November 1, 2004


Dr. Norman Clark, Dept. of Communication
* 134 Walker Hall
* Office: 262-6531
* Home: 963-8130
* Office Hours: MR 11-1, TR 9:30-12:30
* Email:

This course has four main objectives:
1) to introduce students to persuasion theories and analytical tools;
2) to make students more aware of the persuasive messages around them;
3) to begin the lifelong process of becoming ethical and critical persuaders; and
4) to integrate this learning into service for the community. The readings and assignments are designed to increase your knowledge and skills.

The fourth goal is crucial, since this is a service learning course. In service learning, you apply classroom knowledge to real world problems. In this case, you will be divided up into groups, and each group will work with a local community agency on some persuasive project. We will be assisted in this by ASU’s ACT Community Outreach Center. More information about the service learning component of the course can be found on the assignment page.

Communication is importantly a liberal art. As such, studying communication liberates by providing the tools necessary for critically thinking through issues. We will engage a number of issues not to promote cynicism or conformity, but to increase our abilities, and to understand how language shapes our interactions with others. Since this course has both a W and an S designator, it is a performative course. What this means is that you will perform (first communication lesson: perform = euphemism for work your butt off) continuously both in spoken and written words for an audience.

Most of the readings will come from the textbook that is at the bookstore. However, sometimes you may need to read material that will be on reserve at the ASU main library under my name. This is the bibliographic information for our text:

Gass, R., & Seiter, J. (1999). Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Your grade will be based on several factors.

  1. Service Learning Project 60% [broken down as follows]
    Organization Report 5%
    Audience Analysis 5%
    Agency Contacts 5%
    Project Presentation 5%
    Portfolio 15%
    WebCT Discussion Board Reports/Reflections 10%
    Final Report 5%
    Peer and Self Evaluations 5%
    Organization Evaluation 5%
  2. Online Quizzes 25%
  3. In-class activities 5%
  4. Participation 10%

Perception Skills
o Take others into account when responding
o Express understanding of others
o Non judgmental of experiences
o Generalize by bringing together ideas and input from others

Expression Skills
o Discuss and relate ideas
o Clarify ideas by seeking opinions
o Extend and build on others’ ideas
o Stay on topic
o Ask questions
o Understandable by others

o Ethical
o Accept responsibility for behavior
o Avoid interrupting, blaming, passivity
o Timely
o Prepared (reading, analysis of problems)
o Involved in topics, activities
o Evidence of increased competence in listening and responding
o Participation in collaborative efforts

Your grade is accessible on WebCT throughout the semester (after the first assignment is graded). If you ever have any questions, please raise them immediately. Do not wait until the end of the semester this is good advice for any problem, in any class.


This is a lecture/discussion course, with an emphasis on in class activities and exercises. This means you need to contribute appropriately to the class on a daily basis. By “appropriate” contributions, I mean that you help extend the discussion. Disruptive behaviors in class are NOT appropriate, since they hinder the ability of your fellow students to learn. I expect everyone in this class to treat each other with respect, and if you fail to demonstrate that respect you will be warned, followed by disciplinary actions if you continue to be disruptive.

Group Work
A major component of this course is a group project. You are expected to be an active member of your group. As is usually the case, your group will need to spend time outside of class meeting to work on your project. I will provide some in class time throughout the semester, but it will not be enough to complete the project. See the WebCT Guidelines page for suggestions on how to use your time most effectively.

Since these group projects are for real agencies in the “real world,” your group will act as a real work group in this important way: non performing group members can be fired from the group. If a majority of the members of the group decide someone in the group is not doing a fair share of the work, they can vote to fire that person. Once that decision has been made, the group should meet with me to go over the decision. If you are fired from a group, it is your responsibility to try to get hired by another group. Obviously, not many groups will be willing to hire a person who has already demonstrated a low level of group performance. If you cannot get hired by another group, you will have to forego that portion of the grade (which in practical terms means you will probably fail the course).

It’s your choice as adults to attend or not. But I can assure you that it will be impossible to pass this course without attending, since several assignments will be conducted in class, half of the quiz questions will come from lectures, and your participation grade will start to go down (since you can’t participate if you aren’t in class). Missing 10 classes for any reason is an automatic F for the course. Note: you are absent from class when you are not present, regardless of the reason. I will not keep track of excused verses unexcused absences; an absence is an absence. This means you should plan ahead if you know you will need to miss some days.

Expectations for the Instructor
I always thought it was unfair when syllabi only focused on what was required of the student, so here is what I think you ought to require from me. My goal is to challenge you in this course to excel. I plan to do this in the most enjoyable, supportive and cooperative way I can. This course will only succeed if together we create an atmosphere of trust and tolerance, where no communication is cut off out of fear. My commitment is to provide you with detailed instructions and expectations for your work, fairly evaluate you according to those expectations, and return your work to you in a timely fashion. Since I am requiring you to spend time on this class, it is only fair that I spend even more time on this class. Therefore, to a large degree my time is yours. This means I strongly encourage you to drop by during my office hours, or set up some other time to meet with me, to discuss anything at all assignments, problems in the class or outside of class, hiking, tennis, whatever.

Course Schedule

This schedule is subject to change as circumstances and wild ideas dictate.

Jan 14 Introduction/Getting to Know You yeah, right
Jan 16 Persuasion in Society Chpt 1
Jan 21 Service Learning Forms
Jan 23 Modeling Persuasion Chpt 2; Contract Negotiation, 7-8:30, Multicultural Center
Jan 28 More Models, Learning WebCT, Group Work
Jan 30 Symbols for the Symbol Minded Chpt 8
Feb 4 More on Symbols
Feb 6 Attitudes Chpt 3; Quiz 1
Feb 11 Audience Analysis Chpt 6
Feb 13 Motivation Chpt 14; Organization Report
Feb 18 Consistency & Credibility Chpt 4 & 5
Feb 20 Verbal Persuasion
Feb 25 Non Verbal Persuasion Chpt 9; Quiz 2
Feb 27 Structures & Sequences Chpt 10 & 12; Midterm Feedback
Mar 4 “Resistance is Futile” Chpt 11; Audience Analysis
Mar 6 Cultural Persuasion Chpt 15
Mar 18 Deception Chpt 13
Mar 20 Ethics and Persuasion Chpt 16; Quiz 3
Mar 25 Powerpoint
Mar 27 Powerpoint Exercise
Apr 1 Campaigns
Apr 3 Progress Report/Group Work Day
Apr 8 Media and Persuasion Initial Product Testing
Apr 10 Ad Campaigns, Portfolios Quiz 4
Apr 15 More on Ads, Group Work
Apr 17 Political Campaigns & Speechwriting handout
Apr 24 Social Movements Chpt 7; Final Report
Apr 29 Extremism, Concluding Thoughts Project Portfolio; Quiz 5

Final Presentations: Location TBD


I used to assume that students naturally did the readings that were assigned, so I never bothered putting anything on this assignment page. Of course, we all know what happens when we assume… so here goes. You are expected to do the assigned readings before coming to class. The material that we cover in class builds on and extends what is in the book. Rarely do I cover the basic material in the text (notice that I said rarely, not never). Instead, I assume (oops) that you all can read, and that you have read the text, and understood it. It is your responsibility to read the book, and learn from it. If you do not understand something in the readings, ask me a question about it in class, or in an email. Otherwise, I assume (there it is again) that you are getting the material. You will be tested on your comprehension of the readings on the online tests. So obviously, it is in your best interests to read before class and ask me any questions about what you read, rather than waiting until the test is due to read the chapters.

Five times this semester a new quiz will be available on WebCT. The quiz will be available from the afternoon of the class period before it is due, until the evening (11:55 pm) of the due date. After that time, you will not be able to access the quiz. Each will cover the material from the due date of the previous quiz, up to and including the material from the class period before the due date. So for example, if the first quiz is on Feb 1st, and the due date of the second quiz is on Feb 22nd, and the last class period before that is Feb 20tb, then the second quiz covers material from Feb 1 through Feb 20. The quizzes are open book/notes, so feel free to use them. Since they are open book/notes, you should expect them to be challenging!

Usually half of the questions come from the book, and half from lecture. Many of the lecture questions are based on examples that I discuss in class, so it might not be a bad idea to jot down a note or two about those to remind yourself Since this is an open book quiz, the questions from the book tend to be what are called “discriminating” questions. This means they check to see how carefully you are reading. A less charitable name for these questions might be “trick” questions, but they are not intended to fool you. Read the question and answers carefully, as well as the book (and ask me questions about the readings, remember?).

These quizzes should be the result of your individual effort, and you will be asked to check a box on the last question that states that you are abiding by the Academic Integrity code of this institution. Questions will be randomly pulled from a pool of questions, so your quiz may not be identical to those of others in the class. You only have one chance to do the quiz, so you can’t go back and re do it after you submit it. Also, you’ll only have I hour to complete the quiz, which should be more than enough time if you’ve taken good notes and read the chapters before going in to take it. If you try to take it without reading ahead of time, you might not finish and you will almost certainly not do as well. After the time is up, you will still be able to submit the quiz, but WebCT will notify me that you took longer than one hour to complete it. You will not get the results back until the deadline has passed.

Finally, I understand that sometimes you bomb a quiz. For this reason, I drop your lowest quiz score at the end of the semester.

Discussion Boards
Throughout the semester, your groups will be using WebCT discussion boards to prepare for, execute, and reflect on your Service Learning Project. Your participation on these boards counts for 10% of your project grade, so do not forget to use them! You should use these boards for 3 purposes:

1. To keep track of the group, to ask questions of each other, to schedule meetings in other words, to communicate. One of the things we know from research into online communication is that tools such as email and bulletin boards can help groups work more efficiently and effectively. Check out the WebCT Guidelines page for suggestions on how to use the discussion board to maximize your group work.

2. To document what your group is doing, and to prove to me that you are applying course content to your project. In other words, use this board to record what decisions your group made and what actions you took, and more importantly, why you made them. Show me that you are being strategic in the choices that you make, that you understand the concepts from class, and that you are applying them to your project. Basically, anytime you do something in your group, record it here, making sure that you explain why (using terms/concepts from class) you did it in that way. Since I can’t be with your group all of the time, I use your contribution to the boards to see what you’re learning. If you don’t post anything, I have to assume you aren’t learning, and you don’t want me to assume that…

3. To respond to reflection prompts. Periodically, I will also post a note to which you
will need to respond. These notes will ask you to think critically about your project, and to reflect on what you are learning about persuasion, community, and social change. All reflection responses should follow the ORID model (for details, scroll down on ACT’s page to the heading “Moving Students From Reporting To Critical Analysis: The ORID Model,” or check your notes/ask me). Use the four words of the ORID model as headings for your reflections.

[A note of warning: do not try to do all of your contributions to the board in the last couple of weeks. Every message is dated, so I will know when you sent them, and I need to be able to see that you worked on this project throughout the semester.]

Contract Negotiation
All groups will meet with their agency contact and myself in one of the large rooms at the Student Union. On this day each group will meet with their agency contact to discuss what their final project will entail. When the details have been worked out, I will talk with the group and the agency contact to make sure the project fits the requirements of the course. After this, each group will fill out a contract that details what your project will be and what content will be included in the project portfolio (what products you will produce and be graded on). Each group will also fill out a communication assessment/contact form that will include phone numbers & email addresses, as well as information about how and when it is best to reach you.

Organization Report
In preparation for your project, you will need to learn about the organization you will be working with. Before you initially visit the organization, you will need to discover as much as you can about it so you can ask intelligent questions. ACT had many resources to help you learn about the organization. What you can read about the organization is obviously no substitute for what you can learn about it by visiting and speaking with the people who run it. Note that you should NOT just give this list of questions to the agency representative and expect them to write the report for you. You should pull this information together from a variety of sources (the agency’s pamphlets, talking with the agency, your own observations of the agency, etc.), and be sure to cite sources that you use. After you meet with the organization, your group needs to submit to the assignment drop box in WebCT a report (one per group, but each member needs to submit it) that addresses the following:

  • Goals/mission of the organization
  • History of the organization
  • Size of the organization
  • Atmosphere/environment of the organization (formal, informal; well funded or struggling, etc.)
  • Typical clients served by the organization
  • How organization perceives power and change within the community (do they think change is possible, how do they see it happening, what power struggles do they perceive, where do they place themselves in the hierarchy of power in the community, any other power/change issues)
  • Unexpected things learned
  • Stereotypes possessed by members of the group that were revealed and/or dispelled

Audience Analysis/Strategies
As we have discussed in class, a critical component to persuasion is knowing your audience. Any persuasive effort will fail if it doesn’t speak to the intended audience. To ensure this, you need to write up a report analyzing your audience(s) and strategizing how you will address it/them. Much of this information your organization might already have, so be sure to make use of their research. But you will also need to find data about your audience, so you can have evidence to back up your claims that they fit into a particular category. A critical aspect of this report is to make sure your analysis is based on verifiable information, and not just on your opinions/guesses. The agency may have some of this data, or you might find it on the U.S. Census Bureau site, or in ACT’s Social Issues Database. Be sure to cite any sources that you use! Once you have gathered information, you group needs to submit to the assignment drop box in WebCT a report with the following:

  • Audience Demographics: age, sex, ethnic groups, income level, education level, political leaning, social class, location of the people you need to reach
  • VALS category(ies): place your audience into one or more of these categories, and offer reasons for why you would put them into that group
  • Latitude/Ego Involvement/Monitoring/Cognition: for each of the following, answer the question and provide reasons for your answer.
    -Do you think your audience will accept or reject your position, or be non committed?
    -How strongly do they feel about it/how much are they involved in the topic?
    -What is their level of self monitoring?
    -What is their level of cognitive complexity?
    -HOW this will impact your message: what your overall goal will be, which processing route you will use, what types of content/evidence you will use, and
  • Motivation: you won’t be persuasive unless you convince your audience that this is important to them. Which of Packard’s needs (or other needs) will you be targeting in your audience, and how will you appeal to that need? Which emotion(s) will you try to pull out of your audience, and how?
  • Key Symbol: based on everything you have learned about your audience, what is the one key symbol (image, word, or phrase) that you will attempt to drive home in your persuasive message(s)? How will you use it?

Midterm Feedback

Half way through the semester, you will email to me an evaluation of each member of your group. In other words, if there are 3 other people in your group, you should send me 3 separate emails. For the subject line, please enter “Midterm Eval of [member name]” (putting the person’s name in there). For the content of the evaluation, paste in the following questions and then answer them:

1) What is this person doing well?
2) What does this person need to improve?
3) On a scale of 1-5 (1 = poor, 5 = excellent), rate this person’s overall performance:

I will then pass these emails on to the members of the group. The score you receive on these evaluations will not count toward your course grade. Instead, this is an opportunity for you to provide the other members of your group with feedback on their performance so far, and for you to receive similar feedback. This way we should be able to catch problems early enough that they can be fixed, and not jeopardize the group’s project.

Also, I would genuinely appreciate it if you would take a moment in the middle of the semester to fill out the online midterm assessment of the class. A link to this assessment tool will show up on the WebCT page for this course when it’s time to complete it. Please fill out this assessment only once, and please do take it seriously. I use this information to improve the course, so this is your chance to shape your own education. And don’t worry: the online assessment tool is completely anonymous.

Agency Contact

Throughout the semester, you need to get in touch with the agency frequently and regularly. At a minimum, you should have at least one email exchange per week. You need to provide evidence of this by forwarding to me each week where “Agency Contact” is listed on the course schedule one email your group sent to the agency rep, and the response you received. I only need one exchange per week if you contacted the agency more than once, just forward one of those exchanges. Be sure to clearly identify this email in the subject line: call it something like “Weekly Contact, Group Name” (obviously putting in the name of your group). If you use the phone, you need to email me the time and date you spoke with the agency representative. I will verify with the agency rep that this phone conversation took place. This may seem a bit Nazi ish : ), but based on previous experiences I know how necessary it is. Important note: these contacts count for 5% of your overall grade, so don’t neglect them!

Initial Product Testing
Form is available online. By this point in the semester, your group needs to have brought in to the class drafts of any persuasive products that you are producing for your project. For example, if you are producing a radio ad for your organization, you need to bring the ad in and play if for the class and myself so we can give you our impressions of the commercial. If you are going around soliciting funds or donations, you need to role play the strategies you plan to use. This “focus group testing” is critical to any persuasive project, and is required for all groups. The deadline listed on the course schedule is the absolute latest your should do this in class. You would be much better off beating the deadline for this assignment, since you may need to test your product more than once. You can bring your product in to any class period(s) before this, and I will set aside time at the end of the period to let you show it to the class and get feedback. All persuasive products that you plan to create for your organization need to receive feedback from the class and myself first! If you do not test the product, and fill out the required form, you will not get credit for it. I will provide each group with Product Test forms that you will use to record the date of testing, what was tested, what feedback you received, and how you are responding to the feedback.

After you have tested the product in class and gotten feedback, you also need to present it to the agency and get their feedback as well. This is crucial to the success of your project: if you just “give” the agency something without giving them a chance to have input into the creation of it, chances are good that they will not be completely satisfied with your work. Remember, you are essentially being employed by the agency for this semester, and you need to work with them. Collaboration and communication are the keys to success!

Final Reflection Report

One of the important components of service learning is reflection. After you have completed a project like this, you need to take time to look back on your experience to examine yourself and what you learned. In your individually prepared report, which you will submit online to the assignment drop box of WebCT, address the following questions:

1. What did you learn about persuasion? In this section, discuss specific concepts and principles from class that were made real for you during your project.

2. What did you learn about the community? Here, talk about what new things you discovered about Boone/Watauga County, about the issues that face us, and the ways we try to create positive change in this region.

3. What did you learn about yourself? What aspects of yourself did you discover that you hadn’t know before? What did you learn about your sense of place within this community? What strengths and weaknesses did you discover? What did you discover about yourself as a learner?

4. Finally, the most important question: Now What? Has this experience changed you? Don’t try to b.s. me, be honest here. Discuss how you see this project impacting your life in the weeks, months, or even years to come.

Project Presentations

All groups will present their projects at our end of the semester celebration, which will take place at the Student Union. All of the agency representatives will be invited to this event. You will need to do a PowerPoint presentation on your project. In this presentation, be sure to include the following:

1. Introduction and Preview: set up your talk by leading us into the topic with an attention getting introduction, and the preview your main points on a slide.

2. What You Did: show us the actual product(s) that you produced. If your primary product was a series of presentations to businesses, role play these presentations. Role play a couple of examples: one that worked well, and one that failed. If your product was a flyer or other paper product, be sure to create a version of it that everyone in the audience can see (scan it in and show it in PowerPoint, or some other solution). Do NOT pass around examples, since this will take attention away from your presentation.

3. What Problems?: Discuss obstacles that you encountered, and how you overcame (or why you were unable to overcome) them. Remember that a representative from your agency may be present, so do some careful consideration of your audience here.

4. What You Learned: Tell us a few key concepts from class that were made real for you during this project.

5. Conclusion: Wrap up what you presented, and tell us what happens next with this project, and a final thought to tie it all together.

6. Transitions between points are critical! Do not assume that just because the next slide has a title that you don’t have to do anything to connect one slide to the next. Review, preview, and connect each slide.

7. Time limit: 15 minutes

At the end of the semester, you will need to turn in a portfolio that displays the work your group did for this project. As you work throughout the semester, hold onto any “stuff’ that you do. Your portfolio should at a minimum meet the following requirements:

  • Well organized
  • Professional in appearance
  • Include copies of the following materials: drafts of products, copies of final versions of your persuasive products (obviously, the agency should have the originals already), and product testing forms reports audience analysis data commentaries on the included content: this is probably the most crucial part of any portfolio. At the beginning of each section, you should have a written summary of what is in the section, and what is so special about it. In other words, the commentary is where you focus the reader’s (in this case, also the grader’s) attention on the positive aspects of your work. These commentaries are your chance to prove to me that you have learned and applied persuasive theories to your practices. They are also a chance to be persuasive. Include any other material you think necessary: pictures, perhaps? Note however that I do not want printouts of your WebCT postings.

Please be sure to mark any materials that you include in your portfolio but did not actually produce. Mark them by putting “NOP” (not out product) in some obvious place. Also, please be sure to include only copies of your products obviously, the originals should already have been turned in to the agency.

Tips for Service Learning Projects
Below you’ll find some words of wisdom (or at least words … ) that come from past classes. Heed these bits of advice, because they will make your task much easier. Also, check back here periodically. As the semester goes along, I’ll probably add more tips here.

  • Communication with your agency contact WILL be difficult. This can’t be stressed enough, or said too often. You’re busy, they’re busy, everyone’s busy. You will have to try several times to get through to your contact, just as they will have to try several times to reach you. Expect this; don’t complain about it! It’s a fact of life, and is unavoidable.
  • Because communication is difficult, you must have one key quality: perseverance. Don’t call the agency one time. Call, call again, e mail them, leave messages, keep trying until you are certain the message has been received.
  • Another implication of the first tip is that you cannot procrastinate. You need to get started on the project immediately, because everything, and I do mean everything, will take longer than you expect.
  • Contact the agency consistently and frequently. Get in touch with them often to let them know what you’re doing, what you’re planning to do next, etc.
  • Don’t expect to be able to get a hold of agency reps at hours convenient to you. In other words, at lunch time they’re likely to be at lunch, and after 4:00 they’re likely to have gone home. You need to call them during normal business hours.
  • Remember that even though these are non profit organizations, they are still organizations. They are working hard, and expect results. Do not have the attitude of, “I’m helping these people, as a volunteer, so they should be grateful for whatever time/effort I can spare.” This is NOT the way to approach service-learning. You are not “helping” them, you are working for/collaborating with them. So treat this as a job, and a job that rewards you with something much more valuable than money: the unbeatable joy of knowing that you have made a difference in the lives of people who need help.
  • With your different schedules, it will probably be pretty difficult to get everyone in the group together at the same time. So be creative: divide up tasks, make use of e mail for quick decisions/announcements, have food at the group meetings (that will get people to come!), break the group into two smaller groups for some tasks, or whatever you can think of to work around your schedules.
  • A general tip that you should remember when you get out into the “real world,” too: do not leave the agency hanging. If they ask you to come by to meet with them on Tuesday, don’t say, “Well, I might be able to make it, I’m just not sure. I’ll try to be there.” As a wise man once said, “There is no try, only do.” You’ll either be there, or you won’t. So let your yes be yes, and your no be no. If you can’t say yes or no for certain at that time, say “I’ll have to check, but I will get back to you tomorrow to tell you for sure whether or not I can make it.” Then, be sure to get back with. them by the time you said you would. And if you say you are going to be there, BE THERE. If you don’t show up, for whatever reason, it will make you, your group, and the entire university look very, very unprofessional.

School: Appalachian State University
Professor: Norman Clark
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