Culture, Communication and the Development of Thinking

California State University, Sacramento

Spring, 2002

Dr. Lynda Stone






Class meetings

Required Reading

Course Requirements




Program goals









Course Description

In a boisterous and jovial after-school club called the Fifth Dimension, children play games with each other and Anasi's assistants (undergraduates). These games are entertaining and fun but upon closer inspection look suspiciously educational. No need to mention that mathematics and literacy components are in every game! This seminar combines community service, i.e., real-life experiences of working in this after-school club, with lively discussions about culture, communication, and intellectual development. To bridge everyday experiences with theory, qualitative research strategies will be used to document how learning and development occur through social interaction. Data gathered from this practical research experience will be used in a collaborative research paper that documents how culture and cognition are interrelated.

View the course schedule.








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Course Objectives

         Students who successfully complete this course will:

         Develop better understanding of social theories of intellectual development

        Apply theoretical concepts from social theories of development to real life settings

         Develop a better understanding of how theory guides learning practices and how learning practices can inform theory

         Document the emergence, production and reproduction of culture and cognition through communication processes

         Develop qualitative research skills (participant observation field note taking techniques, transcription techniques, and data analysis techniques)

         Relate data analysis to research, read about and discussed in class

         Develop writing skills for creating research reports, data analysis, and expository and narrative texts

         Develop communication skills for formal and informal academic settings












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Class Meetings





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Required Reading

         Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw (1995). Writing Ethnographic Field notes, Chicago University Press, Chicago.(Required)

         Collection of articles/book chapters. Reader can be purchased at University Copy and Print, 2220 Fair Oaks Blvd. Ph# 929-6147. (Required)

         APA (1995) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Edition). Also on reserve in library. Online information about APA formatting:

         Jacoby, S. & Ochs, E. (1995). Research on Language and Social Interaction. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, New Jersey.






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Course Requirements

Remember: There is a total of 685 points. Read weekly assignments prior to class.

         Participate actively, responsively and respectfully in whole group and small group discussions of the assigned topic (50 points). Attend class promptly and regularly. Attend filed site promptly and regularly (90 points).

         Complete notes for assigned readings and create one thoughtful/provocative question for class discussion (130 points), which are due at the end of class. No late notes or questions will be accepted.

         Present one reading to the whole class (25 points).

         Participate in collaborative research projects that will result in one research paper (APA style) (50/100 points). As a part of the research project, create 10 sets of field notes of children solving problems during game play (pass/rewrite, 30 points each). Detailed descriptions and instructions for the field notes and research project will be provided in a separate handout.

         Create an adventure guide-collaborative activity (50 points).

         Find and copy one article on strategy instruction-joint project (25 points).

         Write a three-six page self analysis of your own growth and development in this course. (30 points)

For the research projects you will analyze your field notes. Undergraduate researchers will work in pairs to collaborate on data analysis for this project. Field note data transcribed by students will be submitted to the instructor as an appendix of the written report. The written reports may be submitted either as individual or joint efforts, however, I strongly suggest joint efforts. Submit all required work in class, no later than the dates indicated. Attending the field site is essential for successful completion of the research projects.
Note: Written materials such as research paper, self analysis, adventure guide and all field notes must be turned in as hard copy and on a floppy disk.









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Grades and Grading Policy

        Grades will be based on the total score of all assignments divided by the total number of points possible. Grades will be assigned as follows:

A+ = 98-100%

A = 94-98%

A- = 90-93%

B+ = 87-89%

B = 84-86%

B- = 80-83%

C+ = 77-79%

C = 74-76%

C- = 70-73%

F = 69%


5% points will be subtracted for each late assignment for each class session it is late unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. Study notes will not be accepted late after the first two weeks of class. No papers will be accepted more than two weeks late and will be assigned a grade of 0. No papers may be turned in after the final exam. Any assignments missing at this time will be assigned a grade of 0.


Final grades will be lowered 5% after three class absences, 6% after 4 absences, etc. Missing fieldwork and a class counts as two absences.


Tardiness will result in reduced participation grade.


Final papers may be picked up at the beginning of the next semester.

















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The professor will avoid assigning incomplete grades in this class as far as possible. As you may have guessed, this is a wonderful course with valuable experiences working with children. Like any other working experience, there will be moments of epiphany and moments of confusion. To minimize this turbulence, my advice is to ask questions, be patient and keep up with the readings and the field notes. 





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Child Development Program Goals


1. Students will learn research and theory to increase their knowledge of growth and development in the following areas:

  • major milestones of development from infancy to adulthood
  • acquisition and use of language in monolingual, bidialectic and second language learners
  • biological influences on development
  • social influences on development
  • individual variation
  • major social issues confronting children and their families

2.†† Students will apply theory and research to describe, analyze, and reflect upon childrenís and parentís cultural practices and experiences in both formal (e.g. schools, daycare) and informal (e.g. family, social) contexts.

 3.Students will employ techniques of observation and assessment using a variety of methods.  

4.Students will develop and maintain positive attitudes towards diversity (.i.e. cultural, ethnic, gender, social, disability, linguistic)

 5.Students will develop discipline-based written communication skills.

6.†† Students will analyze and critique written materials related to child development using tools and processes widely recognized in the discipline.

7.†† Students will demonstrate practices and understandings of professional responsibility in  both academic and applied child development contexts.

 8.†† Students will use technology for purposes of augmenting discipline-based knowledge and inquiry.

 9.††† Students will participate in varied field experiences that are mediated using theory, concepts, and research that has been validated using established discipline-based tools and practices.

 10.†† Students will participate in a learning community that facilitates collaboration with peers and faculty.




Send problems, comments or suggestions to:

California State University, Sacramento

College of Education

Department of Child Development

Updated: March 17, 2002

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