It’s a Virtual Child!: Postgraduate students’ experiences in a developmental psychology class

  • L. Naudé, Prof University of the Free State, South Africa
  • A. Botha, Dr University of the Free State, South Africa
Keywords: Cognitive development, Constructivist developmental approaches, Interpersonal and intrapersonal competence, Self-authorship


The aim of this study was to explore postgraduate psychology students’ development, as facilitated by the use of an interactive web-based simulation programme, My Virtual Child©. A social constructivist developmental approach, with specific focus on cognitive development towards self-authorship, served as the overarching framework for the study. Participants included postgraduate students enrolled in a developmental psychology module. Multiple sources of data, such as reflective exercises, summative portfolio assignments and a focus group, were analysed using thematic analysis. Participants indicated that the My Virtual Child© programme provided them with an excellent opportunity for authentic, relevant and challenging learning experiences, whilst balancing theory and practice. Furthermore, it provided room for deliberate reflective activities, group interaction and the integration of a diversity of experiences. This programme therefore created a practical and pragmatic teaching environment for more engaging and theoretically rich learning, preparing students for self-authorship in a complex world.


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