PSYCH302A: Lifespan Development

Course Syllabus for "PSYCH302A: Lifespan Development"

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Developmental psychology concerns itself with the changes (psychological and otherwise) that occur as a result of our physical and mental maturation. Typically, “development” refers to the systematic changes that take place between our conception and death. While this definition may seem quite broad, it will serve as a good starting point in our quest to understand the field of developmental psychology. The first thing we must realize as developmental psychologists is that our change is systematic. This means that the process by which we grow and mature over time is not defined by random, isolated events but by orderly and relatively long-term patterns. This also means that while individuals themselves may differ quite a bit, the developmental patterns that they undergo are similar. These concepts are crucial in that they allow us, as psychologists, to study the way in which people develop and to make predictions about the future based on that development. Developmental psychologists study both continuities and discontinuities in our development. Continuities refer to developmental patterns that remain the same throughout our lives, meaning that growth occurs steadily and smoothly. For example, some developmental psychologists examine links between infants’ temperament and their personality characteristics in later childhood and adolescence. In contrast, discontinuities refer to developmental patterns that remain the same for lengthy periods but occasionally show relatively sudden, rapid change. For example, you will learn much about the stages of psychosocial development proposed by Erik Erikson, whose research suggested that individuals struggle with a predominant internal conflict at each of eight stages of the lifespan. With the successful resolution of each conflict, such as trust versus mistrust in infancy, individuals acquire a greater capacity to handle the hallmark conflicts of subsequent stages. This course emphasizes that development proceeds throughout all stages of the lifespan. After a brief introductory unit that will provide an overview of broad developmental issues, theories, and research methods, you will look at development in the womb, or prenatal development. The next three units examine development during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Within each unit, you will learn about key processes and issues related first to physical development, then to cognition (mental processes), and then to personality. Different subtopics will be emphasized in each lifespan stage. For instance, in the realm of cognitive development, language acquisition will be a major focus when you study childhood, since it is such a critical and amazing accomplishment of the early years. In adolescence, special attention will be given to how broad changes in thinking are linked specifically to growth in moral understanding. The course will conclude by exploring how humans approach and understand death.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • describe the fundamental issues encountered and assumptions made by psychologists who study development from the lifespan perspective;
  • discuss the interaction between and the roles of nature and nurture in lifespan development, including prenatal development;
  • describe the basic development of the human nervous system throughout the lifespan;
  • explain the developmental processes associated with the five senses;
  • describe the important developmental milestones and age expectations associated with motor skills, social skills, cognitive ability, sensory awareness, and the use of language;
  • discuss the important theories of cognitive development, including those of Piaget, Vygotsky, the information-processing approach, and the intelligence perspective;
  • discuss and contrast the nativist, behavioral-cognitive, functionalist, and learning stage theories of language development;
  • describe the developmental process of language, from cooing and babbling to mature language;
  • explain the important theoretical issues in the study of the development of personality;
  • discuss the most influential theories of personality development, including those of Freud, Erikson, Klein and Mahler, Bowlby, and Ainsworth;
  • explain Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, including the perspectives of its critics;
  • describe the physical and cognitive changes associated with adolescent development;
  • discuss the major issues of development in adulthood, including marriage and divorce, parenting, and midlife and later life physical and cognitive changes;
  • discuss how humans understand and approach death and grieving, including the extent to which there are similarities and differences related to age, personality, and culture; and 
  • describe the components and criticisms of Kübler-Ross’s theory regarding death.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband Internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug–ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    be competent in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed thefollowing course from “The Core Program” in the Psychology discipline: PSYCH101: Introduction to Psychology.

Course Information

Welcome to PSYCH302. Below, please find general information on the course and its requirements. 

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Note: This course will make use of several resources that require web browser add-ins.  Please confirm that you have the following plug-ins available on your computer, or download and install them from the provided web links.

For most of these plug-ins, you must close your web browser prior to installation. Be careful to choose the correct version for your specific operating system (e.g., Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS, etc.).

Requirements for Completion: To complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials. You will also need to complete the final exam.

To “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 69 hours**** to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 16 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete the first half of subunit 1.1 (a total of 2 hours) on Monday night, the second half of subunit 1.1 (a total of 2 hours) on Tuesday night, half of subunit 1.2 (a total of 2 hours) on Wednesday, and so forth. 

Tips/Suggestions: It may be helpful to take notes on the resources in each unit. These notes will be a useful study tool as you begin to prepare for your final exam.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.