Course Syllabus

Psych 56 - Death, Dying and Aging
Section 1916  Fall 2021  Course Syllabus 

Course Description

Course Description This course provides an introduction to the major theoretical orientations, important psychotherapeutic methods, and current issues in death, dying and aging while at the same time offering various ways in which you can apply psychology to your own life. You will learn how to recognize and successfully work through issues of aging, dying and loss in your own life too.

This class not only offers the opportunity to explore what current scholarly knowledge in psychology is in regard to the human mind/mind body connection/up-to-date insight into the human brain, but also an invitation to connect that knowledge with your own life story and the opportunities for self-understanding that may arise within you. This course pays particular attention to critical thinking and cross-cultural issues in order to allow you the opportunity to engage in transformative learning and impact patterns of thinking and feeling.

Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Use major psychological theoretical perspectives to explain human behavior. • Identify the major scientific research methods, and use the critical thinking process to assess research materials and methods.
  • Diversity is interwoven throughout the world in which psychologist practice. Although you may not be interested in becoming a psychologist, understanding issues of diversity and gaining a mutual respect among diverse groups of people and opinions is of the utmost importance. Throughout the course, diversity will be addressed to ensure that students’ understanding of psychology is enriched by an appreciation of the diversity of all participants.

Class Meetings

All material and activities be offered weekly to students. I open modules on Sunday nights. You are required to watch the guest-lecturer videos and complete the guest-lecturer assignments.  This is mandatory. Extra credit will be offered throughout the semester. 

Instructor and Contact Info

Cheri Ross, MA, FT, PhD. Candidate (Mind Body Medicine)


Phone: (707) 292-0319

Office Hours: By arrangement.  I can meet with you in person, on Facetime, and over the phone. 

I respond to emails with 48 hours.  I try hard to be available to students. 

Course Web Site

Students will use the Canvas course web site for assignment instructions, submitting assignments, viewing classmate's work, sharing resources, and viewing grades.


Required Textbook  DeSpelder, L.,  & Strickland, A.L., (2019). The last dance, encountering death & dying, Eleventh edition. McGraw-Hill. New York, N.Y., ISBN:978-1-260-13074-4.  Ross, C. (2007). Pet loss and human emotion, A guide to recovery, Revised. Routledge, New York, N.Y. ISBN:0-415-95576-9.  Textbooks are available for purchase at the SRJC Bookstore or online ( as well as other retail and rental outlets. A copy is also on reserve at the Doyle Library Reserve Desk, 4th Floor. You will need to bring your student ID. Student ID’s can be obtained at the CyBear Center located in the Lawrence A. Bertolini Student Services Center, First Floor. 707-522-2638.   Due to COVID19 I am not certain you will be able to access the library in person.  You do have online access. 

You can locate and order textbooks online via the SRJC Bookstore. Note that if you want to pick your books up in Petaluma, you need to order them from the Petaluma Bookstore website.  You can also locate books at 

Required Software

You will need the following software for this course. [If linking to PDF or Word documents, QuickTime or Flash videos, put in a link to the helper applications in your Syllabus or Getting Started section of your course materials.]

Important Dates

Day Class Begins: Monday, August 16th.  See SRJC Calendar below.

Dropping the Class

If you decide to discontinue this course, it is your responsibility to officially drop it to avoid getting no refund (after 10% of course length), a W symbol (after 20%), or a grade (after 60%). Also, for several consecutive, unexplained absences, the instructor may drop a student.

Pass‐No Pass (P/NP)

You may take this class P/NP. You must decide before the deadline, and add the option online with TLC or file the P/NP form with Admissions and Records. With a grade of C or better, you will get P.

You must file for the P/NP option by 9/26/21 (see calendar below). Once you decide to go for P/NP, you cannot change back to a letter grade. If you are taking this course as part of a certificate program, you can probably still take the class P/NP. Check with a counselor to be sure.

Instructor Announcements and Q&A Forum

The instructor will post announcements on the “Instructor Announcements” page in Canvas throughout the semester. Canvas notifies students according to their preferred Notification Preferences as soon as the instructor creates an Announcement. A “Q&A Forum” is also on Canvas to ask for assistance of your classmates or of instructor.


Students who fail to attend the first class (face-to-face courses) or do not log-in to an online class after the second day of the semester risk being dropped from the class. It is strongly advised that if you need to miss more than one class/homework deadline that you contact me. 

Late Policy

All assignments are due [at midnight PST] on the due date. A late submission will receive a 20% penalty. Submissions more than one week late are not accepted without prior arrangement. Late work will not be graded unless student sends instructor an email with URL for late work.


There will be no exams. The material comes from the textbooks, guest speakers, and supplemental materials.  There will be one, and possibly two, APA Style Papers and a Final Project. If you are not familiar with APA Style I will be happy to support you by offering materials and working with you. 

Grading Policy

Visit the “Grades” in Canvas to keep track of your grades. I grade [once a week] and post grades and comments on the online Canvas gradebook. Pleas note,  if you are using your smartphone you may not be able to see everything within the modules (e.g., instructor comments and due dates). 

Grades will be assigned as follows:













If taking Pass/No Pass you need at least 70% of the total class points and complete the midterm exam and the final exam to pass the class.

Standards of Conduct

Students who register in SRJC classes are required to abide by the SRJC Student Conduct Standards. Violation of the Standards is basis for referral to the Vice President of Student Services or dismissal from class or from the College. See the Student Code of Conduct page.

Collaborating on or copying of tests or homework in whole or in part will be considered an act of academic dishonesty and result in a grade of 0 for that test or assignment. I encourage students to share information and ideas, but not their work. See these links on Plagiarism:
SRJC Writing Center Lessons on avoiding plagiarism
SRJC's policy on Academic Integrity


Other Important Policies and Practices

Avoid Plagiarism Like the, er, Plague

Although most students have likely heard about plagiarism during their years of schooling, it still is prevalent-even in higher education.

The video below reviews what plagiarism is and how not to do it.

Plagiarism: How to avoid it

This activity tests your knowledge of plagiarism (not graded): Self-check: Plagiarism

Netiquette, or Why Is It Harder to Be Polite Online?

Netiquette refers to using common courtesy in online communication. All members of the class are expected to follow netiquette in all course communications. Use these guidelines:

  • Use capital letters sparingly. THEY LOOK LIKE SHOUTING.
  • Forward emails only with a writer's permission.
  • Be considerate of others' feelings and use language carefully.
  • Cite all quotations, references, and sources (otherwise, it is plagiarism).
  • Use humor carefully. It is hard to "read" tone; sometimes humor can be misread as criticism or personal attack. Feel free to use emoticons like :) for a smiley face to let others know you are being humorous.
  • Use complete sentences and standard English grammar to compose posts. Write in proper paragraphs. Review work before submitting it.
  • Text speak, such as "ur" for "your" or "ru" for "are you" etc., is only acceptable when texting.

Special Needs

Students with disabilities who believe they need accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact Disability Resources (527-4278), as soon as possible to better ensure such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.  It is up to you to make certain any accommodations are emailed to me and that I have received them. 

Course Summary Dates

Will be assigned throughout the semester.  Please note that not all of the assignments, and/or discussions, will be assigned for the semester.  You only need to complete the ones that have a due date. 


FALL SEMESTER 2021 Calendar 


Fall class schedule available (*

Thursday, August 12, 2021

District-designated activities

Friday, August 13, 2021

Mandatory Professional Development Activity Institutional Day (No classes)

Monday, August 16, 2021


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Last day to register/add semester length class without instructor’s signature or add code

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Last day to drop semester length class and be eligible for a refund

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Last day to register/add semester length class with the instructor’s signature or add code

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Last day to drop a semester length class without “W” symbol

Monday, September 6, 2021

Labor Day Holiday (No Classes, District Closed)

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

First Census Day

Friday, September 17, 2021

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (Classes will meet)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Last day to opt for P/NP for a semester length class

Monday, October 18 - Sunday, November 14, 2021

Midterm progress indicators posted in student portal

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Professional Development Flex Day (No classes or activities)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veterans Day Holiday (No Classes, District Closed)

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Last day to drop a semester length class with “W” symbol

Friday, November 26, 2021

Professional Development 1/2 Flex Day (No classes or activities, District Closed)

Thursday, November 25 - Sunday, November 28, 2021

Thanksgiving Day Holidays (No Classes, District Closed)

Saturday, December 11 - Friday, December 17, 2021

Final Examinations

Saturday, December 18, 2021 - Sunday, January 16, 2022

Semester Break (No classes)

Friday, December 31, 2021

Final grade rosters due

Saturday, January 1, 2022

I look forward to a rewarding semester with you!


Course Summary:

Date Details Due