Soc 315 for Fall 2020 is classified as ‘remote’ (as far as modality of delivering the course). We will not meet in-person, but we will be using some real-time video, via Zoom. We will plan for now on one session, later in the week, to go over the week’s material, spending the time in whatever ways support your learning. Components of the course follow:



Points possible

Total pts

Discussion forums (weekly)
10 x 12 pts
Writing in discussion forums (proofread)
  10 x 3 pts
Quizzes (four, after week 2, 4, 6 and 8)
4 x 25 pts
Small group discussion (Zoom): Topical responses (wks 2,4 7,9,10)
5 x 25 pts
Paper reflecting on your welfare philosophy (Dec 6)
    100 pts
Identify and describe two welfare-related resources (at latest by Dec 1)
      25 pts

Discussion forums

Purpose: To gauge your progress in learning the material.

Description: There will be five of these, and each will cover two weeks of material (weeks 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10). You’ll be responding to prompts I provide, designed to get you to think about the reading material and the key concepts from class, in the readings and other assigned source material (such as my online lecture pages). Readings will thus be organized in two week blocks–in other words, you’ll be assigned readings for weeks 5-6 together. This will allow you to begin thinking about the prompts and complete the readings in sufficient time to respond. The prompts will be available Sunday before the week starts, and will be due, Sunday evening at the end of the two week period (for example, weeks 5-6 will open Sunday evening before week 5 begins, and be due by Sunday evening at the end of week 6). Obviously we can discuss the prompts in our weekly in-person sessions, too. Hopefully those sessions are question-driven, which would be more useful than me making assumptions about how these sessions are most useful to students.

Expectations: Because these are discussion threads, not posting threads, I expect you will respond with your own ideas to the prompt, and also play off of other students’ responses. In other words, engage in discussion. If you approach it as a requirement to be fulfilled, you may find it punitive. If you treat it as intended–as an important interactive component in your learning about social welfare–it will help you consolidate your learning, one component of which is being able to communicate it to someone else.

Avoid procrastination. This part of the course isn’t something you can fulfill at the last second. You’ll be expected to participate in both weeks of the thread(s, likely 2-3 of them).

There are several kinds of postings that can gain you credit:

  • You can pose a question for the group, and then try to answer it or explain why you asked it (posing a question without taking a stab at responding would represent minimal effort).
  • You can provide other research or web resources you’ve found that shed light on a subject we’ve discussing.
  • You can summarize a long discussion thread and try to distill it down to one or a few issues.
  • You can reply to others’ postings—either agreeing or disagreeing, the main thing is that you provide evidence and some logical argument to back up what you’re saying.
  • The key is, show me more than your opinion on something—Unsupported statements don’t demonstrate that you’re intellectually engaged in the course content.

Evaluation: Each 2 week set of discussion threads is worth 30 points–25 for the substance, and 5 for the writing (if you have participated in each of the threads, and your writing is readable and seems to have been proofread with respect to grammar, spelling and coherence, you’ll likely receive all 5 points).

Points for substance will be based on the following criteria:

  • Your ability to reflect on the questions or the readings/lecture material. To receive full credit, you need to show you’ve not only been through the readings, but understood them and used them as evidence to support your views. If all readers can see is opinion seemingly uninformed by course material, your points will reflect that. You don’t have to agree with the material in class, but you do need to demonstrate you read it and made a good faith effort to understand it.
  • Your grasp of the topic. You don’t necessarily need to show mastery of each reading or topic, but you do need to ask questions where you’re unclear to clarify your understanding and show me you’re putting effort into understanding the material. Again, if you try to do this without referring to the readings or lecture material, I won’t even know if you’ve read it. So ‘I don’t get it’ won’t garner you many points—it shows no effort on your part to try to ‘get it.’
  • Your ability to communicate your ideas. I would like to see good, organized writing. Complete sentences, spell-checked, and all that. If you’re citing something, do it correctly, give us a web page. ‘I agree’ is okay, as long as it’s followed by a well-reasoned explanation of why you agree with a previous post (again, citing evidence).
  • Bringing in outside materials. I encourage this, but if you do it you need to have evaluated these materials. If it’s the first .com site you found on Google, I’ll let you know if I think it’s a suspect source.

150 possible points total (5 x 25, plus 25 possible points for writing (5 x 5)


Writing in discussion forums

You need to demonstrate college-level writing in this class, including the discussion threads. You can receive up to five points each 2 weeks for writing in the discussion forums. This means you need to proofread your posts, check for spelling errors, capitalize, all that basic grammar-related stuff, and make sure that they make sense, to receive the full five points each of the five forums (you will see a separate grade item for this in Canvas). A ‘5’ means your posts are in order, make sense, thoughts are well-organized, and you’ve probably done some proofreading before hitting the ‘submit’ button. A ‘4’ means you’ve probably done some proofreading, but there are still some pretty glaring errors. ‘3’ means it’s not really clear you’ve proofread the posts for the week. A ‘1’ or ‘2’ indicates your posts have so many errors in them that they’re hard to follow, and in any case readers may not take them as seriously. Also . . . if there are two main threads for the week and you only post in one of them, the maximum you can receive for writing points is a ‘3.’

I’m mainly doing this because writing is just so critical to finding work, communicating with prospective employers, and we all need to show some self-awareness and mindfulness about how we do it. For those as yet unaware of this–and as long as old school fogies like me are still employed–it will pay off for you. The writing points will show up as a separate grade for each week of the course.

5 points possible per week,  50 points total for the term.


Making up a discussion forum (you’re entitled to make up one of these)

You’ll need to submit a separate write-up. Papers should be no less than 2 pages, double-spaced (11 or 12 pt font) in length, which is about 500 words. This is how I would like you to structure the reflection papers:

  1. What for you were the most important points that you took from the readings, discussion and lecture material for the week? This is an exercise in abstract thinking—what is the ‘big picture?’ Touch on each reading assignment, prompts, discuss any common threads between them, or differences. What did you understand out of the readings and the weeks’ topics, and in what depth? I’m not looking for book reports—summarize, but your paper should be no more than 1/3 summary, no less than 2/3 analysis. The ‘So what?’ question. Obviously you’ll need to show you did the readings and got something of value out of them. And material from both weeks of the forum should be reflected in your submission (to Canvas).
  2. Demonstrate you read students’ posts and replies. I don’t need a play-by-play blow of people’s postings, I just want you to demonstrate you went through the threads, and learned something from the process. How did people respond to the material for the week? What was your take? Just keep in mind—take a stand, but don’t make points if you’re not going to support them with evidence or logic.
  3. Standards. This is making up for your having missed the discussion forums, so I expect the same amount of intellectual effort to go into the make-up. Good writing, use of complete sentences, paragraphs to change ideas, citing of authors’ works at the end. Demonstrate you’ve been through all of the readings and lecture material. You can submit it to Canvas—there will be a link (but the points will show up in the missed discussion forum column). Two generic pages with ungrounded opinions won’t earn many points. Last day to make up and submit a discussion forum is Dec 11.


Small group days

Purpose: To encourage interaction around topics related to the course material

Description: We’ll do discussion in small groups mostly on Fridays (for weeks 2, 4, 7 and 10), but on Monday of week 9 (Nov 23). We will generally take a topic of current interest and discuss it in small groups in Zoom. 

Expectations: The class will be given a set of questions the night before, students will be assigned to breakout sessions in Zoom. You need to respond to the questions and submit them by the end of the period. This means someone will need to serve as a ‘scribe,’ to translate your group’s discussion into responses to the questions. See the guidelines for more detail on expectations.

If you miss a discussion group session:

You can make up one missed session if you turn in an extended abstract (1-2 pages) within a week of the date it was due, which includes your answers to the questions groups responded to in class. I will post the questions after the small group class period. Respond to these (following the guidelines below), and paste in your abstract. You can do one of these over the course of the term. Make-ups are due by no later than one week after the date you missed, you can submit to me via email attachment 

Otherwise, there’s not much point in small group work if you’re turning stuff in from home at midnight.

125 points possible (5 x 25)


Making up small group discussions

Make-up papers should be no longer than 3 pages, double-spaced (11 or 12 pt font) in length. The following describes how to structure the reflection papers:

  1. What for you were the most important points that you took from the readings and discussion for the Friday topic (do not use the regular readings for the week)? This is an exercise in abstract thinking—what is the ‘big picture?’ You should touch on each article, discuss common threads between them, focus on the discussion of the articles, Describe what you got out of the readings and the week’s topic, and gauge your depth of understanding. No book reports here—do some summary, but your paper should be no more than 1/3 summary (and no less than 2/3 analysis).
  2. Critically evaluate the authors’ arguments. Do you agree or disagree with what they said? Remember to read with a critical Don’t be afraid to question the authors’ reasoning or evidence, or to use your own experiences or background to offer other views. Just keep in mind—take a stand, but don’t make points if you’re not going to support them with evidence or logic.
  3. Questions. I will send you the questions groups responded to in class, and you will need to respond to You can use points you’ve made previously to do this, as long as they seem appropriate and relevant to the questions. Plan to spend an hour and a half on this—time writing the summary/analysis, and responding to the group questions (about the same amount of time you would have spent had you attended class and submitted the abstract).


Quizzes, open at end of weeks 5 and 10

Purpose: This is how I evaluate your learning from the readings and discussion we do. During week 6 and week 10 we’ll have timed, open-book quizzes in Canvas.

Description: Each will be based on the assigned readings and lecture material (but not the small group subject matter). There will be 5 to 10 questions, either short answer, multiple choice, or short essay. Each quiz will be worth 50 points, and you will have three hours to complete. And they’re open book (however, you will want to enter prepared and knowing where the information is that will help you). 

Expectations: The week 6 quiz will be made available Saturday at noon, October 31, and you’ll have until Tuesday (Nov 3) at midnight to complete it. The final quiz will be available Saturday after week 10 (Dec 5) and you will have until Tuesday (Dec 8) by midnight to complete it.

Again, these are open-book, but the answers won’t be readily available—you’ll have to think through the questions. They will be based on material from the readings and lecture material online. 

Quizzes will be worth 20% of your overall grade (50 pts/quiz x 2), 100 points


Term paper

What’s your philosophy and where did it come from?

Purpose: To prompt you to think about social welfare, whether you seek to pursue a related career, or just live in a welfare state where income and wealth inequality are on the rise, and the population is aging.

Description: You’ll be asked to do a few things on the reflection paper. First, I want to you to discuss and analyze your closest personal brushes with the welfare system. This could be as a recipient of various kinds of services (and you need to think broadly, ask if in doubt, about what might constitute welfare), SSI, SNAP, reduced fare lunches, a trip to the food bank, WIC, TANF, Social Security payments, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment, etc. Services don’t necessarily have to be public—they could come from non-profits, from a church or other religious entity, etc. Put some effort and thought into this part, and describe the details of accessing services, your interactions with agencies, time frames, etc.

It’s also possible that you’ve had few if any brushes with the welfare system. But you still should have some familiarity with it, sources of information that have informed your views. Maybe you’ve had friends who’ve received assistance, maybe your parents or relatives, maybe it’s just what you’ve read about or seen on TV, what you’ve gleaned from books, heard on talk radio, or with brushes with homeless people in a big city, etc., but you have some familiarity, and I’m interested in just how close and intimate you have come to the welfare system. In this part of the paper, I’m looking for thoughtfulness, description, and your impressions, given what we discuss in this class. In other words, you should have some insight into your experiences based on whatever contact you’ve had with welfare services (or lack of), guided by course content. You should spend at least a page on this part. This part is worth 30 points.

Second , I want you to think about your own philosophy of welfare—the role of government, of the private sector, need-based versus insurance programs, your attitudes about people on welfare, poverty, the level of benefits available, perceptions of welfare fraud, accountability, race/ethnicity/class/gender, etc.

To do this you obviously need to define what you mean by welfare—this is a multidimensional concept, and I expect to see some thoughtfulness in your definition and description. Again, this should take at least a page of fluff-free writing. Worth 40 points.

Third, I want you to reflect on how your own experiences, whether frequent or very limited, have affected your attitudes on welfare. In other words, I want to know where your attitudes come from. If you haven’t given it much thought, you need to state that, and perhaps explore any disconnects between your experiences and your own philosophy. You also should incorporate this class into your response–how has it affected your own thinking about welfare?

The broader idea of this assignment is to give you some space to explore how you formulate opinions on important issues—through reading, personal direct experience, interactions with other people, work experiences, religious or cultural background, the mass media, etc. So I want to know: 1) What are the bases of your opinions/attitudes about welfare? Are they anchored in any personal values you hold? 2) Have your attitudes changed over time? As you are confronted with new information, do you re-consider your opinions and values? 3) Do you think it’s important for those working in the welfare system to have a thoughtful philosophy about welfare? Or is it enough that they just perform according to their job descriptions? What would the three most important areas, according to you, that welfare professionals should have developed some thoughtful opinions? Put some thought into this one, at least a page of fluff-free thought. Worth 30 points.

Expectations: I’m expecting a 4-6 page paper. This paper is worth 100 points, and you’re being asked to justify and support your attitudes and opinions, using readings, philosophies from class or elsewhere, etc. This is not an opinion paper—it is a reflection paper, you need to reflect on your attitudes and beliefs, and where those attitudes and beliefs come from, and perhaps how they have been affected by your exposure to some of the material from this course (or not). Please do not submit a paper uninformed by your time and intellectual effort spent in this class. Re-read the previous sentence as needed. And 4-6 pages means no room for fluff.

100 points possible, due Dec 6 (by midnight) in Canvas


Resources (for social welfare)

Purpose: To contribute to providing high-quality information related to the field of social welfare. You may have noticed the resources page in the website menu–it needs work. So this is an assignment, but also a service to your peers to flesh this out for you and for future classes. 

Description: Each student will be asked to identify two resources (with a significant web presence), describe each (including providing website URLs, origins), and submit them to be included on the resources page. These are for students and people considering a career in social welfare–not for clientele. We’ll share in class, so that we’re not duplicating. I would encourage you to follow your interests on this, whether that be issues related to children, to teens, to law enforcement, mental health, addiction and recovery, domestic/interpersonal violence, criminal justice, school-related services and support, elder care, issues related to food and food security, housing and housing security, careers in social work and welfare, etc. Check out the page and you’ll see there is already a range of content there, and it’s not even the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of non-profits and think tanks out there doing good work, take this seriously and as a collective responsibility–it’s not about the points, it’s about knowing how to find, describe, and share useful information with your peers and the class.

Expectations: That you put some thought and effort into this, and choose two sources that will be useful for all of us and future students. You need to write up each site, at least a page/page and a half for each. Keep in mind that many sites you might consider will be .org or .edu sites. If you choose .com sites, they need to be justified as providing useful and credible information, from credible sources. 

Evaluation: When you finish–there is no specific due date, but Dec 1 at the latest. So you can get this out of the way early in the term if you like–lots going on later so I would recommend not putting it off. I will evaluate this assignment based on your choices, your write-ups of each source, and the level of effort you demonstrated. 

25 points possible