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CCOG for SOC 232 Fall 2022

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Course Number:
SOC 232
Course Title:
Death and Dying: Culture and Issues
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces the institution of death in the United States. Includes a broad multicultural, interdisciplinary approach, including sociological, psychological, historical, ethical, cultural, and religious approaches to death, dying, and bereavement across the lifespan. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Recommended: SOC 204, SOC 205 or an introductory Sociology course. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

This course intensely examines the processes and cultural influences on death and dying. It is appropriate for those who have an interest in these issues, works (or desires to work) in the health care field. This course is a core course of the Gerontology Certificate/Degree Program. Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites, but it is highly recommended that students take SOC 204, SOC 205, or their equivalents.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Compare the changing social, psychological, cultural, religious, spiritual, ethical and historical changing patterns of death beliefs and traditions related to varying modes of death, across the lifespan using sociological perspectives.
  2. Describe the physiology of death and dying, compare the effectiveness of the medical model of dying and palliative model of dying on end of life care from an individual, family, and cultural perspective, and assess the impact of legalities and legal instruments on end of life decision making for individuals and families from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds using the sociological imagination.
  3. Explain individual and family grief and bereavement issues using social research through an understanding of theories, models of coping, spiritual, religious, and cultural beliefs, and end of life practices and institutions, including care facilities, burial practices, funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemeteries.
  4. Explain the ways in which diverse individuals and groups (class, race/ethnicity, sex, age, etc.) experience death and dying depending on varying social contexts, historical and cultural patterns, access to resources, and/or power structures in society. 

Social Inquiry and Analysis

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to apply methods of inquiry and analysis to examine social contexts and the diversity of human thought and experience.

General education philosophy statement

Sociology offers a unique perspective that helps us understand how our lives are connected to each other and the larger society. Sociologists use scientific methods to study how societies are organized, why they change, and the different ways that social forces impact people’s lives. The sociological perspective allows us to understand micro and macro dynamics, through the power of social contexts, with varying structures, cultures, and groups shaping our opportunities, attitudes, behaviors, and identities and the broader social world.

Aspirational Goals

We hope that the careful study of death and dying from a sociological perspective will empower our students to develop the insights, empathy, understanding and skills needed to affectively address the needs the dying, their families, caregivers, themselves and others both during the process of dying and throughout the grief journey following death. It is also our hope that the knowledge gained from this course will help to increase our student’s confidence as professionals in the field of Gerontology and further the development of their professional portfolios.

Course Activities and Design

This course involves a variety of both in class, and out of class activities including writing your own obituary and hearing from presenters of various faiths and backgrounds.

Competencies and skills:

·         Apply the sociological perspective to the group nature of human life and death

·         Know treatment options available to those with life-threatening illness

·         Awareness of care options available to the dying (i.e., hospital, nursing home, hospice)

·         Development of the ability to listen and empathize with diverse perspectives and experiences as the pertain to the varied ways in which peoples address death and corresponding funerary ritual. 

·         Awareness of any coping mechanisms relating to grief-work.

·         A general understanding of what is “normal” for a survivor to experience when a loved one dies

·         Awareness of laws as the apply to funerary options and rituals

·         Ability to define trends that distance us from the certainty of death

·         Develop and practice active compassion in the care of and participation with the dying in society.

·         Knowledge of a range of support groups available to both the dying and their survivors.

·         Grasping a greater sense of one’s mortality and , hence, living more competently.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

In addition to following guidelines for assessing General Education outcomes, including a required Signature Assignment, instructors will assess student learning of course-level outcomes by using various assessment tools, per instructor discretion, such as:

  1. Field trips to area cemeteries, funeral home and crematoriums
  2. Interviews with professionals in the field
  3. Assigned papers and research projects
  4. Written analysis and feedback related to the weekly reading assignments
  5. Classroom discussion, group participation, and personal introspection which explore the theories and themes presented in the class
  6. Class attendance and participation in all classroom activities and assignments.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  1. Changing attitudes toward death and factors responsible for this change
  2. Diversity within and between cultures regarding the what, how and why of death and dying
  3. How we learn about death through socialization
  4. Health care options for the dying
  5. Issues pertinent to surviving life threatening illness
  6. The nature of funerary ritual in the social context and issues relating to body disposition
  7. Theory and techniques for coping with loss as a survivor.
  8. The varied ways in which differing age groups will experience and define death
  9. Medical ethics including the “right to die”
  10. Legal Issues pertaining to death
  11. Life and Death in a risk-taking society
  12. Suicide
  13. Survey of differing theological approaches regarding life after death, including near death experiences.

Approved Texts:

Per instructor discretion.

Instructional Delivery Mode:
This course is approved for classroom, hybrid, and distance modalities.