In-Class Discussions and Activities

Below are some ideas for discussion questions and in-class activities associated with each of the modules. These ideas originated from the Georgia Highlands College Human Development course.

Module 1: Lifespan Development

  1. Why do we seem to prefer stage theories versus contiguous theories for explaining human development?
  2. How might the question of nature versus nurture be misleading?
  3. How do the additive effects of adverse childhood experiences impact the developing brain?
  4. Why is it important to conduct research on infants and children? What special ethical considerations must researchers consider when doing so?

Module 2: Developmental Theories

  1. How does Vygotsky’s theory of learning help us understand the interaction between the individual and his environment? Give two examples.

Module 3: Prenatal Development

  1. How is it possible for our genetics to influence our environment and our environment to influence our genetics (reciprocal determinism)?
  2. How will technology change the course of pregnancy in the future?  Will state of the art gestation include medical care of the fetus?
  3. What are “vulnerability statistics,” and how do they contribute to our knowledge of maternal/fetal/infant mortality?

Activity: The Court’s Treatment of Substance-Abusing Pregnant Women

  1. Do you think that mothers who use drugs during pregnancy should face criminal prosecution?
  2. Might this policy keep some pregnant women from getting prenatal care and having a hospital delivery?
  3. How far should the prosecution go?
  4. What alternative solutions can you suggest?
  5. Is fetal abuse equivalent to child abuse?
  6. Should fathers who use drugs during their partner’s pregnancy face criminal prosecution? [According to Windham & others (1992), maternal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke for one hour or more per day is associated with spontaneous abortion. According to Roeleveld & others (1992), paternal smoking is related to mental retardation in offspring.]
  7. Do you think a wife should be able to sue her husband for infertility problems caused by use of cocaine? (Cocaine usage lowers sperm count, increases abnormally shaped sperm, and decreases sperm mobility. Infertility problems may last more than two years after a man quits using cocaine.)
  8. Research suggests that mothers who smoke tobacco during pregnancy and up to the time their children are 5 years old increase the risk of their offspring getting asthma. Should smoking mothers be prosecuted?

Module 4: Infancy

  1. What is the significance of attachment?

Module 5: Early Childhood

  1. Is it possible to condition any behavior through operant conditioning techniques?
  2. Consider all of the factors that contribute to school readiness for the ages 6-8. What should be done with children who are delayed? Do you think they should be held back a grade until they demonstrate adequate skills, or be permitted to move up with their peers? Explain your answer using theorists and class concepts. You might consider Piaget, Erikson, and Vygotsky.
  3. Should basic algebra be taught to first graders? (Explain, based on Piaget. Instructor might discuss examples about when it has been done – Good class discussion!)
  4. Unpack and explain what is meant by this quote from Albert Bandura: “Humans are producers of their life circumstances, not just products of them.”
  5. What parenting style did you grow up with? (Ideas: poll, private short essay on how it impacted them, or class discussion with voluntary shares of experiences)

Module 6: Middle Childhood

  1. With bullying, I typically like to start this piece as I do with many others – with opening with a discussion on what the class thinks the answers are. This is a strong, Socratic way of building on their expectations, challenging thinking, and encouraging discussion. You could do this in either an online or f2f format: simply have the students jot down what they think the characteristics of bullies are and reasons why the bully – and use this as a launching pad for lecture.

Module 7: Adolescence

  1. Consider the contrasting physical development between the genders at the beginning of adolescence, especially for the boys. Think also of the exponential growth made in the following years. What does this mean for social experiences for boys and girls – especially boys – in high schools that include 9th grade? This discussion should also lead to the concept of the top-dog phenomenon.
  2. What should we tell teenagers about sex? What should the role of schools be in sex education? How much should they be involved, and how in-depth should that discussion be? Should they take a stance, or should it be neutral?
  3. In what ways can adolescent egocentrism – the personal fable and imaginary audience – contribute to high-risk behavior? How does cognitive development play a part in this as well?
  4. In what ways does social media – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, even texting – have an impact on teenagers’ development? You should consider all three domains: physical (e.g. weight, activity, geographical access, etc.), social (e.g. identity, bullying, sexual content, friendships, etc.), and cognitive (e.g. attention, bias, content, etc.).

Activity: “Freaks & Geeks”

Description: This is an in-class viewing of the pilot episode of the television show Freaks and Geeks. It is available with a Netflix account and utilizes closed captioning. Students will be given a sheet with the following questions for a preview of what to look for, as well as a character list. Students should be encouraged to take notes while viewing. For the activity, students can either write a response in-class, or as an at-home assignment to be turned in the next class period. The following are the character list and questions:

  1. Character List: Lindsay, Daniel, Alan, Mr. Rosso, Sam, Nick, Millie, Neal, Ken, Cindy, Bill, Kim, Eli
  2. Questions:
    1. Find and discuss examples of identity development. There is A LOT of material here!
    2. Compare and contrast the relationship between the cheerleader and football player at the beginning of the show, with Sam and Cindy. Discuss Sam’s feelings about Cindy and relate these with norms.
    3. Discuss how top-dog phenomena is demonstrated in the show, particularly in the gym scene.
    4. Compare and contrast Alan’s style of bullying with Kim’s. Discuss how Sam deals with the bullying, and what inferences you might make about Alan.
    5. Discuss the involvement, conflict, and conversations between Sam and Lindsay and their parents.
    6. Give examples of outcomes from the amplified limbic system, and/or delayed prefrontal cortex experienced by any of these adolescents.  
    7. What do you think about how Lindsay handled the scene on the football bleachers with the boys and Eli? Consider moral development in your response.
    8. Do you think Lindsay is “at-risk”? Why or why not? Use examples from the show to support your answer.
    9. Discuss anything else you noticed or think is important to mention! I have not said it all!

Module 8: Early Adulthood

  1. What do you think is the most important task of early adulthood?
  2. Should couples stay together after infidelity? What does the research profess?

Module 9: Middle Adulthood

  1. As a psychologist, how would you assist older adults in coping with the unique challenges faced by divocees during middle to late adulthood?
  2. As a middle age adult, hypothetically, reflect on your employability skills, identify your own career strategy and relate it to the job market.
  3. In what ways does Erikson’s theory work to promote Intimacy, Generativity and Ego Integrity.

Module 10: Late Adulthood

  1. Discuss the difference between primary and secondary aging. What are some methods for slowing the aging process?
  2. When you are 75, what will matter most in your life?
  3. What advances have we seen in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia, namely Alzheimer’s disease?
  4. As an older adult, what is an important piece of advice that you would give to a younger person?

Module 11: Death and Dying

  1. As a psychologist, how would you help a widow or widower to connect with a support group to deal with the loss of a loved one? What strategies would you use to ease their suffering?
  2. As a health care provider, how would you advocate for a terminally ill person’s desire for hospice care?

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