Human Behavior in the Social Environment

HB 720

Course Overview

Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE) is designed to help you chart a knowledgeable course through the complexity of human experience. This course explores a select set of theories that help us understand how individuals and communities develop and interact. Because empathic and skillful interventions with individuals, groups, and communities require understanding ourselves as well as others, the course provides an opportunity for increased self-awareness. At the beginning of the course, we focus on the key theories that help us understand the dimensions and expression of human behavior in the social environment. This discussion is followed by an examination of how dimensions of culture and cultural contexts can shape individual values, beliefs, worldviews, and identities and, therefore, play a role in the helping process. Through discussion and analysis, we will explore areas of universality and difference in the context of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, spiritual beliefs, and socioeconomic class, as well as the realities and influence of multiple forms of oppression. Finally, we will examine human development throughout the lifespan, considering the developmental scientific knowledge base regarding opportunities and vulnerabilities present during the different stages of the life cycle and the biopsychosocial and cultural factors that can influence individual development. The ability to analyze human behavior in the social environment is essential for all methods of social work practice, whether the primary focus is clinical or macro.

HB 720 constitutes the foundation course in the human behavior department and is the underpinning of all courses in the HBSE sequence.

Important Course Replacement Information

If you waive out of HB 720, you must take an advanced HB elective in its place. Please note that typically only two HB electives will be offered in the Fall semester: HB 723: Adult Psychopathology and HB 743: Social Work with Refugees and Immigrants. You will need to plan accordingly, especially in regard to your field placement.

Waiver Policy and Procedures

  • Student is given (a) access to a course syllabus; (b) information on securing course readings; (c) guidelines needed to complete the three written assignments; (d) grade requirement; and (e) submission deadline.
  • Student’s papers are submitted to the HB department chairperson.
  • HB chairperson or assigned HB faculty member grades the papers.
  • If a faculty member does the grading, the grade is communicated to the chairperson.
  • Student is notified of the result by the chairperson.

Course Syllabi

Course Readings

In addition to the required textbook reading (see syllabus for details), there are 56 additional required readings for HB 720. These readings are accessible online via Mugar Library course reserves.
** NOTE: Online readings should be available in mid-June 2009 **

  • Go to
  • Click on “Course Reserves”
  • Type in the course identifier—ssw hb720—and click on “Search”
  • Click on the article title link

Paper Guidelines

Papers must be written in accord with the guidelines outlined in the HB 720 syllabus (see pp. 18–22). Please be mindful of the fact that your papers must include some of the required readings for the course (see syllabus for specific number), and they must be written in American Psychological Association (APA) format.

Grade Requirement

Waiving HB 720 will require a grade of B or higher on each of the three assignments. For students who do not receive a grade of B or higher, the only feedback provided will be a statement that “content provided in the written assignments did not meet the standard.” Please note that waiving out of HB 720 requires the ability to demonstrate ways that human behavior theory is applied to social work practice.

Submission and Notification Dates

All three papers are due by 12:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday, August 17, 2015. No exceptions. Papers submitted after this deadline will not be graded.
The chairperson will provide feedback to the student and the School of Social Work registrar by September 1, 2015.

Electronic Submission

Papers must be submitted electronically to the Human Behavior Department chairperson, Associate Professor Renée Spencer.


Contact Associate Professor Renée Spencer.