Charlotte L. Doyle

BA, Temple University. MA, PhD, University of Michigan. A generalist in psychology with special interests in the creative process, psychological theory, and children’s literature. Articles written on the creative process in art, the fiction-writing episode, facilitating creativity in children, and the definition of psychology. Books include Explorations in Psychology (a textbook) and seven picture books for children: Hello Baby, Freddie’s Spaghetti, Where’s Bunny’s Mommy?, You Can’t Catch Me, Twins!, Supermarket!, and The Bouncing Dancing Galloping ABC. SLC, 1966–

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

First-Year Studies: Approaches to Child Development

What are the worlds of children like? How can we come closer to understanding those worlds? In this class, we will use different modalities to cast light on them. One set of lenses is provided by psychological theory. Various psychologists (Piaget, Vygotsky, Freud, Erikson, Bowlby, Skinner, Bandura, Chess) have raised particular questions and suggested conceptual answers. We will read the theorists closely for their answers but also for their questions, asking which aspects of childhood each theory throws into focus. We will examine systematic studies carried out by developmental psychologists in areas such as the development of thinking, social understanding, language, gender and race awareness, friendship, and morality. We will take up the development of the brain and nervous system and consider the implications for important psychological questions. An important counterpoint to reading about children is direct observation. All students will do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and make notes on what they observe. At times, we will draw on student observations to support or critique theoretical concepts. Fieldwork also will provide the basis for conference work. Ideally, conference projects will combine the interests of the student, some library reading, and some aspect of fieldwork observation. Among the projects students have designed in the past are exploring children’s friendships, observing what children say as they are painting, following a child as he is learning English as a second language, and writing a children’s book text. The world of childhood is magical. This course is for students who understand that the magic won’t disappear if we take a close, intellectually rigorous look.

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Previous courses

Children’s Literature: Developmental and Literary Perspectives

Spring

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.

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Creative Process

Fall

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.

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Perspectives on Child Development

Spring

A noted psychologist once said, “What you see depends on how you look.” Our subject is the worlds of childhood; and in this class, we try out the lenses of different psychological theories to highlight different aspects of those worlds. Freud, Erikson, Bowlby, and Stern provide differing perspectives on emotional development. Skinner, Bandura, Piaget, and Vygotsky present various approaches to the problems of learning and cognition. Chess and her colleagues take up the issues of temperament and its interaction with experience. Chomsky and others deal with the development of language. We will read the theorists closely for their answers but also for their questions, asking which aspects of childhood each theory throws into focus. We will also examine some systematic studies that developmental psychologists have carried out to confirm, test, and critique various theories: studies of mother-infant relationships, the development of cognition and language, and the emergence of intersubjectivity. In several of these domains, studies done in cultures other than our own cast light on the question of universality versus cultural specificity in development. Direct observation is an important complement to theoretical readings. In this class, all students will do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center. At times, we will draw on student observations to support or critique theoretical concepts as part of the seminar. The fieldwork will also provide the basis for developing conference work. Ideally, conference projects combine the interests of the student, some library reading, and some aspect of fieldwork observation. Among the many diverse projects students have designed in the past are topics such as children’s friendships, the meanings of block building, and how young children use language.

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Psychology of the Creative Process

Fall

The creative process is paradoxical. It involves freedom and spontaneity yet requires expertise and hard work. The creative process is self-expressive yet tends to unfold most easily when the creator forgets about self. The creative process brings joy yet is fraught with fear, frustration, and even terror. The creative process is its own reward yet depends on social support and encouragement. In this class, we look at how various thinkers conceptualize the creative process—chiefly in the arts but in other domains, as well. We see how various psychological theorists describe the process, its source, its motivation, its roots in a particular domain or skill, its cultural context, and its developmental history in the life of the individual. Among the thinkers that we consider are Freud, Jung, Arnheim, Franklin, and Gardner. Different theorists emphasize different aspects of the process. In particular, we see how some thinkers emphasize persistent work and expert knowledge as essential features, while others emphasize the need for the psychic freedom to “let it happen”and speculate on what emerges when the creative person “lets go.” Still others identify cultural context or biological factors as critical. To concretize theoretical approaches, we look at how various ideas can contribute to understanding specific creative people and their work. In particular, we consider works written by or about Picasso, Woolf, Welty, Darwin, and some contemporary artists and writers. Though creativity is most frequently explored in individuals, we also consider group improvisation in music and theatre. Some past conference projects have involved interviewing people engaged in creative work. Others consisted of library studies centering on the life and work of a particular creative person. Some students chose to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and focus on an aspect of creative activity in young children.

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