Lower Division Oral and Written Communication and Related Critical Thinking Skills Course


SAMPLE SYLLABUS Back to previous syllabus

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the dynamics of interpersonal communication and conflict resolution. Participants identify and evaluate interpersonal conflicts, assess communicative options from different ethical frameworks, and make ethical and effective decisions through conflict resolution practices.

The course fosters development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with  two  general education requirements:  ENGCOM B and ETHICS ULRs.

Course Prerequisite:  Successful fulfillment of EngCom A




ENGCOM ULR Level B:  Demonstrate empathic and critical listening, production of written texts and oral communication of complex ideas to audiences using English.


1.      Comprehension/Interpretation:  Ability to use empathic and critical reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing skills to understand information and ideas; to distinguish among diverse genres of communication; to identify a point of view and its explicit support; and to locate significant points of agreement and disagreement among multiple perspectives.


2.      Analysis/Evaluation:  Ability to use empathic and critical thinking skills to understand why different perspectives exist on a given topic and to assess their merits.


3.      Presentation: Ability to use oral and written communication ethically, effectively, and competently.


ETHICS ULR:  Demonstrate skill in recognizing, analyzing and resolving real-world ethical problems using diverse approaches to ethical decision-making.


1.      Identify and describe actual ethical problems or dilemmas and those who are affected by them

2.      Analyze the dilemma from the multiple perspectives of those affected

3.      Articulate and acknowledge one’s own deeply held beliefs and assumptions as part of a conscious value system

4.      Describe and analyze relevant perceptions and ethical frameworks for decision making

5.      Demonstrate considered reflection of the above when identifying the available range of options as well as their anticipated consequences


Instructional Resources:


·        Josina M. Makau  & Debian L. Marty, Cooperative Argumentation:  A Model for Deliberative Community  (Waveland Press, 2001)

·        E-Reserve Readings

·        Videos

·        Participants  will  be  asked to identify and secure a number of additional instructional resources (from the Internet, Library Learning Complex, and other sources)



·        Interpersonal Communication Skills Reflective Essay (due February 8)

·        In-Class Essay Exam (March 6)

·        Empathic Listening Exercise  (Due March 13)

·        Oral  Presentations  (March 27 and March 29)

·        Conflict Resolution Exercise  (Due April 10)

·        Position Paper (due April 24)

·        In-Class Critical Review (May 10)

·        Draft Argumentative Essay (Due May 10)

·        Final Argumentative Essay (Due May 17)


Assessment & Grade Distribution:


·        Reflective Essay:                                                          5%

·        Empathic Listening Exercise:                                      10%

·        Conflict Resolution Exercise:                                      10%

·        In-Class  Essay  Exam:                                              15%

·        Oral Presentation:                                                      10%

·        Position  Paper:                                                          5%                                      

·        Argumentative Essay:                                                20%

·        In-Class Critical Review:                                            10%

·        Participation & Contributions:*                                  15%





Given the nature and goals of this learning experience, all enrollees are expected to participate actively in class discussions, group work, and other learning activities. Absence from a class session prevents the participant from contributing to the learning community, as well as compromising the individual’s ability to stay fully in tune with the community’s efforts. The learning process in this skill-based class is incremental. Active participation is therefore key to fulfillment of the course goals. For these and related reasons, it is important for class members to attend all sessions to the extent possible. It is understood that special circumstances (such as a death in the family, illness, etc.) can require an enrollee to miss class.  If special circumstances of this kind require a student to miss a class discussion or other learning activity, she or he is responsible for  consulting  with  and securing notes from  classmates,  as well as for completing all work required in  order to get “up to speed” on  material covered during his or her absence. It is not possible for the instructor to “replicate” the day’s learning experiences. It is therefore important for students to avoid requesting assistance of this type from the instructor. 


Participants are expected to arrive in class on time (late arrivals disrupt the flow of learning for the entire learning community and are therefore deeply problematic). The learning community’s success depends as well upon participants’ timely and thoughtful review of required readings. All participants are expected to come to class well prepared to contribute meaningfully.


Shutting down personal electronic equipment (cell phones, pagers, personal computers, and other equipment) is key to developing and sustaining a respectful and successful learning environment. Computer and related technological resource use must be limited strictly to “official” communal  learning  activities. All participants must be sure to turn off their personal computers, cell phones, and other equipment prior to each class session.


Below is an overview of assessment criteria for each student’s participation and contributions:


14-15pts:  Attends all class sessions (barring extreme circumstances); arrives on time, well prepared for each session’s learning experience; participates actively and meaningfully;  contributes significantly to group activities;  provides valuable insights throughout the semester; demonstrates respect and regard for fellow class mates;  significantly contributes to fulfillment of class goals.


12-13pts:  Attends nearly all class sessions;  arrives on time, prepared for each session’s learning experience; participates actively and meaningfully;  contributes valuably to group activities;  provides meaningful insights throughout the semester;  demonstrates respect and regard for fellow class mates;  contributes valuably to fulfillment of class goals.


11-12pts:  Attends most class sessions; arrives on time, prepared for each session’s learning experience; participates actively; meets minimal standards in contributing to group activities; offers insights during at least half of class sessions;  demonstrates respect and regard for fellow class mates;  demonstrably seeks to contribute to fulfillment of class goals.


9-10:  Attends more than 70% of  class sessions;  arrives on time most days; contributes to group activities;  offers insights during at least a third of class sessions;  demonstrates respect and regard for fellow class mates;  seeks to contribute to fulfillment of class goals.



Fulfillment of General Education Requirements:


Students who participate actively in  class  discussions and learning activities, submit all assignments  on  due  dates, and  demonstrate a satisfactory level of competency--meeting a  satisfactory level of  performance on course assignments--will earn a grade of “C” /2.0 or better.  Students  who  meet  or  exceed  this standard  of  performance throughout  the  semester  will be  certified as having fulfilled the Ethics and Second Level EngCom University Learning Requirements.


Participants’  Rights  and  Responsibilities:


1.      Presence & Participation: As noted above, on-time presence and informed, active, respectful participation in class discussions and other learning activities are expected of all participants. If a student must miss a class discussion or other learning activity, she or he is responsible for  consulting  with  and securing notes from  classmates,  as well as for completing all work required in  order to get “up to speed” on  material covered during his or her absence. The instructor is responsible for being well prepared to facilitate learning through respectful engagement with students and their learning processes, and to provide thoughtful, responsible, and  responsive  assessment of student learning.


2.      Meeting Deadlines and Fulfilling Outcomes: all assignments are to be submitted at the beginning of  class on  the due date unless other arrangements are negotiated  in advance with the instructor. Valid reasons to negotiate extensions include serious illness or personal emergency. All paper assignments are expected to be typed, double-spaced,  and following  other guidelines  presented in class. The instructor is expected to provide assignment guidelines and to assess student work in a timely fashion (three weeks maximum) with comments and assessments of student learning (as appropriate). Students are entitled to discuss their  assessment  with the instructor.


3.      Plagiarism gravely undermines the integrity of the learning process. Students must be sure to provide clear and appropriate citations for any information, text, or copy taken from books, magazines, peers, tutors, friends, the Internet, or any other outside source. Failure to do so on any assignment will be considered a serious violation of academic integrity. The instructor is obligated to uphold strict sanctions against such practices throughout the semester.


Anticipated Schedule


Week One:


1/23:  Introduction  to  Each Other  &  to the  Course

          Overview of  Conflict  Resolution  Case Options




1/25:   Introduction to Ethics  and   EngCom B ULRs

           Interpersonal Communication Exercise

           Exploration of  Case  Study  Options


Readings:  Makau and Marty, pp. 1-16


Week Two:


1/30-2/1:   Guidelines for  Ethical and Effective Dialogue

                  Introduction to Cooperative Argumentation

                  Selection of  Case Study and Groups

                  Empathic Listening


Readings:  Makau and Marty, pp. 45-110


Week Three:


2/6-2/8:   Moral Relativism  and  Moral Reasoning

               Introduction to Diverse Ethical Frameworks

               Introduction to Moral Development Theory

               Truthfulness and the Principle of Veracity



Readings:  Jaksa  and  Pritchard, Communication Ethics: Methods of Analysis,

                   pp. 9-13 &  pp. 60-102 (e-reserve)

                   A. Rich essay

Video:        Bill Moyers interview with Sissela Bok



Reflective Essay Due February 8


Week Four:


2/13-2/15:  Moral Development & Interpersonal Communication

                  Applying Diverse Ethical Frameworks

        Interpersonal Communication Case Studies in Truthfulness & Deception


Readings: Jaksa and Pritchard, pp. 60-102

                  Rich essay

                  Other readings TBD






Week Five:


2/20:            Reason, Logic,  and Emotion in Conflict Resolution

                    Cynicism vs. Critical Judgment

                    Ethics,  Interpersonal Communication,  and   Emotional Intelligence


Readings:  Makau  & Marty, pp. 12-54; 81-110; 113-115; and 244-245

                   S. Cisneros essay


2/22: Group Work (Preparation for Empathic Listening Exercise and  Presentations)


Readings:  Group research



Week Six:


2/27: Reflections and Preparation for In-Class Exam


3/1:  Group Work (Preparation for Empathic Listening Exercise and Public Presentations)



Week Seven


3/6:    In-Class Exam


3/8:    Conflict Resolution Across Cultural Boundaries

          Cultural  Relativity  and  Cross Cultural Values


Readings:   Universal Declaration of Human Rights  (e-reserve)

                    Makau & Marty, pp. 111-115


Videos:  Samples of Cross-Cultural Values


Week Eight:


3/13-3/15:  Forum  Preparation

                   Identifying key terms and issues

                   Identifying roles and responsibilities



  Readings:  Makau & Marty,  pp. 130-237


  Empathic Listening Exercise Due March 13




Week Nine:


3/20-3/24:   Spring  Break


Week Ten:


3/27-3/39:  Group Forums and Deliberations


Week Eleven:

4/3:  Reflections


4/5:  Introduction to Family Life Issues


Readings:  E-Readings


Week Twelve


4/10-4/12:  Preparing the Argumentative Essay

                   Introduction to Family Life Issues


Readings:  E-Reserve


Conflict Resolution Exercise Due April 10


Weeks Thirteen & Fourteen:


4/17-4/26:   Preparing  the Argumentative Essay

                    Assignment guidelines &  criteria  for  assessment

                    Identifying assumptions, values, and commonplaces

                    Exploring Issues

                    Identifying support


Readings:  Makau & Marty, pp. 239-285


Position Papers Due April 24

Week Fifteen:


5/1-5/3:         Preparing the  Argumentative Essay

                      Exploring issues

                      Responsiveness to the deliberative community

                      Identifying and applying an ethical framework to conflict resolution

                      Tools for evaluating arguments


Readings:  Makau & Marty, pp. 239-285



Week Sixteen:


5/8:  Reflections and Preparation of  Final  Essays


5/10:  In-Class Review Exercise


Draft Essay Due May 10


Final Essay Due May 17