Child Development department revamps major requirements
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 19:10
The Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development this year implemented several changes to the child development major in order to provide students with real-world experiences and engagement in the field.
The new requirements for the major, which faculty have been developing over the past 15 years, include a research methods course, three courses from a focal area and one Applied Research Experience (AREA) course, according to Associate Professor of Child Development Calvin Gidney.
“The new major reflects the department’s mission to help people think like scholars when engaged with children or serving children and families,” George Scarlett, senior lecturer in the Department of Child Development, said.
Originally, the major required students to take an introductory course in child development, two of three courses in core developmental theory and seven elective courses.
During a meeting last month, Gidney presented the planned alterations to the major and discussed the rationale behind the changes.
“There is not a single faculty member who doesn’t think that this is better than what we had before,” he said. “Not that the one before was bad, but this is just better.”
The modifications apply to all students who declare the major from this fall semester onwards, according to Gidney. Current majors will take classes under the old set of requirements, although they can opt into the new system if desired. About 150 students are currently majoring in child development, he said.
Students can now choose to concentrate in one of five focal areas, including Child and Family Health, Child and Family Policy, Developmental Theory, Early Childhood Education and Children, Arts, Technology and Media.
“We want you to have a cluster of courses that represent a focus or a pathway that you’re exploring, that might end up being what you do after Tufts,” Scarlett said. “We want you to explore a specialty or concentration where you can go into some depth.”
Scarlett explained that the class in research methods was added to expose students to the integration of research and practice.
“It doesn’t mean that somebody is committed to becoming a researcher [when they take the class],” Scarlett said. “It’s a way to develop a particular way of thinking when confronting problems and confronting what to do for children where there are problems to solve.”
The AREA courses are similar to an internship experience, Gidney said, as they allow students to apply classroom learning toward helping children and families. He instructs a course in which students work with children in New Orleans public schools over spring break.
“A lot of our faculty is involved with applied work,” Gidney said. “It allows us to get to know students in a very different way than lecturing. As the saying goes, it allows us, instead of being a ‘sage on the stage,’ to be more like a ‘guide on the side.’”
Student feedback about the changes has been mostly positive, although some students wish they could have opted into the new major earlier, according to senior and child development major Abdiel Garcia.
“I prefer the new major. I find this much better because you really get to hone in on a specific area, but that’s not to say that you can’t explore other areas of interest,” Garcia said. “And from what I’ve seen, the clusters make a lot of sense, especially when you look at the Tufts graduate program and see all the parallels there.”