Course Description:

A survey of major theories in the field of communication with emphasis on interpersonal and small group communication. 


Students will be able to:

Textbook and readings:

Access to Blackboard Learn is required for this class.

There is no textbook for this class. There will generally be three articles/book chapters each week (in Blackboard).

*You may also find the Griffin website very useful as it provides a brief synopsis of many of the theories we will study (look for the * in the agenda).

Teaching Philosophy:

My job here is to facilitate your learning; to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course. This means I do my best to structure a course that makes sense to you and gives you opportunities to learn, apply, analyze and evaluate the concepts/theories. I do not tell you what or how to think, just stimulate and stretch your abilities to do that thinking. To that end, I am generally willing to work with any student who is willing to work as well. But, I expect you to work. If you do your part; i.e., read and consider the material, participate in discussions, and complete assignments thoroughly and on time, I absolutely enjoy doing my part. If you have questions or concerns about the class, assignments or content, you should consult with me about those either in person or via email. My services as a facilitator and guide (and occasional technical consultant) come with the tuition you paid for the course, do not be shy about using them!

Class policies:

Late work: While I do accept late work, each day (including weekends) late is subject to up to 20% reduction in points (which means after five days, you have pretty much earned a 0). If you are having a technical problem, have questions about the assignment, or are having other issues which make it difficult for you to complete the assignment on time, always let me know before the assignment is due. Plan for technological obstacles, i.e, if your computer or internet at home goes down, what can you do (get to campus, go to a library etc.). Waiting until the last minute, almost assures you will have technical problems!

My availability: I check my email multiple times a day during the week. I check it once or twice on Saturday. I do not do email on Sunday as that is reserved for family, dogs, and having some down time. So, you can expect me to get back to you fairly quickly, but not necessarily within a half hour or so.

Civility expectations: While you are not required to agree with everyone's opinions, you are required to respect them in class. However, because you have an opinion, does not mean it is a valid opinion! Back up your statements with facts, direct experiences, concepts from the readings, etc.

Academic Misconduct : Academic Misconduct, including plagiarism (using other people's ideas/words and not giving them credit thus implying the work is your own original work), is taken very seriously at any learning institution. It is taken very seriously in this class. Please be aware of what academic misconduct is and the potential consequences (including dismissal from the university) of such behavior.

Helpful places on campus:

Services for Students with a Disability: If you have a disability or acquire one and want to find out about what special services and accommodations are available, you may contact Services for Students with Disabilities in WALB 113.

Writing Center: Can help you with general writing problems or specific assignments (including APA research papers) at Learning Commons (Helmke Library, second floor).

CASA (Center for Academic Support and Advancement): Offers many kinds of services to students including tutoring in KT G23.

Helmke Library offers research librarians who can help you find what you need.

At Welcome to Blackboard Help for Students!, you can find specific instructions regarding how to use many of the features of Blackboard. In addition, IPFW Information Technology Services provides access to online training videos from

You can find answers to frequently asked questions about online learning at Online Learning FAQ

If you have any other questions regarding technical issues, you can either contact me or Information Technology Services by email at, by phone at 260-481-6030, or use the Get Help web link.


Discussion forums and wikis based on the readings 30% (grading rubrics in Blackboard and linked below)

Each week you will be responsible for either posting an initial summary (by Tuesday) about a theory in the Wiki or beginning and facilitating (by Tuesday) the discussion forum about that week's theories.  Everyone should then edit the Wiki posts and respond in the discussion forum until you can all agree that you have it "right." :) (by Saturday).

Wiki posting (15% of semester grade) - Post a summary of the primary ideas/concepts of each theory in paragraph or bullet points format. The initial post should be done by an individual by Tuesday. Everyone should then edit until you can all agree that you have it "right." :). Please edit directly in the Wiki unless your edit is in conflict with someone else's work - in that case post a comment until it gets resolved. Please be as concise as possible - this is not meant to reiterate the readings but to get to the key concepts and ideas of the theory. Wiki postings are worth 45 points a week; 15 points for each Wiki group answer (three theories' wikis/week). If you have not participated productively in the Wiki (or posted the initial summary on time when it is your turn), you will not receive these points. Grading rubric

Discussion forum (15% of semester grade) facilitor: Make an initial post by Tuesday about the question for that week. Your post could be an initial answer, some key ideas to consider or questions you feel need to be answered before getting to the "answer of the week." The facilitator should then participate in the conversation, ask questions, clarify, summarize until you reach consensus. Discussion forums are 50 points/week: 30 points based on group's final answer and 20 points based on individual contributions including fulfilling facilitation responsibilities. Individual forum rubric Group forum rubric

**Application/observation papers – (2) 20%; Grading rubric

2-3 page case studies in which you choose a theory and analyze an interaction/situation from that theoretical perspective or use the theory to change an interaction (hopefully, for the better) and then report the results of that change (you need to create or observe a current interaction; do not use interactions you remember). You should briefly describe the interaction and then analyze it according to the concepts within the theory or do something purposely different based on the theory and report your results. Each paper is due the Wednesday of the week we cover that theory, so you need to plan ahead.  Please email me the paper and post the main points on your blog. For sample observation/application papers, you can check here to see what some of my COM 508 Nonverbal Communication students did.

Note: You are expected to email all of us when you post the main points to your blog. Each of you is also expected to comment on at least three application/observation papers in the blogs each week (assuming there are three :).

**Theory analysis  assignment – (2) 20%; Grading rubric

Specific 1-2 page paper assignments during Weeks 4 and 5 to analyze an interaction from a video clip based on a particular theoretical perspective; more information will come in Weeks 4 and 5. Please email me the paper and post the main points on your blog. Due Friday, July 25th and Friday, August 1, respectively.

**Synthesis paper – 30% Grading rubric

Choose two theories and talk about how they could be synthesized into one theory to inform our understanding of some aspect of communication.  What would the utility of this combination be?  How would it help us to understand some specific aspect of communication more completely or from a different, more useful perspective?  This paper should be 3-5 pages.  Please email me the paper. Due Friday, August 8th

**Writing assignment directions: All writing assignments should be in APA format (see Purdue Owl if you have questions), double-spaced with title page, 12 pt font, 1 inch margins. Be sure to include in-text citations for any sources (including Griffin website and the readings) you use and a reference page. No other sources are expected for any of these papers.

Grading Breakdown:

90 - 93% A-
94 - 100% A
80 - 82% B-
83 - 86% B
87 - 89% B+
70 - 72% C-
73 - 76% C
77 - 79% C+
60 - 62% D-
63 - 66%; D
67 - 69% D+
0 - 59% F



Wikis and Forums: If your name is listed after a theory, you are responsible for the first posting of the wiki for that theory (by Tuesday); if your name is listed for the forum, you are responsible for starting and facilitating the forum (by Tuesday) until you reach consensus about the answers for that week (by Saturday)

Week 1: Meta-theories: June 30 - July 5

Social Construction Theory –Paula
* Symbolic Interactionism –Jordan
* Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad –  Regina

Forum: Rhonda

Week 2: Persuasion/Media: July 7 - 12

* Social judgement theory  - Amy
* Aristotle’s rhetoric–Joseph W.
           Extra sources on Aristotle: 
* Uses and gratifications theory of media –  Daylana

Forum: Hallie

Week 3: Interpersonal: July 14 - 19 Helpful information

* Social Exchange Theory –Jordan
Theories of Love –Rhonda
* Expectancy Violation Theory – Joseph U.

Forum: Amy

Week 4: Interpersonal (cont): July 21 - 26

* Relational Dialectics –Joseph U.
Dissolution Models  -  Joseph W.
Duck’s theory of everyday communication –Paula
Forum: Regina

Week 5: Small Group: July 28 - August 2

* Functional Theory -Rhonda
* Symbolic Convergence Theory -  Hallie  
Systems Theory - Amy

Forum: Daylana

Week 6: Small Group (cont): August 4 - 8

Multiple Sequence Model of Group Development - Hallie
Leadership Models of Groups: Counteractive Influence - Paula
Leadership Models of Groups: Distributed Leadership - Jordan

       Forum: Joseph W.








COM 597 Theories of Communication
Summer, 2014

Dr. Marcia D. Dixson

theory treeOffice hours: TR 2:00 - 3:00 pm (live and virtual - technology permitting) and happily by appt.

Office: NF 230B

Phone: 481-6558 Email:


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