Campus Compact

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Campus Compact > Syllabi > Human Development > Human Behavior and the Social Environment

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Human Behavior and the Social Environment

School: Raritan Valley Community College
Professor: Dr. Karen L. Gutshall

Course Description:

The course will examine individual, group, organizational and societal theories of human development and their relevancy for social work practice. Students will use the theoretical paradigms presented to examine individual and social issues arising in social work practice. Fifteen hours of field work are required as a context for applying class room learning and preparing a case study for class presentation.

Required Texts:

Zastrow, C.H., & Kirst-Ashman, K.K. (latest edition). Understanding human behavior and the social environment. Belmont, CA: Brookes/Cole.

NASW Code of Ethics, most recent edition.

Other assigned readings will be provided from:

Fine, M., Weiss, L., Powell, L., & Wong, L. (Eds.), (1997). Off white: Readings on race and power in society. New York: Routledge.

McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School, Winter 90, 40: 2, p. 31-36.

Miller, J., & Garran, A.M. (2008). Racism in the United States: Implications for the helping professions. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Rothenberg, P. S. (2002). White privilege: Essential readings on the other side of racism. New York: Worth.

Wise, T. (2009). Between Barack and a hard place.

Course Format:

Lecture, group exercises and field work.

Grading and Assessment:

The student’s grade will be comprised of 7 parts:

  1. Successful completion of active participation in 15 hours of community service (i.e. Service Learning) based on field supervisor evaluation.
  2. Evidence of active participation and collaboration in group presentation. (Guidelines to be distributed in class).
  3. Active in-class participation. This portion of the grade will include attendance, in-class participation, and group work participation. Class attendance is not optional. Excessive absences will result in incremental grade reductions for each additional absence beyond the 3 allowed in accordance with RVCC policies.
  4. Completion of short assignments periodically distributed in class. These may include “Reaction Papers,” completion of a Social History, Progress Notes, or other planning documents, and/or case study analyses.
  5. A Reflection Paper demonstrating your understanding of “white privilege” as it applies to your own life and your future professional conduct, including reference to at least 3 outside sources from scholarly journals or texts. [This assignment must be typed and meet acceptable standards of academic English writing including correct grammar, spelling, organization and proper citations, where applicable. APA formatting is required by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE).]
  6. A written case study drawn from your field experience (i.e. service learning) incorporating relevant theories, ecological assessment strategies and possible interventions based on actual local, state and federal resources. [This assignment must be typed and meet acceptable standards of academic English writing including correct grammar, spelling, organization and proper citations, if applicable. APA formatting is required by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE).]
  7. Average of mid-term and final exams.

Each of the 7 components will constitute 1/7th of the final grade.

Reasonable Accommodation:

Students with disabilities who require accommodations (academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids or services) for this course MUST provide documentation of accommodations from the RVCC office of Disability Services, C143.

Code of Conduct:

Plagiarism is a breach of academic integrity that will result in an F for the research paper or a 0 if present in a reaction paper. Plagiarism violates the college’s policy on academic integrity and is reportable to the Dean of Instruction, possibly resulting in dismissal from the college. Please be aware particularly of the following: The use of quotes and references to outside sources is encouraged and often necessary WITH proper citations.   When in doubt, cite it! Phrases or terms “borrowed” from other sources MUST be cited as well. Be aware of your own writing style and an over-reliance on material taken from other readings. You must completely paraphrase a concept taken from someone else, or cite it appropriately. Citing numerous sources is a GOOD THING, so when in doubt, cite. It shows that you have researched your response and developed a scholarly argument rather than simply voicing a “common sense” opinion.

Open discussion is a requirement of the course and the nature of the topics engender value-based debate and differences of opinion. Diversity of thought is critical to increasing our understanding of human behavior and the social environment and the influences of equality, equity, personal responsibility and social justice. All discussion must take place within the bounds of common courteously and scholarly discourse. Publically acceptable and respectful language and tone are expected at all times.

Service Learning Guidelines and Final Assignment

Service learning projects are expected to provide you with real life, exciting, challenging and rewarding learning experience that promotes the opportunity to integrate theory and practice by:

  • the application of academic theories and concepts to real world situations,
  • the examination of underlying ethical issues and potential conflicts,
  • the analysis of policies related to at-risk populations in the community,
  • enhancing interviewing and counseling skills,
  • reflecting on and integrating classroom information and discussions, assigned readings, and site visits.

The site you select for service learning can be a social service organization registered with the college’s service learning program or a site that you develop independently. In either event the site must be able to provide you with the opportunity to conduct the above noted learning objectives. During your visits, you should obtain concrete information such as age, name (optional, to maintain confidentiality if requested), place of birth, family size, occupation, etc. In addition, and more importantly, try to determine how this individual feels about his or her own life circumstance? How did they end up where they are now, in need of social service assistance? What have been some of the positive or negative experiences that have shaped their journey? What are they looking forward to or fearing in the future? If they were to impart some wisdom to others in their situation, what would it be? You will use this information to compile a written a bio-psycho-social assessment and leave the individuals with whom you spend time a strengths-based assessment of themselves.

Your final paper is also an opportunity to share your own reactions to your conversations and the overall service learning experience. It is an opportunity to reflect on your own experience of personal growth.

Conducting your Inquiry: A few reminders

Your visits should be kept informal and conversational, while gathering information that will help you in further understanding the life your mentor has lead.  Initially, questions should be very non-intrusive and focus on such things as age, length of residence, former residence, occupation, family members, things they enjoy, etc. If a topic appears painful or uncomfortable to discuss, move on to other topics of conversation. You MAY have an opportunity to come back to it at a later date, IF the mentor chooses to revisit the topic.  Review your notes and text prior to your visits to formulate an idea of the types of questions you might want to ask or topics of interest to discuss that day.

  • Notes should be jotted down AFTER the visit. Your visits should not be conducted as interviews or assessments!  Record as many details as possible, as your mentor shared them, without adding your own interpretations until the conclusion of your service learning.
  • You may want to diagram a family tree or Ecomap with your mentor on a second or third visit as a way to engage them conversationally while recording details such as names, dates, places of employment, marriage, etc.

Questions later in the semester might focus on more specific topics such as health concerns, feelings about their current situation, etc.  Approach the relationship with respect and compassion, allowing your relationship to unfold. If you establish trust and rapport in the beginning of your relationships, you will be able to gain the insight needed to complete an insightful and thorough final assignment. If you have concerns along the way, talk to your instructor about obstacles or confusion right away before too much time is lost.

Grading Criteria:

To receive an A, your paper must meet the minimum page requirements (at least 5 pages), be written with correct English grammar, punctuation, etc., include 3 separate sections discussing each of the bio-psycho-social factors that pertain to your mentor (each area must be addressed, although certain factors may be more important than others and require a lengthier discussion depending on your mentor), a section identifying the theory or theories that you feel best describe or explain the aging process as described and/or experienced by your mentor (with supporting evidence drawn from your visits and conversations), and a concluding section of self-reflection describing the impact that this course and your service learning has had on you both personally and professionally.

Specifically, your final paper should include the following:

I. An introduction of your mentor/focus person and the nature of the relationship you formed. What agency were they affiliated with and what was your assigned role, if applicable. How often did you meet and under what circumstances?

II. Your assessment of bio-psycho-social factors impacting the individual.  One section (i.e. more than one paragraph per section!) should be devoted to each area in order to adequately demonstrate your familiarity and understanding of the individual with whom you met.

  • Biological factors: age, health, functional ability…
  • Psychological factors: coping capacity, mental outlook, cognitive functioning..
  • Social factors: family, socioeconomic status, social functioning, culture, spirituality…
  • Summarized how these factors, taken together, have affected their life experience and current status?

III. You should next identify and discuss how the various theoretical concepts and developmental processes can be applied to the life experience and personal perspectives shared by the person you visited. This should include reference to specific content in the text, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment, and other supplemental readings. Each application should be supported by “evidence:” statements made by the individual, interactions or behaviors you observed, and information proved by your site supervisor or other sources.

IV. Personal growth commentary: What did you learn about yourself, your chosen career path, and “the real world?” How will this experience help you moving forward in both your personal and professional life?

This paper must be typed, double-spaced and follow APA Style Guidelines for academic writing. It is particularly important to cite all sources for theories, concepts, treatment options, etc. in-text as appropriate and with a complete Reference page.

Tentative Course Calendar:

NOTE: The schedule below is subject to change, but provides a tentative outline of topics to be covered.

Week 1:

1/18 Introduction of course content and structure

  • Syllabus review
  • Ice Breaker—Introductions
  • Service Learning Coordinator, Lori Moog

Assignment: Short reflection paper (3 pages minimum) identifying 2-3 life events that you feel have significantly influenced “who you are” today. DUE: 1/20

1/20 Foundations for Social Work Practice (Ch. 1)

[Review from HMNS 102]

  • Systems Theory
  • Assessment
  • Eco Maps & Genograms: A refresher
  • Exercises

Assignment: Complete a genogram illustrating patterns of family functioning (including biological, psychological and sociological factors) that contribute to who you are today. DUE:  1/27

Week 2:

1/25 Mezzo Systems (Ch. 1 continued)

  • Organizations
  • Communities
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Social Network Theory

1/27 Values & Ethics in Social Work (NASW Code of Ethics)

  • Ethical Principles
  • Ethical Dilemmas & Decision- making
  • Exercises

Week 3:

2/1 Prepare for Class Presentations

Review reference materials, research strategies and policy resources in preparation for class presentations beginning Week 4-5. If time permits, we will adjourn to the library to begin your research and development an understanding of divergent views on a controversial topic to be assigned by the Instructor. “Teams” will be established to represent different view points on the following issues:  Abortion: an ethical dilemma (Ch. 2); Racism & Equity (Ch. 5); Sexism & Equality (Ch. 9); Marriage Equity (Ch. 10, p. 370 & Ch. 13)

2/3 Infancy and Early Childhood (Ch. 2)

  • Physiological Development (video)
  • Assessment Exercise
  • Infertility

Week 4:

2/8 Infancy and Early Childhood (Ch. 3)

  • Psychological development
  • Self-concept and Self-esteem

2/10 Differing abilities

  • Programs & Services
  • Case study

Week 5:

2/15 Class Presentations: Abortion: Pro-choice v. Pro-life

2/17 Socialization & the Family (Ch. 4)

  • Family Systems and the Life Cycle
  • Social Environment
  • Abuse & Neglect

Service Learning Registration forms DUE

Week 6:

2/22 Adolescence (Ch. 6)

  • Physiological changes and reactions
  • Sex Ed
  • Identity Formation

Assignment: Complete reflective exercise distributed in class & apply Marcia’s Categories of Identity Formation. DUE:  2/24

2/24 Adolescence (Ch. 7-8)

  • Moral Development
  • Communication
  • Suicide (SAD Person Scale)
  • Exercises

Distribute Study Guide

Week 7:

3/1 Adolescence & Mental Illness (Ch. 8 continued)

  • Guest Speaker

3/3 Midterm Exam

Spring Break

Week 8:

3/15 Gangs in NJ

  • Guest Speaker

3/17 Middle Adulthood

  • Physiological changes (Ch.10)
  • Psychological theories (Ch. 11)

Service Learning Updates and Discussion

Week 9:

3/22 Racism (Ch. 5, plus assigned readings)

Class Presentation: Racial Tension: Affirmative Action v. Reverse Discrimination

Assignment: A Reflection Paper demonstrating your understanding of “white privilege” as it applies to your own life and your future professional conduct, including reference to at least 3 outside sources from scholarly journals or texts in addition to those provided. [This assignment must be typed and meet acceptable standards of academic English writing including correct grammar, spelling, organization and proper citations, where applicable. APA formatting is required by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE).] DUE: 3/29

3/24 Middle Adulthood continued

  • Communication
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Domestic Violence

Week 10:

3/29 Racism & Diversity continued

  • Discuss Reflection papers (DUE today!)

3/31 Class Presentation: Sexism: Equality Achieved v. Inequality Persists

Week 11:

4/5 Social Systems (Ch. 12)

  • Demographic trends
  • Poverty

4/7 Poverty Programs (Guest Speaker tentative)

  • TANF
  • General Assistance

Week 12

4/12 Class Presentation: Marriage Equity: Civil Right v. Matter of Personal Preference

Service Learning Updates and Discussion

4/14 Later Adulthood

  • Physiological changes (Ch. 14)
  • Life expectancy & wellness promotion: Theories of Aging  (Ch. 15)

Week 13:

4/19 Death & Dying (Ch. 15 continued)

4/21 Later Adulthood: Macro issues (Ch. 16)

  • Trends
  • Services & Benefits
  • Case studies

Week 14:

4/26 Discussion of Service Learning & final paper requirements; Distribute Study Guide

4/28 Final case studies DUE; Prep. for Final

Week 15:

5/3 or 5/5

Final Exam (to be scheduled by administration)

The information provided on your reflection website is valuable beyond words. I found many useful tools for revising my reflection strategies to better engage my students."

-Boise State University