Psycology 490, Senior Seminar

September 29, 2008

Course Objectives:

The goal of this course is to provide experiences that allow you to reflect deeply on a theme. The theme we will explore this semester is happiness and well-being. We will explore this using several strategies. First, you will be allowed to select a more specific topic related to the theme to explore in a brief research paper. Secondly, we will read texts that serve as contrasting cases related to the theme. We will explore these cases using discussion questions to guide us. Finally, we will examine this theme through our experience with a service-learning project.


The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition is required for this course. You may wish to purchase a copy card at the library, as you will need to be copying journal articles to read as you research the topics we are studying. Three additional popular nonfiction readings include:

Fay, J. & Fay, C. (2002). Love and Logic: Magic for Early Childhood. Golden, CO: Love and Logic Press.

Rule, A. (1992). Everything she ever wanted. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Albom, M. (1997). Tuesdays with Morrie. New York: Random House.


  1. a. Due to the nature of this course it is imperative that you be present at all class meetings. A portion of your grade is determined by the quality of your contributions to discussion. There are 7 days explicitly devoted to discussion of assigned readings and service-learning experiences. At the time each reading is assigned, you will be given a set of discussion questions. On the discussion day, you are to turn in to me written responses to these questions that should help you prepare to contribute substantively to the conversation. Your discussion contributions each of those days can earn up to 10 points. (23% of your grade will be based on your discussion contributions). See attached criteria.
  2. For the topic you select, each student is to turn in a ?position? or
    ?pro/con? paper to me. These papers are due at the beginning of class on the April 4th. (33% of your grade will be based on your pro/con papers.) See attached criteria.
  3. Process work (the work leading to the final paper), such as collecting articles,
    summarizing articles, developing an integrative outline, and so on will also be
    graded. Process work will be graded using an ?all or nothing? system. If you complete the assigned work with a good faith effort (as I judge it), you will earn all process points. If you fail to produce a good faith effort, you will have earn no process points. You must be present to earn your process points. You may not turn something into me in advance and skip class and still earn points. (17% of your grade will be based on your process work.).
  4. Each student will complete a service-learning project. A service-learning project implies that you take the academic knowledge you have acquired and apply it in a way that is useful to a community that will benefit from the application in some way. We will be participating in the Healthy Buddies program with Webster Elementary School in St. Joseph. At the end of the experience, you will write a reflection paper. (27% of your grade will be based on your service learning project/reflection paper). See attached criteria.

Grading System: There will be 300 points possible in this class:

100 points Pro and Con Paper
50 points Process work for Pro/Con Paper
70 points Service-learning Discussion Contributions
80 points Service Learning Project/Reflection Paper 300 points
Total Possible

A = 270-300, B = 240-269, C = 210-239, D = 180-209, F = 0-179

Senior Seminar Grading Criteria

The following are the characteristics of a high-quality pro/con paper:

  1. Grasp of the issue and important related points.
  2. Proper use of supporting empirical evidence.
  3. Realization of points of agreement and disagreement on both sides of the issue.
  4. Ability to see and challenge flaws in the ?oppositions? arguments and research.
  5. Ability to see and challenge flaws in one?s own arguments and research.
  6. References and paper written according to APA format.
  7. Uses at least 5 academic references in the paper.
  8. Your writing is organized, logical, and sequential.
  9. Your writing is free from grammatical, syntactical, and spelling errors.
  10. Your paper was creative, interesting, much more than a review of a book or article.

The following are the characteristics of a high-quality service learning project/reflection paper:

  1. Completed all assigned responsibilities on project (met appropriate number of times with
    buddy, attended all planning a parties). (15 points possible)
  2. You reflect on how your experiences with your buddy relate to the course theme &
    readings. (15 points possible)
  3. You relate your interaction with your buddy to the undergraduate curriculum you have
    experienced both in the psychology department and in general studies courses. (15
    points possible)
  4. Report was free from grammatical/spelling/syntax errors. (10 points possible)
  5. Report was organized, logical, and sequential. (10 points possible)
  6. Report includes a personal reaction. (10 points possible)
  7. Report was turned in on time and was 2-5 pages in length. (5 points possible)

Discussion contributions will be evaluated on the following scale:

0 = absent
1-2 = present, inattentive/did not contribute
3-4 = present, attentive, but did not contribute
5 = present, contributed
6-7 = present, contributed quality thought to our conversation
8-10 = present, contributed high quality thought to our conversation

High quality thought will be defined as thoughts that link the readings and service-learning experiences to substantive areas of study in positive psychology in an appropriate and creative manner. Quality thought is this same linkage, but in a less appropriate or creative manner.

I will reduce your contribution grade by 5 points for any day that you do not also hand in the written responses to the discussion questions. Absences will be dealt with on a one-on-one basis. Only excused absences will be allowed to use discussion question responses as a substitute for participation in the discussion. Absences must be excused in advance of their occurrence.

Senior Seminar Topic List
Theme for Sprint 2005 is Happiness and Well-being

(This is just a guide, but I reserve the right to reject topics outside of this list)

Is there a ?best? parenting style?

Does wealth cause happiness?

Does parenting style impact a child?s happiness?

Does happiness vary across cultures?

Does job satisfaction depend on compensation?

Is happiness a state or a trait?

Does authoritarian parenting really result in adverse outcomes?

Does happiness depend on circumstance?

Can happiness be learned?

School: Missouri Western State University
Professor: Dr. Kelly Henry
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