Principles of Child Development (85-221): Fall 2017


When: Tuesday - Thursday 1:30 p.m-2:50 pm          Where: Doherty Hall A302




 Teaching Assistant:

Dr. David Rakison

 Emily Keebler

Office: Baker Hall 354N

Phone: 268-3477      


Office hrs: Tue-Thur 11:00-12:00 or by appointment

Office: Baker Hall 455C

Phone: 412-268-8113


Office hrs: Psychology lounge, Tuesday 9-10; Thursday 3.30-4.30


We do NOT use blackboard or canvas for this class. Instead, go to the class web page:


Required textbook:     How Children Develop. Robert S. Siegler, Jenny Saffran, Nancy Eisenberg, Judy S. DeLoache, Elizabeth Gershoff, & Campbell Leaper. Worth, 2017 (5TH Edition) Note: The fifth edition is ideal. You can survive with the 3rd or 4th edition but some content in the exams may not be in those versions



The goal of this course is to provide an introduction to the study of developmental psychology from conception through the onset of adolescence. The emphasis is on basic concepts and theories of child growth and development as these apply to the psychological processes of perception, cognition, social interactions, and affective and brain and physical development. In addition to learning basic developmental concepts, students are expected to become familiar with various research designs and procedures that have been used in the research literature. Students are also made aware of existing controversies in the literature, and they are therefore encouraged to view developmental psychology as an evolving discipline.

Course Goals

The purpose of this course is for you to learn about the fundamentals of child development.  Specifically, the goals of the course are for you to develop the following knowledge and skills:

(1) An understanding of the basic principles, theories, and experimental findings of scientific research in developmental psychology. 

(2) An appreciation of the special methodological challenges of developmental research.

(3) The ability to communicate and work with young children as research participants.

(4) A consideration of ethical issues associated with research involving children.

(5) The ability to use the library and other resources to find out what is known about a research topic.

(6) The skills to conduct an observational project with young children.

(7) The potential to evaluate others’ research critically and constructively.

(8) The development of in-depth knowledge of a specific area of developmental psychology based on your research of the literature.

(9) The ability to think critically about the existing theories and empirical studies in the field.

Assessment Strategies

The course consists of a lecture module that meets twice weekly. There will be four exams in total, of which only three will contribute to your final grade. Thus, you may use the highest three exam scores toward your overall grade. Each of the three exams will contribute 15% to your grade. The total percentage of the exams toward your final score will therefore be 45%. The exact format of the exams will be discussed in class.

You will also be required to complete three papers. The scores from two of the papers will contribute 45% to your final grade (22.5% each). The first two papers are mandatory and will be based on observations of 3- and 5-year-olds at the CMU Children’s School. If you fail to complete one of the mandatory papers you will automatically receive an irreplaceable 0 for that paper. There are no exceptions to this rule. The other paper will involve discussing views on child development with your own family. Note that you must score at least 50% on the mandatory observation papers to be able to replace the score for one of them with the third paper. There will also be four (or perhaps more) short “surprise” quizzes at the beginning of class that will cover material from the forthcoming lecture. Finally, 5% of your final grade is determined by class attendance (see below).

Participation and attendance:

There is a “five strikes and you’re out” policy: If you miss more than four classes during the semester, you will be assigned a zero for the attendance component of the course. If students miss a class for a valid reason (e.g., illness) and it is documented, that missed class will not count against them. Appropriate documentation for illness is a note from the Health Centre that is signed by a physician or nurse. You should present such documentation to the TA via email, during class, or during office hours.


I also hope that despite the size of the class, you will contribute to discussion. Constructive contributions derive from coming to class well prepared, with questions and suggestions based on the readings. Impressive contributions in class can contribute to your overall grade by pushing you beyond a grade cut-off if you are close to it. 


Because grading is not based on a curve it is theoretically possible for everyone to receive an A (or an F). It is possible to earn a total of 100 points for the course:


Exam 1


Exam 2


Exam 3


Paper 1


Paper 2


Pop quizzes










The grading system for the course is as follows (Note: I reserve the right to adjust slightly this grading system at a later time):



= 90- 100


= 80 – 89


= 70 – 79


= 60 – 69


= below 60



Late Work:  Assigned work will lose 5% for each day late. All assigned work is due at the beginning of class and will be considered late if it is handed in at any point after class (i.e., 2.50 p.m.). Extensions will not be granted UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES the week that an assignment is due. Extensions will be granted in the weeks prior to the assignment due date only on the grounds of serious problems and on a case-by-case basis. Documentation – for example, a written and fully justified explanation from a physician (and not just a note that you went to the medical center) - will be necessary for a student to avoid losing points for late work. Stating that your computer or the network crashed, that a printer failed to work, or that a file is unrecoverable will not be accepted as a valid excuse for late work. Be sure to back up your work on separate formats and do not leave printing until the last minute.

Students who miss one examination for reasons other than illness will have to take the other three exams that are offered. If the first exam is missed because of illness and a student is also ill for one of the other exams he/she must inform me - by phone, email, or in person – before the exam to be exempt from taking the test. Any student who misses an exam without making prior arrangements will be given a zero for that exam. There are no exceptions to this rule. Any student who cannot take an exam, having made prior arrangements with me, will take it as close as possible to the original test date. No matter how good your excuse, a written and fully justified explanation from a physician will be necessary for a student to miss the exam because of illness. If you are allowed extra time to take an exam, the paperwork must be presented to the instructor within two weeks of the start of class.

Cheating and Plagiarism:  Cheating and plagiarism are defined in the CMU Student Handbook, and include (1) submitting work that is not your own for papers, assignments, or exams; (2) copying ideas, words, or graphics from a published or unpublished source without appropriate citation; (3) submitting or using falsified data; and (4) submitting the same work for credit in two courses without prior consent of both instructors. Any student who is found cheating or plagiarizing on any work for this course will receive a failing grade for that work. Further action may be taken if necessary. 

Working at the Children’s School:  Policies for research at the CMU Children’s School will be reviewed in class. When working at the Children’s School, students will be expected to abide by all school policies. Students who fail to do so will not be permitted to work at the Children’s School, and will consequently be unable to complete the course. 


Important Contacts at the Children’s School

For suggestions:

For observation scheduling, administrative issues:

Professor Sharon Carver, Director,


Ms. Allison Drash, Administrative Coordinator, 8-2199



Other points:


Office hours are provided for assistance in understanding the readings or lectures, questions about exams or papers, and for general problems with the course. You do not need to book an appointment, just turn up and drop in. Try to formulate your questions before arriving so that the largest number of students can use the office hour productively. However, please do not come to the office hour for help until you have attempted first to find a solution to your problem. If you would like to make an appointment with me or with the TA, please contact us to arrange a time suitable to everyone. Almost without exception, the best way to contact me is via email.


Emily’s office hours will be held in the psychology lounge (the lounge is across the hall from 336B). There will be a sign on her table indicating that she is holding office hours for this class. If you cannot make the official office hours email Emily to set up another time to meet.  The best, most reliable way to contact Emily is by email.

In case you need to get to Emily’s office, enter the glass double doors by the elevator in Baker Hall. Immediately on your left, you will see a phone on the wall and a door to the grad wing offices. Dial 8-8113 on the phone. This rings directly into Emily’s office. She will then come down and let you in.  


Please turn up to class on time. It is distracting to me and to the other students if you arrive late (or try to leave early). If you do arrive late, then please try to enter as quietly as possible. Students who arrive on time may be privy to information about the exam/papers that will not be repeated at a later date. Material presented in the lectures will not always be covered in the text, and material in the text will not always be covered in the lectures. If you miss a class, please find out from a classmate what went on in class, including the content of the lecture, handouts, assignments, and announcements.


I make the lecture notes available to the class on the website approximately three or four days before the lecture. To get the most out of lectures you should read these notes, and complete the readings before class on the day for which they are assigned. The lecture notes have “gaps” that will be completed in class – if you miss a class you should obtain the missing information from one of your fellow students. Note that these “gaps” will not be completed by me in the on-line files (what would be the point of having them in the first place?).


How to do well in this class:


Completing the assigned reading and thinking about the content of the text is essential to doing well in this class. You will get more out of the class if you put in approximately 4 to 6 hours of reading (and thinking) a week. I actively encourage you to engage in discussion during the class; the more discussion we have, the more enjoyable the course will be, and the more we will all learn.


The papers require you to think about the question at hand, and to be creative, perform a small observational project (for Papers 1 & 2), and to write and present in a clear, concise, and interesting manner. A good writing style is important, and the TA will be happy to see drafts of the lab paper. The exams will be a test of your understanding and knowledge of the material. They will consist of multiple choice questions and short answer questions. There are examples of exams on the class website. If you are not clear about something covered in the text or in class, ask me in office hours or bring up the topic during class hours. The surprise quizzes will be at the beginning of class and will consist of a few short answer questions.


Some of the material will be difficult, and we shall endeavor, as a class, to work through such material together. If you are finding the course hard to cope with, come see me and we can discuss how to make things easier for you (for example, changing your study habits, note taking, working in groups).


Staying healthy:


Take care of yourself.  Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922

Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the police:

           On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323

           Off campus: 911

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let me know.