Infant Observation

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 27 June 2025
21 August 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA L520 Childhood Studies,
BA L521 Childhood Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA L522 Childhood Studies (Including Placement Year),
BA L523 Childhood Studies (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

In recent years both psychoanalysis and developmental psychology have placed greater emphasis upon the earliest weeks, months and years of life. There are a variety of ways for researching, recording and exploring these early experiences one of which is infant observation. This module provides students with a unique learning opportunity: to observe at close hand the early growth and development of an infant, usually new-born or early in the first year of life. The module therefore develops from your experiences and study of psychoanalytic observation made in year one. Observation will take place in either a family setting, an early-years nursery setting or virtually.

After considering how to set up their infant observation and the dilemmas which come with this, students will spend five weeks reading about infant observation, its history as a training in clinical work and a research methodology, and they will also explore different conceptual approaches to the study and findings in infancy research.

Each student will undertake 10 hours of Observation – one hour per week over 10 weeks during the Spring term. In some cases, where their observations are ready to start, students can present by arrangement with the tutor, in second half of the Autumn Term (see lecture/seminar structure below).If students undertake virtual placements, the times and days will need to be agreed with the Seminar Leader.

Students will play close attention to the process of ordinary development. They will notice the unfolding of the infant's awareness of self and others and the developing of personality and identity within the context in which it is happening. What are the links between, temperament, constitution, early experiences, interactions and personality growth? How does the quality of interaction and the particular modes of communication in play influence development over time? How does the infant affect the nature of family life and vice-versa?

Students will also be learning about the role of the observer, specifically the participant observer in a naturalistic context in keeping with an ethnological approach. Understanding and developing this role supports the development of skills and sensitivity around role management and boundaries in preparation for professional life – where working therapeutically or with ordinary children or other settings. Moreover, some students will be learning about being a virtual observer, understanding virtual boundaries and roles.

Students will receive guidance and support to find observation placements towards the end of the Year 1 Summer Term Module 'Placement-Based Observation Skills and Reflective Practice' and further structured support throughout the Autumn term of Year 2 from induction day onwards. You will be provided with a range of placement contacts but will be responsible for making contact, arranging to visit, and ensuring your Placement Agreement is signed.

In addition, you will continue to develop reflective practice, using your Reflective Learning Journal and by attending Reflective Groups with the intention of learning more about the deeper levels of selfhood often stimulated by infant observation and taking up the role of a participant observer in a family or early years setting.

Module aims

The module aims:

1. To undertake a 10-week infant observation in family setting, nursery or virtually
2. To develop a keener eye for the detail of naturalist, ordinary human development
3. To increase awareness of the emotional and unconscious factors at play in family or early childcare setting
4. To make links between early child development theory your own experience of observation
5. To further develop employability skills related to psychodynamic formulation and case presentation
6. To utilise a reflective space and their learning journal for acknowledging and processing the emotional and psychological implications of the material and experiences on this course
7. To substantially develop a capacity for self-reflection and an awareness of the influence of one’s own processes and personal experiences.

Module learning outcomes

Learning Outcomes

* Gained direct experience and knowledge of the ecological context in which infants develop
* Considered and engaged with the ethical issues involved in the direct study of infants
* Enhanced sensitivity to contextual and interpersonal factors which shape behaviour, communicative capacity and individual identity
* A recognition of the infant as an active participant in its own learning and development, and, or the factors which inhibit this
* Greater ability to observe detail and to perceive subtle indications of emotional and unconscious dynamics within the family or early years setting
* A capacity to integrate one's own observation and analysis with data from other sources such as feedback and observation from peers, tutors and academic readings
* Recognition and understanding of the infant observation as a research method and skill in work with children
* Capacity to gather evidence and understanding over time and use this to develop a formulation
* To be increasingly reflexive and recognise the relationship between self-awareness and child care
* An appropriate depth of reflection upon one's own process in the observing and in the learning contexts

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Students undertake an observation of a parent and infant in the family home or a toddler at nursery or of a parent-infant virtually, over the course of 10 weeks. Students will be asked to write up the observations and these will be presented for discussion in a small seminar group and the experience of observing will be the basis for learning about child development. There are also seminars for placement set-ups, seven theory seminars, assignment support, reviews and reflective groups. Reflective groups are groups in which students are asked to reflect on and discuss the experience of being on the course and the impact this has whether academic, personal or professional.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Infant Observation Record    20% 
Coursework   Infant Observation Report    80% 

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
Miss Oyku Turker, email:
Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Student Administrator Room 5A.202 telephone 01206 874969 email



External examiner

Prof Heather Montgomery
The Open University
Professor of Anthropology and Childhood
Available via Moodle
Of 83 hours, 80 (96.4%) hours available to students:
3 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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