K. H. Grobman

A model developmental psychology syllabus published by the American Psychological Association's (APA) Project Syllabus. This version is prepared for instructors and it is annotated with links to related resources on DevPsy.org.

Developmental Psychology

PSYC-4070, section 1
Fall 2008
Tuesday & Thursday 12:10pm to 1:30pm
228 Coates Hall


Dr. K. H. Grobman
232 Audubon Hall
grobman@lsu.edu (Please include "[dev]," including brackets, as part of the subject line.)
Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Teaching Assistant

Courtney Snyder
Office Hours: To be announced, probably in 304 Audubon Hall

Course Description

We can look into the cribs of newborn babies and wonder what they are thinking and who they will become. How do they make sense of the buzzing confusion around them and, in just two years, learn hundreds of words? We can watch pre-school children playing and wonder if they are just little adults or if there is something fundamentally different between childhood and adulthood. We can see high school students mastering calculus while others struggle with arithmetic. What accounts for the individual differences that develop between us? Do we become our adult selves because of something driving us from within or are we shaped by outside forces like parents, schools, and society? In this class, we will learn what science can tell us about development and how scientists figure these things out. Your efforts in this class will help you understand children in new ways and prepare you to study development scientifically.

Expectations & How to Succeed in Class

It is my hope that your interest will be sparked in this course so that long after it is over you will continue to pursue answers to the questions that interest you most, whether in your careers as psychologists, as teachers or parents, or in your own introspection about yourselves. It is my expectation that you will do your best to learn as much as you can. I am always happy to meet with you during office hours to discuss any course-related issues on your mind. I arrive to class 5-10 minutes early, and linger after class for another 5-10 minutes. Please feel free to use this time for quick questions or to schedule a time to meet with me.

I have some minimum expectations. Class begins promptly and tardiness distracts other students and me. If you must leave early, please let me know before class begins. Be prepared for class. The content of class meetings will go beyond the reading. I assume you have read it; if you have not read it, class discussion will be hard to follow. Focus your attention during class on our class; for example, do not attend our class while completing work for another class. In addition to the reduction in your grade, cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty violate university policy. You will be referred to the dean, who will determine what actions are appropriate. To help you structure your notes and follow the ideas discussed in class, an outline of each class is available on the course blackboard web-site.

You should attend every class. I understand that extenuating circumstances arise that can make this difficult, but please let me know before class if you cannot attend. If circumstances make you miss more than 3 classes during the semester, you may have over-extended yourself and you should consider dropping the class. Though I neither require you to attend nor penalize your grade for missing class, students who attend regularly consistently get better grades (r=.72). Here is a table that summarizes attendance by final course grade for 362 students over the last 5 semesters.

Letter Grade Proportion of 27 Classes Attended (not including Exam Days)
A 92% (missed 2 classes)
B 82% (missed 5 classes)
C 71% (missed 8 classes)
D 58% (missed 11 classes)
F 35% (missed 17 classes)

Sometimes students tell me that they skip class because they get notes from classmates. Last year I surveyed students about their class preparation. Students who used another students' notes had course averages 5 points lower than the class average; students who missed more than 5 classes and used somebody else's notes had course averages 34 points lower! Students with higher ACT standardized test scores did no better in this class (r=.06) though students who do well in their other classes (i.e., GPA) are more likely to do well in this class (r=.30). You can not change your past test scores or grades, but there are three things that predict final course grade even better than prior GPA. Here is a table that shows you how to succeed in this class.

How Students Prepared to Do Well in this Class last Semester % of Students Earning an A or B in Class who Prepared this Way % of Students Earning an A or B in Class in the Rest of Class
Attendance: missed fewer than 5 classes 80% 21%
Conscientiousness: completed even small assignments on time and took notes on assigned readings even though they were not graded 76% 34%
Engagement: asking and answering questions during class or actively listening during class 59% 44%

Since this is a 4000 senior-level college class, I assume that you are fully capable of learning through reading chapters and notes. Class-time is an opportunity to push yourself to learn more deeply and thoroughly than you can completely on your own. Class-time is also enjoyable because we intersperse discussion into lectures and we make concepts concrete by watching videos of children engaging in many activities. Your questions about developmental psychology are always appreciated.


Your efforts in this class will help you understand children in new ways and prepare you to scientifically study development across the lifespan. Learning means knowing key concepts from the major content areas of developmental psychology. The course calendar provides a broad list of the content areas. Before each class begins, I display an abbreviated class outline with major themes. Through the class website, you can get a more detailed outline. During class I emphasize the key concepts in the titles of slides and in words emphasized in purple bold italics. Learning also means thinking critically about the content: make connections between concepts and apply these concepts to your other classes and to the rest of life. Grades reflect this learning

Exams are designed to assess your mastery of core concepts covered in lecture, discussion, and the assigned readings. You will take 3 exams accounting for 93% of your grade. Exams take approximately 45 minutes to complete, but please take your time and remember that you have the full class meeting allotted (80 minutes). Exams will be comprised of different kinds of questions such as multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and essay. Though some questions will ask you for basic, factual information, most questions will ask you to integrate concepts or apply what you learned to a new situation. This means that the exams are definitely challenging. But please do not let that discourage you! Each exam is out of 114% so you can get questions wrong and still get a perfect score. I provide additional points for attendance and active class participation. Remember from the "How to Succeed in Class" section above, you almost certainly will get an A or B if you attend regularly, engage with the class, and conscientiously complete assignments. Scaled grades will be posted on the course "Moodle" website. A handout about preparing for exams is also on this site; we will discuss it in depth about one week before the first exam. You can review your exam with the TA or me. You do not need to provide any excuse for missed exams. However, make-up exams will only be given at the end of the semester during the hours specified below. Graduate students also write a paper and this paper is worth the same as an exam. Honors students can enroll for honors credit by becoming involved in conducting some developmental psychology research with my lab. Graduate and honors students should see me for details.

To foster thinking about psychology beyond the classroom, you will complete at least 6 points of assignments worth 6% of your final grade (see table below). There are 12 points to choose from and you can do every assignment for the 6% and earn extra credit of up to 6% on your final class grade. Handouts on the course website describe each assignment in more depth. A simple assignment to provide a photograph of yourself accounts for 1% of your grade. I would like a photograph of each of you so that I can learn your names quickly at the beginning of the semester.

Points Connection-to-Developmental-Psychology Assignment
2 Analyze a popular culture reference (e.g., song, tv show, movie) or a scholarly source outside psychology (e.g., literary novel, philosopher's theory, artistic movement) for its developmental themes. How does it understand development in comparison and in contrast to developmental psychology?
3 Critique two related peer-reviewed developmental psychology empirical journal article. Compare and contrast the studies and compare and contrast them with class. In the process you may learn to use PsychINFO, the card catalog of psychology articles.
3 Create a video clip (.mpg or .mov) that illustrates a developmental concept or study. Write a one-page description. This assignment may be done in small groups and a Moodle discussion board provides a place to find classmates for collaboration.
2 Write a personal reflection on a conceptual change. What did you used to believe, what did you come to believe, and what were the mechanisms of change?
2 Write a personal reflection comparing and contrasting an aspect of your development with an aspect of developmental psychology discussed in class. How did class influence the way you look back on this aspect of your development?

At the end of the semester, additional scaling of the final course grade of up to a full letter grade (10pts) will take into account improvement over the semester and compensate for one particularly bad grade. Scaling most benefits those who 'bomb' exam 1 and then show dramatic improvement. In previous semesters, many students who failed exam 1 have seen the TA and me for help. They learned more about where they went wrong, how to study for conceptual questions, and how to answer essay questions. On exam 2 many have scored 20 points higher and a little higher still on exam 3. With the scaling, many who began the semester with D's and F's have earned A's and B's for their overall class grade!


Rather than reading a typical textbook, which provides an overview of a topic, we will read a book specifically written to emphasize how developmental psychologists discovered something new. We will discuss the assigned reading in class, so be sure to think critically about what you read. Each chapter ends with several discussion questions that you should ponder before class. The required book is:

Dixon, W. E. (2003). Twenty studies that revolutionized child psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Our class readings also include 3 journal articles that are available as PDF files through the course Moodle website (accessible through your LSU "paws" account). These studies are not mentioned in our book so they will help fill in gaps to provide you with a thorough perspective on developmental psychology. Reading primary sources also gives you the opportunity to learn more about the process of conducting research in psychology. Citations of the journal articles are in the class schedule.

Class Schedule

Tue Aug 26 Introduction to Developmental Psychology
(no assigned reading; e-mail your photograph by Saturday)

Thu Aug 28 Introduction to the Science of Psychology
How to Read a Scientific Study (Textbook Preface & Chapter 1):

Tue Sept 02 Piaget's Theory: Milestones & Mechanisms
Piaget's Early Career (Textbook Chapter 2)

Thu Sept 04 Piaget's Theory: Observations & Methods
Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children. New York: International Universities Press. (Textbook Chapter 3)

Tue Sept 09 Information Processing Theories of Development
Thornton, S. (1999). Creating the conditions for cognitive change: the interaction between task structures and specific strategies, Child Development, 70(3), 588-603. (primary source; skip reading study 2)

Thu Sept 11 Socio-Cultural Theories of Development
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Textbook Chapter 4)

Tue Sept 16 Sensation, Perception, & Biological Development
Fantz, R. L. (1961). The origin of form perception. Scientific American, 204, 66-72. (Textbook Chapter 5)

Thu Sept 18 Methods for Studying Infants
Baillageon, R. (1987). Object permanence in 3.5- and 4.5-month-old infants. Developmental Psychology, 23, 655-664. (Textbook Chapter 6)

Tue Sept 23 Conceptual Development and Theory of Mind
Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 515-526. (Textbook Chapter 7)

Thu Sept 25 Exam One
covering textbook chapters 1 to 7, primary-source journal article, and the preceding 9 classes

Tue Sept 30 Modularity, Nativism, & Language Development
Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. The Hague: Mouton. (Textbook Chapter 8)

Thu Oct 02 Individual Differences in Language Development
Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Textbook Chapter 9)

Tue Oct 07 Emotions and Emotional Regulation
Harlow, H., & Harlow, M. (1965). The affectional systems. In A. Schrier, H. Harlow, & F. Stollnitz (Eds.), Behavior of non-human primates. New York: Academic Press. (Textbook Chapter 10)

Thu Oct 09 Fall Break
No Class

Tue Oct 14 Relationships & Attachment Theory
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss, Vol. 1. New York: Basic Books. (Textbook Chapter 11)

Thu Oct 16 Peers, Friendships, & Attachment Theory
Ainsworth, M.D.S., Blehar, M.C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. (Textbook Chapter 12)

Tue Oct 21 Parenting & Parenting Styles
Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental psychology Monographs, 4 (1, part 2). (Textbook Chapter 13)

Thu Oct 23 Aggression & Learning through Observation
Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 375-382. (Textbook Chapter 14)

Tue Oct 28 Moral Development
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Textbook Chapter 15 - also read excerpts of book posted on blackboard web-site)

Thu Oct 30 Temperament & Personality
Thomas, A., Chess, S., & Birch, H.G. (1968). Temperament and behavior disorders in childhood. New York: New York University Press. (Textbook Chapter 16)

Tue Nov 04 Exam Two
covering textbook chapters 8 to 16, primary source excerpts, preceding 9 classes, & connections to topics on previous exam

Thu Nov 06 Self-Concept, Self-Esteem, Identity, & Resilience to Stressful Environments
Werner, E.E., & Smith, R.S. (2001). Journey from childhood to midlife: Risk, resilience, and recovery. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (Textbook Chapter 17)

Tue Nov 11 Learning in Schools & Developmental Disabilities
Sameroff, A.J., & Chandler, M.J. (1975). Reproductive risk and the continuum of caretaker causality. In F.D. Horowitz (Ed.), Review of child development research (Vol. 4). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Textbook Chapter 18)

Thu Nov 13 Intelligence & the Nature versus Nurture Debate
Anastasi, A. (1958). Heredity, environment, and the question How? Psychological Review, 89, 976-984. (Textbook Chapter 19)

Tue Nov 18 Sex Differences & Gender Role Socialization
Bell, R.Q. (1968). A reinterpretation of the direction of effect in studies of socialization. Psychological Review, 75, 81-95. (Textbook Chapter 20)

Thu Nov 20 Individual Differences & Understanding Groups
Hubel, D.H., & Wiesel, T.N. (1965). Receptive fields of cells in striate cortex of very young, visually inexperienced kittens. Journal of Neurophysiology, 26, 944-1002. (Textbook Chapter 21)

Tue Nov 25 Problem Solving & the Use of External Representations
DeLoache, J., Miller, K., & Rosengren, K. (1997). The credible shrinking room: Very young children's performance with symbolic and non-symbolic relations. Psychological Science, 8, 308-313. (primary source)

Thu Nov 27 Thanksgiving Break
No Class

Tue Dec 02 Development during Adulthood
Langer, E. J. & Rodin, J. (1976). The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: a field experiment in an institutional setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 191-198. (primary source)

Wed Dec 03 Connection-to-Developmental-Psychology Assignments
All assignments and extra credit due by 3pm in Dr. Grobman's Office.

Thu Dec 04 Review of Developmental Psychology / Bronfenbrenner Model of the Larger Social Context
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32, 513-531. (Textbook Chapter 22)

Mon Dec 08 Exam Three (12:00pm to 3:00pm in 228 Coates Hall)
Exam 3 covers textbook chapters 17 to 22, 2 primary-source journal articles, preceding 8 classes, & connections to topics on previous exams

Wed Dec 10 Alternative Exam Time (12:30pm to 2:30pm in 112 Tureadu Hall)
Take exam 3 or any previously missed exam(s).