Course Syllabus:  HMS 200 Ethics in Human Services                                                                           (Full Course Revision: 5/08)


Great Basin College Catalog Description

HMS 200 Ethics in Human Service (3 Credits)

“Real life” applications of personal and professional beliefs, ethics, values, morals, codes of conduct in human relationships using ethical decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking activities for interacting with potential clients, customers, patients, students, subordinates, co-workers and supervisors. This course may be repeated up to three times for continuing education credit.

Prerequisites: None



Mary Ray, PhD

Human Services Program Coordinator/Instructor

Great Basin College

Elko Campus

1500 College Parkway

Elko, NV  89801

Office: Health Sciences, Room 103

Phone: 775.753.2005

Fax: 775.753-2160


Office Hours

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 10 AM to 12 PM, and additional hours: by appointment.


Required Text and Other Materials


ü       “Real World” Ethics (2nd edition) By Robert J. Nash. Teachers College Press


ü        One loose-leaf, medium-ring binder with removable paper supply. (Not required for internet classes.)


Course Description

This course is comprised of class discussions, cooperative learning activities, individual assignments, and class presentations. Students will complete assignments which reflect ethical concerns common to human services situations, including medical, educational, and social services scenarios. Professional codes of ethics and the concepts of values, boundaries, morals, and confidentiality within human services professions such as health care, education, mental health, law enforcement, and criminal justice will be explored. Students are expected to become familiar with the ethical decision-making process, and to apply these concepts in the class discussions. Audio and video materials and guest speakers may be used for enriching the curriculum.


Course Goals/Objectives

 The course is based on the following objectives:

               I.      The primary objective of this class is to assist the student in the development of a functional awareness of the role of ethics in the professional decision-making process.

             II.      Secondary objectives include providing the student with opportunities to enhance problem-solving skills that reflect the application of ethical principles.

            III.      Additionally, opportunities will be provided for students who are preparing for employment in the helping professions, as well as for practicing human services professionals, to examine and to practice the application of professional codes of ethics in hypothetical workplace scenarios.


General Education Integrative Objectives

Communication skills: Strong


Critical Thinking: Significant


Quantitative ability: Considerable

Reasoning and Independent thought: Significant

Scientific understanding: Considerable

Personal and Cultural Awareness: Strong


Sense of the individual in society:  Significant

Sense of the past:  Considerable

Sense of accountability: Significant

Appreciation of fine arts: Some degree

Personal Wellness: Strong


Technological Understanding: Strong




Expected Learner Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate the following:


1)      State understanding of the common ethical principles found in codes of ethics and standards of practice related to the fields of education, health sciences and human/social services.

Measurement: Journal, class discussions/presentations, final exam.

2)       Identify interactions between helper and client/patient, family members, and other health and human services providers which accurately reflect those outlined in related codes of ethics and/or standards of practice.

Measurement: Journal, class discussions/presentations, final exam.

3)       Demonstrate knowledge of boundaries and respect for individuality and for people of diverse cultural backgrounds when rendering of professional services.

Measurement: Journal, class discussions/presentations, final exam.

4)       Define confidentiality and apply legal, ethical and legal standards to situations common to the helping professions.

Measurement: Journal, class discussions/presentations, final exam

5)       Participate in personal and professional reflection in terms of self-evaluation of ethical standards, morals, values, and professional effectiveness.

Measurement: Journal, class discussions/presentations, final exam.


Methods of Instruction

Learning methods include the following:


Explanation of Grading Policy*

The following grade point scale will be used:


            A              ≥ 93                       B -   80-82                             D+   67-69

                A-            90-92                     C+   77-79                             D     63-66

                B+           87-89                     C     73-76                             D-    60-62

                B             83-86                     C-    70-72                             F     <60

*Unexcused, late work will receive a 10% deduction in grade beginning the day following the due date, and additional deductions will be made in proportion to the degree of lateness, as determined by the instructor. Suspected violations of GBC academic honesty policy will be reported. Incompletes will be granted per GBC policy. See current GBC Catalog for details. Rubrics for assessments are outlined at the end of this syllabus.

Attendance Policy

Per GBC catalog, “You must participate in classes regularly if you intend to obtain the full benefits of instruction.”  It is important to keep up with all written and discussion assignments. If you have difficulty participating due to technical problems (which cannot be resolved by calling the Help Desk at (775) 753-2167), or significant illness/personal emergency, please notify the instructor immediately to make arrangements for making up missed class work/assignments to avoid deductions in grade point scores due to late or missed work. It is the student’s responsibility to initiate the process of making up missed coursework/assignments, and/or obtaining missed instructional content. Students must request excused late work prior to the due date. An incomplete must be requested by the student, and will only be granted per GBC policy. Students are expected to participate regularly/weekly, and to complete all assignments on time. Students who fail to participate, cease to participate, and/or do not officially drop this class, will receive a grade at the end of the course that reflects the total of actual points earned, even if that number is a zero.


Course Outline/Schedule/Assignments

(Note:  Unit weeks begin on Monday mornings at 12:01 AM, and end on Sunday nights at 11:59 PM)


Week 1

Topic: Overview of Ethics/Meta-Ethics/Normative Ethics: Welcome to class! I hope you will enjoy this exploration of the process of identifying and applying your personal and professional ideas about ethics.

Class Activity: Please complete the Pretest without looking at books or resource materials. Write definitions for the 14 terms in the Pretest as best you can from what you know before we start the class. The Pretest will not be graded as it is, but it will be used as a baseline for assessing what you have learned from the class when compared to your performance on the final examination at the end of the course.

___Print out and read the entire syllabus.

___Pretest: Briefly define in two or three lines the following 14 terms of the Pretest, and submit to instructor by the end of Week One: ethics, values, morals, standard of practice, codes of ethics, moral language, background belief, character, ethical dilemma, bioethics, legal requirement, aesthetics, applied ethics, and philosophy.  

___Read in textbook: “Foreword,” “Acknowledgments,” and read pages 183-184 in Chapter 7.

___Introduction discussion: Introduce yourself to the class. Share with the class some of the reasons that you have for taking this course. Include a summary of an experience you have had with the theory/practice of ethics in personal and/or professional situations. Share your “ethical style” preferences with the class.

(No grades are assigned for the first week of class.)


Week 2

Topic: Values and Aesthetics: What do personal and professional preferences, beliefs, and values have to do with ethics?

___Read in textbook: Chapter 1 pages 1-9

___Class discussion #1: Respond to two of the questions from the list on page 183-184, and discuss topics from the readings in the text.

___Journal assignment #1: Choose an additional four issues from the list on pages 183-184, and give specific examples of how you behaviorally express these values/beliefs at work or at school.


Week 3

Topic: Morals: Professional Perspectives: Codes of Ethics and Standards of Practice: Where did they come from?

___Read: Chapter 1 pages10-13

___Class discussion #2: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to the definition and application of moral philosophy.

___Journal assignment #2: Write a 1 page summary about your “moral philosophy” based on these two questions:

(1) Identify your primary “moral philosophy.”’

(2) Why do you believe this is your philosophy—and from whom/what/where did you learn it?  (See the terms listed in bold on page 47. Research the definition of the terms with which you are unfamiliar, so that you will make an informed choice.)


Week 4

Topic: Codes of Ethics: Do all professionals agree about the ethical standards of their professions?

___Read Chapter 2 pages 15-26

___ Class discussion #3: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to definition and application of codes of ethics—how they differ, and their commonalities.

___Journal assignment #3: Locate and read a Code of Ethics related to a human service occupation of your choice/interest (nursing, social work, human services, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, law, a faith-based organization/ministry, etc.). Explain four key concepts upon which this code of ethics is based. Give specific examples of each.


Week 5

Topic: Standards of Practice/Legal requirements: If it is legal, then is it ethical?

___Read Chapter 2, pages 26-34

___Class discussion #4: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to the definition and application of standards of practice.

___Journal assignment #4: List four specific standards of practice that are derived from/based on a human services code of ethics. Give specific examples of each.


Week 6

Topic: Beliefs: Which comes first: seeing or believing?

___Read: Chapter 3, pages 35-48

___Class discussion #5: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to the definition and application of “first moral language”.

___Journal assignment #5: Write a page about your background beliefs. These may or may not apply to the content of your current “moral language”.


Week 7

Topic: Moral Language: How do we communicate and understand one another?

___Read: Chapter 3, pages 48-57

___Class discussion #6: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to the definition and application of “background beliefs”.

___Journal assignment #6: Give a specific example of how you express/have expressed each of the six dimensions listed on page 45.


Week 8

Topic: Character: Is speaking with actions louder than words?

___Read Chapter 4, pages 58-92

___Class discussion #7: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to the definition and application of “moral character”.

___Journal assignment #7 List and define the five elements of “moral character” found on page 61.


Week 9

Topic: Ethical dilemma: How are ethical problems solved when we speak in different moral languages?

___Read Chapter 4, pages 93-106. Locate, read and contrast the definitions for “first”, “second” and “third” moral languages.

___Class discussion #8: Discuss topics from the readings in the text as related to defining the differences/applications of the first, second and third moral languages.

___Journal assignment #8: Write a one-page discussion about one specific ethical dilemma that you will explore with the class in an ethical debate. Identify three points-of-view about this situation—one perspective should be your own. This should be a situation that you might encounter in a social or huhman services workplace setting. Use the information about case studies on pages 64 and 117 as guidelines for writing about your dilemma.


Week 10

Topic: Bioethics: What do we do when our morals and ethics clash?

___Read Chapter 5

___Class discussion: #9 Discuss topics from Chapter 5

___Written Case Study: Describe/write in your own words one case scenario related to your area of professional interest that presents an ethical dilemma for you in the workplace. Use the questions on page 117 and the description of a case study on page 65 as a guideline for preparing your paper. Present three views on the subject, research this topic, and present supporting information about all three views. Use your text as a source, and one additional resource. Document your source(s) by using APA style/format. Your paper should be at least 300 words, excluding the reference and cover pages or attachments. The paper is due by 11:59 PM on Sunday night at the end of Week 10.


Week 11

Topic: Applied ethics. Which is the “best” choice always the “right” choice?

___Read student case studies for ethical debate which are posted on the internet in Web Campus

___Class discussion: Respond to/participate in the class ethical debates

___Ethical Debate: Post a summary of your written case study in the discussion area entitled “Ethical debate” by 11:59 on Friday at the end of Week 11. Respond to at least two of your peers’ posted ethical dilemmas in a way that advances and deepens the analysis of the issues in each debate. Write an original, half-page description of an ethical dilemma that you might find in a human service workplace setting. Add a list of at least three points-of-view that people might express in response to this dilemma, and support each point of view by citing a section in a code of ethics that relates to the situation. Post your dilemma/debate in the discussion area entitled “Ethical debate”. Respond to at least two of your peers’ posted ethical dilemmas in a way that advances and deepens the analysis of the debate. You will be graded not only on the thoughtful presentation of your own dilemma, but also your score will be partially based on your participation in the class debate (60% presentation, 40% participation in the debates). Your debate responses are due by the end of Week 12, on Sunday at 11:59 PM.


Week 12

Topic: Ethical problem-solving: Whose problem is it?

___Read Chapter 6 from pages 146-156

___Class discussion (Ethical debate) is focused on student presentations and related topics concerning ethical problem-solving applications.

___Journal #10 List the steps of the problem-solving process and apply each step to how you would solve one ethical debate issue presented by another student in class. Your grade for the discussions in weeks 11 and 12 will be included your score for the ethical debate.


Week 13

Topic: The ethic of helping others: How do I, first and foremost, do no harm, and secondly, what can or should I do?

___Read to the end of Chapter 6

___Class discussion #10 is focused on Chapter 6 and topics concerning general and specific applications for the helping professions.

___Journal #11 Write a one-page reflection about one of the questions/issues raised on pages 159-160 (not including “Private-Public Dichotomy”).


Week 14

Topic: Philosophy. When the wants and needs of the individual collide with those of society, who “wins”?

___Read Chapter 7 to page 182

___Class discussion* identifying your personal philosophy as related to human service—ranging from local to global concerns.

___Journal #12 Write a one-page reflection about one of the questions/issues raised on page 160 under “Private-Public Dichotomy”

(*No graded discussions for Week 14)


Week 15

Topic: Review for final exam.

___Finish reading Chapter 7. Review your Pretest answers, and use the index of the textbook and your notes for review in order to identify topics about which you are unsure of their meanings or applications.

___Complete class discussions/presentations*

___Submit course evaluations

(*No graded discussion or participation for Week 15)


Week 16: Final Examination

Topic: Final examination. Please see instructions for the final examination under “Assignment Details.”

___Complete the final exam and submit to instructor. The final examination is due by the night of the last day of the course. You may turn it in at any time during the last week of class. No work will be accepted after the final examination is submitted or is due for the class. Extra credit will not be granted if there are/were missing or unexcused or late assignments.


Assignment Information


1. Journal assignments: are due on Sundays by 11:59 PM at the end of each week in which they were assigned. There are 12 in all, and each one is worth 2 points. You may email me your written assignments via the course in Web Campus or through my office email. Communicating within the course email is preferable, as your work is archived there and saved. My office email is deleted on a regular basis. (Journal assignments equal 24 total possible points or 24% of your grade for the course.)

 2. Class discussions: Class participation in class is a place for you to demonstrate your understanding of the course content, and to share your insights and information gained from your readings with your peers in the class—and they with you. In these important interactions, students apply and assimilate the content and concepts of the course, and deepen understanding of the material. You are expected to participate in all discussions. Prepare to submit at least three responses which includes the following: one major presentation containing your comments about the week’s topic that demonstrates thoughtful, critical thinking based on relevant readings/research (10 sentences minimum), and, at least two additional observations which advance the discussion and address comments made by classmates. Thus you should contribute a minimum of three discussions per unit. You must cite and reference statements that are based on the work of others, sentences/phrases taken from a book, and/or comments which are not a product of your original research. Each unit week’s discussions are worth a total of 4 points. Points will be deducted for chronic, serious errors in style, format, grammar, and/or presentation. Full credit will not be given for your contribution if no citations/references are given. Major contributions will count approximately 50% of the score, and your peer comments count approximately 50%. For those of you who are using very old or very new computer programs, saving as RTF files usually work best for everyone. If I cannot open your work, then I cannot grade it. If you find a zero in your grade book for assignments, please contact me. This means that I have not been able to open or locate the file that you submitted. Again, please remember that you must document your sources, even within your discussions, if you are citing published work. Use quotation marks when quoting the author of the text directly, and give the page number. If you are summarizing from our textbook, a page number is sufficient. Lack of correct documentation of source(s) may result in point deductions, or other disciplinary action due to violations of academic standards. (Class discussion grades equal 40 total possible points or 40% of your grade for the course.)

3. Case Study and Ethical Debate. Written Case Study: Describe/write in your own words one case scenario related to your area of professional interest that presents an ethical dilemma for you in the workplace. Present three views on the subject, research this topic, and present supporting information about all three views. Use your text and one other resource. Document your source(s) by using APA style/format. Your paper should be at least 300 words, excluding the reference and cover pages or attachments. The paper is due on Sunday night at 11:59 PM, at the end of Week 10. Unexcused late work will be penalized 10% immediately after the deadline, and in increasing amounts thereafter (see late work policy). Ethical Debate: Post a summary of your written case study in the discussion area entitled “Ethical debate”. Respond to at least two of your peers’ ethical dilemmas in a way that advances and deepens the analysis of the issues in each debate and identify which “moral language” you are using (first, second or third). You will be graded not only on the thoughtful presentation of your dilemma, but also your score will also be based on your participation in the class debate (50% presentation, 50% participation in the debates). Your debate responses are due by the end of Week 12, Sundayy night, at 11:59 PM. In face-to-face/live classes, these debates will take place in the classroom. (Written case study grades equal 10 total possible points and the ethical debate grades equal 10 possible points or a total of 20 points, or 20% of your grade for the course.)


4. Final examination: The final examination is closed-book. Write the definition of each of the same terms from the Pre-test. The definitions should be approximately three or four lines each. Also include a two or three-line “clinical” or real-life example/application of your definition. Do not use real people’s names or situations in your examples, but you may draw from your experiences with family members, clients, students and/or patients. The instructor will compare your pretest answers to the post-test in evaluating your final examination for a grade. (16 points or 16% of your grade for the course.)


5. Summary of Assignments and Point Values:


Assignments                                                                                             Points possible                        Due Dates


Journals (12 Journal entries @ 2 points each)                                         24

Class participation/discussions: 10 weeks @ 4 points each                   40

Case Study-Written                                                                                   10         

Ethical Debate                                                                                           10         

Final Exam                                                                                                 16

Total points possible                                                                                100


(Unexcused late work is immediately penalized at 10% and increasingly thereafter, depending upon degree of lateness, at the discretion of the instructor. NO work will be accepted after Thursday of final exam week at 5 PM.)


Other Guidelines and Internet Policies


1. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the subject matter in this course, students are expected to present thoughtful reviews of the material, and to offer appropriate, scholarly commentary.


2. Students are to maintain the confidentiality of others, including classmates, and/or guest speakers as applicable. During this course, students are expected to demonstrate respectful, ethical behaviors, as outlined in the GBC Catalog, when participating in GBC activities with peers, instructors and/or speakers in any class meeting, interactive video session, and/or online discussion. Emails and threads should contain the name of the sender and addressee, be written with correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization, usage and style. Please use the spell check feature, and avoid slang or contractions.


3. This is an interactive class in which your input is needed to increase knowledge of subject areas—for yourself and the others in the class. Timely and regular participation in threaded discussions is required.

4. The case study must be typed in Times New Roman 12-point font, double spaced. Papers should be logically organized, reflect a theoretical or research foundation, and use APA format. American Psychological Association (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th. ed.). Washington, DC: APA. You may access APA at the following site: .The Academic Success Center personnel and/or the GBC librarians can help you with APA style/format questions. The instructor will not provide neither detailed feedback about style/composition, nor opportunities for rewriting work solely for the purpose of implementing/correcting format/style in order to increase grade scores.

5. If you are having difficulty with the course content, computer technology and/or having personal problems, please communicate this as soon as possible. Call the GBC technology help desk number for technical assistance immediately if you have technical difficulties at (775) 753-2167, and then notify the instructor if you have been unable to resolve the problem. Save assignments your in MS Word (.doc) or in RTF (rich text format) prior to submission. Instructors sometimes travel away from GBC and use public libraries and internet-friendly coffee shops to access the course. You are highly encouraged to do the same, if necessary.

5. Great Basin College provides equal access for students with disabilities. An advisor is available to discuss appropriate accommodations with students about assistance with disabilities. Please contact the ADA Officer (Julie Byrnes) in Elko at 775.753.2271 at your earliest convenience to request accommodations.

6. Students may not use the e-mail addresses of other students, faculty, or staff for purposes unrelated to this class. Violations may lead to disciplinary action.



Rubric for Written Assignments and Presentations

College level writing style, grammar, spelling, and composition is required for all assignments. APA-style documentation is required when citing or referring to material or ideas taken from other authors or publications for ALL written assignments, including computer postings, class presentations, and journals. Points will be deducted for errors or omissions in regard to these issues. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. This instructor may use the “Turn It In” originality check computer program to verify the sources of information included in students’ written work.



Exceeds expectations

Addresses all elements of assignment with high degree of accuracy and clarity

Demonstrates high levels of critical thinking and practical application

Documents sources per APA requirements



Meets most expectations

Addresses most elements of assignment with accuracy and clarity

Applies theoretical material in several areas or in most applications



Meets some expectations

Demonstrates understanding of material with minimal insight

Some required information/elements not addressed/some inaccuracies



Meets few expectations

Most required information is missing/is inaccurate and/or many elements unaddressed

Below 60%

Meets very few or no expectations

Many inaccuracies

No use of APA style/format (when required)

0 %

No submission/Excessively late submission

Wrong assignment

Undocumented use of another's work/violation of academic honesty policy


Important Note: In order to more effectively facilitate this course, the instructor reserves the right to modify the syllabus at any time. This document is a guide, and not a contract.