Area of Study Guidelines: Human Development for Students Matriculated After Dec. 1, 2013 Policy


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Area of study guidelines, Human Development

Background Information:


To provide context for the area of study guidelines for area of study Human Development.


Area of Study Guidelines: This set of guidelines helps students plan their degree plans by spelling out what the academic world and many employers understand a particular concentration to mean. The guidelines are found in many academic publications.

Disciplinary — A program of study guided by the existing framework of a discipline.

Interdisciplinary — The simultaneous and interrelated study of two or more disciplines.

Problem Oriented — A program of study organized around a problem.

Professional/Vocational — A study which focuses on acquiring knowledge and skills needed for specific career performance and applications. It also entails inquiry into the conceptual foundations of the profession, the role of the professional in that career, and the relations between the profession and society at large.

Thematic — A program of study focusing on a particular theme or set of ideas.


Students of human development seek an understanding of psychological, social, biological and other changes over the life span. Change can take the form of growth, maturation, loss, impairment, resilience, adaptation and/or the enrichment of human potential, identity and meaning. Concentrations may encompass the life cycle or may focus on a particular age group (e.g., early childhood, adolescence, older adulthood); population (e.g., women, men, LGBTQ); situation (e.g., grieving and loss, incarceration, disability); or theme (e.g., health, families, cultural differences, spirituality).

Students of human development have the opportunity to pursue and integrate personal, academic and professional goals. Many students find that what they learn enables them to better understand themselves and others, enhances their ability to work with people in various capacities and prepares them for more advanced, or graduate study. Human development can be appropriate for students who plan to work in many fields, including law, the health-care professions, business careers, education, nonprofit agencies, and many others.

Students of human development should be able to demonstrate knowledge in the following content areas, whether through studies, a series of studies, components within individual studies or college-level knowledge demonstrated through the prior learning assessment (PLA) process. The content areas below represent the minimum foundation for any concentration within human development. More specific concentration titles should be supported through the degree plan and a description of this degree plan in the rationale essay.

Biological Bases of Development

Students of human development should develop an understanding of the biological influences on emotional, cognitive and behavioral change over time. They should demonstrate this knowledge by:

  1. interpreting human behavior and development from a biological (which includes neurological, genetic, physiological, evolutionary, endocrinological) perspective
  2. identifying how biological changes influence human development and behavior over time.

Cognitive and Emotional Bases of Development

Students of human development should develop knowledge of both cognitive and affective underpinnings of human development. This knowledge can include theories and empirical bases of cognition, learning, memory, motivation, meaning, emotion and executive functioning. Students also should understand factors that influence cognitive performance, emotional experience and their interaction across the lifespan. They should demonstrate this knowledge by:

  1. distinguishing the major components of primary theories in the study of emotion and cognition in human development
  2. applying (practically or theoretically) the primary theories of emotion and cognition in development to practical situations or problems across the lifespan
  3. identifying major factors that influence the development of cognition, emotion and their interaction.

Social Bases of Development

Students of human development should develop knowledge of interpersonal, intragroup and intergroup processes and dynamics as they influence human behavior and development, as well as theories of how humans develop within social contexts (which can include micro-level contexts like families and schools or macro-level contexts like communities, culture and society). Theories of how aspects of humans develop can include theories of personality development, identity development, the development of specific difficulties (such as psychopathology and problem behaviors) or normal and abnormal development in any domain of human functioning (e.g., language functioning, interpersonal functioning). They should demonstrate this knowledge by:

  1. distinguishing the central ideas of major theories of human personality, behavioral, or problematic development within a social (e.g., familial, intergenerational, peer, school) context
  2. applying (practically or theoretically) principles of social influence on development to individuals, families or other groups.

Cultural Bases of Development

Students of human development should develop an understanding of the impact of aspects of culture and diversity on development. They should demonstrate this knowledge by:

  1. articulating how culture influences individuals’ development
  2. interpreting the influence of diversity on their own and others’ functioning.

Research Issues in Human Development

Students of human development should develop scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills (especially effective research skills) for interpreting and drawing evidence-based conclusions about human development and behavior. They should demonstrate this knowledge by:

  1. using scientific reasoning to interpret human development and behavior
  2. identifying research methods used to analyze developmental patterns
  3. locating, evaluating and using social science information effectively.

Ethical Issues in Human Development

Students of human development should develop ethically and socially responsible professional attitudes and behaviors. They should demonstrate this knowledge by:

  1. applying (practically or theoretically) ethical standards and skills to evaluate and further science and practice
  2. iIdentifying values and behaviors that contribute to individual and social well-being.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

Introduction to the Area of Study Guidelines

Human Development for Students Matriculated Before October 1, 2009

Human Development for Students Matriculated After October 1, 2009

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