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Example Syllabus for Portfolio Seminar Series

Course Syllabus
Portfolio Seminar Series 100: First Year Experience
(PSS 100, Fall 2011)

Credit hours: 1


Course materials:

  • Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog;
  • Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn
  • Handouts related to ethical decision making

Instructor Information:
Instructor: Dr. Jerry Nuesell
Office address: Main 12
Office phone: 508-2000
Office hours: M 1-3

Some frequently asked questions:

What is Portfolio Seminar Series 100 and what is the point of taking it?
Portfolio Seminar Series 100 (PSS 100) is a course that serves as your academic introduction to William Peace University. In PSS 100, you'll focus on what it means to be a student at WPU, including gaining an understanding of the William Peace University mission and honor code. Central to these codes is the topic of ethical decision-making, a process that consists of a host of concepts and skills. In this course, you'll focus on only two small, but very important, parts of ethical decision-making: first, understanding what the term "ethical decision-making" and other associated concepts really mean, and second, understanding the values that underlie ethical decision-making.

To help you on your journey towards becoming an ethical decision-maker, you will learn which values you feel are most important to you, and how those values play into the decisions you make. We'll practice how to go about making ethical decisions in your own life by learning how to use an ethical decision-making model. Finally, we'll examine ethical values and decision-making in the context of being a first-year college student. By the end of the course, we hope that you will have learned a little more about yourself and how your decisions can, and do, affect the lives of others.

What will I know and be able to do after I finish the course?
Upon completion of this course, you will:

  • Better understand the values which ultimately direct your every-day decision-making
  • Learn the values associated with ethical decisions
  • Understand different terms and concepts associated with ethical decision-making
  • Be able to identify the steps associated with making ethical decisions
  • Use the ethical decision making model to examine issues relevant to you as a first-year student
  • (Each instructor will add objectives appropriate to the topical focus)

I hope you will continue to think deeply about your values and how they influence the decisions that you make even after the conclusion of this course.

Are there activities I'll need to have completed before starting this class?
Yes. The activities listed below are ones that you should have completed as part of your William Peace University orientations (Pacer Camp and Welcome Week). If you have not completed any of these, please see me immediately, as we will need to find ways for you to make up that work; failure to complete these assignments will jeopardize your ability to pass this course.

Values Clarification Activity and Reflection. Through these activities, you will have closely examined the values that you believe are most important to you and reflected on why you chose those values over others.

Values in Action Survey. In this activity, you will have taken the online Values in Action Survey and answered a series of questions about what you would do in certain situations. At the end of the survey, you will have been provided with a report that you are required to turn in to me.

School Ties Viewing and Reflection. In this activity, you will have watched the movie School Ties and then reflected upon it, answering questions, engaging in discussion, and thinking about examples of values and ethical decision making that you saw in the film. This movie will be discussed further in depth in this course.

Ethical Decision Making Case Study: In this activity you will have provided your response to a typical ethical dilemma faced by first-year students.

What do I have to do to earn my grade?

Summer Reading Reflection (50 points). In this assignment, you will apply what you have learned about concepts and values associated with ethical decision-making, along with the process of ethical-decision making itself, through a critical examination of the summer reading.

You will submit a paper no less than 2 complete pages in length (but no more than 4), double-spaced, in the Arial font, size 11. I will select a particular chapter out of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat and require you to do the following:

  • note the author's beliefs on the subject
  • analyze whether the author appeals more to emotions or to reason when making his points (of course you'll need to explain your answer)
  • indicate the types of evidence that the author uses to support his points
  • assess whether and why you think the book involves a moral temptation (clear right and wrong answer that almost everyone in the world would agree on) OR an ethical dilemma (a situation in which two or more competing ethical values could be activated and you would have to choose between them) OR neither of the above.

Ethical Decision-Making Case Study (40 points). Making ethical decisions really means asking yourself a number of different questions and then thinking carefully and completely about the answers before you act. Making ethical decisions requires that you:

  • Determine what the ethical situation that you are trying to solve is, and consider why it is important
  • Figure out what the relevant facts are that might help you answer the question
  • Think about all of the people involved and what their respective interests are - what points of view would a reasonable person consider?
  • Determine the relevant ethical values or principles
  • Think about what you might be taking for granted and what your assumptions are
  • Decide what your main options for action are and what the likely consequences for each action might be
  • Determine your answer to the ethical question and articulate what information or values influenced your decision
  • Think about what would happen if everyone made the same decision that you made

In this assignment, we will delve into the process of ethical decision-making by thinking about how you would solve an ethical dilemma that you might be faced with as a student. A separate hand-out will be given with an ethical dilemma that you will be expected to analyze using the bullet points listed above as guides. You will submit a paper no less than 2 complete pages in length (but no more than 4), double-spaced, in the Arial font, size 11, completing the analysis.

Ethical Decision Making Common Language Pre and Post-Test (40 points). You will be given two short quizzes to assess your knowledge of concepts related to ethical decision-making.

Topical Content Reflection (50 points). Over the course of this semester, you will have learned a bit about the topic of animal welfare and a bit about yourself as well. You will submit a paper no less than 3 complete pages in length (but no more than 5), double-spaced, in the Arial font, size 11, making note of at least 2 factual things you have learned about animal welfare, and how those specific things affected you personally. I will want to hear about changes you may make in your behavior and whether or not you feel you grew as a result of gaining knowledge.

If, however, you do not feel that you will change any of your behaviors as a result of learning about particular animal welfare topics, you are allowed to instead indicate why you will not make changes; I would still like to hear about how you feel the knowledge has contributed to your growth as an individual.

Participation - (20 points). A course is only as good as the individuals who comprise the class. I pledge to arrive at each class on time, and will come prepared - readings will be completed and I will be excited to engage in intellectual discussion with you. As a new member of our academic community at William Peace University, I will expect the same of you. The next section (below) should help guide you further.

CLA Assessment and Attendance at FYE Speaker Event -(loss of 10 points from final grade for failure to complete the activity) - Participating and CLA Assessment in September and attending the author lecture related to your summer reading book are both required. If you fail to attend either of these events you will lose 10 points per event missed.

How much is each assignment worth and how will my final grade be determined?
In this class, you will be graded on your absolute performance. That means that the grade you earn will be based on the number of total points that you will have earned by the end of the course. That also means that you are in competition only with yourself, not your neighbor. There are 200 possible points in the course. So you can better prepare for how to allocate your time and effort in this class, this is how the points break down for each assignment:

  • Summer Reading Reflection (50points) = 25% of final grade.
  • Ethical Decision Making Case Study (40 points) = 20% of final grade
  • Ethical Decision Making Common Language Post-Test (40 points) = 20% of final grade
  • Topical Content Reflection (50 points) = 25% of final grade
  • Participation (20points) = 10% of final grade