
    1. Find common ground:
      1. Create a list of statements that your students might be able to identify with
      2. Make a large circle. Read one of the statements if a student identifies with it, they step in.  Allow for a few seconds to process, then everyone steps out and read the next statement. Inspired by a Seeds For Peace activity.
    2. Note the list below should be adjusted to meet the culture of the school district and class.

  • I identify as female

  • I identify as male

  • I identify as non-binary

  • I identify as transgender

  • I consider myself to be a happy person

  • I live in a single parent household

  • My parents are divorced

  • I feel like I am surrounded by friends who care about me

  • I feel pressure to be “the best” at everything I do

  • I have a healthy relationship with social media

  • I feel like I belong at SHS

I’m concerned about paying for college

  • I feel good about how my identified culture is portrayed by the media
  • I feel that Scarsdale is too cliquey
  • I don’t know what I want to do after high school
  • I feel like I have a healthy self-esteem
  • I think I am an authentic/genuine person
  • I identify as a religious person
  • I’ve witnessed or experienced bullying
  • I secretly compete with my friends over grades
  • I’ve judged other people

  • I create my self-identity mainly through external factors  

  • I’ve heard homophobic or racial comments in school

  • I feel limited by my race, gender-identification or socio-economic status

  • I feel smart

  • I feel inferior to my friends

  • I feel ugly

  • I’ve gossiped about my friends

  • I’ve cheated on an assignment

I’m an honest person

Time Required:

Project: One week and weekend of homework This project was completed at home. That allowed for students to digest the content information from class and the space to explore their own thinking.

Debrief: One class period


  • Creative Materials:
    • Student choose their format so these materials can range from paper and crayons to access to computers.


I completed this project as part of a 10 class period unit on Inter-group Relations. When we debriefed the project and the experience students described this as “uncomfortable” and  “life questioning.” The following are quotes from my students’ journals and projects.

“I think that perception is the most relevant social psychology concept in my life because of the assumptions that other people make about me.  Even though I knew other people perceived me as childish, I did not enjoy physically making the card that was supposed to summarize how other people view me. The process of piecing together the card was the first time where I felt slightly offended by this generalization of my character….My last card directly references the concept of stereotypes.  I wanted the card to be a visual representation of the stereotype I had for the southern, blonde, beauty pageant girls.  I used pink paper and silver sparkly decorations to illustrate my assumptions about these girls.  Sadly, this card was the easiest to design because of the extent to which I stereotype.”

Spotify Playlist

Weak by AJR: Subjective Norm

Can’t Blame a Girl for Trying by Sabrina Carpenter: Self-fulfilling Prophecy

I’m In Love With My Life by PHASES: Social Esteem

Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears: Social Comparison

Weight in Gold by Gallant: Social Pressure/ Fundamental Attribution Error

Cruel World by Phantogram AND My President is Black by Jay-Z: Stereotypes and Prejudice

Try by Colbie Caillat AND Maybe IDK by Jon Bellion:: SOCIAL COMPARISON/ self esteem

Never Be Like You by Flume: Prejudice

Cool Girl by Tove Lo: social perception, Self concept, Reference groups

Imagine by John Lennon: Cognitive Dissonance

Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley: opposite of authoritarianism, i like change

“When creating the playlist, I wrote down a list of twenty songs. I changed that list about 12 times before officially finalizing it. Honestly, I felt completely out of my comfort zone while doing this project. I found myself being redundant while writing out each blurb, and even sometimes contradicting myself and my values. After writing about each song, I decided not to proofread or change anything I wrote (even if I ended up being hypocritical) because I wanted it to be as genuine as possible. Even though I was uncomfortable throughout the process, I’m happy that I was able to look at my life from this new perspective. “



Needs Work

Not Present

Representation of your Experiences and Values/Beliefs

Your representation shows deeper thinking about social psychology/intergroup relations/stereotypes/prejudice by reflecting on your personal experiences

Understanding of Psychology Content

  • illustrates an understanding of psychology concepts, readings and discussions

Craftsmanship & Artistic Decisions

All these descriptions might not apply to your type of project

  • neat, carefully constructed, planned out, practiced, purposeful, commitment

  • clarifies content, depth and expression

Choices make sense for who you are and what you want to represent  

Journal/Reflection of your process

  • Your journal explains your concept and ideas behind your representation

Your journal discusses how you felt about the process of creating this representation

Evaluation results

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Photo of Karen Milczynski

I can't wait to do this next year! Thank you for sharing!!!! <3

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