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Accreditata MUR con D.M. 02/12/2005
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Innovazione educativa e apprendimento permanente nella formazione degli adulti in contesti nazionali e internazionali, classe LM-57

Developmental psychology across the lifespan


Anno accademico: 2021/2022



Crediti: ECT: 6 CFU

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Silvia Panzavolta has been a full-time researcher at INDIRE since 2014, where she has been working since 1998. Psychologist, psychotherapist and linguistic mediator, she is currently involved in research projects investigating didactic and organisational innovation, the development of school culture and active didactics also aimed at the engagement of “weak” students, in particular at secondary level, and the role of the learning environment in the well-being of students and teachers. She collaborates with the Harvard Graduate School of Education – Project Zero for the project Making Learning and Thinking Visible in Italian Secondary Schools, which she coordinates at Italian level, and with scholars at national and international level (in particular from MIT in Boston).

She participates in the research groups of the movement “Avanguardie Educative” (AE), in particular for the ideas “Debate”, “TEAL” and “Beyond the Disciplines” and the research group School Architectures. She has been collaborating with IUL since 2012, for which she first worked as tutor in the courses “English Language and Literature”, “English Language Laboratory” and “Research Methods in Multimedia Environment” and then as contract professor in the LM-57 Master’s Degree course and in the L-24 Bachelor’s degree course. She is a lecturer for IUL in various Master’s and Postgraduate courses on research topics of her relevance. She has collaborated with many institutions (schools, universities and regional research institutes), for which she has worked as a lecturer, expert or consultant. After her two degrees, she continued her study of educational psychology and training issues in various master’s and postgraduate university courses. Finally, she participates in numerous national and international events as an expert, speaker or trainer.



The course is organised in 2 modules:

  • Module 1 – Developmental psychology: themes, theories and methods. From childhood to youth age

Developmental psychology: themes, theories, methodologies and research methods in developmental psychology. Prenatal development and childhood (language development, memory and intelligence in children). Theory of mind, attachment, temperament. Development in childhood. Development of self-concept and social identity. Interactions and relationships with peers: friendship in children. Psychology of school and educational motivation.


  • Module 2 – Adulthood. Psychological processes of ageing. Learning psychology in childhood.

Adolescence. Adulthood and ageing. Development of generativity. Attachment in adult life and intergenerational transmission of attachment. Cycles of family life. Cognitive processes and memory in adulthood and old age.

The course focuses on developmental psychology, or the scientific study on how people – from birth to old age – evolve and grow in their lives, in the perspective of the lifespan approach.

Therefore, the physical, cognitive, emotional and social-relational aspects of human development are always taken into account for each stage of development (infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and old age). Core elements of theory, history, methods and ethics are also provided as for developmental psychology.

The study of learning and learning mechanisms plays an important role, connected with the most advanced theories and evidence on motivated behaviour, which is keen to everybody self-actualization. In order to become experts in educational innovation and lifelong learning, at national and international level, the most advanced readings and inputs will be provided.

The course also aims at connecting the theoretical corpus of knowledge presented by the lecturers with the personal life and professional context of each student, in order to have the most meaningful and highest-level learning experience.

The aim of the course in Developmental Psychology across lifespan is to foster the acquisition of theoretical, methodological and technical knowledge useful for in-depth and methodologically constructed knowledge of the problems inherent in adult education and insists in particular on the area of pedagogical, psychological and philosophical knowledge.


The course aims to provide the future expert in ‘lifelong learning and educational innovation’:

  • an overview of the constructs and concepts of developmental psychology as a key knowledge area for the management of learning-teaching processes;
  • a critical presentation of theories, models and tools related to psychological practices;
  • an up-to-date overview of the main scientific-methodological issues concerning developmental psychology in the lifespan (lifespan perspective).

A. Knowledge and understanding
The course includes the use of advanced textbooks, knowledge of some cutting-edge topics within the subject studied and the use of information sources available on the Internet in various formats (videos, databases, etc.).

B. Ability to apply knowledge and understanding
The student will be called upon to apply the tools and contents covered in the course of study to his or her own professional context, in order to develop skills and solve problems with the lens of the disciplinary sector. The student will be able to adapt and implement tools and protocols for investigation, observation and research aimed at knowing and affecting the working and living contexts to which he/she refers.

C. Autonomy of judgement
The student will be able to gather and interpret information (both online and from other sources) useful for making independent judgments given the object studied and different perspectives on the topic.

D. Communication skills
The student will be able to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions to specialist and non-specialist interlocutors. Learning ability. The student will be able to independently investigate the main scientific-methodological questions concerning developmental psychology.

E. Learning ability
The students will be able to identify and find themes and construct in-depth studies useful for developing autonomous and convergent workflows with their own context in view of the subject studied and the different perspectives on the subject.

A. Use of advanced textbooks, knowledge of some cutting-edge topics within the subject studied.
Students will be trained to use not only traditional bibliographic resources (paper) but – through a critical analysis of online resources – also digital ones.

B. Professional approach to their work and possession of appropriate skills to devise arguments, support them and solve problems within the subject studied. Ability to collect and interpret data useful for making independent judgments. Through the analysis of “case studies” and practical examples taken from everyday life, the socio-psycho-pedagogical mechanisms, at the basis of our critical thinking and which underlie the ways in which we can formulate judgements and opinions, will be highlighted. As well as tools for finding and evaluating data, some of the main “good practices” for the correct interpretation of the data acquired will be provided.

C. Ability to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions to specialist and non-specialist interlocutors. Students are provided with useful indications and methodologies to organise a multimedia presentation and to be able to present it using vocabulary and communication methods appropriate to the target audience.
D. Ability to undertake further study with a high degree of autonomy. Students will be helped to organise their study in a fruitful way by means of tools and methods conducive to the “learning to learn”.


  • Introductory lesson and 31 video lessons (short lessons to allow the use on mobile devices).
  • 3 synchronous video lessons.
  • Podcasts of all the above-mentioned video lessons.



  • 1 course orientation forum;
  • 2 thematic follow-up forums (1 for each module);
  • 2 structured e-activities (as described in the section in itinere assessment methods”);
  • possibility to carry out work in groups.



Teaching materials are provided for each module: in-depth thematic studies, articles and slides by the lecturer, open access readings, online resources, reference bibliography, etc.

  • Gillibrand, Lam, O’Donnel, Talladini, Psicologia dello sviluppo, Milan, Pearson, 2013 [mandatory].
  • Boscolo, P., La fatica e il piacere di imparare. Psicologia della motivazione scolastica, Milan, UTET, 2012 [optional].
  • Gardner, H., Generazione App, Milan, FeltrinellI, 2014 [optional].
  • De Beni et al. (2014), Test AMOS – Abilità e motivazione allo studio: prove di valutazione e orientamento per la scuola secondaria di secondo grado e l’università, Erickson, Trento [excerpts, provided by the lecturer].
  • Baroni, M.R. (2010), I processi psicologici dell’invecchiamento, Carocci, Milan [optional].

The following two e-activities must be completed  for access to the final examination:

  1. Design of a qualitative survey including the observation of one of the dimensions and constructs addressed in Module 1 or Module 2, possibly with a connection to the world of work and the professional context.
  2. Implementation of the survey designed in Module 1 or Module 2 and return of a final report.


The assessment of learning will take place through an oral interview on the contents of the course and on the documentation of the two e-activities produced. The grade (min 18, max 30 with possible honours) is determined by the level of performance for each of the following dimensions of the oral interview: mastery of contents, appropriateness of definitions and theoretical references, clarity of argument, command of specialist language.