Course Syllabus

Psychology 230: Lifespan Developmental Psychology
Syllabus #1531
5 credits

Dr. Annie Riggs
Assistant Professor

Full Course Syllabus: Psy 230 syl 1531-1.doc

This course will provide a broad introduction to the field of lifespan developmental psychology.


  • First, I want you to demonstrate an understanding of broad developmental trends in physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development. By the end of this course you should be able to describe these changes through the lifespan.
  • Second, you should understand how developmental changes are shaped by biological, social, institutional, and cultural forces, as well as understand how important contexts such as families, schools, and peers interact to influence development.
  • Third, I want you to demonstrate critical thinking about the major theories and findings in developmental psychology. Current debates concerning education, child welfare policies, or the effects of different parenting strategies, for example, illustrate the need for careful thought concerning applications of knowledge about development.
  • Fourth, I will encourage you to consider the personal and policy applications of knowledge in developmental psychology. Psychological research is important in part because it can be (and is!) enlisted in efforts to improve human well-being. I hope to strengthen your awareness of these applications, which are both personal (as in parenting, education, caring for family), and societal (as in policies on child care, education, juvenile justice). I want you to learn how to use your knowledge of development in thoughtful and useful ways. In doing this, I hope to convince you that the study of children’s development is both interesting and important.


NOTE: If you have had PSY 316, 352, or 372, or EDU 301 at Western, or have had a psychology course at another school that sounds like this one, see me immediately to determine whether you should continue with this course.


  • Berk, Laura. (2017). Exploring Lifespan Development. 4th Edition. Pearson.                               

ISBN-13: 978-0134419701 or ISBN-10: 0134419707

The textbook may be obtained online.  Plan on purchasing your textbooks early and always be sure you are purchasing the correct edition of the book for this syllabus.


1. Exams: There will be four exams in this course. Each exam is worth 75 points.

Exam 1 covers chapters 1 - 4
Exam 2 covers chapters 5 - 8
Exam 3 covers chapters 9 - 14
Exam 4 covers chapters 15 - 19

Exams will include short answer questions that can be answered in 2-6 sentences. You will be allowed one single-sided 8.5 x 11 page of notes to bring with you to exams that must be turned in with your exams. Exams are closed-book and will be proctored. You will have 2 hours to complete each exam.

A Study Guide is included with this course description. There are 2-6 questions for each chapter and at least one of these questions will be on the test for a given chapter. The exams will also include material not covered by the review questions.

When you are ready to take the exams, please follow the Self-Paced Proctored Exam Request Form and Information link in Modules for directions on scheduling exams. Remember that you should schedule the exams well in advance of when you wish to take them.  Please note: Proctored exams may only be taken at accredited testing centers within the United States; exams will not be sent to international proctors.

2. Media evaluation: To encourage you to critically evaluate information about development presented in the media, you will find a news article (e.g., in a newspaper, magazine, or online news or magazine website), and complete thought questions for the article. The article must be related in content to a topic in the Berk text. The article should NOT be a research report from an academic journal. An example of an article and the thought questions are included with this syllabus. Your responses to these questions should be typed and well-written (proofread). To answer the questions with sufficient thought and detail, your responses should be at least 3-4 pages long (double spaced). You must include the article you reviewed, along with your evaluation. This assignment is worth 40 points.

3. Elder Interview: You will conduct an interview with an elder (i.e., grandparent, elder friend, professor) who is over the age of 65. Included on Canvas are the questions you must ask your interviewee as well as three analysis questions you must address. You do not need to include a transcript of your interviewee's responses to the questions, but rather should summarize the most important points. The write-up for this paper will be ~4-5 pages long. This assignment is worth 40 points.  

4. Thought Paper: You will complete one thought paper based on a popular press article. Your job is to read the popular press article and address the prompt by supporting either the author's point of view, or the father described in the article. Papers will be double-spaced, one inch margins, and one page long. You must support your ideas with psychological theories and concepts presented in the Berk text. You should not include outside research and thus do not need to include a reference section. This assignment is worth 20 points. 


Each chapter contains quite a bit of material. The following tips may help you determine where material is more important:

  1. Read the chapter summary before you begin the chapter. Even though the summary will not make complete sense before you read the chapter, some of the summary points will stick in your mind. When you get to these points, be sure to read carefully, and to check your understanding.

  2. The more space Berk devotes to a topic, the more important she thinks it is (and I generally agree). Thus, a point she spends a few paragraphs discussing is likely more important than one she spends only a few sentences on. Likewise, a point that is made several times throughout a chapter is probably more important than one that is made just once. Finally, be sure to read all of the “boxes” in the chapters.  

  3. Be sure to prepare for all of the study questions from the attached study guide.

Information for setting up Proctored exam appointments is available on the Modules page under the listing Self-paced Proctored Exam Request Form and Information.


The following is a suggested schedule for how to plan and stay on track for finishing this course in a 10-week period:

Weeks 1-2:

Study for and take Exam 1

Search the internet for a suitable popular press article for the Media Evaluation Paper; Skim Berk text for ideas to support your analysis 

Weeks 3-4:

Study for and take Exam 2  

Create outline for Media Evaluation paper 

Complete Thought Paper 

Weeks 5-7:

Study for and take Exam 3
Complete Media Evaluation paper  

Find a person over the age of 65 to interview 

Weeks 8-10: Study for and take Exam 4
Complete Elder Interview 



Your grade in this course will be determined by your performance on the four exams and the quality of your three papers. Exams will be worth 75 points each, the media evaluation paper will be worth 40 points, the elder interview will be worth 40 points, and the thought paper will be worth 20 points. Final grades will be calculated out of the total 400 available points.

93.0-100 A 87.0-89.9 B+ 77.0-79.9 C+ 67.0-69.9 D+ 0-59.9 F
90.0-92.9 A- 83.0-86.9 B 73.0-76.9 C 63.0-66.9 D  
    80.0-82.9 B- 70.0-72.9 C- 60.0-62.9 D-  

A grade of C- or better is required to earn a “P” for students choosing the Pass/Fail grading option.


ALWAYS make a copy of your work BEFORE submitting it.  If lessons are lost, it is far easier to resubmit a copy than to rewrite an entire assignment.  All assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for the course. You can turn in assignments through Canvas, in the appropriate dropboxes. Under no circumstances may you submit all, or even most, lessons at one time. 

Time considerations (a message from the Western Online office):  Organize your time so that you spread the work out over 10 to 12 weeks, just like a regular academic quarter. All assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for the course. Treat your Self-paced course as the serious learning experience that it is. True learning takes place over time: time for reading, time for processing new information, time for reflection. When students get into trouble in a Self-paced course it is most often when they try to rush through a large part of the work at the end of the quarter or right before their own deadline.

Remember that grading takes time, and our instructors have other classes and students, and other obligations. Therefore, your instructor may not be able to grade assignments may not be able to grade assignments instantly to accommodate your deadline. Allow time for mailing to and from the Western Online office, and also back and forth between our office and your instructor.

When you submit your last assignment, please take a moment to complete the course evaluation that follows at the end of this syllabus. The Western Online program values your comments and ideas. Your suggestions will help the program grow and improve.

Holidays, Intersessions, and Summer Sessions: When the University is closed for scheduled holidays and between quarters, delay in return of assignments and examinations must be expected. In addition, some faculty members are off campus during the summer months and delays may be unavoidable. The Western Online office will inform students of instructor absences, but it is important for students not to wait until close to a deadline to submit work.


Good luck – if you have any questions, do not hesitate to  email me. My email is You can also set-up an appointment with me to meet in person. 


Annie Riggs  is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University. She received her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Her areas of expertise include social cognition and moral development in early childhood.  


Course Summary:

Date Details Due