Life Span Development

The details
Health and Social Care (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
14 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

DIP L50017 Social Work,
MA L50021 Social Work

Module description

This module explores social, cognitive and behavioural development across the lifespan through a social work lens.

Students will be introduced to established and emerging theories of human development and supported to critically assess their validity and alignment with social work practice, values and ethics. Adopting a human rights framework, students will also be encouraged to critically deconstruct the constructs of 'pathology' and 'normality' within the context of human development.

Social workers engage with individuals and groups at all stages of the life-course. An understanding of key theories and perspectives for understanding the life-course, including structural, psychological and biological factors, and the interplay between these, is essential to effective social work practice. A consideration of the social, historical and economic contexts which shape individual development is also critical for understanding uneven patterns of development through the life-course. The goal of this module is to provide students with the skills needed to understand life course development and its importance to social work practice.

Module aims

1. Develop a critical understanding of different theories of lifespan development and their application to different areas of social work practice
2. Understand the social, cultural, and economic context of human development and critique existing and emerging theories of development within this framework
3. Develop the skills and knowledge needed to identify and critique socially constructed concepts of normal/abnormal development, and critically engage with issues of structural disadvantage which shape patterns of uneven lifespan development
4. Provide an opportunity for students to apply skills of observation and evaluation, to develop an understanding of the importance of these skills for social work practice

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the learner will be able to:

1. Critically evaluate the use of theories of human growth and development in social work practice.
2. Apply theories and models of human growth and development when observing, recording and reporting interactions with service users.
3. Analyse the construction of normality and pathology by critically examining the use of these, and related, terms as objective and value neutral.
4. Use human rights legislation, policy and theory to develop strategies for resisting the oppressive use of discourses of pathology and normality.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures: As noted above it is expected that lectures will be incorporated within the scheduled days of teaching and learning activity as outlined in the attached timetable. Independent: The taught sessions will be followed by a period of observed practice as students prepare for and complete the assessment requirements for this module. Online: A range of materials and resources relating to this module are available through the MA Social Work and Human Rights Moodle site. Students should upon registering for this module be able to access this Moodle course by going to https://moodle.essex.ac.uk or by accessing Moodle via the 'my study' section of the main University of Essex website. If you are experiencing any technical difficulties with Moodle then please contact; helpdesk@essex.ac.uk Tutorials: On commencing the course students will be allocated an Academic Supervisor, (usually the module leader). Academic Supervisors will support the student in the preparation of the module assessment. Students will be expected to meet with their Academic Supervisor on a regular basis throughout the course. Arrangements for supervision will be the responsibility of the student. Any student may elect to change his/her Academic Supervisor following discussion with the module or programme Leader or the Director of Education. Students are expected to maintain contact with their academic and practice Supervisors throughout the module. Tutorial sessions will be negotiated between student and supervisor. It expected that tutorial support and supervision will total no more than 2 full days over the period of the module.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Life Span Development Essay  19/01/2024  100% 

Additional coursework information

Child observation and assessment, and discuss the role of dominant narratives of ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’ development in social work policy and practice.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Kanamik Khan, email: k.khan@essex.ac.uk.



External examiner

Dr Panagiotis Pentaris
Goldsmiths, University of London
Programme Leader
Available via Moodle
Of 30 hours, 30 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.