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BSc Psychology

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Language and Communicative Development in Educational Settings

Unit code PSYC31121
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this course unit, we focus on how children learn to communicate in the real world, with a particular emphasis on the communicative skills needed for survival and success in educational settings. 



The unit aims to:

·         build on students’ knowledge of how children develop the skills needed to communicate during the pre-school years

·         examine the kinds of speech errors children produce, their origins, and their significance

·         consider the particular challenges for communicative success posed in educational settings, and how children’s developing knowledge of language might support or impede success

·         introduce students to empirical research and theoretical models relating to developmental disorders which impact on communicative development

·         consider how the different language backgrounds children experience can impact on how they learn language, and their educational success

·         consider the role of peers in children’s development of effective communicative strategies



Learning outcomes





Teaching and learning methods

11 x 2hr lectures (22 hrs in total)

11 x 1hr seminars (11 hrs in total)

11 x Reading Groups (11 hrs in total)


Knowledge and understanding

Describe, using appropriate empirical evidence:

-          how children’s understanding of complex grammatical constructions, necessary for academic success,                     changes over development

-          the kinds of language errors children produce

-          the nature of developmental language disorders

-          the differences between languages, and what it means to be bilingual

-          children’s understanding of how to appropriately refer to entities in their environment for their interlocutor

-          how children learn to structure complex narratives

-          how children interact with their peers


Critically evaluate, in the light of appropriate empirical evidence:

-          the factors that influence children’s learning of complex sentences

-          the importance of children’s language errors

-          how and why communicative development can go wrong

-          the role of different kinds of language input on development

        -          the role of peers in communicative development

Intellectual skills

-          critically evaluate theories of children’s communicative development using appropriate empirical evidence

-          critically evaluate research into communicative development with reference to methodological considerations

-          synthesise a body of research to produce a well reasoned and supported argument

-          arrive at and present a clear conclusion on the basis of an evaluation of appropriate empirical evidence

-          work as a member of a team to discuss a piece of empirical research or a case study and arrive at a shared                understanding of its significance

-          reflect on the content of empirical research papers and extract the key points

Practical skills

-          use a range of sources (library, internet, electronic databases) to gather information

-          plan how to construct a written argument based around appropriate empirical evidence

Transferable skills and personal qualities

-          use a range of linguistic terminology appropriately

-          independently gather and select the most relevant information from a body of work by using online and library            sources

-          produce a written summary of research for an educated audience

-          appreciate the communicative abilities of children at different ages, and the profile of associated                                    developmental disorders

-          appreciate the communicative challenges children face in educational settings

-          draw on empirical research to understand how children’s knowledge can be assessed in age-appropriate                  ways

-          work effectively in a team by appreciating the importance of recognising the contributions of all team members

Assessment methods

A 2 hour written exam worth 66.7% (2 exam essays out of a possible 6) and a 1500 word coursework essay worth 33%

Feedback methods


Recommended reading

This will be supplemented by references to specific research papers for each lecture topic.  


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 11
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 156

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anna Theakston Unit coordinator

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