2014-2015 Child Development Courses
Bullies and Their Victims: Social and Physical Aggression in Childhood and Adolescence
It can be the bane of our existence in childhood: the bully who simply will not leave us alone. Until fairly recently, the image that came to mind, in both the popular imagination and the world of psychological study, was that of a physically imposing and physically aggressive boy, someone who found the littlest, most defenseless, boy to target. In recent years, however, that image has begun to change. Now we realize that the ability to harm a person’s social relationships and social “standing” — usually through the manipulation of others — can be every bit as devastating to the victim. And in this new world of social aggression, girls’ expertise has come to the fore. In this course, we will study the nature of bullies and victims, in both the physical and social sense, and the possible long-term consequences of such bullying, for both the perpetrator and the targeted. We will explore recent evidence that bullying and victimization even begin in the preschool years, far earlier than previously thought, and we will examine some modern approaches used to break this vicious cycle, such as peer programs and interpersonal problem solving. Conference work may include field placement at the Early Childhood Center or other venues, as interactions with real children will be encouraged.
Can we get insight into the creative process by theoretical reflection? This course will undertake this task by looking at how various theorists conceptualize the process of doing creative work in the arts and the sciences. We will see that some theorists emphasize the importance of sustained work over a long period and the expert knowledge necessary for mature work; others explore and theorize about the need for psychic freedom and ask about the processes that take place when the creator — allows the creative process to happen. — Theorists also raise questions about the sources and the motivation for doing creative work, the role of intention, the developmental roots of creative work, and whether it is possible to speak of a process that transcends the particularities of individual lives, the various media for creative work, and culture. Among the theorists we will consider are Freud, Jung, Arnheim, Gardner, Franklin, Wallace, Gruber, and Wertheimer. To concretize theoretical approaches, various thinkers consider particular artists and scientists and seek to elucidate the processes in the making of specific works. In that spirit we will consider writings about Galileo, Picasso, Kafka, Welty, some contemporary writers and visual artists, and group improvisation in music and theatre. In the past conference projects have dealt with the creative process in a particular person or genre or with some aspect of creative activity in young children. Fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center is a possibility. Background in college psychology, philosophy, or theoretical social science is required.
Personality Development - Graduate
A century ago, Sigmund Freud postulated a complex theory of the development of the person. While some aspects of his theory have come into question, many of the basic principles of psychoanalytic theory have become part of our common culture and worldview. This course will explore developmental and clinical concepts about how personality comes to be through reading and discussion of the work of key contributors to psychoanalytic developmental theory since Freud. We will trace the evolution of what Pine has called the “four psychologies of psychoanalysis”—drive, ego, object, and self-psychologies—as well as the integrative “relational perspective”; and we will consider the issues they raise about children’s development into individuals with unique personalities within broad, shared developmental patterns in a given culture. Readings will include the work of Anna Freud, Erik Erikson, Margaret Mahler, Daniel Stern, Steven Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow, and George Vaillant. Throughout the semester, we will return to such fundamental themes as the complex interaction of nature and nurture, the unanswered questions about the development of personal style, and the cultural dimensions of personality development. Fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or other appropriate setting is required, although conference projects may center on aspects of that experience or not, depending on the individual student’s interest. .
Art and Visual Perception - Graduate
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger
Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how the study of visual neuroscience and art can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.
Theories of Development
“There’s nothing so practical as a good theory,” suggested Kurt Lewin almost 100 years ago. Since then, the competing theoretical models of Freud, Skinner, Piaget, Vygotsky, and others have shaped the field of developmental psychology and have been used by parents and educators to determine child-care practice and education. In this course, we will study the classic theories—psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. Questions we will consider include: Are there patterns in our emotional, thinking, or social lives that can be seen as universal, or are these always culture-specific? Can life experiences be conceptualized in a series of stages? How else can we understand change over time? We will use theoretical perspectives as lenses through which to view different aspects of experience: the origins of wishes and desires, early parent-child attachments, intersubjectivity in the emergence of self, symbolic and imaginative thinking, the role of play in learning. For conference work, students will be encouraged to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children, as one goal of the course is to bridge theory and practice.
First-year students participate in an Observation Workshop that meets approximately five times during the semester as a component of the "Developmental Theories" course. In these workshops, students discuss fieldwork observations on such topics as children’s play, language development, socialization and cognitive development. The purpose of the workshop is to create a bridge between the theoretical reading of the course and the practical experiences of classroom observation.
Social Development Research Seminar
The goal of this course is to have each student propose and conduct an original piece of research within the broad sphere of social development in childhood and adolescence. It is intended for students who have done a previous conference project in the social sciences that raised interesting questions for them, questions that could be addressed by taking the next step of conducting their own study on the subject. The work could be done, for example, through quantitative testing, observation, direct interviews, or questionnaires. The course will be divided into three parts: First, we will read a range of past studies that exemplify different types of research approaches to the study of children and adolescents and discuss the strengths and possible weaknesses of each approach; at the same time, in conference, each student will begin the planning process for her/his own study. Second, each student will take turns serving as the facilitator of class discussion by assigning the readings for that particular week (on studies relevant to her/his own project) while sharing with the class the current progress on her/his research ideas; in turn, the rest of the class will serve as a “working group,” providing feedback and helpful suggestions on each project. The third and final portion of the course will involve students presenting the findings of their studies. Prerequisite: a prior course in psychology.
The Psychological Science of Happiness
Historically, psychology has focused on understanding disorders of mind—such as anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and delusions—with the goal of bringing people from a negative state to “neutral.” In recent years, however, those who study human behavior have had a growing interest in positive emotions and what enables people to thrive and flourish. This course will survey research exploring various dimensions of happiness and well-being, drawing on readings from psychology, neuroscience, and economics. We will discuss a variety of topics related to the study of happiness, such as how researchers define and measure happiness, the biological basis of positive emotions, self-esteem, gratitude, resilience, creative achievement, emotional intelligence, meaning making, the characteristics of successful relationships, the bidirectional relationship between physical health and positive emotion, the evolutionary basis of positive affect, relationships between money and happiness, and when and why the pursuit of happiness sometimes backfires. Course and conference work will focus on exercises that connect you to the research that we will be discussing.
Children’s Literature: Developmental and Literary Perspectives
Children’s books are an important bridge between adults and the world of children. In this course, we will ask questions such as: What are the purposes of literature for children? What makes a children’s book developmentally appropriate for a child of a particular age? What is important to children as they read or listen? How do children become readers? How can children’s books portray the uniqueness of a particular culture or subculture, allowing those within to see their experience reflected in books and those outside to gain insight into the lives of others? To what extent can books transcend the particularities of a given period and place? Course readings include writings about child development, works about children’s literature, and, most centrally, children’s books themselves—picture books, fairy tales, and novels for children. Class emphasis will be on books for children up to the age of about 12. Among our children’s book authors will be Margaret Wise Brown, C. S. Lewis, Katherine Paterson, Maurice Sendak, Mildred Taylor, E. B. White, and Vera B. Williams. Many different kinds of conference projects are appropriate for this course. In past years, for example, students have worked with children (and their books) in fieldwork and service-learning settings, written original work for children (sometimes illustrating it, as well), traced a theme in children’s books, explored children’s books that illuminate particular racial or ethnic experiences, or examined books that capture the challenge of various disabilities. Background in psychology is required.
Pathways of Development: Psychopathology and Other Challenges to the Developmental Process
This course addresses the multiple factors that play a role in shaping a child’s development, particularly as those factors may result in what we think of as psychopathology. Starting with a consideration of what the terms “normality” and “pathology” may refer to in our culture, we will read about and discuss a variety of situations that illustrate different interactions of inborn, environmental, and experiential influences on developing lives. For example, we will read theory and case material addressing congenital conditions such as deafness and life events such as acute trauma and abuse, as well as the range of less clear-cut circumstances and complex interactions of variables that have an impact on growth and adaptation in childhood and adolescence. In discussing readings drawn from clinical and developmental psychology, memoir, and research studies, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnostic/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be required to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere and may choose whether to focus conference projects on aspects of that experience.
Memory Research Seminar
The experimental study of remembering has been a vital part of psychology since the beginning of the discipline. The most productive experimental approach to this subject has been a matter of intense debate and controversy. The disputes have centered on the relationship between the forms of memory studied in the laboratory and the uses of memory in everyday life. We will engage this debate through the study of extraordinary memories, autobiographical memories, the role of visual imagery in memory, accuracy of memory, expertise, eyewitness testimony, metaphors of memory, and the anatomy of memory. Frederic Bartlett’s constructive theory of memory will form the theoretical backbone of the course. Most conference work will involve experimental explorations of memory. Some previous coursework in psychology is required.
Learning language is a fundamental aspect of human experience that is reproduced from generation to generation all over the world. Yet, how similar are the processes of language development among people of different places and backgrounds? This course will explore the nature of language and its relation to thinking, meaning-making, and culture. We will begin with a look at the phenomena of first language acquisition—naming, categorizing, conversation, private speech, storytelling, metaphor—and how they constitute and express children’s experiences in their worlds. We will then consider topics such as language and gender, early literacy, second-language learning in the contexts of bilingualism, transitions from home to school, and immigration. Readings will be drawn from psychological studies and observational and ethnographic accounts. Students will be encouraged to do fieldwork in settings where they can observe and record language, including in our Early Childhood Center, to investigate and document the processes that we will be studying or as the basis for conference projects. Previous course in psychology or a social science is expected.