Kim Ferguson

Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies

BA, Knox College. MA, PhD, Cornell University. Special interests include sustainable, community based participatory action research, cultural-ecological approaches to infant and child development, children at risk (children in poverty, HIV/AIDS orphans, children in institutionalized care), community play spaces, development in Southern and Eastern African contexts, and the impacts of the physical environment on children’s health and wellbeing. Areas of academic specialization include southern African and North American infants’ language learning, categorization, and face processing, the physical environment and global children’s health and wellbeing, community adventure play experiences, adolescents’ remote acculturation in southern African contexts, and relationships between the quality of southern African orphan care contexts and child development and health. SLC, 2007–

Undergraduate Courses 2023-2024

Psychology

Psychology Advanced Research Seminar

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: Previous coursework in psychology

In this research seminar, students will gain valuable experience through a weekly seminar meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly lab meeting with one of the faculty members leading the research seminar; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on a regular, as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics—both broad and specific to the research in which students are involved—as well as the discussion of contemporary research articles that are relevant to student and faculty research projects. All faculty and students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research, with faculty taking the lead at the beginning of the semester and students taking the lead as their expertise develops. Weekly lab meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research-methods papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student and faculty member. Students will be expected to learn the current research approaches being employed by their supervising faculty member, contribute toward ongoing research in the form of a research practicum, and develop and implement their own independent research projects within the labs in which they are working. Faculty supervising each lab will also be available to meet with students, both individually and in small groups, on an ongoing basis—as needed and at least every other week—in addition to the regular weekly, hour-long lab meeting. Students participating in the Psychology Advanced Research Seminar will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly full-group seminars, weekly lab meetings, and regular (typically, at least biweekly) individual and group conference meetings; keep an ongoing journal and/or scientific lab notebook; select and facilitate group and lab discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least 5 hours within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community settings; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects.

 

Faculty

Psychology Advanced Research Seminar: Professional Learning and Advanced Research Methods

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: previous course work in psychology

The primary objective of this course is to provide students with additional instruction on professional learning for conducting research in psychology. This seminar will, therefore, be a useful companion to the completion of an independent research project as part of a senior thesis, research seminar, or conference project in psychology or related fields. Students may also develop their own independent research project within this course. Seminars will take place weekly and will be conducted in a workshop format that will allow students to learn about and apply various concepts in research related to open science practices, finding funding/grant writing, collecting and analyzing data, and more. Students participating in the course will also be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly lab meetings; develop an individualized training plan; keep an ongoing journal and/or scientific lab notebook; select and facilitate group and lab discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community settings; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the SciMath Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects. Students will be responsible for working collaboratively with their colleagues to further develop their understanding of each of the topics covered in class. By the end of the semester, students will be more conversant on, and knowledgeable of, common practices for conducting research in psychology; their work will result in a final project report, be it a thesis, independent study, or other conference project.

Faculty

Graduate Courses 2023-2024

MSEd Art of Teaching

Theories of Development

Graduate Seminar—Spring

What is development, and how does it occur across different children, contexts, and time periods? Does development proceed in the same manner for all children, or are there variations as a result of biological, environmental, and/or cultural differences? Are there some aspects of development that are universal, such as walking, and others that vary across children, such as talking? How might we test these questions, when the contexts in which we live influence the questions we ask about development, and the ways in which we interpret our observations?

 

The primary objective of this course is to learn to use developmental theory to understand the mechanisms by which developmental change occurs. We will additionally focus on the usefulness of observation and research in testing theory, as well as the usefulness of theory in structuring our observations and other forms of research with children. To do so, we will discuss several key classic and contemporary theories of development that have influenced, and/or are especially relevant to, early childhood and childhood education practice. Theories discussed will include psychoanalytic and psychosocial approaches; evolutionary and ethological approaches; cognitive-developmental approaches; information processing, dynamic systems and developmental cognitive neuroscience approaches; social, cultural and historical approaches; and cultural-ecological, bioecological, developmental systems and other holistic approaches. As we study each theory, we will focus on the kinds of questions each theory asks and the “image of the child” each puts forth. Recent challenges within the field have highlighted specific conceptual problems, which we will address. Are patterns of development universal or culture-specific? Can childhood experiences be thought of as proceeding in a series of stages? How do we construct methods for studying children that will recognize and validate the significance of differing social and cultural experiences? How can we forge a multicultural view of development such that development is understood in terms of how it is experienced within a given cultural context? As we discuss these questions, we will continually focus on the integration of theory and practice through reflections on field experiences in early childhood and/or elementary classrooms. Required papers will reflect this integration.

Faculty

MA Child Development

Theories of Development

Graduate Seminar—Fall

How does the human mind represent the world? And how do those representations vary across people? Could knowing a different language change how we experience time or even how we see color? Even seemingly simple concepts like invs. onmean different things in different cultures, and words like “one” and “two” may not be linguistically universal. Indeed, the very course description that you are reading makes culturally-specific assumptions about psychology and implicitly assumes objectivity. At the same time, humans seem to share certain core experiences, such as perceiving events, creating categories, and recalling the past. Which aspects are shared, and which are unique? In this course, we will draw on research from psycholinguistics, cognitive development, and cultural psychology to learn cognitive science in a larger context. Critically, we will consider how each of these fields have been severely constrained by an emphasis on white, Western, industrialized experiences. We will investigate the broader social and ethical consequences of these assumptions and explore insights and challenges that emerge when we step out of this limited perspective. We’ll draw on primary and secondary sources, including research articles, literature, videos, raw experimental data, and audio recordings. Students will develop projects in conference work that combine their interests with the course content, such as designing an experiment to test cross-linguistic differences in visual attention, analyzing vocabulary from languages other than English, or replicating and reinterpreting an existing experiment using Culturally Responsive Practices.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Psychology

Advanced Behavioral Statistics Practicum

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Spring

The primary objective of this course is to understand and apply various statistical analysis techniques when conducting your own independent research. As such, it is a useful companion to the completion of an independent research project as part of a senior thesis, independent study, or research seminar course. The course covers core statistical methods that are essential in the behavioral sciences, including ANOVA, ANCOVA, and linear, logistic, and multiple regression. Relevant non-parametric statistics, such as chi square, will also be discussed. This course will meet weekly in a workshop format to learn and apply various statistical techniques to sample, as well as real, data sets. Weekly assignments will utilize SPSS, a standard data analysis program utilized in behavioral statistics. Students will be responsible for working collaboratively with their colleagues—in this course in regular weekly meetings outside of the class meeting time—to further develop their understanding of each statistical technique, as well as to develop their ability to utilize SPSS. Students will also be required to apply statistical concepts to the development of thesis or other research proposals, including a discussion of potential analyses and the relevant data to be collected that might utilize these techniques. Students will meet regularly with the instructor to discuss an ongoing project for which they will utilize some of the statistical techniques learned throughout the course. By the end of the semester, students should have completed their analyses and incorporated a report of the work completed into a final project report, be it a thesis, independent study, or other conference project. 

Faculty

Advanced Research Seminar

Intermediate/Advanced, 3-credit seminar—Year

In this research seminar, students will gain valuable research experience through a weekly seminar meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly lab meeting with one of the faculty members leading the research seminar; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on a regular, as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics, both broad and specific to the research in which students are involved, as well as the discussion of contemporary research articles that are relevant to student and faculty research projects. All faculty and students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research, with faculty taking the lead at the beginning of the semester and students taking the lead as their expertise develops. Weekly lab meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research methods papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student and faculty member. Students will be expected to learn the current research approaches being employed by their supervising faculty member, contribute toward ongoing research in the form of a research practicum, and develop and implement their own independent research projects within the labs in which they are working. Faculty supervising each lab will also be available to meet with students individually and in small groups on an ongoing basis, as needed and at least every other week, in addition to the regular weekly, hour-long lab meeting. Students participating in the Psychology Advanced Research Seminar will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly full group seminars, weekly lab meetings, and regular (typically, at least biweekly) individual and group conference meetings; keep an ongoing journal and/or scientific lab notebook; select and facilitate group and lab discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least 5 hours within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community settings; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Child and Adolescent Development in North American and African Contexts: Opportunities and Inequalities

Open, FYS—Year

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu —Isizulu for “A person is only a person through other persons”

How do the contexts in which we live influence our development? And how do these contexts influence the questions that we ask about development and the ways in which we interpret our observations? How do local, national, and international policies impact the contexts in which children live? Should we play a role in changing some of these contexts? What are the complications of doing this? In this course, we will discuss these and other key questions about child and adolescent development in varying cultural contexts, with a specific focus on the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. As we do so, we will discuss factors contributing to both opportunities and inequalities within and between those contexts. In particular, we will discuss how physical and psychosocial environments differ for poor and nonpoor children and their families in rural upstate New York, urban Yonkers, and rural and urban Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. We will also discuss individual and environmental protective factors that buffer some children from the adverse effects of poverty, as well as the impacts of public policy on poor children and their families. Topics will include health and educational disparities; environmental inequalities linked to race, class, ethnicity, gender, language, and nationality; environmental chaos; children's play and access to green space; cumulative risk and its relationship to chronic stress; and the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the growing orphan problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research in psychology, human development, anthropology, sociology, and public health; memoirs and other first-hand accounts; and classic and contemporary African literature and film. This course will also serve as an introduction to the methodologies of community-based and participatory action research within the context of a service-learning course. As a class, we will collaborate with local high-school students in developing, implementing, and evaluating effective community-based work in partnership with organizations in urban Yonkers and rural Tanzania. As part of this work, all students will spend an afternoon per week working in a local afterschool program.

Faculty

Global Child Development

Intermediate, Small seminar—Fall

The majority of the world’s children live in the global South, yet less than 10% of developmental science research has studied communities that account for 90% of the world’s population. Thus, there is a desperate need to better understand child and adolescent development outside of the United States and Western Europe. In this course, we will begin to do this by exploring what is currently known about children’s health and nutrition, motor and cognitive language, and social and emotional development across the globe. Where the research is limited, we will consider if and when research in the global North can be informative regarding child development in the global South. As we do this, we will discuss various bioecocultural approaches to better map out the connections between multiple factors, at multiple levels, impacting children’s developmental outcomes. Such holistic, multidisciplinary approaches will lay a foundation for sustainable, context-appropriate, community-based projects to better understand and reduce the aversive effects of multiple environmental risk factors on the development of children across the globe. These approaches will also help us understand and build upon the opportunities afforded by different contexts. Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research in developmental and cultural psychology, psychobiology, anthropology, sociology, and public health, with a critical eye toward understanding both the usefulness and the limitations of this research in light of the populations studied and the methodologies employed. To better understand these contexts, we will also read the literary work of both classic and contemporary authors from the global South. Conference work will provide the opportunity for students to focus on a particular context of children’s lives in greater detail. This may include fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children. This is a small collaborative seminar. In addition to the class meeting time, students will meet in small working groups throughout the semester.

Faculty

Intensive Semester in Yonkers: Inequalities and Opportunities in Yonkers: Integrating Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course is part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers program and is no longer open for interviews and registration. Interviews for the program take place during the previous spring semester.

This course provides an introduction to the methodologies of community-based and participatory action research within the context of a community partnership course. All students work for 10-15 hours per week in a community-based organization that addresses issues of inequality. Over the course of the semester, we discuss participatory action and community-based research methods and practice; integrating theory, research, policy, and practice; public health and public policy; nongovernmental organizations and private-public partnerships; understanding and addressing environmental inequalities for children and families; interactions with and impacts of media on children and families; media, identity, and globalization; intersections of class, race, gender, immigration status, and nation of origin with inequalities; and integrating artistry and performative practices in community-based work. Students also attend monthly group conferences with other students working in their community-based organization and biweekly one-on-one conference meetings with associated reading and written work.

Faculty

Research Methods Practicum

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Fall

In this seminar, students will gain valuable research experience through a weekly meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly collaborative group workshop; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on either a regular or an as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics that are specific to the research in which students are involved, as well as the discussion of contemporary research articles that are relevant to student and faculty research projects. All students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research related to their group’s work. Weekly seminars will also be led by invited faculty in psychology and related disciplines. Weekly collaborative group meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research methods papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student member. Students participating in the Research Methods Practicum will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly, full-group seminars and weekly collaborative group workshop meetings; select and facilitate full-class and group discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least five hours within a lab and/or community setting appropriate for their projects or otherwise engage in active research; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community setting; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects.

Faculty

The Nature of Nurture: Sustainable Child Development

Open, Seminar—Fall

When asked, children growing up in diverse urban contexts around the world are particularly aware of a lack of access to green play spaces. Although specific impacts on children’s cognitive and social-emotional development outside of the global North are largely unknown, there is a growing literature documenting the impacts of play—and particularly play in natural settings—on children’s academic achievement, social-emotional well-being, and physical health. Children engage in more complex play in natural settings, and proximity to such settings enhances well-being and reduces the impacts of crowding, noise, chaos, and stressful life events on children and the adults who care for them. At the same time, there is mounting evidence documenting significant impacts of the physical environment (including heavy metals, pesticides, air and water pollution, noise, crowding, chaos, housing quality, school and childcare quality, and neighborhood quality) on child development across multiple contexts. Thus, the development of effective interventions to improve the physical environments experienced by children is essential. Unfortunately—particularly in low-income homes, schools, and neighborhoods—the impacts of individual aspects of the physical environment are unclear, since multiple environmental risk factors tend to be correlated. There is some evidence, however, that factors contributing to chaos (including noise, crowding, and residential mobility) in home, school, and neighborhood environments have particularly salient impacts on children’s development and well-being as they interfere with effective proximal processes (enduring, progressively more complex reciprocal interactions between persons and their immediate environment), operate across multiple levels, and impact both children and the adults who care for them. Access to natural settings, and particularly open green spaces, for play may counter the impacts of chaos. This service-learning course will introduce these and other issues associated with sustainable child development, thus providing students with an introduction to environmental, cultural, and developmental psychology. Topics will include the physical environment and child health and development; food, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture; environmental inequalities linked to race, class, ethnicity, gender, and language; environmental chaos; natural disasters and climate change; natural play spaces; environmental attitudes and behaviors; and children’s relationships with animals. Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research, policy, and practice in psychology, human development, environmental science, sociology, anthropology, and public health. The course will also provide an introduction to the methodologies of community-based and participatory action research within the context of a service-learning course. All students will work for a half-day per week in a community-based organization that addresses issues of environmental awareness, environmental justice, and children’s environmental attitudes and behaviors, with approximately a third of the class placed at each of three sites in southwest Yonkers: The Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB), Greyston Community Gardens, and Groundwork Hudson Valley. Students will be involved in the day-to-day work of these sites, as helpful. At CURB, this will include environmental education programming, facility maintenance, and water quality testing. Students will also develop individual conference projects associated with these or other related organizations. In addition, we will obtain a broader understanding of the impact of the physical environment on children—as well as their impact on, and understanding of, the physical environment—through a series of field trips to CURB, Greyston Community Gardens, Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Gardens, Greenburgh Nature Center, Kottle School Garden in Tuckahoe, Natural History Museum, Maritime Aquarium, adventure playgrounds and other playgrounds in Yonkers and in New York City, areas particularly impacted by Hurricane Sandy in the New York Metropolitan Area, local farmers’ markets, and the classrooms of several ECC teachers (including Suzie Schwimmer and Sonna Schupak) who focus on connecting children to the natural world. In addition, students will gain a broader understanding of sustainable child development and environmental education through invited seminars with various members of the SLC faculty and staff; for example, Kanwal Singh (physics), Michelle Hersh (biology), Marilyn Power (economics), Charles Zerner (environmental studies), Kathy Westwater (dance), Ryan Palmer (CURB), Vicki Garufi (CURB), and Jay Muller (CURB).

Faculty

MSEd Art of Teaching

Theories of Development

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The field of developmental psychology has been shaped by several different, and often conflicting, visions of childhood experience. These visions have, in turn, influenced early childhood and childhood education practice. In this course, we will study the classical theories—behaviorist, psychoanalytic, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. We will focus on the kinds of questions that each theory asks and the “image of the child” that each puts forth. Recent challenges within the field have highlighted specific conceptual problems, which we will address. Are patterns of development universal or culture- specific? Can childhood experiences be thought of as proceeding in a series of stages? How do we construct methods for studying children that will recognize and validate the significance of differing social and cultural experiences? How can we forge a multicultural view of development such that development is understood in terms of how it is experienced within a given cultural context? The goal of the course is to prepare students to integrate theory and practice into their work with children. Required papers will reflect this integration.

Faculty

MA Child Development

Language Research Seminar

Seminar—Spring

The baby, assailed by eye, ear, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion. —William James (1890)

The acquisition of our first language is “doubtless the greatest intellectual feat any of us is ever required to perform” (Bloomfield), yet this feat was essentially accomplished by the time we were three years old—and we likely have no memory of it. Furthermore, human language fundamentally influences human ecology, culture, and evolution. Thus, many contemporary researchers in the interdisciplinary field of psycholinguistics argue that our language abilities are a large part of what makes us uniquely human. Are we, in fact, the only species with true language? And how would we begin to answer this question? In this course, we will attempt to answer this and other key questions in the broad field of language development through both our discussions of current and contemporary research and theory and the development of new research in this field. Current “hot” research topics include whether bilingual children have better control over what they pay attention to than monolingual children (attention and language); whether language influences thought; whether language acquisition is biologically programmed; and why children learn language better from an adult, in-person, rather than the same adult on television. Over the course of the semester, you will have the opportunity to design an independent research project that investigates either one of these key questions or another question of interest to you in the broad area of language development. In doing this, you will learn how to outline the rationale for a research project, develop an effective research methodology, collect data, analyze the data, interpret your results, and communicate your findings in a persuasive, yet objective, manner. This course thus serves as an introduction to research methods, with a specific focus on research methods in psycholinguistics, through your own research. Topics will include experimental research design, case studies, observational techniques, survey development, and hypothesis testing. To help you design and implement your own research, we will discuss your conference research projects in class throughout the semester. You will obtain feedback from your colleagues on your questions, methods, analyses of the data, and interpretation of the results. This project could include fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children.

Faculty

MA Health Advocacy

Capstone Seminar

Seminar

The Capstone Seminar provides a strategic perspective on how the health care field is evolving and the skills required to successfully navigate the rapidly changing profession in a system that is undergoing significant reform. The seminar is designed to facilitate students' work on the Capstone projects, affording a group setting in which to explore ideas and refine project parameters, connect the project to broader advocacy concepts and career development opportunities, and receive regular feedback on Capstone progress. Students integrate academic learning with field experience and examine how theoretical advocacy themes are made operational in workplace settings. The Capstone project builds on the third and final fieldwork placement. Capstone is designed to enhance the coherence of students’ educational experiences and further develop their sense of professional identity.

Faculty

Program Design and Evaluation

Seminar

Health advocacy issues are addressed in many different ways, typically involving some type of direct intervention. This course will provide an overview of, and a critical reflection on, the program design and evaluation process. Students will discuss and study elements of design and evaluation, the major theoretical and political orientations to evaluation research, and the practical, ethical, and methodological problems involved in applying research methods to understanding social change. Thus, this course will also serve as an introduction to the methodologies of community-based and participatory action research and practice. We will discuss how to approach program conception and implementation, including developing and measuring program goals and objectives, with a social-justice perspective. At the end of this course, students will be able to conceptually and practically understand the contours of how to thoughtfully plan, develop, and evaluate an intervention aimed at a health advocacy issue.

Faculty