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Introduction to Theories of Human Communication (COM 270)

Course Description and Objectives

COM 270 introduces students to the theoretical foundations of the human communication discipline. The course surveys a range of traditional and contemporary theories in such areas as interpersonal, small group, organizational, intercultural, public, and mass communication. By the end of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain major concepts and principles from a range of communication theories applicable to human communication in everyday life;
  2. Analyze and explain their communication experiences in everyday life using major concepts and principles from theories of human communication.
  3. Identify and discuss illustrative examples from popular culture (novels, music, movies, art, etc.) of major concepts and principles from theories of human communication;


Griffin, E. A first look at communication theory, 8th edition_._ Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2012.

The textbook is available at the UH Hilo Bookstore.

This textbook is supported by a web site at Although the site was created for instructors, it offers a lot of useful resources for students such as chapter outlines and alternative ways to view each theory. I encourage you to browse the site and use whatever information is there to prepare for exams and write your journal entries. However, please do not plagiarize from this website. If you do, you will not only face possible disciplinary action from me, but also a copyright violation law suit from the textbook company that produces the website.

Grading Policy

Final grades will be based on the total number of points accumulated by students upon completion of the following:

Deliverable Points
Exam I (9-25) 50 points (Assessment of Learning Objective #1)
Exam II (10-30) 50 points (Assessment of Learning Objective #1)
Paper (Due: 12-11) 40 points (Assessment of Learning Objective #2 and 3)
Final Exam (Th, 12-18, 4:10 p.m.) 100 points (Assessment of Learning Objective #1)

Examinations & Paper

Examinations. There will be two non-comprehensive examinations and one comprehensive final examination. Examination I covers lectures 1-6; Examination II covers lectures 7-13; and the Final Examination covers lectures 14-20 plus randomly selected questions from Examination I and II. All examinations will consist of multiple choice questions.

Policy on Make-Up Exams:

A make-up examination will be administered only when a student misses an examination because of an excused absence. If you miss an examination because of an unavoidable circumstance -- e.g., illness, certain major religious observances, participation in official University athletic or student government activity, military active duty -- it is YOUR responsibility to provide me with WRITTEN documentation of the excused absence, including those of a medical nature. If you know in advance that your excused absence will force you to miss an examination, please notify me as soon as possible prior to the scheduled examination so proper arrangements can be made for you to make-up the examination. Absences for University activities must be officially documented in advance.

Paper. Each student is required to write a paper that uses concepts and/or principles from a theory covered in class to analyze your own communication practices. In writing the paper, ask yourself: What insight(s) did the theory provide me to help me understand my own, and others', communication behavior in everyday life? The paper should be approximately 5 pages (double-spaced) in length, or approximately 1,200 words.

Policy on Paper:

Your paper must be printed in 12-point font, double-spaced, one-inch margins on the sides, bottom, and top. Use only 8-1/2 " by 11" paper with no ragged edges. Include page numbers on each page, and staple (or otherwise bind) all pages together. Electronic copies of your paper will not be accepted.. Save a copy of paper. The paper is due as indicated on your syllabus unless prior arrangements have been made with me. You will receive a 5-point penalty for each CALENDAR DAY your paper is submitted late.

The following rubrics will be used to evaluate your paper:

Content Organization Writing Total
Demonstrates a thorough understanding and application of the selected theory
8 pts.
Well-planned and organized
8 pts.
No problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling
4 pts.
20 x 2 = 40 pts.
Demonstrates a basic understanding and applicationof the selected theory
6 pts.
Some organizational problems evident
6 pts.
Some grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors
3 pts.
15 x 2 = 30 pts.
Appears unsure about the selected theory and its application
4 pts.
Major organizational problems
4 pts.
Many grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors
2 pts.
10 x 2 = 20 pts.
Appears unfamiliar with the selected theory and its application
2 pts.
Difficult to follow ideas/information in the paper
2 pts.
Prose is largely incomprehensible due to major grammatical, punctulation, and spelling errors
1 pts.
5 x 2 = 10 pts.

Grading Scale

Final grades will be based on the following scale:

  • A (95% and higher) = 228 points or more
  • A- (90-94%) = 216-227
  • B+ (87-89%) = 209-215
  • B (84-86%) = 202-214
  • B- (80-83%) = 192-201
  • C+ (77-79%) = 185-191
  • C (74-76%) = 178-184
  • C- (70-73%) = 168-177
  • D (60-69%) = 144-167
  • F (Below 60%) = Below 144

Lecture Schedule

Tu 8-26: Orientation to the course

Th 8-28: 1. What is communication? (pp. 6-9)

Lecture 1 recording

Instructions: Choose the lecture and the link will take you to the Laulima website for this course. Once there, select Modules in the left hand menu and it will take you to the list of recorded lectures. Choose the one you want.

Important: The lectures are stored as mp3 files. Your computer will need a software (like iTunes or Windows Media player) that can play mp3 files in order for you to listen to the lectures.

Tu 9-2: 2. What is a theory? (pp. 2-6)

Lecture 2 recording

Th 9-4: 3. Why Are theories important?

Lecture 3 Recording

Tu 9-9: 4. What is a good theory? (pp. 26-34)

Lecture 4 Recording

Th 9-11: 5. Ontological assumoptions of communication theories (pp. 13-16)

Lecture 5 Recording

Tu 9-16: 6. Epistemological underpinnings of communication theories (pp. 16-24)

Lecture 6 Recording

Th 9-18: Open Date (catch-up day if needed)

Tu 9-23: Review for Exam 1 (Randy's Birthday!)

Th 9-25: Examination I

Tu 9-30: Review of Exam I

Th 10-2: 7. Symbolic Interactionism ( pp. 54-66)

Lecture 7 Recording

Tu 10-7: 8. Systems Theory

Lecture 8 Recording

Th 10-9: 9. Functional Theory (pp. 233-246)

Lecture 9 Recording

Tu 10-14: 10. Structuration Theory

Lecture 10 Recording

Th 10-16: 11. Social Exchange Theory

Lecture 11 Recording

Tu 10-21: 12. Persuasion

Lecture 12 recording

Th 10-23: 13. Intermedia Theory

Lecture 13 recording

Tu 10-28: Review for Exam II

Th10-30: Examination II

Tu 11-4: No Class (General Election Day -- VOTE!)

Th 11-6: Review of Exam II

Tu 11-11: No Class (Veteran's Day)

Tu 11-13: 14. Semiotics (pp. 332-343)

Lecture 14 Recording

Tu 11-18: 15. Nonverbal Communication

Lecture 15 recording

Th 11-20: 16. Nonverbal Communication (Continued)

Lecture 16 recording

Tu 11-25: 17. Social Penetration Theory (pp. 113-124)

Lecture 17 Recording

Th 11-27: No Class (Thanksgiving)

Tu 12-2: 18. Uncertainty Reduction Theory (pp. 125-136)

Lecture 18 Recording

Th 12-4: 19. Narrative Theory (pp. 308-318)

Lecture 19 Recording

Tu 12-9: 20. Dialectical Theory (pp. 153-167)

Lecture 20 Recording

Th 12-11: Final Examination (Paper Due)

Policies and Procedures

Your Responsilbilities: Your responsibilities to this class, and to your education as a whole, include attendance and participation. This syllabus details specific expectations I have about attendance and participation. You have a responsibility to help create a classroom environment where all may learn. At the most basic level, this means you will respect the other members of the class and the instructor and treat them with the courtesy you hope to receive in return.

Accomodations: Any student with a documented disability who would like to request accomodations for this class should contact Susan Shirachi in the University Disability Services Office, 932-7623 (V) or 932-7002 (TTY) as early in the semester as possible.

Plagarism: "Plagiarism" is the use of someone's words or ideas without proper documentation. Even paraphrasing someone else's work without reporting the source constitutes plagiarism. Protect yourself from being suspected of plagiarism by documenting your sources. If your paper is found to be plagiarized, you will receive an automatic "0" (no points) for the assignment.

Kilohana Academic Success Center: The KASC provides academic support opportunities for all UH Hilo students that foster their development into independent, self-motivated learners. Students who visit Kilohana have access to subject-specific and academic skills tutoring from UHH students selected for their academic achievement and dedication to helping others succeed. Kilohana is located on the lower level of the Mookini Library and on the web

Human Rights: The University of Hawaii at Hilo prohibits discrimination in its education programs based on race, national origin, color, creed, religion, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or associational preference. If at any time during class you feel uncomfortable about what is being talked about, or feel that your human rights have been violated, please feel free to leave the room. However, I ask that you confer with me as soon as possible about what happened so that appropriate action can be taken if necessary to avoid future problems. If you are uncomfortable speaking with me about your concern, please contact Jennifer Stotter, EEO/AA Director, at 932-7641.

Sexual Assault Policy: UH Hilo provides confidential assistance for victims of sexual assault.
Counseling Services on campus and the YWCA Sexual Support Services offer guidance regarding medical and emotional help and can discuss options for reporting sexual assaults to law enforcement. All conversations are private and confidential. View the UH Hilo Sexual Assault Policy.