Instructor: Jane C. H. Damron, M. A

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CSS 3304 | Small Group Communication

Fall 2010

Instructor: Jane C. H. Damron, M.A.

Classroom: Marrs McLean Science 210

Office: Marrs McLean Science 216-B

Office Hrs: Tues 10-11 | Wed 10-11 (and by appointment)


Phone: (254) 710-1473


Rothwell, J. D. (2010). In Mixed Company: Communicating in Small Groups and Teams (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.


Whether they are professional or leisurely, voluntary or mandatory, you will spend a significant portion of your life interacting with and participating in groups. Thus, this course is designed to strengthen your understanding of how communication affects your experience in small groups. Our goal is to become more competent communicators in these settings. By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • Identify key theories and concepts concerning small groups;

  • Understand how group dynamics (personalities, relationships, cultures, etc.) affect group communication processes;

  • Contribute to group processes including creative and critical thinking, decision-making, conflict management, and problem-solving;

  • Effectively plan and participate in group meetings and presentations.


Attendance: As university policy states, you must attend at least 75% of class periods. Failure to meet this requirement will automatically result in a failing grade. In other words, upon your 11th absence (for MWF classes) and your 8th absence (for MW and TR classes), you will fail the course, as university policy mandates – no exceptions. As a word of advice, although you are technically allowed 7 or 10 absences (depending on the days your class meets), missing the maximum amount of classes allowed is strongly discouraged. Students who attend class regularly tend to earn better grades, plain and simple.

  • Because this class focuses on the nature of healthy group functioning, attendance is particularly important! Therefore, for every absence above 5 (in MWF classes), 2 points will be deducted from your class participation grade. For every absence above 4 (in MW or TR classes), 3 points will be deducted from your class participation grade.

  • As it regards types of absences, please be aware that an absence is an absence, no matter what the reason. University-related absences and absences due to illness/family emergencies COUNT when tallying absence totals.

  • However, if you miss class because of a university-sanctioned activity or illness and you provide me with official written documentation (legitimate doctor’s note, official school excuse, etc.), you will be allowed to make up individual work you may have missed on the day of your absence. Make-up work must be turned in to me no later than one week following the normal turn-in date. After this point, make-up work will not be accepted.

  • Please be aware that excessive tardiness or leaving class early will be counted as absences. In this class, a total of 3 tardies and/or early departures will be counted as 1 absence. Additionally, please be aware that any quizzes missed because of tardiness or early departure are not eligible for make-up.

  • On a lighter note, “perfect attendance” (0 absences) will be rewarded with 10 points of bonus credit! “Almost-perfect attendance” (1 absence) will be rewarded with 5 points of bonus credit. “I-tried-pretty-hard attendance” (2 absences) will be rewarded with 3 points of bonus credit.

Preparedness: It is your responsibility to come to class with the readings and assignments completed. When a chapter or article is listed on the schedule, it is your responsibility to come to class having already read the assigned passage(s). As it regards group work, it is your responsibility to come to class prepared to fulfill your assigned role and contribute to your group.
Participation: This is an interactive course and your input is highly valued! Each student is expected to come to class ready and willing to participate (verbally) in the class discussion. This includes capably answering questions asked by the instructor and voluntarily adding content to the day’s discussion via comments, stories, etc. Not only will this kind of class contribution stimulate your learning, but others will benefit from hearing your thoughts, reactions, and insights.
Respect: Because of the interactive nature of this class, I demand that you exercise the utmost respect for your classmates. It is perfectly acceptable to express opposing viewpoints and provide constructive criticism, but it is not acceptable to insult, ridicule, or disregard one another. Additionally, just as I expect you to show respect for your peers, I also expect respect towards class itself. Respect of this nature includes:

  • Listening attentively to the instructor and to others

  • Staying awake in class;

  • Saving other studying/reading/homework for later;

  • Not coming to class hung over or under the influence of drugs or alcohol;

  • Avoiding inappropriate or foul language;

  • Turning your cell phone to “off” or “silent” for the duration of the class (vibrate is not silent!);

  • Refraining from texting during class (I will not hesitate to confiscate your phone until the end of class);

  • Avoiding whispering to others and/or passing notes

*Blatant disregard for the respect policies of this class will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and may include point deductions in the area of Class Participation.
Personal Responsibility: As your instructor, I am always here to help. But it is YOUR responsibility to take advantage of this resource. Take initiative to ASK any and all questions you have about readings, lectures, assignments, etc…. and avoid waiting until the last minute to do so. If you miss class, it is YOUR responsibility to find out what you missed. If you are late to class, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure I have counted you present. You are the master or your destiny in this class, not I. 
Late Work: This is a junior-level course and because of that, I expect you to perform at a higher level than freshmen. Late work will not be accepted. You either have the work in class or you don’t; it’s either turned in on time or it’s not. No exceptions. Emailing it to me after class is not an option. Dropping it off at my office by 5:00 o’clock is not an option. In light of this policy, be intentional about having your work ready to go well before class time. For example, printer problems happen – so avoid the tendency to print 10 minutes before class starts. Important Note: As mentioned previously in the section on attendance, the only work that can be made-up is work that is missed due to an official school-related absence or illness (if accompanied by documentation).
Academic Integrity: Plagiarism is the act of representing, either directly or indirectly, and without proper source documentation, someone else’s work as your own. This ranges from assignments to quizzes to exams. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and students caught participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be removed from the course and will be receive a “F.” It will also result in notification of the Communication Studies department chair, the appropriate dean of your college or school, and the Office of Academic Integrity. For a complete description of Baylor’s Honor Code Policy & Procedures, please refer to:
Readings: Throughout the semester, you will regularly be assigned to read chapters from the textbook. Occasionally you will also be assigned to read an academic journal article which will be provided to you on Blackboard. As previously mentioned, it is your responsibility to come to class having already read the assigned passage(s) listed for that day. Important Note: Being prepared to discuss chapter/article content in class contributes to your class participation grade (see section on Class Participation below). Additionally, the content of the exams will be taken primarily from the readings, so you would be advised to stay on top of these readings. Seeing the material for the first time as you’re cramming for the test isn’t the best route to an A.
Quizzes: As a means of accountability (keeping you on your toes as it regards reading), there will be a handful of quizzes throughout the course of the semester covering content from the readings and lectures. It is up to the instructor’s discretion whether these are scheduled or unscheduled (pop) quizzes. Quizzes may be administered in various forms, including multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, or essay. Quizzes missed because of tardiness are not eligible for make-up. There will be a total 25 possible quiz points.
Journal Entries: Throughout the course of the semester, we will cover a total of 10 chapters of the textbook. Each chapter will deal with specific aspects of small group functioning. You will choose 5 of our 10 chapters to delve into more deeply by writing a journal entry on it. For each journal entry, you will write a full one-page description and analysis of something you have seen or otherwise experienced in your own life that relates to an aspect of your selected chapter. Your assignment is to apply the theories and concepts learned during class and demonstrate that you are carefully observing and critically thinking about the material as it applies to the real world. (Please see handout available on Blackboard for exact journal entry specifications including formatting details.) Journal assignments are always due in class on Mondays (for MWF and MW classes) or Tuesdays (for TR classes), and your journal entry can cover anything we read within the preceding chapter. Important Note (because I know you will ask): I only accept one entry at a time AND I only accept 5 total journal entries; I do not accept 6 intending to drop the lowest grade. Each journal is worth 15 points (5 journals = 75 total possible points).
Examinations: There will be two exams, a midterm and a final. Exams may consist of multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, or essay questions. The content of the exams may be drawn from readings, lectures, and class activities. Please put your heart at ease: the final exam is NOT cumulative. I will provide a light exam review sheet for you and we will make time in class for a brief exam review which will focus on your questions. The midterm is worth 100 points; the final is worth 125 points.
Group Project: You will be placed in a 4-6 member group within the first few weeks of the semester. There will be 6 separate assignments within this project, all of which involve performing as a group to complete the work. The 5th assignment involves a group presentation. Detailed information about each assignment will be provided to you as the semester progresses. We may not all love group work, but this is a hands-on way to observe and practice the concepts of this course.  The group project is worth 200 points total (group presentation = 100 points; other assignments = 20 points each).
Group Participation: Towards the end of the semester, each student will complete a participation grade sheet for all the members of their group. Each student’s participation grade is determined by the evaluations of the others in the group, meaning you always want to do your best as a group member! These evaluations will serve to illustrate how involved you were in the group and assess your overall contribution to the group. Group participation is worth 50 points.

  • If while working on your project it is obvious that a certain group member is not pulling his or her weight, (i.e., the social loafer or “slacker”), your group can decide unanimously to “fire” this individual from the group. If your group decides to fire someone, this must be decided and submitted to me by Friday, November 5th. Remember, normal group functioning usually involves some conflict and potential personality differences; these conflicts are normally resolvable, so please use this option only as a last resort when no other means of resolution or confrontation have been successful.

  • Getting fired is very undesirable. Should you be fired from your group, you will automatically receive a 0/50 in the area of “Group Participation.” In addition to this penalty, you will be required to turn in an 18-20 page paper regarding an aspect of small group communication I designate. This paper will require a detailed source list, including scholarly journal articles.

Class Participation: Class Participation involves coming to class, actively participating in class activities, upholding the respect policies listed previously, showcasing a positive attitude towards class in general, and verbally engaging and contributing to class discussion. This grade can be affected by more than 5 class absences (see attendance policy). Class participation is worth 25 points.
Movie Screening: There will be an outside-of-class movie screening Monday, November 29th, from 6:00-8:00p.m. in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 100 (downstairs, Robert Packard Hall). I strongly encourage you to attend this event because it will be a part of your final exam. Try to plan ahead and arrange your other academic, athletic, and extracurricular commitments accordingly. If you are unable to attend this screening, you may acquire and watch the movie on your own time (which, let’s face it, just won’t be as fun). 
Grading Methods: This course is graded using a point system in which you accumulate points over the entire semester. The grading is not based on averages or percentages, just points. Your final grade is determined by dividing your total tally of points (which includes any extra credit points) by the total number of possible points (which excludes extra credit). Refer to grading scale below for specifics.
Posting of Grades: All grades will be posted to Blackboard and can be accessed by logging in to Please keep up with your grades here; there is no reason you should have to ask me how you are doing in the course – all the information will be available for your calculation, at your convenience.
Discussion of Grades: Students may discuss a graded assignment within 1 week of the grade being posted to Blackboard. Students wishing to do so must arrange a time outside of class to visit with me. If you are contesting a grade, please be prepared to provide a clear rationale for why the grade should be reconsidered (“I deserve it” is not a sufficient claim). After 7 calendar days, a grade may not be contested. Important Note: This course is a no-complain zone! While I am always open to hearing your concerns and discussing relevant class issues, I do not entertain complaining or whining.
Curves/Extra Credit:

  • As a general rule, I do not curve exams or assignments, so do not anticipate this.

  • I do offer extra credit opportunities from time to time. Any extra credit points you earn are simply added to your running tally of points.

  • My grading scale is more generous than Baylor’s official grading scale. At the end of the semester, do not ask or expect to be bumped up to the next highest letter grade if you are a few points shy.

Assignment Points/Grading Scale (Non-Negotiable):





25 points


Class Participation

25 points


Journal Entries

75 points


Group Project

200 points


Group Participation

50 points


Midterm Exam

100 points


Final Exam

125 points


Total Points

600 points


Grading Scale


89.5%-100% = A


86.5%-89.4% = B+


79.5%-86.4% = B


76.5%-79.4% = C+


69.5%-76.4% = C


59.5%-69.4% = D


59.4%-below = F


OALA: The Office of Access and Learning Accommodations (OALA) is a valuable tool for those with learning disabilities. Please contact their office at x3605 for questions regarding specific adjustments for test taking. It is your responsibility to contact the office, make arrangements, gather any necessary forms, and bring them to me to sign before test day (I cannot do any of this myself). Their office is located in the Paul L. Foster Success Center – Sid Richardson, Room 189. See
Success Center: The Paul L. Foster Success Center also provides career counseling, career services, and advising. See
My Role: I am always here to assist you with your progress in this course – I’m on your team. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not here to make your life miserable; instead, my goal is to provide an engaging, fun learning environment and equip you with practical principles you can apply outside the classroom! Please know that my office door is always open. Feel free to utilize my designated office hours or make an appointment to discuss any issues you might be having in the course.
Contacting Me: Email is the best and quickest way to reach me. I will always attempt to reply in a prompt fashion.
Contacting You: Throughout the semester, I will communicate with you regularly via email regarding assignments and reminders. Blackboard will also be utilized for posting information, assignments, and grades. Please make it a habit of checking your designated email account and Blackboard on a regular basis.

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