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Communication and Media Studies 250

COMS 250: Interpersonal Communication

Credit Hours: (3) Three hours lecture/participation

Improves understanding of internal communication environments, enhances ability to communicate with others. Emphasis on theory and research through experiential projects and examination of communication process used by class itself.

 

Detailed Description of Content of Course

I. Elements of Interpersonal Communication

            A. Processes of perception
            B. The role of self-concept
            C. Effective use of language
            D. Nonverbal communication skills
            E. Listening effectively

II. Relationship Skills in Interpersonal Relationships

            A. Relationship development
            B. Relationship maintenance
            C. Gender and communication
            D. Assertive communication
            E. Managing conflict
            F. Interpersonal persuasion

III. Contexts of Interpersonal Communication

            A. Friendships
            B. Intimate relationships
            C. Family communication
            D. Interpersonal communication at work

 

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course focuses on knowledge of and skills in one-on-one communication. It includes a survey of basic communication elements, e.g., perception, self-concept, language, nonverbal communication, and listening. Those basics are then applied to the more general topics of relationship development, relationship maintenance, gender, assertiveness, conflict, and persuasion. Finally, all elements of the course are placed into the specific contexts of friendships, intimate relationships, family relationships, and workplace relationships.

The course is conducted using a combination of lecture and participation. Students are expected to read both primary and secondary sources in preparation for class lecture and discussion. Additionally, students participate throughout the semester in numerous exercises and problem-solving situations in which they apply and attempt to master the concepts and strategies involved in effective interpersonal communication. Written analysis of interpersonal communication problems and solutions is also a component of the course.

 

Goals and Objectives of the Course

The primary goal of the course is to introduce students to concepts, strategies, theories and research that will enable them to identify, understand, and demonstrate clear and effective interpersonal communication.

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to

  • demonstrate an understanding of the processes of perception and identify the role of perception in interpersonal communication;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of self-concept in the interpersonal communication process;
  • demonstrate an understanding of and skill in the use of language strategies in interpersonal communication;
  • demonstrate an understanding of and skill in the use of nonverbal strategies in interpersonal communication;
  • demonstrate an understanding of and skill in using effective listening strategies;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the strategies appropriate for relationship development;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the strategies appropriate for relationship maintenance;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of gender in interpersonal communication;
  • demonstrate an understanding of and skill in the use of strategies of assertive communication;
  • demonstrate an understanding of and skill in the use of strategies to manage conflict effectively;
  • demonstrate an understanding of and skill in the use of strategies of interpersonal persuasion;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of communication in the context of friendship;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of communication in intimate relationships;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of communication in the family context; and
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of communication in interpersonal relationships in the work place.

The course specifically meets the following goals of the General Education Program:

  • Students should be able to think critically and creatively about ideas, issues, problems, and texts both within and across academic disciplines Throughout the course, students are involved in thinking critically and creatively about the ideas, issues, and problems related to their own interpersonal communication skills and those of others.

For example, case studies and extended illustrations of interpersonal communication situations are often presented to students for their analysis and application of appropriate communication skills and strategies. Also, students engage in role-playing exercises and then analyze the communication weaknesses and strengths illustrated in those exercises.

  • Students should be able to construct logical and persuasive arguments

The course relies upon students constructing arguments about the nature of interpersonal communication and the most effective and least effective strategies for engaging in interpersonal communication. Moreover, one section of the course emphasizes persuasion as it applies to interpersonal settings.

  • Students should be able to employ a variety of research methods and styles of inquiry

In the course, students are expected to read and apply the results of both qualitative and quantitative research findings. Additionally, students are often asked to design their own research experiments, report the results, and compare those results with the findings of discipline-specific and discipline-related research.

  • Students should be able to work with others in a shared process of inquiry and problem-solving

As may be evident from the above, students often work together (in pairs or small groups) to study specific interpersonal communication situations and to engage in problem solving regarding those situations. Additionally, the component of the course that places emphasis on conflict management specifically teaches problem-solving strategies.

  • Identify the personal and cultural values that shape decisions in public, professional, and private life

This General Education goal is the heart of the Interpersonal Communication course. The course is designed with two primary objectives in mind. First, the course is designed to introduce students to the theory, research, and application of interpersonal communication concepts and skills. Secondly, because this course is taken by both majors and non-majors (as an elective), it is designed to improve students’ communication skills that will be necessary for an effective, productive, and enriching public, professional, and private life. With the introduction of each concept, ethical and cultural ramifications are considered. In fact, the majority of the texts adopted for interpersonal communication courses across the nation (including the texts adopted at Radford) specifically focus on the ethical and cultural components of communication. Ethical and cultural values inform any interpersonal communication episode; thus, these components are an essential element in the study of this context of communication.

The course specifically meets the following goals of Area 1, Communication, in the General Education Program:

  • Students should be able to read primary and secondary texts in English with comprehension
  • Students should be able to write effective prose which takes into account a range of audiences, purposes, and contexts
  • Students in the course are expected to read and demonstrate comprehension (through examinations, research papers, journals, and in-class discussion) of primary research sources and secondary sources.
  • Students should be able to listen attentively and participate effectively in oral discussion
  • Students should be able to speak with clarity and purpose in a variety of social and professional contexts

These communication components again exemplify the primary purposes of the course. Students are instructed specifically in listening skills (e.g., listening objectives, obstacles to effective listening, and listening strategies). Moreover, students participate in listening exercises and their listening skills are evaluated. They are instructed in language and nonverbal conversation skills; they are instructed in assertive (as opposed to passive and aggressive) communication strategies; they are instructed in strategies of conflict management; they are instructed in appropriate self-disclosure strategies; and they are instructed in appropriate communication strategies for relationship development and maintenance. In short, every component of the course is aimed at teaching students to participate effectively in oral discussion with others. The final portion of the course is designed to make applicable communication skills to a variety of social and professional contexts, e.g., in friendships and in the family (social and personal contexts) and in the work place (professional).

 

Assessment Measures

Two general types of assessment measures are used in this course: informal and formal. Informal assessment is primarily accomplished through responses to ideas and argument generated through in-class discussion and in response to class activities. Formal assessment measures include traditional examinations, graded papers and journal entries, and graded in-class exercises and out-of-class assignments.

The assessment measures used in this course fulfill the five general goals of the General Education Program in the following ways:

  • Students should be able to think critically and creatively about ideas, issues, problems, and texts both within and across academic disciplines

The course requires that students read traditional interpersonal communication texts, handouts, and additional textual assignments that cover a broad range of the academic literature (most heavily from the discipline of communication, but also from related disciplines, e.g., psychology and sociology) related to interpersonal communication ideas, issues, and problems. In-class, instructor-led discussions assess students’ initial understandings of those texts, handouts, and assignments. Additionally, traditional examinations assess those understandings.

  • Students should be able to construct logical and persuasive arguments

In-class discussions of textual material and of case studies provide the basis for students to construct logical and persuasive arguments that are then assessed by the instructor. Examinations and written assignments also allow assessment of student-constructed arguments.

  • Students should be able to employ a variety of research methods and styles of inquiry

Traditional examinations assess students’ understanding of research methods and styles of inquiry. Also, students write about those methods and styles in graded papers and journal entries. Finally, students are occasionally required to design their own research studies as a method of inquiry. For example, students might design an experiment to test the validity of "Nonverbal Violations Expectancy Theory" or they might engage in participant-observation to understand "Relational Dialectics Theory." Both are theories related to the development and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. Those studies are then evaluated by the instructor in terms of their design and their informational value.

  • Students should be able to work with others in a shared process of inquiry and problem-solving

Concept-specific exercises are conducted in class (either for the class as a whole or in small groups or pairs) that require students to demonstrate understanding of communication processes and the role of communication in developing and implementing problem-solving strategies. Those exercises are immediately followed by assessment. To succeed in this course, students must not only demonstrate that they understand a communication concept, they also must demonstrate that they can employ effective communication skills associated with that concept. For example, students are evaluated on their understanding of conflict management strategies. It is not until they have demonstrated that they can engage in effective conflict management, though, that they are considered to have mastered that section of course material.

  • Identify the personal and cultural values that shape decisions in public, professional, and private life

Through in-class discussion, examinations, written assignments, and exercises, students are assessed on their understanding of the roles of personal and cultural values in their lives.

The assessment measures used in this course fulfill the four area-specific goals (Area 1: Communication) of the General Education Program in the following ways:

  • Students should be able to read primary and secondary texts in English with comprehension
  • Students should be able to write effective prose which takes into account a range of audiences, purposes, and contexts
  • Students demonstrate and are assessed on their comprehension of primary research sources and secondary sources both orally and in written formats, e.g., examinations, papers, journal entries, in-class discussion, and class exercises and assignments.
  • Students should be able to listen attentively and participate effectively in oral discussion
  • Students should be able to speak with clarity and purpose in a variety of social and professional contexts
  • Students are assessed specifically with respect to their listening skills (e.g., listening objectives, obstacles to effective listening, and listening strategies).

For example, they participate in listening exercises and their listening skills are then evaluated. Through in-class exercises, out-of-class assignments, examinations, and written assignments, students’ language and nonverbal skills, their assertiveness skills, their conflict management skills, their self-disclosure skills, and their relational skills are assessed. Those skills are then re-assessed through the same measures in the final portion of the course when specific communication concepts and strategies are applied to a variety of social and professional contexts, e.g., in friendships and in the family (social and personal contexts) and in the work place (professional).

 

Other course information

 

APPROVAL AND SUBSEQUENT REVIEWS

DATE ACTION REVIEWED BY
September, 2001 Bill Kennan, Chair