2008-2012: Anna Zapiti: Asymmetries and argumentation in social interaction and cognitive development (Supervised by Charis Psaltis, Awarded 2012)
This PhD thesis explored the role of gender and expertise as asymmetries in the interactions of children. Children from two different age groups participated in the study (6-7 and 10-11 years old) in order to explore the role played by gender identity dynamics in the interactions of children of these two age groups. This work draws theoretically from the three generations of studies on peer interaction and cognitive development that initiated in Geneva more than thirty years ago.
The study followed the pre-test, interaction, immediate and delayed post-test design. Children have to solve a spatial task individually, then they work in pairs with a partner who was more or less advance in his/her knowledge over the task (so that pairs include children of different levels of expertise) and finally they try again to solve the task individually the same day the interaction takes place (immediate post-test) and two weeks later (delayed post-test). The younger children also were administered with two tests assessing their understanding of the gender marking of toys and conceptual understanding of an interrelationship between sex-group membership and gender marking of material culture. The children of the fifth grade had to complete a questionnaire which examined the way they cope with interaction with members of the opposite gender, attitudes and stereotypes for the members of the other gender group and strength of gender identity. These gender measures were included in order to investigate the relation between varieties of gender identity and behaviour in the interaction as well as the relation between different positioning on gender identity and outcome measures.
The results revealed that for younger children, gender clearly relates to their behavioural patterns and strategies in the interaction. Children may share the same goal but their behaviour is shaped by the social representations of gender that they bring in the interaction. In the interactions of older children (10-11 years old), gender was not found to relate directly to children's behaviour. In fact, gender effect was found to diminish with age even though some children remain highly stereotyped. For these children, gender knowledge and identity was related to their outcomes indicating that when gender has an effect this is on the level of mental action. The findings are discussed in the light of existing theories and previous studies.
2009-2013: Foteini- Kranou Kyriakides: Psychosocial and Cognitive Development of Undergraduate University Students in Greek Cypriot Universities (Supervised by Charis Psaltis, Awarded 2013)
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the current state of affairs and changes taking place in the higher education years of an individual in relation to both aspects of psychosocial and intellectual development in Greek Cypriot Universities. Theoretically, the thesis explores the interplay between psychosocial and intellectual development at four levels of analysis through a triadic epistemology of the subject-object-other.
Taking Perry's theory of ethical and intellectual development as a point of departure the thesis discusses the way Perry was influenced by both Piaget and Kohlberg, in the formulation of his stage theory. The way Perry's work influenced more recent post Post-formal theories of cognitive development is also discussed. It is argued that all stage theories depended on a particular structuralist reading of Piagetian theory that suppressed the references to the social psychological work of Piaget and in particular the role of social interaction in cognitive development. This thesis then discusses how critical voices internal to this literature like Riegel's attempted to depart from what they considered the individualistic paradigm through the introduction of a dialectical framework but then also point to the problems and shortcomings of these initial efforts. This problem is redressed through a discussion of the ways that major socio-cultural theorists understood human development in their more recent theories. Furthermore, the social in Piagetian theory and its development through successive generations of research on social interaction and cognitive development is revisited. An integrative framework of human development as a social psychological process is then proposed that welds together a role for social relations on crucial cognitive and psycho-social developmental outcomes like that of formal operational thinking, deep learning, tolerance, commitment to future plans and self-determination. The results of the thesis, beyond providing for the first time in the Cypriot context a description of the profile of university students' state of development also clarify the role of gender and socio-economic status of the students in their development. Additionally, the thesis attempts the articulation of Doise (1986) four levels of analysis by integrating a role for social ethnic identity and ideological variables in a socio-cultural model of university student's development.
A questionnaire with reliable scales was designed after various cycles of pilot testing. The measures are based on the theoretical framework of Perry's Scheme (1998), Piaget's social psychological theory (Piaget 1932; Piaget 1977/1995) and Chickering and Reisser's vectors of identity (1993). Questions were created based on the theories used in this thesis on the relevant subjects of the two areas of development to be examined. Its final version was administered at two different semesters.
The findings suggest that minor changes are observed during the university years of a student. Still light is shed on the role of gender, socio-economic status and the major followed in relation to the cognitive and psycho-social development of students. With the help of hierarchical regressions, cross-lagged correlations and the construction of a SEM model a more holistic and clear picture of the role of social relations in cognitive and psycho-social development of students is offered.