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Accreditata MUR con D.M. 02/12/2005
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Scienze psicologiche delle risorse umane, delle organizzazioni e delle imprese, classe L-24

Developmental psychology


Anno accademico: 2021/2022



Crediti: ECT: 9 CFU

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Silvia Panzavolta, psychologist registered in the Tuscany Region Association, section A, no. 5276, and psychotherapist, second degree in Linguistic Mediation Sciences, is a researcher employed on an open-ended basis by INDIRE since 2014, with whom she has been collaborating since 1998.

She is currently involved in research projects investigating: didactic and organisational innovation; the development of an inclusive school culture; the use of active teaching methodologies, aimed at engaging students (especially the ‘weak’ ones); 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), specifically for the methodologies of “Debate”, “TEAL” and “Beyond Disciplines” and is part of the research group School Architectures.
She has been collaborating with IUL since 2012, for which she first worked as a tutor in the courses of “English Language and Literature”, “English Language Laboratory” and “Research Methods in Multimedia Environment” and then as an adjunct Professor since 2017.
She has worked (and works) with many institutions (schools, universities and regional research institutes), for which she has worked (and does work) as a lecturer, expert or consultant.

After her two degrees, she continued her study of developmental and educational psychology by attending various master’s and postgraduate university courses.

Finally, she has participated (and participates) in numerous national and international events as an expert, speaker or trainer.

  • Module 1 – Childhood

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, social and gender identity. Interactions and relationships with peers: friendship in children.


  • Module 2 – Adolescence and youth

Adolescence: definition and brief history. Physical changes in adolescence. Cognitive development and changes in adolescence. Social development in adolescence. Mental well-being in adolescents. Sex and relational behaviour. Adolescence. Parenting development. Towards adulthood.


  • Module 3 – Adulthood and ageing

The stages of adulthood. Work. Attachment in adult life and intergenerational transmission of attachment.

Cycles of family life. Psychological processes of ageing. Definition of ageing in the lifespan perspective. Research methodology in old age. Physical and sexuality changes. Changes in the socio-family structure. Cognitive processes and memory in adulthood and old age. Reminiscence. Emotions, affectivity and self-image. Motivational ageing. Ageing and environment (the elderly person and the home).

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 teachers with the personal life and professional context of each student, in order to have the most meaningful, highest-level learning experience.

A. To acquire basic knowledge that characterises the specific field of “Developmental Psychology” and the related methods of scientific investigation, with particular reference to understanding the psychological basis of individual behaviour, social dynamics, relationships between individuals and groups, in order to design effective intervention strategies for solving individual, social and organisational problems.

B. To develop sound theoretical-methodological knowledge of the various branches of ‘Developmental Psychology’.

C. Designing possible applications of the concepts and tools studied.

D. Constructing and adapting psychological and psychosocial survey instruments, possibly to be used in a qualitative survey.

E. To acquire interpretative tools for situations typical of individual, social and work psychology, with reference to the different ages of life (lifespan approach).

A. Knowledge and understanding
The course includes the use of advanced textbooks, knowledge of some cutting-edge topics in the subject area 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 subject area. 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 subject matter 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. The student will be able to independently investigate the main scientific-methodological issues concerning developmental psychology.

E. Learning ability
The student 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 judgements. 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”.


  • 12 recorded video lessons available online for a total of 6 hours.
  • 3 synchronous meetings in a video conference for a total of 3 hours.
  • Podcasts of all the video lessons mentioned above.



  • 1 course orientation forum.
  • 3 in-depth thematic forums (1 per module).
  • Possibility of carrying out work in groups
  • 3 structured e-activities (as described in the section in itinere assessment methods).



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 (2013), Psicologia dello sviluppo, Pearson, Milan.
  • Baroni, M.R. (2010), I processi psicologici dell’invecchiamento, Carocci, Milan.
  • Fonzi, Ada (ed.) (2001), Manuale di psicologia dello sviluppo. Storia, teorie e metodi. Lo sviluppo cognitivo, affettivo e sociale nel ciclo di vita, Giunti, Florence.
  • CNOP, La scuola e gli psicologi: libro bianco 2018,;

Access to the final examination is subject to the following 3 e-activities:

  1. Storytelling activity: 5 pictures to say “Who I am”
  2. Designing a qualitative survey including observation of one of the dimensions/constructs addressed in Module 1, Module 2 or Module 3, possibly with a connection to the student’s professional context.
  3. Implementation of the survey designed in Module 1, Module 2 or Module 3.

The assessment of learning will take the form of an oral interview on the course contents and on the final report submitted, if any. 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.