COMM 3210 Human Communication Theory

Instructor Contact:

Elyse Janish

About the Course:

Official course descript from catalogue: Acquaints students with general, thematic, and contextual theories of human communication. Gives attention to criteria for evaluating theories.

This course is about helping you think communicatively: to become a scholar of communication. As we’ll see, thinking communicatively is not merely about figuring out how to send the “right” message. It’s about learning to use theory to ask meaningful and unique questions about social phenomena. We hope that this course will help you develop curiosity, awareness, understanding, and appreciation for theorizing about human communication—and for the place of theory in our lives more generally. We intend to violate commonsense assumptions about communication that enhance your conception of how communication constitutes private and public life. We hope to develop a “communicative imagination” that helps to understand the consequences of thinking of communication as the primary and fundamental social process.

“Theory” is a word that can arouse both anxiety and apathy. This is a course in communication theory, and we—your instructors—think that there’s something tremendously valuable in learning to ask questions and thinking with and through theory. The topics we cover here will help you answer your questions about communication processes in various settings, aid in your development as a communication scholar, and improve your capability to be a critical consumer of all types of theory and research—including research well beyond that encountered in the university.

Required Texts:

  1. West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2018). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Additional readings on Canvas


(out of 700) 

Exams (350 points total): There will be three exams held throughout the semester. These exams will consist of true/false, multiple choice, and matching questions, and time will be set aside during your recitation to help prepare for them. The final exam will be cumulative, but weighted toward material covered since exam #2.

Quizzes (50 points total): There will be brief quizzes to assess your understanding, to give you a taste of the sorts of questions that may appear on exams, consisting of only a few straightforward questions (which will generally be easy if you’ve read the material).

Theory Application Papers (100 points total): At two points during the semester, you will write, individually, a relatively short (about 6 page) response to a question that encourages you to think critically about the course material. These papers will ask you to explain, apply, and critique theories covered in the course.

Designing Communication for Social Problems (50 points): You will develop a way for your classmates to experience one of the theories in the course in greater depth than simply reading a textbook chapter about it, by exploring how it helps us engage with important social problems (i.e., key issues, grand challenges, social concerns, etc.). You will work to display to the class why a given theory is useful with respect to a given social problem—and, in particular, how the theory allows us to see the issue in a new light. We see this assignment as directly related with the Communication department’s CRAFT notion, particularly in terms of your ability to think Creatively, Analytically, and to point toward Transformation.

Concept Discussion and Theory Illustrations (110 points total): Throughout the semester, you will be asked to engage with classmates on the discussion boards, providing and discussing examples to clarifying concepts and illustrate the theory in question for the week. You should be prepared to discuss your example and how the theory alters our understanding of your example.

Class Membership & Participation (40 points): Across the semester, your engagement with one another and with the materials shapes the course. Even though we do not meet in person, we still build a class environment. This grade reflects your role in class interactions and building that environment.

Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado