Bob Siegler's Fall Class, 2017
85-710: Graduate Core: Developmental

Dr. Robert S. Siegler,
Wed 1:30-4:30 pm - - - - Room 342F Baker Hall

Click HERE for the Reading Assignments
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The goal of this course is to increase your understanding of children's development. Piagetian, information processing, sociocultural, and dynamic systems theories of development will be discussed, as will major findings on the development of perception, motor activity, language, memory, conceptual understanding, problem solving, and academic skills. The focus will be on the interaction between children and their environment and on how thinking and learning change with age and experience.

The fact that this is a small seminar, rather than a large lecture, offers both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities are for people to express themselves actively on a regular basis, rather than sitting back and just taking in what a lecturer tells them. The challenges are that with no one giving a lecture, the quality of the class depends at least as much on what you do as on what I do. For this reason, the ground rules of the class are somewhat different than most. First, attendance is obligatory; everyone is expected to be at each class meeting. I realize that on rare occasions, it is impossible to be at a particular class (illness, conference attendance), but these exceptions should be kept to a minimum. Second, everyone is expected to actively participate in the discussion. This is essential if the class is to be a true seminar, rather than degenerating into a rotating lectureship. Third, everyone needs to be at class on time.

Grades in the course will be based on class participation (33%), a midterm (33%), and a final (34%). Class participation will include sessions where you lead the discussion as well as ones where your classmates or I lead it.

When it is your turn to lead the discussion, you will be responsible for posting discussion questions to the google document that will be shared by the class. In order to obtain access to our shared google document (SGD), send your email address to my research coordinator, Terra Treasure, at, and she will add you to the access group. You will receive an email notification when you have been added. With the exception of the discussion questions already posted on the SGD and in the class readings, discussion questions for each class should be posted on our SGD at least a week before the relevant class, so that your fellow students can keep them in mind while they go over and think about the reading. Good questions are ones that bring out the main points and different perspectives on the issues raised in the article. If you have any difficulties accessing or entering material on the SGD, let Terra know as soon as possible.

The key criteria for grading class participation will be high quality and reasonable quantity of contributions when you are not leading the discussion and posing important and stimulating questions and leading an interesting discussion when you are. Remember: If you contribute interesting and informed perspectives when others lead the discussion, they are likely to do the same for you.

The midterm and final will be based on the readings and the discussions. The midterm will include 10 short essay questions, each worth 10 points; they will be taken from the questions posed on the SGD. The final exam will be similar to the midterm, but it will be cumulative.

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

1. Describe the main principles of major theories of cognitive development - Piagetian, information processing, sociocultural, and dynamic systems theories - and identify similarities and differences among them.

2. Summarize findings of empirical research in major areas of cognitive development, including development of perception, motor activity, language, memory, conceptual understanding, problem solving, reading, and mathematics.

3. Draw accurate inferences regarding the implications of the cognitive developmental theories for educational practice.

4. Comprehend articles in scholarly journals and books and be able to accurately summarize the main issues that motivated the study, the procedures and populations involved, the main findings, and the conclusions the researchers drew.

5. Critique individual journal articles on such dimensions as whether the conclusions follow from the results, whether the experimental techniques were directly relevant to the issues central to the study, whether confounds were present that call the researchers' conclusions into question, and whether the researchers ignored evidence favoring a different conclusion.

6. Lead discussions of research studies and the broader issues that motivated the studies.

Students With Disabilities: If you have a disability and require accommodations, please contact Catherine Getchell, at, Director of Disability Resources, 412-268-6121. If you have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, please discuss your accommodations and needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate.

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.

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

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call CaPS (412-268-2922) or Re:solve Crisis Network (888-796-8226) immediately, day or night.

If the situation is life threatening, call the Police:
     On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
     Off campus: 911