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Understanding children's development and learning

ED841 is for people working with children and young people and looks at children's development and learning in cultural, educational and social contexts. It explains how theoretical and methodological frameworks contribute to understanding developmental change and how psychological research can inform educational and clinical practice. You will learn about how children actively contribute and shape their own development through meaningful interaction with others and how the study of atypical development and individual difference contributes to theory and practice. You will also carry out a small-scale, observational study and will design an extended research proposal relevant to your own professional interests.

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Start End England fee Register
10 Oct 2015 Oct 2016 Not yet available

Registration closes 17/09/15 (places subject to availability)

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This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

What you will study

This module is designed for teachers and others interested in psychological accounts of children’s development and learning, and those who work with children and young people in a professional capacity. It invites you to engage with contemporary accounts and theories of children’s development and to consider how these are relevant to educational practice. The module addresses the following questions:

  • What significant processes occur in infancy for development and learning?
  • In what way is play with other children important during the early years?
  • What are the important changes in children’s thinking and problem solving as they get older?
  • Why is collaborative learning important for children’s development?
  • How do cognitive theories of development help us to understand children’s learning difficulties?
  • What can current theories about children’s learning and development contribute to the development of new teaching and learning methods in schools?
  • Are new digital technologies changing the ways children think and learn?

This module is for those are interested in finding out how developmental psychologists and educational researchers attempt to answer these questions. It will appeal to parents, teachers and professionals wanting to find out about what psychological research can tell us about children’s development and learning. It will also be of interest to people who want to deepen their understanding of children’s learning difficulties, and those interested in the impact of new computer and web-based technologies on education. You will be able to choose to study the module materials that interest you the most, whilst also meeting the assessment requirements.

ED841 will help you understand the main theoretical accounts, and research findings that attempt to explain children’s social, cognitive and emotional development from early infancy through the school years. The module also invites you to consider key debates about the applications of research on children’s development, and to consider how these inform decisions about educational and social practices that shape children’s experiences at home and at school.

  • You will consider how babies and young children actively shape their own experiences through meaningful interaction with other people in family and preschool environments.
  • You will consider how different cultural practices relating to parenting and children’s socialisation challenge traditional theories of child development.
  • You will learn about children’s thinking and about how this changes and develops.
  • You will study the observational research methods psychologists use to study children’s development and learning and apply your understanding to design and carry out your own small-scale study that will investigate learning processes.
  • You will learn how psychological accounts of developmental disorders of language and learning inform our understanding of children and young people who do not follow typical developmental pathways.
  • You will learn how these accounts inform the design of educational interventions to help children with reading and language difficulties.
  • You will critically evaluate the impact of research-based, educational interventions on learning and teaching in schools.
  • You will consider how rapidly changing cultural and technological contexts influence children’s lives at home, at school and in the wider community (including virtual communities that children and young people create).
  • You will draw on your understanding of educational research design and methods to develop an extended research proposal relevant to your own interests or professional context. The proposed research will be focused on evaluating the outcomes of an educational intervention. It will be a proposal for either an action research project or take the form of a pre-test post-test study.

Comparing and contrasting children’s developmental pathways in different cultural, social and pedagogic contexts will help enable you to evaluate current practice and any proposed changes to practice in childcare and education related to children’s care and development from an informed and critical perspective.

In addition to a comprehensive Study Guide, the study materials include a DVD and DVD-ROM. The DVD contains interviews with acknowledged experts in the fields of psychology and education as well as with teachers and educational psychologists. It also provides examples of classroom practice and clinical assessments used with children with learning difficulties. The DVD-ROM contains advice on observational research methods, together with a guided set of video-based observation activities to help you develop your skills and understanding in this area. You will carry out literature reviews and will be required to download and read original research articles and reports from the Open Library online databases, ejournal and ebook collections.

The continuous assessment component of the module involves three essay-type assignments. In addition, you will carry out and write up an observation-based small-scale investigation of teaching and learning processes. You can carry out this study with learners of any age, including adults, and you can locate it in either an informal context (e.g. home, playgroup or after-school club), or a formal educational context such as a preschool, school, college or adult learning centre. You will use what you learn from this small-scale investigation to help you to develop a project proposal (the end-of-module assessment (EMA)).

For the EMA, you will carry out a literature review and develop a research proposal that outlines and discusses how you would design an intervention study to evaluate changes to educational or clinical practice. Here, you will demonstrate your understanding of educational research design and research methods and how they can be applied to evaluate an intervention in a real life setting. Your research proposal can focus on an aspect of teaching and learning related to your own interests or, if you work in an educational context, to an aspect of your professional practice.

Entry

This module can be studied on its own and is also an optional module in the MA in Education, MA in Childhood and Youth, MSc in Psychology or MA in Social Sciences. 

You must hold a bachelors degree from a UK university or other recognised degree-awarding body, or a qualification at equivalent level.

You are expected to have some experience in education or an allied field, but you need not be a practising teacher. You do not need access to an educational institution, but you will need child or adult participants for the small-scale study. We have designed the module to be accessible to all students working at masters level. Knowledge of psychology is not essential, though if you have already taken child development courses that will clearly be an asset. An understanding of research design and the research methods used in education and/or psychology will be an advantage.

The module is taught in English, and your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study, as you will need to read and understand original journal articles written in English. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you seek assessment under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see their website for details.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

If you have never studied a course in child development, we suggest you read either

H. R. Schaffer (2003) Introducing Child Psychology, Wiley Blackwell

Or

P. K. Smith, H. Cowie, M. Blades (2003) Understanding Children’s Development, 4th edn, Wiley Blackwell

And

M. Harris (2008) Exploring Developmental Psychology: Understanding Theory and Methods, Sage Publications

If you have studied a course in child development or developmental psychology as an undergraduate you could read one of the following:

P. Hobson (2002) The Cradle of Thought: Exploring the Origins of Thinking, Pan Books

Or

B. Rogoff (2003) The Cultural Nature of Human Development, Oxford University Press

Qualifications

ED841 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards F09 and F15, which are no longer available to new students.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content.  To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service before registering.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Study Guide, DVD, CD-ROM, supplementary materials (presented online), one bought in book (Children's Minds by Margaret Donaldson), an online Reader containing a range of journal articles and book chapters, online forums and a dedicated website.

You will need

A CD and DVD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Snowling, M J & Hulme, C Developmental Disorders of Language Learning and Cognition Wiley-Blackwell £29.99 - ISBN 9780631206125
  • Garton, A F Exploring Cognitive Development: The Child as Problem Solver Blackwell £28.99 - ISBN 9780631234586

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking ED841. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Your end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted electronically.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code ED841
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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