BSc Psychology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Language and Communicative Development in Educational Settings

Course unit fact file
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.  



This unit aims to:

Build on students’ knowledge of how children develop the skills needed to communicate during the pre-school years. Consider the particular challenges for communicative success posed by the academic language used in education, 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. Examine how language interventions can support children’s development. Consider how the different language backgrounds children experience can impact on communication in the classroom. Examine bilingual language development with its advantages and challenges. Consider children’s mind-reading abilities for successful communication. Consider the role of peers in children’s development of argumentation and collaborative problem-solving.

Learning outcomes





Teaching and learning methods

This unit will be delivered via lectures and seminars.

Knowledge and understanding

Describe, using appropriate empirical evidence:

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

the nature of developmental language disorders;

examples of interventions designed to support language learning;

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

how children engage in mind-reading;

how children collaboratively solve problems;

how children reason with partners


Critically evaluate, in the light of appropriate empirical evidence:

the factors that influence children’s learning of complex sentences

how and why communicative development can go wrong

the effectiveness of language interventions

how differences between languages might influence classroom communication

factors affecting bilingual language development

development of mind-reading abilities

contexts facilitating children’s reasoning and argumentation

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 or a research question 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. Engage via online discussion forums with peers and academic staff.

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; Work in a self-directed and supported way to achieve stated goals; Engage in group discussions and make contributions to a collective goal.

Assessment methods

A coursework essay worth 60%, a coursework research proposal worth 35% and engagement activities worth 5%

Feedback methods

Coursework essay - Students will receive a grade and written feedback before exam period.

Research Proposal - Students will receive a grade and written feedback before exam period.

Engagement Activities - Student submissions will be collated and common themes shared with students.

Recommended reading

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


Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anna Theakston Unit coordinator

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