360°: Learning and Narrating Childhoods

Photo of a child at a school in rural GhanaIncorporating a visit to the  Titagya school in rural Ghana, this 360° explores how children grow and develop in different contexts (e.g. schools, communities, households) and cultures (e.g., the United States, West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa) and how this growth and development is conceptualized and represented -- in texts and theories -- mainly by adults, across cultures and fields of study.

Led by faculty members in the fields of Education, French and Francophone studies, and Psychology, Learning and Narrating Childhoods offers students an opportunity not only to see and hear children anew—an abiding challenge for adults—but also to think about and engage in supporting child development, particularly important as youth oppression persists in myriad forms and children’s rights remain unfulfilled.

This 360° will make visible and put into dialogue the different ways in which disciplines construct children and childhood. It will also provide opportunities for students to apply their variously informed understanding to creating curricula for children and learning how curricula are created in West Africa.


Learning and Narrating Childhoods Courses:

Education 250: Literacies and Education

Taught by Alice Lesnick. Students will explore the experience of learning to speak, read, and write in and outside of school. Using a “multiliteracies” framework, students will consider literacy learning as a process of ongoing personal, cultural, and political negotiation among and across people’s ways with words. Informed by the rich body of empirical and theoretical research in this field, students will revisit their own literacy learning, carry out praxis fieldwork in a classroom or other education-related setting, and develop curricular interventions to instigate and empower others’ multiliteracies. Important as a context for this creative work will be a deep study of the force of bureaucratic literacies and standardization in contemporary childhood and, indeed, across the lifespan. The goal of this study will be to foster analytic depth and resilient imagination as resources in working the tensions among human and economic development for individuals and communities.

Psychology 322: Culture and Development

Taught by Rob Wozniak. Students will focus on the nature of culture as a system of material, symbolic, and practical contexts for human development and on the enculturation process as one of becoming progressively more like-minded with one’s group(s) through the internalization of ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. Students will examine theories of the development of the social mind, the acquisition of literacy, human narrativity, and the construction of cultural meaning and apply what they learn to an analysis of critical developmental transitions in the construction of the self as it occurs in various cultural contexts.

French 254: Teaching the Postcolony: Schooling in African Fiction

Taught by Pim Higginson. Students will examine a small selection of novels and films from Francophone and Anglophone Africa to gain insight into the multiple and often contradictory forces that dictate the African child’s experience of education (broadly defined) in a postcolonial context. This course will be about the children whose lives are represented. It will also analyze how such representations are constructed; the ways in which the writers themselves process the traumatic experiences of education in a complex and alienating educational environment too often designed elsewhere, for others.