Psychology 473A Syllabus
Psychology and Sexual Orientation
Fall, 1999
Dr. Jane Connor

     The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of psychological issues related to Sexual Orientation. You will notice that the bulk of the readings are devoted to different aspects of homosexuality and bisexuality. This is deliberate. Because heterosexuality is the assumed sexual orientation in our society, most of us are quite familiar with the psychological and cultural issues related to heterosexuality. It is the goal of this course to deepen your understanding and appreciation of what it means to define oneself in a manner not consistent with the heterosexual "standard" of our society.

     This course will be taught in a manner that is somewhat different from what you have encountered before. We will be using an approach called Team Learning which has been shown to result in better learning in a number of studies. You will be working in groups throughout the semester and your grade will be based upon both individual and group performance.

     WARNING: It is essential that you not miss class - your grade will suffer substantially if you do.

Grading Requirements and Procedures

     Each week for most of the semester there is a Mini-Test (MT) which consists of 10-15 multiple-choice items. You will complete the MTs twice- once individually and once as a member of a group. Each student thus has an individual MT average and a group MT average. The student's group MT average can be adjusted up or down based upon the evaluation the student receives from his or her peers in the group, as described below. Then the two MT averages are combined to yield a single MT average by weighting the individual average xx% and the group average xx%. (Note: xx means the exact percentage will be decided by the class, within limits set by the instructor.)

     There will be time after each MT for your group to review its answers and to decide if your group wishes to make an appeal about the grading of any of the questions. To do so the group must submit a written appeal, which I will review and evaluate before the next MT.

Purposes of the Appeals Process
     Appeals can
         Clarify uncertainty about your understanding of the material
         Give additional recognition and credit when a question was missed because of
             1. ambiguity in the reading material
             2. disagreement between the reading material and the answer designated as correct
             3. ambiguity in the wording of the question.

Guidelines for Preparing Successful Appeals
     Appeals are granted when they demonstrate that your answer did demonstrate an understanding of the concept(s) or your lack of understanding was due to ambiguity in the reading material.

     If your appeal is based on ambiguity in the question you should:
         1. spell out why you thought the questions was ambiguous, and
         2. offer an alternative wording that would have helped you avoid the problem

     If your appeal is based on either inadequacies in the reading material or disagreement with our answer, you should:
         1. state your reason(s) for disagreeing with our answer, and
         2. provide specific references from the reading material to support your point of view.

      Appeals will only be considered from groups. If the appeal is granted, all of the individual scores in the group will be adjusted accordingly.

Peer Evaluation:
     Each student will rate all of the other members of his or her group at the middle and at the end of the course. The middle of the course rating will be used for feedback purposes only. The peer evaluation score for each student will be the average number of points that he or she receives from the members of his or her group at the end of the semester using the following procedure.
1. If there are 5 members of a group then each person has 40 points to distribute among the four members he or she is to rate, for an average of 10 points per person.
2. But, raters must differentiate some in their ratings. This means that each rater must give at least one score of 11 or higher - with a maximum of 15 - and at least one score of 9 or lower.) So, student Linda might receive from her team-mates peer evaluation scores of 10, 11, 9, 10 for a total of 40 or an average of 10, while Mary might receive 12, 11, 11, 14 for a total of 48 or an average of 12.
3. The peer evaluation score will be used to modify the group score. This is how it will work. If a student gets an average score of 10 from his group members then he will receive all of the possible points of the group. If he receives an average of 9, he will receive only an average of 90% of the possible group score. If he receives an average of 11 he will receive 110% of the possible group score.

Note: Experience with this system in other courses indicates that the major determinant of peer evaluation scores in attendance in class and preparation for class. Nevertheless, the instructor reserves the right to over-rule the peer evaluation score if it appears that there will be a miscarriage of justice.

Construction and Content of Mini-Tests

The content of the MTs will reflect both my efforts and yours. Each week that an MT is scheduled, each of you is to send to me, via e-mail, two potential questions for the MT, with the correct alternative indicated by an asterisk. I will use as many of the questions you submit as is feasible. Obviously, students and groups whose questions are used on the MT will be at an advantage for getting it right.

     One of the two questions that is sent should assess knowledge or comprehension of the material. The other question should assess higher levels of understanding: application, synthesis, analysis, or innovation. (You should indicate next to each question which type of knowledge you think it is assessing.) These terms are taken from Bloom's Taxonomy. To find out some more about Bloom's Taxonomy and ensure that your questions reflect the different types of knowledge consult the following sites:

Definitions and applications to multiple-choice questions:

Verbs to use in questions reflecting higher-order knowledge:

     Questions for the Mini-tests must be sent by 11 pm Sunday night and must include Psychology 473A Mini-Test in the Subject line. Of course, they can also be sent earlier. They should have the correct alternative indicated by an asterisk and the page numbers that contain the information that supports the correct alternative should be indicated so I can confirm your choice.

Writing Multiple-Choice Questions

      It can take a fair amount of time to write a good multiple-choice question. A number of brief guides are available on the web that provide do's and don'ts for writing good questions.. Please check out at least 2 of the following before writing any questions. I would not take any one of their suggestions as absolutes but as recommendations.

and for fun, what is the answer to the question posed at


     The purpose of the journal is to encourage you to reflect on your own personal reactions to the course material. You should write in your journal weekly. Your entries do not need to be very lengthy- two or three paragraphs is fine, longer if you wish. If you wish to draw upon what you have written in class discussion, you are welcome to do so, but. it is not required that you do so. During the semester you are invited to submit one or two journal items to me to get feedback that you are on the right track with the general type of entry that you are writing. Journals will be collected during the last class period and will be evaluated simply on the basis of whether or not you completed the assignment with some thoughtfulness.

Out-of-class Learning Experiences

  These assignments are one way that you can individualize your learning experience in this course. A number of possibilities are described below and others will be discussed during the semester. It is anticipated that each activitiy will require 1-3 hours of participation and a brief (1-2 page) write-up. You will be expected to complete 3 such activities. Examples include:
attending a meeting of the Rainbow Pride Union (the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual group- lgbt) on campus.
     Visiting a gay bar.
     Comparing the content of several lgbt oriented magazines.
     Interviewing persons of different genders and different sexual orientations
     Exploring the on-line lgb or t world
     Interviewing a range of students about lgbt attitudes

    Your write-up should include a statement about how difficult or easy you found it to do the activity, what made it easy/difficult for you, what you learned from the activity, and how that relates to ideas and readings associated with the class. The write-up will be graded on the basis of
         a. how observant you were, how insightful or creative your comments are
         b. how well you related your learning to the content of the course
         c. how clearly and effectively you presented your ideas and thoughts

Group Presentation

     Each group will teach one class on a topic of their choice regarding sexual orientation, towards the end of the semester. The presentation will be evaluated on how effective it was in teaching something to the class.

Term Paper
The term paper, which is usually on the same topic as the group presentation, is due the last day of class. Preliminary drafts and outlines will be due earlier. It will be approximately 10 pages long and will be described later in the semester.

Determination of Grades
Course grades will be computed using the following weighting scheme (exact percentages to be determined by the class)
Mini-test average 25-60%
Writing multiple-choice questions 5-15%
Journal 5-15%
Experiential Activities 5-15%
Class Presentation 5-25%
Term Paper 15-40%


NOTE: Mini-tests cover the material assigned for that Tuesday and the preceding Thursday.
(B) refers to the text by Blumenfeld- Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price
(G) refers to the text by Gonsiorek- Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy
(F) refers to the text by Firestone- Bisexuality: The Psychology and Politics of an Invisible Minority
(OV) refers to the text Homosexuality: Opposing Viewpoints
Date Day Topic/Assignment
Aug 31 Tues  
Sept 2 Thurs Assignment to Teams
Introduction (G)
The Definition and Scope of Sexual Orientation (G1), Introduction (B) 
Sept 7 Tues Mini-test 1
Lesbian Baiting (B10) 
That Naked Place (F-Prologue)
Bisexuality in Perspective (F1)
What Causes Homosexuality? (OV first half of unit)
Sept 9 Thurs Lesbian visitors
Sept 14 Tues Mini-test 2
Squeezed Into Gender Envelopes (B1) 
Stigma, Prejudice and Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men (G5) 
Homosexuality: Nature and Biology (G2)
Appearances (B9) 
What Causes Homosexuality? (OV second half of unit)
Sept 16 Thurs Gay male visitors 
Sept 21 Tues Mini-test 3
Bi-phobia: It Goes More Than Two Ways (F9)
Moving Beyond Binary Thinking (B4)
Monogamy and Polyamory (F5)
It Has Nothing To Do With Me (B6) 
Should Society Encourage Acceptance of Homosexuality? (OV first half of unit)
Sept 23 Thurs Bisexual visitors
Sept 28 Tues Mini-test 4
Sexual Orientation and the Law (G6)
From Silence to Suicide- Measuring a Mother's Love (B5) 
Managing Multiple Identities: Diversity Among Bisexual Women and Men (F2) 
Should Society Encourage Acceptance of Homosexuality? (OV second half of unit)
Sept 30 Thurs Parents of gays
Oct 5 Tues Mini-test 5
Homophobia, Homosexuality and Heterosexual Marriage (B8)
Lesbian Mothers and Gay Fathers (G13)
In the Best Interests of the Child (B7) 
Can Homosexuals Change Their Orientation? (OV first half of unit)
Oct 7 Thurs Lesbian Moms
Oct 12 Tues Mini-test 6
Gender Identity and Bisexuality (F3)
True to Our Tradition (B12)
Bisexuality, Sexual Diversity and the Sex-Positive Experience (F4)
Homophobia, Censorship and the Arts (B13) 
Oct 14 Thurs Sexual Orientation and Religion
Oct 19 Tues Mini-test 7
Psychological and Medical Treatments of Homosexuality (G7)
On Being Heterosexual in a Homophobic World (B15)
Bisexuality: Politics and Community (B14)
Homophobia and AIDS Public Policy (B14) 
Can Homosexuals Change Their Orientation? (OV second half of unit) 
Oct 21 Thurs Children of Gays 
Oct 26 Tues Mini-test 8
Benefits for Nonhomophobic Societies (B17)
Lesbian and Gay Relationships (G12)
Homophobia and the Healing of Society (B16) 
Should Society Legally Sanction Gay Relationships? (OV whole unit)
Oct 28 Thurs Relationships 
Nov 2 Tues Mini-test 9
Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy (G10)
Strange Customs, Familiar Lives, Homosexualities in Other Cultures (G4)
Loving What is Real: Towards an Inclusive Jewish Family (B11) 
Nov 4 Thurs Religion- Part II
Nov 9 Tues Mini-test 10
Counseling and Psychotherapy with Bisexual and Exploring Clients (F8)
Constructionism and Morality in Therapy for Homosexuality (G9) 
Nov 11 Thurs Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation/Lesbian Mom
Nov 16 Tues Class presentation: Reading To Be Announced
Nov 18 Thurs Class presentation: Reading To Be Announced
Nov 23 Tues Class presentation: Reading To Be Announced
Nov 25 Thurs Thanksgiving recess: No Class Meeting
Nov 30 Tues Class presentation: Reading To Be Announced
Dec 2 Thurs Class presentation: Reading To Be Announced
Dec 7 Tues Class presentation: Reading To Be Announced
Dec 9 Thurs Mini-test 11, Putting it all together

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