University of Social Work - Reno

University of Social Work - Reno

UNR/Great Basin College

3+1 Social Work Program
Fall 2013


Course Title and Number:SW 321: Basics of Professional Communication

IAV and Web-enhanced

Originating site Elko GTA 118

Instructor:Wendy Charlebois

Phone 753-2466

Office Hours:Tuesday & Wednesday11-1pm

Day & Time:Tuesdays 4-6:45pm


Pre-Requisites:SW 101, PSY 101 and SOC 101

This is a dynamic class so I reserve the right to change things up as we go along, depending on the needs of the class and course flow.

Course Description:

Focuses on the development of basic communication and observational skills needed for subsequent social work methods courses. Communication topics to be addressed include: active listening, questioning, empathetic

responding, paraphrasing, summarizing, persuasive writing, and non-verbal communication. Emphasis will be placed on developing observation and communication skills that capture events in ways that are descriptive,

accurate, and unbiased. Given the importance of nonjudgmental and unbiased communication to rapport, the course will examine the role of power differentials, gender, culture, class, context and ethnicity/race on professional communication. Prerequisite: Must have completed ENG 101 and ENG 102 and PSY 101 and SW 101 and SW 250. They will also learn about the strengths perspective and its influence on practice. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on the ethical considerations that inform practice decisions

Attention is given to the influence of age, gender, sexual orientation, geographic origins, disabilities, and other factors on communication. Students will become familiar with the meaning of generalist social work..

The most important aspect of this class in this instructors mind is to step out of your comfort zone and practice… practice… practice!

Linkages with Other Courses:

A prerequisite ( SW 101 formerly SW220) has provided students with an introduction to the profession of social work from a generalist perspective. This course adds to that introduction to the profession and provides a foundation in skills for use in subsequent social work methods (SW 420, 421) courses.

Relevant BSW Program Objectives:

  • Understand the value base of the profession and its ethical standards and principles, and practice accordingly.
  • Interact with clients and colleagues without discrimination and with respect; use knowledge of skills related to issues of age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
  • Apply the knowledge and skills of generalist social work practice with systems of all sizes.
  • Demonstrate a beginning knowledge of research as a social work practice tool.
  • Use communication skills differentially across client populations, colleagues, and communities.
  • Use supervision and consultation appropriate to social work practice.

Course Objectives/ Educational Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

321.1Demonstrate an initial understanding of the phases, processes, roles, basic skills, guiding values and ethics that inform generalist practiceas demonstrated by chapter exercises, self reflections contained in notebook

321.2Articulate thebasic tenets of the strengths perspective (i.e., valuing diversity, empowering clients, and promoting social and economic justice)as demonstrated by audio/video exercises and final exam,

321.3Demonstrate beginning competence in written and oral professional communications, as well as the use of technology as demonstrated by chapter exercises role plays, reflections and client concerns paper.

321.4Compose and maintain appropriate records as required for professional social workers.As demonstrated by notebook, chapter exercises, final exam and notebook

321.5Demonstrate their ability to conduct basic interviews that utilize professional communication skills (i.e., reflective listening, empathy, questioning, etc). as demonstrated by in class exercises and audio/video assignments

321.6Describe the elements of professional relationships as demonstrated by small group discussions and final exam and ethics paper

321.7Articulate some of the obstacles that impede cross-cultural communication and demonstrate basic cultural sensitivity and competence as demonstrated by chapter exercises and final exam.

321.8Articulate the relevance of the NASW Code of Ethics to social work practiceas demonstrated by ethical dilemma discussions and final exam

321.9Utilize communication and observation skills to systematically gather information needed in conducting social work assessmentsas demonstrated by in class exercises, audio and video tape assignments


Required Text:

  • Cournoyer, Barry R. (2000) 7th ed.The Social Work Skills Workbook. Belmont, CA.: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Recommended Text:

  • Murphy, B.C., & Dillon, C. (2003). Interviewing in Action: Relationship, Process, and Change (2nd Edition). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Cournoyer, Barry R. (2004)The Evidence Based Social Work Skills Book, Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon

Methods of instruction:

Small and large group discussion, small group exercises, films, guest speakers, readings, written assignments, and student presentations. A variety of other techniques may be used in developing knowledge, skills, and attitudes

Please Note:This class will be discussing very sensitive issues such as child abuse, domestic violence, suicide and other topics that may be disturbing. Some students may relate in-class discussions and readings to their own childhoods and current life circumstances. The instructor urges you to take care of yourself if the class contentcauses you too much distress. The instructor can make referrals to helping agencies if needed.

Class rules and instructor’s expectation of students:

  • All students are expected to be active participants, learners, and teachers in the classroom.
  • Students are expected to complete the assigned readings and homework before class.Due to time restrictions not every piece of information contained in the book will be covered in class but nevertheless you are expected to read all of the assigned material.
  • Students are encouraged to seek additional materials from the media, libraries, and the Internet; to share these with the class; and to use these in their assignments.
  • Students are expected to invest 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour of course credit. For example, a three hour class includes 6-9 hours per week of outside work, in addition to the 3 credit hours for a total of 9-12 hours per week.
  • Intellectual integrity and academic honesty are expected from all students.
  • Students are expected to display respect of fellow students’ unique characteristics including race, color, gender, religion, creed, ethnic or national origin, age, veteran status, disability, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.
  • All written assignments will use nondiscriminatory language.
  • Students are expected to complete the assigned readings before class. Students will have thoroughly read the book chapters, before class. Added material may supplement the chapter topics. Due to time restrictions not every piece of information contained in the book will be covered in class but nevertheless you are expected to read all of the assigned material.

This instructor believes that class attendance and participation are critical aspects of the professional socialization process. Students are responsible for assisting in the creation of a learning environment that promotes such socialization. To do so, students should assume responsibility for their own learning by not being tardy or leaving early, being prepared for and participating in class-related interactions, and consulting with the instructor outside of class, as appropriate. It is the personal responsibility of the student to consult with the instructor regarding absences from class. If you miss 3 or more classes you will be dropped.

Attendance and participation will be part of grading as determined by the course instructor. Opportunities for make-up assignments and extra credit are determined at the discretion of the course instructor, as well. 2 points will be deducted for each day an assignment is late.

General Policies

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The instructor is willing to make reasonable accommodations for limitations due to any disability, including learning disabilities f you need special accommodations please see me or contact Julie Byrnes at 753-2271.

Sexual Harassment Policy

The policy of GBC is to provide an educational, employment, and business environment free of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and/or physical conduct or communications constituting sexual harassment, as defined and otherwise prohibited by State and Federal law. Sexual harassment by and between: employees, students, employees and students, and campus visitors and students or employees, is prohibited by this policy. Please review the information provided by the GBC catalog on page 33.

Academic Honesty

All students assume, as part of their obligation to the college, the responsibility to exhibit in their academic performance, qualities of honesty and integrity. All forms of student dishonesty are subject to disciplinary action. Students are strongly encouraged to do their own work and give full credit to the work of those they incorporate into any submitted assignments. To do otherwise is plagiarism. Instructors now have access to software, plagiarism detection program. Student’s papers can be checked against a database of other learner documents, online journal databases, and the whole of the internet to determine originality.

Educational Environment Conduct

Consistent with a collegiate environment of educational study, students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate for an institution of higher learning. Students are expected to be respectful and tolerant of diverse opinions/ideas even if they do not agree with them. The discussion of social work issues often requires a “real world” look at topics and pertinent issues. Students should be aware that this course might generate discussions about child abuse, domestic violence, etc, that are disturbing. Please see the instructor if you believe these topics will be too difficult for you to discuss.

Class rules and instructor’s expectation of students:

Writing Policy: Good writing skills to communicate information accurately and concisely are a requirement for any job having to do with human beings! As a social worker you will be required to write court reports, case histories etc. Therefore, formal writing assignments for this course will be evaluated both for content, ideas presented, and for the clarity of presentation. This includes online discussions and journal assignments. You must use the APA style of citation to list your references. If you are not familiar with this style then purchase a book or look on line. You must know when to cite your work! Here is a site for the APA style of citation American Psychological Association citation source

If you are in doubt about your writing skills, do not turn anything in that has not been proofread by a capable editor. Use the Academic Success Center on the Elko Campus! You can e-mail papers for review.

Since this a 300 level class I expect you to be able to:

  • Write a correct sentence that makes sense. It needs a noun and a verb, adjectives, etc. There should be no fragments or run on sentences.
  • Use your spell checker
  • Use paragraphs with topic sentences.
  • Answer the question in the assignment
  • Elaborate on your ideas


Students are expected to complete all assignments, however, not all assignments will be graded. Role-playing and other classroom exercises will be a significant portion of this part of the students’ grades. Assignments and due dates are in the syllabus.

NotebookHomework assignments

Each student will keep a reflection/homework notebookIt is to be neat! All written work is to be kept here. Homework, journaling, etc. This is to be treated like a client record. I will be calling for notebooks to review throughout the class so make sure yours is up to date. I want you to journal for every week reflecting upon what you learned that week. You will all turn in your notebook at the end of the semester. 165 points

Pretest Paper

“What Are Your Concerns About Working With Clients?” What are your strengths?

What do you think will be your challenges? This is where you can get out all of your fears if

you have any! At least 3 pages.30points

Ethical Dilemma Paper A paper of at least 3 pages about an ethical dilemma presented to you. More later.

50 points

Post test-40 points

Audio tapinginterview

Students will locate an individual to be a subject for a 15 minute audio-taped interview. Using proper case recording techniques, describe all of the steps that you take to arrange and carry out the task of setting up the interview. In other words, keep a record as if you were a social worker preparing for an interview.

After the interview, write a brief description of the interviewee using all of your powers of observation. Describe the person’s physical, emotional, and personality characteristics, but do not reveal any major identifying information (name, unusual physical characteristics, etc.). Be sure to stick to the facts that you observe and do not attempt to “diagnose or categorize” people. After reviewing the tape, write a brief summary (e.g., no more than one page, single spaced) to describe your interview. What were the general strengths and weaknesses of the interview? What do you wish you had said that you didn’t? What would you do differently? Look in chapter 9 for ideas about asking questions.

** Note: For this assignment, students are expected to conduct the interviews on their own using webcanvas. I will give you more information about this when I have had time to meet with the distance ed. people.50 points

Videotaping and transcript

Students will pair up and each conduct a 10 minute videotaping session (NO LONGER!!). Each student will make a tape in which they perform as the social worker interviewing a client. Students may choose to role play any type of typical social work interviewing situation (e.g., domestic violence, divorce, child or adolescence problems, substance abuse, child abuse or neglect, trauma). After the tape is recorded, each student must submit a transcript of the tape that includes a verbatim record of the social worker’s statements. It isn’t necessary to type out the entire client’s statements (see following example). Using the following format, students must analyze and critique their verbal and non-verbal communication styles.

Transcript of the videotape / Skill Used & Comments
SW: Billy, your father ignores you more than your older brother and it’s painful for you. What can you do to cope with that? Should you tell him how you feel? / Active listening, empathic response. Good eye contact and open body language. Stacking questions, leading question.
B: Response
SW: If it was up to me, I’d tell him. / Advice giving

Students will turn in the tape and written transcript. Attached to the transcript should be a final analysis of the session overall. The student should point out common errors or strengths. This portion of the assignment should demonstrate increasing awareness of the student’s professional use of self.

**Note: Points will be deducted for failing to recognize and comment on the problems in communication and styles. Students will videotape on their own using web canvas or you may have somebody videotape you and submit a DVD. 100 points

Quizzes – There will 5 -30 point quizzes throughout the semester-100points

Final exam- This will be an online exam worth 125 points covering the essence of this class.

Grading Criteria:

  • Pre test “What Are Your Concerns About Working With Clients?

What are your strengths? What do you think will be your challenges? 30 points

  • Videotaping 100 points
  • Weekly reflections300 points
  • Ethical Dilemma 50 points
  • Homework /reflections notebook 165 points
  • Final exam125points
  • Attendance and Participation 75 points
  • Audiotape interview 75 points
  • Quizzes100 points
  • Post test 40 points
  • Total 1110 points

Remember you must make a C in every core social work class to receive a passing

grade. It is up to you to keep track of your points so you know how you are doing.

A / 100% / to94%
A- / < 94% / to90%
B+ / < 90% / to87%
B / < 87% / to84%
B- / < 84% / to80%
C+ / < 80% / to77%
C / < 77% / to74%
C- / < 74% / to70%
D+ / < 70% / to67%
D / < 67% / to64%
D- / < 64% / to61%
F / < 61% / 0%

Remember you should be doing some volunteer work if you are planning on applying to the social work program in the spring

If you do not officially drop this or any other class you will be given an F. Due to NSHE regulations I can no longer give students a “W” unless you officially drop


Chang, Valerie Nash and Sheryn T. Scott. (1999).Basic interviewing skills: A workbook for practitioners. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Choi, Namkee G. and Lidia J. Snyder. (1999).Homeless families with children: A subjective experience of homelessness. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Christ, Grace Hyslop. (2000).Healing children’s grief: Surviving a parent’s death from cancer. Oxford University Press.

De Jong, P. & Berg, I. K. (2002). Interviewing for Solutions. (2nd ed.), Pacific Grove, CA: Brookes/Cole.

Derezotes, David S. (2000) Advanced Gereralist Social Work Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Goetting, Ann. (2000). Getting out: Life stories of women who left abuse husbands. Columbia University Press.

Kubler-Ross, E. (1969) On death and dying. New York: Macmillan.

Lee, Judith A. B. (2000). The empowerment approach to social work practice. (2nd ed.) Columbia University Press.

Maccluskie, Kathrn and R. Elliot Ingersoll. (2001).Becoming a twenty-first century agency counselor: Personal and professional explorations. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Maiuro, Roland D. and K. Daniel O'Leary. (2001). Psychological abuse in violent domestic relations. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Meier, Scott T. and Susan R. Davis (2001).The elements of counseling (4th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Miklowitz, David J. (2002).The bipolar disorder survival guide: What you and your family need to know. New York: Guilford Publications.

Rivas, Robert F. and Grafton H. Jully, Jr. (2000).Case studies in generalist practice (2nd ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.