Jan Drucker

Director, Child Development Institute’s Empowering Teachers Program

BA, Radcliffe College. PhD, New York University. Clinical and developmental psychologist with teaching and research interests in the areas of developmental and educational theory, child development, parent guidance, clinical assessment and therapy with children and adolescents, and the development of imaginative play and other symbolic processes in early childhood and their impact on later development. Professional writings have centered on various forms of early symbolization in development and in clinical work with children. SLC, 1972–

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Spring

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.

Faculty

Personality Development

Fall

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 another appropriate setting is required, although conference projects may or may not center on aspects of that experience, depending on the individual student’s interest.

Faculty

Play and Imagination in Early Childhood: Developmental, Educational, and Clinical Perspectives

Spring

Adults often look at children and say, “They are just playing.” Yet play is seen by developmental and clinical psychologists and educators as one of the richest domains of young children’s experience. It is in play that they explore the world, construct knowledge, try out ideas, develop social interaction and self-regulation, expand and test out creativity. In this course, students will reflect on their own play experiences, serve as participant observers in twice-weekly fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center campus laboratory preschool, and explore in seminar and written work the ideas of theorists and practitioners who see play as crucial to intellectual, as well as social-emotional, development. Among other topics, we will consider the cultural contexts of play, clinical uses of play in therapy, play and literacy development, and the current threats to children’s opportunities for deep play. Conference work may, but need not, center on some aspect of the fieldwork experience.

Faculty

The Developing Child: Theory and Observation

Fall

This course introduces students to the study of how children develop by considering the perspectives on the process afforded by the experience of one’s own life, careful observation of children in natural settings, and readings in developmental psychology. All students will carry out fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and learn to observe the language and thought, play, social interaction, and evolving personalities of the preschool children with whom they work, taking into account the immediate context of their observations and the broader cultural contexts in which development is occurring. Readings for the seminar will be drawn from primary and secondary theoretical and research sources. Each student will carry out a conference project related to an aspect of development, often one connected to the fieldwork experience. All students must have two full mornings or afternoons a week free for fieldwork.

Faculty

Current graduate courses

Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Spring

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.

Faculty

Personality Development

Fall

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 another appropriate setting is required, although conference projects may or may not center on aspects of that experience, depending on the individual student’s interest.

Faculty

Previous courses

Pathways of Development: Psychopathology and Other Challenges to the Developmental Process

Spring

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.

Faculty

Personality Development - Graduate

Fall

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. .

Faculty

Telling One’s Story: Narratives of Development and Life Experience

Spring

There are many ways in which people narrate their life experience, from storytelling in everyday contexts to brief memoirs, autobiography, fiction, psychotherapy, and research interview responses. This seminar will examine examples from all of these forms of telling one’s story, beginning with an overview of the role of memory and construction/reconstruction in formulating experience. In reading and discussing some of the methods that psychologists use to study the process of development and the ways people experience their lives, we will consider the effect of context and purpose on the way an experience is narrated. We will draw on observational methodologies, ethnography, narrative research, and clinical case studies, as well as various forms of narrating one’s experience for oneself and its role in the development of sense of self. Class reading will include many kinds of accounts, and class papers will include a range of ways of discussing the themes of the course. Conference work may build on any narrative methods studied, including observational or autobiographical approaches, and may include material derived from fieldwork/community service in an appropriate setting, if desired.

Faculty

The Developing Child: Perspectives from Experience, Observation, and Theory

Fall

This course introduces students to the study of how children develop by considering the perspectives on the process afforded by the experience of one’s own life, careful observation of children in natural settings, and readings in developmental psychology. All students will carry out fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and learn to observe the language and thought, play, social interaction, and evolving personalities of the preschool children with whom they work—taking into account the immediate context of their observations and the broader cultural contexts in which development is occurring. Readings for the seminar will be drawn from primary and secondary theoretical and research sources. Each student will carry out a conference project related to an aspect of development, often one connected to the fieldwork experience. All students must have at least one, and preferably two, full mornings or afternoons each week free for fieldwork. 

Faculty

The Developing Child: Perspectives From Experience, Observation, and Theory

Fall

This course introduces students to the study of how children develop by considering the perspectives on the process afforded by the experience of one’s own life, careful observation of children in natural settings, and readings in developmental psychology. All students will carry out fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and learn to observe the language and thought, play, social interaction, and evolving personalities of the preschool children with whom they work, taking into account the immediate context of their observations and the broader cultural contexts in which development is occurring. Readings for the seminar will be drawn from primary and secondary theoretical and research sources. Each student will carry out a conference project related to an aspect of development, often one connected to the fieldwork experience. All students must have two full mornings or afternoons a week free for fieldwork.

Faculty

The Progressive Classroom: School and Society

Spring

What do preschoolers at the Early Childhood Center (ECC) and Sarah Lawrence College students have in common? In an age when two-year olds use computerized toys at home, what should they be doing at school? In what ways is the progressive education movement that characterized the early 20th century relevant today? In this course, we will examine the similarities in pedagogic philosophy and practice of progressive education at the preschool, primary, and secondary school and college levels. Readings will range from the underpinnings of progressive education in the work of John Dewey and others to historical material about Sarah Lawrence, the ECC and other progressive educational experiments and to contemporary discussions of what roles education can and should serve in the 21st century. All students will spend two full mornings or afternoons a week doing fieldwork in classrooms at the ECC, becoming astute observers of both children and teaching practice, reflecting on their own educational experiences, and developing individual conference projects that delve further into the questions and themes of the course.

Faculty