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Preamble

To make ideas from ed psych more real, have students write and interpret their personal life stories. The autobiographies can include stories from student's' past, but should also comment on how the stories support or contradict ideas from ed psych. The autobiography can be organized either around periods of life (e.g. preschool, elementary years, adolescence, etc.), or around topics (e.g. cognitive changes, how I learn(ed), what motivates me, relationships with peers, etc.).

The students will also need to identify the themes or perspectives underlying major research and theories of psychology. The instructor will probably need to assist them with this task, or else some students are likely to say that "My life never happened the way psychological theory predicts." For example, very few students will remember actually pouring liquid containers back and forth, in the spirit of Piaget's conservation experiments, and
literally thinking that the amount of liquid actually changes. But many might remember past activities that they now consider "sensorimotor" in the Piagetian sense, and which either supported or contradicted Piaget's cognitive stage theory, depending on their context and timing. If you have the time, the autobiographies can also be extended into role-playing activities in class. But this is not necessary (performing role-play does take up class time!).

- Seifert Seifert May 18, 2010

In any case, here are the instructions that I have used for this assignment:

Sample Instructions for Autobiography Assignment: “My Life So Far”


Write the story of your life so far. Design this to give a sense both of who you were, of who you are now, and of how you may be both the same and different from in the past. Interpret the stories in terms of ideas and themes from the course. For this purpose, use the textbook(s) and readings as sources for relevant ideas and themes.

Think broadly about yourself and your personal history. You may include stories, information, or items that involve your experiences in school. But do not confine yourself to these sorts of materials, especially if they were not actually important in your development as a person! Here are several general areas that may be relevant to your autobiography. Chances are that you will not have space to deal with them all, but try to cover the ones that have been the most important in your particular life:

· Personal development: how you changed over the long term as a person
· Learning: areas or skills that you learned easily (or poorly)—and not necessarily in school
· Motivation: what turned you on, what turned you off—again, not necessarily in school
· Relationships with parents, family, or adults with formal authority—the good, the bad, and/or the ugly
· Relationships with friends and peers—the good, the bad, the ugly, the nonexistent—whatever
· Identity and self-assessment: how, when, and by what steps did you begin thinking of yourself as the kind of person that you are?

If it makes sense in your case, consider organizing the autobiography around major age periods. Terminology of age periods varies, and meaningful dividing lines between periods depends a bit on your particular life experiences. Classic age divisions, however, are any of the following:

· Infancy/preschool years
· Early years/elementary years/childhood
· Middle years/junior high school years/early adolescence
· Senior years/senior high school years/late adolescence
· University years/working years/young adulthood

You will be discussing installments of your autobiography in class, often with a small group of classmates and occasionally with the entire class. Think of the assignment as an opportunity to share your life with others and to get perspective about how your experiences compare to classmates’.

HOWEVER: it is important to observe two cautions about sharing personal information:
1. In writing and discussing your life, do NOT include information or stories that you consider private or that you feel uncomfortable about telling to classmates.
2. In listening to others’ experiences, do NOT pry into areas or topics not raised or brought up by them. This rule applies even if you suspect that a classmate is being silent about something important.

Important: To understand the reasons for these cautions, be sure to read the article called “Learning to Feel Like a Teacher” (Seifert, 2004).

Length
of this essay is variable, but most people who have written it require about 15 pages, including both story material and interpretative material.

References
: There should be about 5-6 of these. They should be cited wherever appropriate. You can cite the textbook(s), readings, or other equivalent sources, and you should follow APA style guidelines strictly. If you cite a textbook, cite specific pages in the text, not the entire book. Not more than two of the citations should be indirect or “second-hand” (e.g. “Smith, 1993, as cited in Woolfolk, 2008).
Note that Assignment #2 asks for partial preliminary installments for Assignment #1, and the preliminary installments will be due on two dates prior to completing Assignment #1. See the description of Assignment #2 for more information.

DEADLINE: [whatever is appropriate for your class]
WEIGHTING: [whatever is appropriate for your class]

- Seifert Seifert Aug 24, 2009


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