Social Work 300

SOWK 300: Human Behavior in the Social Environment I

Prerequisites: PSYC 121, SOCY 110, and admission to SOWK major

Credit Hours: (3)

Builds upon concepts drawn from the social and behavioral sciences to provide an overview of theory influencing understanding of human behavior and the social environment.  Special emphasis on understanding individuals and families.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Provides an intellectual foundation for the social work curriculum. The course builds upon concepts drawn from the social and behavioral sciences, human biology and philosophy for understanding the human condition. SOWK 300 is the first part of a two part sequence in the professional curriculum and focuses on the question of how we become who we are. The results of such inquiries form the basis for assessment in social work. Theories about the human condition that represent both objectivist and subjectivist schools are presented.

This course focuses upon the theories that are especially used in broadening our understanding of individuals. Those theories are critiqued in relationship to: 1)their fit with the values of human worth and dignity and community betterment; and 2) their accounting of the meanings of diversity in all of its forms. How the theories treat the concepts: discrimination, oppression, ethnicity, race, gender and sexual orientation are examined.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Concepts of free will versus determinism, nature versus nurture, and process versus outcome are addressed to understand people through professional theory.

Format - This course will utilize a variety of teaching techniques. Lectures, class discussion, in class exercise, outside projects, speakers, and videos will be utilized as appropriate.

Primary points related to objectivist theories are examined. Theories used to make informed assessments in social work are explored.

In addition to lecture and class discussions, informal writing assignments may include such exercises as summaries of reading assignments, responses to lectures and class discussions, and explanations of key concerns.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students participate in a variety of ways:

  • To examine major theories drawn from the objectivist school (i.e. behaviorism, cognitive behavioral, systems theory, ego developmental psychology, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic).
  • To examine major theories drawn from the subjectivist school(i.e. symbolic interactionism, role theories, person-centered, existential).
  • To understand the role of the environmentally informed theories (objectivist) versus the role of individually informed theories (subjectivist) in shedding light on the human condition.
  • To assess how environmentally informed theories build our understanding of individuals as they move through life stages.
  • To assess how each theory attends to such concepts as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and diversity.
  • To understand how theories born from the social and behavioral sciences and philosophy inform every aspect of the social work assessment.
  • To understand the correspondence between each theory and values and ethics in social work. 


Assessment Measures

I. Two objective-type examinations will test students’ understanding of social welfare issues and policy alternatives.
II. Students will discuss primary documents that serve to familiarize students with concepts related to public and private responsibility for social service provision and reform.
III. Students participate in experiential group projects to enhance self-awareness and sensitivity to cultural diversity and dynamics of human behavior.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

Revised, April 23, 2013

February 2005 Updated Steven Culver

Revised 2/5/09