Sit in on: Human Behavior in the Social Environment

As part of our series of outstanding Bradley courses, we share the details of a social work course that examines how our social environments affect our development.

You’re taking: Human Behavior, a course that provides an overview of development across the human lifespan. It explores how social connections and culture influence behavior.

Your professor is: Maya Tarter, director of field instruction in the social work program.

You’ll learn: How individuals’ experiences can affect their behavior during their lifetimes—from birth to death. “We try to instill an understanding of different perspectives,” Tarter said. “Human behavior is something that we can all connect to. I encourage students in the course to think about how they can apply their own life experience across their own lifespan, as well as thinking about how that may differ for someone else.”

You’ll do a deep dive into: Current events. “We cover a pretty wide variety of topics. I try to tap into what students are interested in,” Tarter said. “So, for example, this semester when we covered the early stages of development, we talked about family leave policy, which was in the news. We also discussed other educational initiatives and the role they play in development.” Each student also shares newspaper or academic articles for discussion throughout the semester.

Your biggest project requires you to dig into: Two key theories taught in the course: Erikson's theory and the Life Course Perspective. For the final project, students apply these theories to the film of their choice. “‘Juno’ is a popular choice,” Tarter said. “To analyze the movie, students have to look at the theory that's related to that stage of development and the resources that are available. So, in the case of “Juno,” that may be an adolescent female who's pregnant. What's available for her? What are some of those influencing factors that exist there? Then they present to the class at the end of the semester, what they've learned, and the theory and research that they covered in the context of the film.”

You aren’t just doing it for the grade because: The theories from the course can be applied beyond the classroom. “This course really gets to the heart of what social work is: promoting social justice and equality,” Tarter said. “I really push students to think about individuals from different backgrounds and to contextualize that with their own experience. I encourage them to talk about some of the strengths that they've that others may not have and how that has affected their lives and influenced development and vice-versa.”

What your classmates are saying: “All behavior has a cause,” said Jessica Zook ’21. “Often, we go through life thinking that our behavior and that of those around us is random or unexplainable. But this course definitely made me realize that all behavior can be traced back to different life events and the circumstances. This realization is something that I can now apply to my classes and life experiences going forward.”

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