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LaGuardia Community College, CUNY


SSY101.1978 [58079]                                    Mike Rifino 
            Spring I 2019                                                 Office: C – 459(Social Science Department)

T: 3:25 – 5:35PM/TH: 3:25 – 4:25PM            Office Hours: Thursdays: 4:30 – 5:00PM
Room: C – 453                                               E-mail:

Course Description: 

  • This course is an introduction to some of the major mainstream fields and theories in the science of Western psychology–in conversation with critical texts and dialogues. We will cover a range of topics such as research methods of psychology, the biological basis of behavior, human development, learning, cognition, psychological disorders and their treatment, theories of personality, and social psychology. As a professor, I hope we can take the knowledge and the discussions we will have to be rendered personally relevant as a lens to examine your own diverse worlds, including the field of psychology.  

Learning Goals: 

            After taking this course you should be able to: 

  • Identify key theoretical, methodological, and empirical foundations of Western psychology 
  • Critically examine and take a position on a wide range of psychology texts and visual media 
  • Develop compelling arguments based on major themes in western psychology 
  • Examine how your own and people’s theories and ways of viewing the world are influenced by the psychological concepts and theories covered in this course
  • Develop a sense of solidarity and criticality toward others and toward ourselves 

Digital Tools:

  • WordPress:This course will use a WordPress site as an archival space where all necessary course materials resources will be posted online. In addition, topics and resources that organically emerged throughout the class discussion will also posted here. 
  • Blackboard​:The blackboard website of this class can be accessed by students who are enrolled in this section. Blackboard will be used to keep a track of your grades and progress throughout the course. 

Required Assignments:

  • Readings​:There will be a required reading for each new topic covered in this course. Students are required to read the materials assigned in advance. Classes should not be used as the first entry-level or new knowledge, but rather will serve as a space for clarification and discussion. Participation in class discussions is extremely important and will be considered toward your final grade.  
  • Active Participation:The more effort and energy you put into this course, the more we will all learn. This is your class and I expect you to be present to participate and engage yourself and your peers. Class discussions are a vital part of our class and it is essential that all be actively involved. ​Discussion is encouraged but you must always be respectful of ideas shared by your peers; the classroom should be a challenging, fun, and positive place for all. 

  • Collaborative Reflections:For each new topic we cover in class, in a group of peers each student will discuss key points and issues based on the reading homework. In other words, students will be assigned to groups in which they together will discuss their first impressions of the reading. 

We will complete this assignment in the beginning of each class, in which there is a new topic.

After all groups are finished discussing the reading and organizing your thoughts on the reading, each group will briefly report back to the class what they discussed in their groups. Within groups, in order to organize what your group will report back to the class, here are several guiding questions: 

  • What were the key argument(s) of the reading? In other words, what was the psychologist advocating for? 
    • What ideas covered in the reading that you liked and/or agreed with? Please explain why.
    • What ideas covered in the reading that you disliked and/or disagreed with? Please explain why. 
    • Are there any ideas in the reading that were relevant to your lives as students in community college or beyond? 
    • What ideas were you confused by and wanted more clarification on in class?

Based on what students report back to the class, I will modify my lecture to address and accommodate the questions, concerns, and comment you brought up in this group learning activity. 

This in-class activity will be graded based on completion and quality. Five (5)     points is the full credit you can receive based on completing and being an active   contributorto your group. 

Groups will be provided with the necessary materials for each group to brainstorm and jot down their key ideas that they wish to discuss within the larger classroom and lecture. 

Since this is an in-class assignment, if you are absent on the day of any of these           collaborative activities, it is your responsibility to see me so we can discuss     alternative ways to make up your grade. If you do not take the initiative to see me           in an attempt to make up this assignment, I will not be able to give you any credit         for the group assignment for that week. 

  • Exams​ (3):There will be three hand written, short-answer exams throughout the semester (see schedule for tentative dates). If a legitimate excuse is provided for absence on exam days, the student will be allowed to take a make-up exam. 
Grading Breakdown 
AssignmentsTotal Points 
Exam I, II, III150 (50 points per exam) 
Collaborative Reflections 50 (5 points each)   
                                      Total  = 225 points


  • Attendance​:The College’s attendance policy reads as follows:​“Attendance in class is a requirement and will be considered in the evaluation of student performance. Instructors are required to keep an official record of student attendance.  The maximum number of unexcused absences is limited to 15% of the number of class hours [5.4 hours in a 3-credit course].  Note:  Absences are counted from the first day of class even if they are a result of late registration or change of program.”  (2011-12 catalog, p. 114)  
  • Excessive Absences:Please come to class prepared, with readings and assignments completed. It is important that you attend class and arrive ​on time.​Excessive absences (​2 classes or more​) will result will ​lower the final grade​one letter grade down. Consistent tardiness may also lower the final grade​​(three late appearances will be counted as one absence).  
  • Incomplete Grades:Incomplete grades are not automatically granted but must be agreed to through prior consultation with the instructor and the department chair, all of who must sign and submit the appropriate form before the end of the semester. Incomplete grades are only permissible where students have legitimate reasons for not completing all the work of the class, have furnished appropriate documentation, and have agreed to a deadline by which all unfinished work must be completed. Failure to submit all assigned course work or to appear for a final exam are NOT legitimate reasons for granting an incomplete grade.  As the instructor I have little discretion in this matter and must act in accordance with college policies.  
  • Classroom Behavior​:Appropriate classroom behavior is required at all times and disruptive behavior (such as talking, cell phone use, taking breaks, etc.) will not be tolerated. Use of cell phones and text messaging devices in class is prohibited​. The college prohibits the consumption of food and beverages in the classroom and mothers are not allowed to bring small children with them into the classroom.  Persons unregistered for the course are not permitted in the classroom when class is in session. During exams students are not allowed to leave the classroom. Please remember to use restrooms before exams start.  
  • Academic Integrity​:​The college has established an academic integrity policy that describes procedures and penalties for students who are suspected of academic dishonesty, which includes cheating, plagiarism, academic fraud, and bribery. Copies of this policy are available in the office of the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Office, the Student Government Office, and the Student Life and Development Office, Counseling Cluster Offices and the Library. There is a ​zero tolerance policy ​toward academic dishonesty in this course. Please refer to the College Catalog (pg. 114).​​Cheating and Plagiarism:  All cases of cheating or plagiarism will be penalized by a failure on the examination or paper at a minimum and may result in failure in the course.  All violations will be reported to the College. Further information is available in the College Catalog or Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.  
Topic 1 – Introduction and Psychological Disorders
03/05TuesIntroduction and Course Overview; Psychological Disorders  
03/07ThursPsychological Disorders 
Topic 2 – Personality: Freud
03/12Tues Psychoanalytic theory I: Historical emergence of Freud and Psychoanalysis; Structure and dynamics of mind 
03/14ThursPsychoanalytic theory II: Psychoanalytic Method: Resistance and Transference 
03/19TuesFeminist contributions to Psychoanalysis 
Topic 3 – Research Methods
03/21ThursResearch Methods: I
03/26TuesResearch Methods: II
03/28Thurs**Exam I on Topics 1 – 3 **
Topic 4 – Learning: Behaviorism
04/02TuesFrom Thorndike to Watson and to Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning
 04/04ThursSkinner’s Operant Conditioning; 
04/09Tues Critiques of Behaviorism: Tolman and Chomsky
Topic 5 –Social Psychology
04/11Thurs Stanley Milgram on Obedience I 
04/16Tues Stanley Milgram on Obedience II 
04/18ThursReview Topics 4 & 5
04/23TuesSpring recess April 19th-28th 
 04/25ThursSpring recess April 19th-28th
Topic 6 – Biological Basis of Behavior
Nervous System: Anatomy and physiology 
05/02ThursBrain plasticity
*May 6th Last Day to Officially Withdraw from a Course
05/07Tues**Exam II on Topics 4 – 6**
Topic 7 – Sensation and Perception
 05/09TuesSensation & Perception: Traditional approaches 
05/14TuesSensation & Perception: Embodied/Enactive Approaches 
Topic 8 – The History of Race in Psychology
05/16ThursRace in Psychology: I
05/21TuesRace in Psychology: II
Topics 9 & 10 – Human Development: Piaget & Vygotsky
05/23Thurs Piaget’s Cognitive Development 
05/28TuesVygotsky’ Sociocultural Development
05/30TuesEnvisioning Education through Behaviorism, Piaget, and Vygotsky 
06/04TuesReading Day 
06/06ThursExam III on Topics 7 – 10
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