Course Directors: Dr Emma Hayiou-Thomas & Dr Hannah Hobson

Overview of course aims

This MSc combines theoretical grounding in development and its disorders, with practical knowledge in clinical assessment and diagnosis.  This course embeds an understanding of cognitive neurodevelopmental disorders within the context of typical development, with a particular focus on dyslexia, specific language impairment, autism, ADHD, and dyscalculia. The course uniquely combines perspectives from cognitive psychology, developmental cognitive neuroscience, and applied clinical and educational practice. Topical issues in developmental disorders will be examined, including co-morbidity between disorders. The course is designed to improve students’ ability to take an empirical approach to understanding development and critically analyse developmental research.  

This programme is particularly suitable for students from Psychology or related disciplines who want to embark on a PhD within the field of developmental psychology, go into careers in speech and language therapy, educational/clinical psychology, teaching, or child health related disciplines. The course also attracts individuals who are already qualified in these fields, but wish to supplement and enhance their research skills and extend their knowledge of developmental disorders.

Overview of content

The programme consists of specifically focused modules on development, disorders and associated clinical practice. In Term 1, core modules will be taken in Clinical Practice for Developmental Disorders, Education Neuroscience and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.  In Term 2, core modules will cover Treatment of Developmental Disorders, Assessment of Developmental Disorders, Clinical Research Methods and Developmental Social NeuroscienceThese modules will be taken alongside a module teaching general principles of Psychological Research, Design & Statistics.  In the final term, students will undertake a piece of novel empirical research in the area of development and/or disorders.

Empirical project (MSc Requirement)

During the Summer Term you will be given the opportunity to undertake a novel piece of empirical work, on a topic at the cutting-edge of research in development and/or its disorders. Students should expect to acquire the ability to develop an idea that is both interesting and capable of being studied experimentally, and design and carry out the study in a scientifically satisfactory manner.  Further, students will gain an understanding of statistical and analytic techniques used in current developmental research. The empirical project will also assess the student's ability to write a comprehensive literature survey that critically reviews the relevant literature.  You will be supervised by faculty with relevant expertise in fields such as language and literacy development and dyslexia, numerical cognition and dyscalculia, socio-communicative skills and autism, and the role that sleep plays in learning and memory in typical and atypical development. Students will be asked to select three project titles from a list provided by the department. Students will then be allocated a project based on their selections. These projects may be group based but an option to complete an individual project on a separate topic may be available. Students who wish to do this should discuss their ideas with the department.

Literature review (Diploma only)

The opportunity to work towards a Diploma qualification is offered to students whose work does not reach the standard of a MSc qualification. For these students, a literature review is required in place of an empirical project. The literature review aims to develop Diploma students' ability to critically appraise and write about a specific issue in developmental psychology.  Through this assignment, students will demonstrate an ability to think and write about an issue in their chosen field of study in a coherent and insightful way.  The literature review takes place during the Summer Term.  The 6000 word final essay accounts for 100% of the Literature Review module mark.

Course texts

 Typically, you will be required to read journal papers for this programme and full reading lists will be provided. However, these text books may provide useful background:

  • Johnson, MH (2011) Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 3rd Edition Wiley-Blackwell
  • Hulme, C & Snowling, MJ (2009) Developmental Disorders of Language Learning and Cognition Wiley-Blackwell
  • Jones, A. (2013) Dyslexia: Assessing and Reporting, 2nd Edition: The Patoss Guide. Hodder Education.

Supervision and Assessment

Core developmental modules will be delivered in small seminar groups within the Department of Psychology. The modules on research design, statistics and skills in psychological research will be delivered in larger groups along with students from other MSc courses. Modules are assessed through a variety of different assignments and exams including essays, critical analysis of published papers, presentations, practical reports, and a dissertation and poster presentation based on the Empirical Project. In addition to the module organisers and project supervisors, you will have a pastoral supervisor for the duration of this course who you can go to with questions, advice and personal issues.

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