The university of kansas school of social welfare

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SW 730 Human Behavior in the Social Environment
Spring 2011

Instructor Name: John Thompson


Office: Twente 7
Office phone: 864-5053 (I don’t check phone messages. If I don’t answer, send email)

Office Hours: By appointment

Credit Hours: 3

Meeting Time/Place: Mondays 3:20 – 6:00 PM/Blake 206

Social work professionals need to understand human behavior at multiple social system levels, including individual, family, group, organization, community, national, and international. Therefore, this Human Behavior in the Social Environment course provides Masters’ students with basic concepts, theories, and empirical findings about human behavior in multiple system levels, taking into account biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of human behavior and experience. In this way, it makes its distinctive contribution to a foundation for generalist professional perspective as preparation for advanced coursework in a specialized area. In keeping with the mission of the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare, this course provides theoretical perspectives as relevant to an approach to social work practice that advances personal and collective strengths and resources, honors human diversity, promotes empowerment and justice, and reflects critical and creative thinking.

Theoretical perspectives on well-being, strengths, resiliency, empowerment, dysfunction, oppression, and developmental processes are analyzed critically, especially concerning applicability to social work practice that supports client strengths, appreciates diversity, and promotes social justice. The course includes examination of crises, transformational events, and expectable changes for individuals and social systems throughout individuals’ life spans and development of social systems.
The number and range of theories presented are limited so that they provide contrast while allowing sufficient depth of learning on each one. The instructor selects a range and number of theories such that micro, meso, and macro systems are addressed.
This course is complementary with and most closely related to the Practice and Practicum Foundation courses. It complements these courses with the theoretical understanding and analytical skills necessary for the formulation, monitoring, and evaluation of social work practice. Whereas this course presents theories at a relatively high level of abstraction as relevant to practice, the practice courses and practicum focus on applied level theories and. conceptual frameworks in connection with skills and particular practice settings. The course assists the Social Policy Course by providing students with information and theoretical understanding about the fit between human behavior and the political conditions and meso and macro-environmental resources in our society. It supports the Research Course by providing theoretical, historical, and empirical material derived from a wide range of qualitative and quantitative ways of inquiry. It promotes students' ability to engage in critical reflection about human behavior theory and research, including the ethical, philosophical, political, and scientific implications.

By the conclusion of SW 730, Master students will demonstrate an ability to:

  1. Analyze the transaction between individuals and their social and natural environment within a holistic framework. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objectives 1, 6)

  2. Describe and analyze the complex interactions between biological, psychological, and social aspects of human behavior. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objective 7)

  3. Describe and analyze the harmful impacts of discrimination and oppression on people and their environments. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4)

  4. Critically analyze theories of human behavior, attending to client strengths, social and economic justice, cultural competence, and critical reflection, as applied to social work practice in various settings. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objectives 1, 3, 4, 6, 7)

  5. Identify, describe and critically analyze selected theoretical perspectives that are relevant to human behavior in contemporary society. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objectives 1, 7)

  6. Identify and critically analyze theories of human behavior for their utilization of strengths and resources that promote individual, collective, and global well-being as well as social and economic justice in accordance with social work values and ethics. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4)

  7. Identify and describe practice implications of human behavior theories for assessment and helping of people in various settings. (Reflects MSW Foundation Objectives 1, 2, 5, 6)


The four themes that are foundational to the total curriculum of the School of Social Welfare are integrated throughout a practice-centered approach to secure the students’ understanding of the concepts of empowerment and well-being. This course sets the foundation of theory for a generalist social work perspective as the basis for further advanced level coursework. Each selected theory is examined for its utility for practice at a variety of system levels, including work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities and the global context. Each theory is critiqued regarding its consistency with social work values, purposes, and settings for practice. Practical implications of choosing and combining theories of human behavior within a holistic bio-psycho-social-spiritual conceptual framework for practice are discussed. The four themes of the School are defined as:

1. Strengths perspective. Theories are critiqued regarding the extent to which they are excessively problem and pathology focused. Theories selected for detailed presentation include significant attention to human strengths and resources and ways these can be mobilized in practice. For example, theories and empirical research about strengths, resilience, and creativity in individual and family development are presented. In addition, the dynamic processes of creative change, leadership, and conflict mediation in groups, organizations, and communities are examined. For example, patterns of group formation, development, and termination are analyzed.
2. Diversity. Understanding, valuing and engaging the broad range of differences and commonalities that are brought to the interaction between social workers, clients and the social environment and that are reflective of clients’ culture, ethnicity, race, geography, gender, age, religion, social class, sexual orientation, and physical and mental abilities, particularly when those differences are the cause for discrimination.

3. Social Justice. Theories are critiqued for the extent to which they perpetuate patterns of personal and collective oppression and discrimination. Theories that emphasize empowerment and social justice are selected for detailed presentation. For example, various standards for assessing individual and family well being and dysfunction are considered. This includes examining personal and environmental strengths and resources that facilitate creativity, adaptation, effective coping with distress and conflict, and empowerment.

4. Critical Perspective. Theories are compared and contrasted in terms of their advantages and limitations regarding empirical support; methodological, philosophical, and conceptual clarity; and relevance to the profession. Theories are also considered as alternative paradigms for understanding person and environment in order to support creative and innovative approaches to practice.

Students in this course are expected to have a liberal arts background, especially in the behavioral, social, and biological sciences as well as history. In classroom discussion, students are encouraged to draw upon their liberal arts perspective as well as their life experience.

The course intends to open students and educators' minds to new ideas and possibilities for understanding human behavior. It challenges conventional thinking and contributes to personal and professional growth. It attempts to preserve and develop knowledge that liberates and to examine critically theories and practices that oppress or marginalize people.

All theories and social work practices contain implicit or explicit values and goals for behavior. This course critically examines these inherent values and goals, and helps the student to reflect on their congruence with both personal commitments and professional ethics and values. Possible value conflicts and ethical dilemmas that may emerge in the application of theories and research findings to practice are discussed.

The four curricular themes and practice-focused mission of the school help to orient the examination of personal and professional value issues. For example, the strengths perspective highlights individual, family, and community qualities of resilience, creativity, self-determination, and empowerment. The political and value implications of human behavior theories and practice models are considered for their contribution to the relief of oppression and the promotion of social and economic justice. The variety of theories and practice models are subjected to critical reflection through comparison and analysis, including consideration of their congruence with professional mission, values, and ethics. Theories and practice approaches are examined for their applicability to diverse peoples. Finally, theories and concepts are examined for their relevance to social work practice in various settings in accordance with the school's mission.

Diversity of human behavior and experience in the context of the socio-cultural and natural environment is considered in all content areas of the course. This may include diversity issues relevant to gender, social class, ethnicity and culture, age, sexual orientation, family structure, religious and spiritual perspective, and physical or mental ability. For example, standards for understanding mental health and disorder vary widely in diverse cultural contexts. Gender is a significant factor affecting differences in developmental themes, communication patterns, values, and life experiences. A wide variety of family structures and developmental possibilities exist, such as single parent, nuclear, multigenerational, re-married, and gay and lesbian. Individual and family experiences are strongly influenced by the political context of discrimination and oppression. Standards for normality and well being vary widely in diverse cultural contexts. Values inherent in organizational cultures determine equity and justice issues, such as equal opportunity employment, accessibility to people with disabilities, and participatory versus authoritarian decision-making. Further, experiences of people in groups, organizations, and communities are strongly influenced by the political context of discrimination and oppression, such as institutional racism and environmental racism. Therefore, perspectives on empowering people and furthering social justice through social group work, social welfare administration, community organizing and development, and international peace efforts are examined.

The course addresses theoretical understanding of constraints and challenges imposed by societal discrimination and oppression. Such issues include racist, sexist, and other oppressive behaviors as well as effective strategies for empowering people and working toward social and economic justice. However, the negative aspects of discrimination and oppression are not considered alone. Diversity is considered a positive personal and collective resource in a multicultural society and world. Similarly, discussion of dysfunctional behavior and psychopathology need to consider the types of stress and oppression encountered by various populations and the differing concepts of dysfunction, creativity, and well being in different cultures and social groups.
Required Readings
Robbins, S., Chatterjee, P., & Canda, E. (2006). Contemporary human behavior theory: A critical perspective for social work, 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Various scholarly articles and book chapters (see schedule). These are subject to change depending on the progress of the course.

Recommended Readings

Besthorn, F. (2002). Expanding spiritual diversity in social work: Perspectives on the greening of spirituality. Currents: New Scholarship in the Human Services, 1. Retrieved on 4-4-08 at:

Cain, R. (1991). Stigma management and gay identity development. Social Work, 36, 67-73.

Carter, B. & McGoldrick, M. (2005). Overview: The expanded family life cycle – individual, family and social perspectives. In, B. Carter & M. McGoldrick (eds.), The Expanded Family Life Cycle: Individual, family and social perspectives, 3rd Edition. New York: Allyn and Bacon Classics, 1-26.

Fraiberg, S. (1975). Ghosts in the nursery. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 14(3), 100-136.

Freeman, E. M. (1990). The black family's life cycle: Operationalizing a strengths perspective. In S. M. Logan, E. M. Freeman & R. G. McRoy (eds.), Social Work Practice with Black Families, New York: Longman Press, 55-72.

Furman, R. & Bender, K. (2003). The social problem of depression: A multi-theoretical analysis. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 30(3), 123-137.

Gump, L.S., Backer, R.C. and Roll, S. (2000). Cultural and gender differences in moral judgment: A study of Mexican Americans and Anglo-Americans. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 22(1), 78-93.

Hopps, J. G., Tourse, R. W. C., and Christian, O. (2002). From problems to personal resilience: Challenges and opportunities in practice with African American youth. Social Work with Multicultural Youth, 11(1), 55-77.

Kondrat, M. E. (2002). Actor-centered social work: revisioning “person-in-environment” through a critical theory lens. Social Work, 47(4), 435-448.

McGoldrick, M. (1989). Women through the family life cycle. In M. McGoldrick, C. M. Anderson & F. Walsh (eds.), Women in Families: A Framework for Family Therapy, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 200-226.

McIntosh, P. (1998). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In M. McGoldrick (ed.), Re-Visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice, New York: The Guilford Press

Saleebey, D. (2001). Biopsychosocial understanding. In D. Saleebey, Human Behavior and Social Environments: A Biopsychosocial Approach. New York: Columbia University Press, 92-131.

Saleebey, D. (2001). Person/environment, part I: Families -- the variety of us. In D. Saleebey, Human Behavior and Social Environments:A Biopsychosocial Approach. New York: Columbia University Press, 251-296.

Saleebey, D. (1994). Culture, theory, and narrative: The intersection of meanings in practice. Social Work, 39(4), 351-359.

Saleebey, D. (2000). Power in the people: Strengths and hopes. Advances in Social Work, 1(2), 127-136.

Stanton, E. C. (1892). Solitude of self. Seneca Falls, NY: Suffrage Press Printshop. Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

Waller, M. A. (2001). Resilience in ecosystemic context: Evolution of the concept. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(3), 290-297

Weiss, R. S. (1982). Attachment in adult life. In C. M. Parkes and J. Stevenson-Hinde (eds.), The Place of Attachment in Human Behavior. New York: Basic Books, 171-184.

Whitman, B. U., Accardo, P., Boyert, M. and Kendagor, R. (1990). Homelessness and cognitive performance in children: A possible link. Social Work, 35(6), 516-519.


Students who have special educational needs of any kind, including those related to learning disabilities, other disabilities, English as a second language should discuss necessary accommodations with the instructor within the first two sessions of the course. The university and School of Social Welfare are committed to provide supportive programs and accommodations to assist students who have special learning needs to successfully meet course expectations. In particular, students who feel that they have a disability that may require accommodation should advise the instructor of such disability and desired accommodation as soon as one obtains written documentation of the disability. The instructor will work with the student and the office of Services for Students with Disabilities to provide reasonable accommodations.

Please notify the instructor if your religious observances conflict with class or due dates for class assignments so we can make appropriate arrangements.

Course materials prepared by the instructor, together with the content of all lectures and review sessions presented by the instructor are the property of the instructor. Video and audio recording of lectures and review sessions without the consent of the instructor is prohibited. On request, the instructor will usually grant permission for students to audio tape lectures, on the condition that these audio tapes are only used as a study aid by the individual making the recording. Unless explicit permission is obtained from the instructor, recordings of lectures and review sessions may not be modified and must not be transferred or transmitted to any other person, whether or not that individual is enrolled in the course.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires that any personal information that may identify a person must be removed to protect confidentiality. Confidentiality applies to both classroom discussions and to written work. Please follow these simple, yet essential guidelines:

  • Always disguise the name and other personal identifying information when you speak and write about a person, following the guidelines established by HIPAA.

  • If writing in great detail about a client, ask permission from the client.

  • Share nothing about specific clients, agencies or other students outside of the classroom.

  • Any information shared with the class/instructor will be confidential, within the limits defined by the Code of Ethics and state guidelines.


In the event of inclement weather students should call

Lawrence: the University (785) 864-SNOW, or if hearing impaired and have TTY/TDD equipment, (800) 766-3777

Edwards Campus: (913) 897-8499

KCKCC Campus: (913) 334-1100

to determine if classes have been cancelled. Class will be held if classes have not been cancelled, and students should contact the instructor if weather or driving conditions make it impossible for them to get to class.

XII. SCHEDULE: (note: schedule and/or readings may be modified as the course proceeds)

Session No.


Topic, Readings, Assignments


Jan. 24



Philosophy, theory and critique
Readings: Robbins text - Ch. 1


Jan. 31

Argument analysis

The intellectual landscape: modernism and postmodernism

Readings: David Kelley - “Basic Argument Analysis,” from The Art of Reasoning.

Jean-Francois Lyotard - “The Postmodern Condition,” in Steven H. Daniel’s Contemporary Continental Thought.

Bob Pease - “Rethinking Empowerment: A Postmodern Reappraisal for Emancipatory Practice”

Assignment due: Kelley’s practice quizzes (counts as short paper #1—3 points): p. 102-103; 116-117; 122-123; 132-134. Submit just the quiz number, question number and answer for each in a Word document.


Feb. 7

Philosophy of social work: Jane Addams and John Dewey
Readings: Jane Addams – from Democracy and Social Ethics. John Dewey – from Melchert’s The Great Conversation.
Assignment due: Short paper #2: Jane Addams


Feb. 14

Systems theory
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 2

Roberta Gilbert – excerpt from Extraordinary Relationships: a New Way of Thinking About Human Interactions.

Video: Nagano
Assignment due: Short paper #3: systems theory


Feb. 21

Conflict theories
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 3

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - The Communist Manifesto (available online)

Ferguson & Lavolette “Beyond Power Discourse: Alienation and Social Work”
Assignment due: Short paper #4: Marx


Feb. 28

Empowerment Theories
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 4

Katherine van Wormer “Restorative Justice as Social Justice for Victims of Gendered Violence: A Standpoint Feminist Perspective.”

Mary Swigonski “The Logic of Feminist Standpoint Theory for Social Work Research”
Assignment due: Short paper #5: Standpoint theory


March 7

Theories of assimilation, acculturation, bicultural socialization, and ethnic minority identity
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 5

McDowell & Jeris “Talking About Race Using Critical Race Theory: Recent Trends in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy”

Richard Delgado, from Critical Race Theory: an introduction
Assignment due: Short paper #6: Critical race theory


March 14

Psychodynamic theory
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 6

Alfred Adler, from Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology

Amy Wood “Alfred Adler’s Treatment as a Form of Brief Therapy”

James Overholser, “Psychotherapy that strives to encourage social interest: a simulated interview with Alfred Adler”

Podcast: The Social Work Podcast – “Adlerian psychotherapy”
Assignment due: Short paper #7: Adler
Form groups for group presentations

March 21

Spring Break!


March 28

Adler, Freud & object relations, cont.
Same readings as for March 14th
Assignment due: none, research group projects


April 4

Social constructionism, hermeneutics and narrative therapy
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 10
Phillip Dybics “Confronting Oppression Not Enhancing Functioning: The Role of Social Workers Within Postmodern Practice”

Alan Carr, “Michael White’s Narrative Therapy”

Optional additional readings:
Betty Morningstar “Stories that Transform: Narrative Approaches

to Spiritually Oriented Clinical Practice”

P. Kelly, “A Narrative Therapy Approach to Brief Treatment”

Joane May, “Family Attachment Narrative Therapy: Healing the Experience of Early Childhood Maltreatment”

Assignment due: last short paper, #8: topic TBA


April 11

Theories of lifespan development
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 7
Assignment due: none – work on group presentations


April 18

Assignment due: Group presentations


April 25

Symbolic interaction
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 9

Laura Robinson, “The Cyberself: the Self-ing Project Goes Online, Symbolic Interaction in the Digital Age”

Walter Knauff, “Herbert Blumer’s theory of collective definition and the battle over same-sex marriage: An analysis of the struggle to control the meaning of Marriage in America from a symbolic interaction perspective.”

George Herbert Mead, from Mind, Self, and Society

Assignment due: none – work on final papers


May 2

Transpersonal theory
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 12

David Abram, from The Spell of the Sensuous, “The Ecology of Magic”

Arne Naess, “The Deep Ecological Movement” from Deep Ecology for the 21st Century

Besthorn & Canda “Revisioning Environment: “Deep Ecology for Education and Teaching in Social Work”

Elizabeth Ann Bragg “Towards Ecological Self: Deep Ecology Meets Constructionist Self-Theory”
Assignment due: none – work on final papers


May 9

Behaviorism, social learning, exchange theory
Readings: Robbins text – Ch. 11
Assignment due: none – work on final papers

May 16

Final papers due by 5:00 pm

Ten short papers (topics TBA) will be completed, each paper submitted the day the material is discussed in class (see schedule). Successful completion of these assignments will require careful reading of the relevant texts. Each short paper shall be one and one-half to two pages in length (not more than two pages) and address the reading question(s) in formal essay style (e.g. thesis with supporting evidence – an argument). Papers must have name and paper number/topic at the top, standard (1 inch) margins, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, and a staple in the upper left hand corner. They must be submitted in hard copy in class on the due date.
Each paper is worth 3 points, which will add up to 30, or 30% of the total grade for the course. Papers will be graded as either “pass” (3 pts.) or “fail” (0 points). Each student may revise and resubmit up to 2 papers during the course. Resubmitted papers must be turned in at the following class meeting to receive credit, though they are not guaranteed to pass the second time. Late short papers will be accepted for up to one class period following the due date at 50% credit (1.5 points, which is an “F,” but better than 0 points) with no option to resubmit if they don’t pass.
Grading will be based upon:

  1. Concise, clear writing at the graduate level:

    1. Topic introduction

    2. Clearly identifiable thesis

    3. Topic sentences and relevant supporting argumentation

    4. Appropriate use of grammar, punctuation, spelling

    5. Appropriate use of style (e.g. professional/scholarly writing, as opposed to casual email writing)

    6. Appropriate use of citation (as necessary—these do not require outside research (though it is not prohibited), but in order to discuss the readings one must refer to them. One may also refer to other familiar sources as well.

  2. Clearly addresses the question(s) asked in the assignment (these will vary from week to week)

  3. Demonstrates ability to identify and critique arguments in the readings

  4. Shows capacity to analyze, synthesize, explain, describe, compare/contrast concepts, etc. as necessary

  5. Evidences critical and/or creative thought on the part of the writer (i.e. offers something interesting or novel, as opposed to merely stating the obvious and pedestrian)

GROUP PRESENTATION (like an in-service)
Groups of 3 will be formed to prepare Powerpoint presentations for the class on topics selected by each group and approved by the instructor. Each group will select one theory relevant to their social work practice. Presentations will be 20 minutes each (15 min. presentation + 5 min. Q & A) and will include the following:

  1. Describe/explain the theory

    1. Discuss key concepts; explain any historical trajectory (as needed)

  2. Critique the theory

    1. Be sure to include comparison/contrast to competing theories; argument analysis; SW criticism (including any empirical support for the theory); justify the use of this theory

  3. Apply the theory to a social work problem, situation or event

    1. Describe/explain the situation from the selected theoretical perspective

    2. How is the theory a useful tool?

    3. What specific therapies, practices, policies are called for by viewing the problem through this theoretical lens?

    4. Discuss relevant empirical literature

Completion of the assignment will require reading primary and secondary theoretical texts (at least one source of each), as well as relevant social work scholarly literature (at least 3 articles. Note: scholarly articles from psychology, sociology, etc. may be used as well. Get the instructor’s consent if you plan to use more than 2 of these). It is likely that additional sources will need to be consulted in order to make an interesting presentation.

Grading criteria:

  1. Presentation

    1. Slides: be informative, but not too wordy (hint: don’t use smaller than 20 pt font. Identify key ideas but don’t simply read the slides to the group); use a sufficient number of slides, but not too many (hint: for 15 min. show, don’t use more than 5-7 slides); be creative/interesting (e.g. make a useful diagram/model, use an image, etc., but avoid being ‘cute’ or merely filling space)

    2. Vocal tone, body language, appearance: be professional in demeanor (no major dress up needed for social work); avoid hurrying—most common mistake! (15 min. is not much time. Be selective about what you present, instead of rushing through too much material). Hint—be prepared to ‘talk around’ your slides. Don’t read them like a script.

    3. Organization: Hint--don’t shuffle around like 3rd graders reading parts in a Christmas play. Know who is doing what and when.

  2. Content

    1. Clearly and critically address items 1 through 3 above

    2. Evidence in-depth reading of relevant theoretical literature

    3. Show appropriate use of relevant social work scholarly literature

    4. Do not miss any obvious body of literature or ideas that are relevant to the topic

  3. Handout – (one page handout) include

    1. Names of the presenters

    2. Brief of the contents of the presentation

    3. References: 1 primary source; 1 secondary source; 3 scholarly articles

    4. Attach a hard copy of the Powerpoint slides (for instructor only)

The 10 page (not including references and title page) library research paper is an opportunity for the student to explore a topic related to the course in more depth. The student can choose any theory or theoretical issue related to individual and family behavior. This theory must be connected to the student’s interest in social work practice (ideally the topic will be related to an event or practice in the student’s practicum, and will be useful for the student and others at the practicum site—in other words, this need not be a paper written just for the instructor and a grade) . The basic ideas of the theory should be presented in relation to a chosen practice interest. (One way to write about a theory is to briefly summarize it and discuss key concepts in the theory. Then, use the key concepts you find most applicable to your practice area and apply them to what you might do as a social worker in working with your client.) Research papers should be written on a topic different from the one selected for the group project.
Examples of chosen practice interests include:

(1) Life span theory in working with teenagers who are dealing with

coming out as a gay or lesbian person;

(2) Family resilience or symbolic interaction theory to explore social work

practice with families facing divorce or an ill or disabled family member;

(3) Behavioral, moral or cognitive development theory to explore how to work

with teens involved in school violence or aggressive behavior;

(4) Strengths-based case management (based on empowerment theory) to

work with adults dealing with a mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, or traumatic events; and

(5) Transpersonal theory to work with caregivers providing care for a frail

elder or a dying person.
The theory should be critiqued from the standpoint of its usefulness for application to the chosen practice interest. Use criteria given in class for evaluating theories. Be certain to include at least three components of theory analysis in your critique. The student should consider the congruence between the theory and the student’s own values and professional commitments, i.e., discuss at least three social work values from the NASW code of ethics. The paper must be typed, double-spaced with APA style citations. In addition to relevant course readings and the text, at least ten other social work scholarly articles or book chapters must be used (use of articles from psychology, sociology, etc. is permissable, but get the instructor’s consent if you plan to use more than four of these). References found in the Social Work Abstracts database are appropriate. Note that you will need to obtain articles from the library, request through interlibrary loan or obtain from on-line sources.
The following outline for the research paper must be used (include headings in your paper, as necessary). The page numbers are approximate.

  1. Introduction (1/2 page)

State your practice interest and the theory chosen to connect with it. Be sure to make a clear thesis.

B. Overview of the Theory in Relation to the Practice Interest (5/6 pages)

Give a detailed description of the theory and its concepts as relevant to the practice interest. For example, if the topic is strengths-based case management for persons with chronic mental illness, one could explore how principles of empowerment theory can be applied to help clients gain self-confidence, a critical consciousness, and take effective action in coping with their illness.

  1. Critique of the Theory (2-3 pages)

Adapt the criteria for theory evaluation (at least three components of theory analysis) given in class to your own topic. Include any scholarly evaluations of the theory in relation to the practice interest. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using this theory for your practice interest.

D. Personal Reflections (1-2 pages)

Briefly discuss your own values and professional commitments and how this theory relates with them (Refer to the Social Work Code of Ethics, which is online at the NASW website, and the introduction to Robbins et al for a discussion of social work values. Be sure to discuss at least three values). Is this theory congruent with your values? Why or why not? Are your personal values consistent with professional values and insights from this theory? Specify the implications for your personal and professional growth and the actions you will take to support this growth.
Grading will be based upon:

  1. Concise, clear writing at the graduate level:

    1. Topic introduction

    2. Clearly identifiable thesis

    3. Topic sentences and relevant supporting argumentation

    4. Appropriate use of grammar, punctuation, spelling

    5. Appropriate use of style (i.e. professional/scholarly writing, as opposed to casual email writing)

    6. Appropriate use of citation

    7. APA style (e.g. 12 pt. Times New Roman font; title page; references; headings)

  2. Clearly addresses the questions asked in the assignment (see A through D above)

  3. Demonstrates ability to identify and critique arguments in the readings

  4. Shows capacity to analyze, synthesize, explain, describe, compare/contrast concepts, etc. as necessary

  5. Evidences critical and/or creative thought on the part of the writer (e.g. offers something interesting or novel, as opposed to merely stating the obvious and pedestrian)

Late research papers without a notice will be reduced 20% of the total score for each day late. Late papers, with explicit permission of the instructor, will be reduced 5% of the total score for each day late. If a paper will be late for an emergency, the student must notify the instructor in advance, or as soon as possible, to make an arrangement.


Short papers 30%

Group presentation 30%

Research paper 30%

Class participation 10% (see attendance policy below)

Attendance Policy

Given the need for active participation to support and enhance the learning experience for all students, it becomes essential for you to be in class.  If you can not come to class, you will need to contact the instructor before class. Except in situations of medical necessity, two or more absences will result in a reduced or failing grade, and will warrant an academic review with the dean.

What Grades Mean (plus and minuses are assigned at instructors’ discretion)

A = Exceptional work: outstanding: this grade will be assigned to work that shows critical thinking, extensive and proper use of the literature, as well as wide use of concrete examples from practice. 94-100% (A- = 90-93%)

B = Fully meets graduate standards: this grade will be assigned to work in which all aspects of assignments are completed satisfactorily, showing a combination of accurate use of theory and principles, and precise descriptions of practice. 83-87% (B+ = 88, 89; B- = 80-82)

C = Overall performance is unsatisfactory, below graduate standards, although all aspects of assignments were completed. 73-77% (C+ = 78, 79; C- = 70-72%)

F = Failure: overall quality of work is unsatisfactory, or some aspect of assignments not done.

Incomplete grades. A temporary grade of Incomplete may be assigned to a student who, for a reason beyond the student’s control, has been unable to complete the required work in a course on time. It is the student’s responsibility to request an Incomplete from the instructor. A request signed by the student and the faculty member must be on file when grades are submitted. A student may not enroll in a course sequential to one in which he or she has an I or F letter grade. An incomplete not removed by the end of the next semester will be changed to an F.
Return of Written Assignments at End of Semester

In order to have the last writing assignments returned by mail, the student must supply a correct size, self-adhesive, self-addressed, stamped envelope. The student must be listed as both sender and receiver.

Self-Disclosure and Confidentiality

Personal self-disclosure of the student in class and written assignments is voluntary, except for reflections of personal and professional growth as relevant to course assignments. The student needs to clarify one's own comfort level and sense of privacy regarding self-disclosure. At no time should the confidentiality of clients be violated in class or in written assignments.

Use of Technology in the Classroom

Rule of thumb: be professional and courteous; retain an active presence within the learning environment.

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