PS390 Selected Topics in Psychology:

for S2A 2011

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PS 390 Selected Topics in Psychology:


S2A 2011 BE


Cardner, Patricia A.


Assistant Professor of Psychology


PhD, Sam Houston State University
EdD Candidate, Argosy University
MEd, Texas Tech University; Licensed Professional Counselor, TX

Office Location

Austin, TX

Office Hours

3:30-5:00 TTH and by appointment

Daytime Phone


Other Phone



Semester Dates

March 14 - May 8

Class Days


Class Time

5:10 - 7:50 PM

Credit Hours



Hickey, E. W. (2010). Serial murderers and their victims, 5th Ed. Wadsworth. ISBN:0-495-60081-4.

Textbooks can be purchased through the MBS bookstore

Additional Resources:

McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
Career Counseling - The Career Development Center (CDC) provides services for all stages of career development.  The mission of the CDC is to provide the career planning tools to ensure a lifetime of career success.
Park Helpdesk - If you have forgotten your OPEN ID or Password, or need assistance with your PirateMail account, please email or call 800-927-3024
Resources for Current Students - A great place to look for all kinds of information

Course Description:
PS 390 Selected Topics in Psychology: Intensive study of an area of psychology selected by the instructor on the basis of student need or current interest. Variable credit: 1-3 hours. Prerequisite: PS 101 or permission of the instructor.

This course is designed to be a survey course in which abnormal psychology and personality theories are applied to individuals who engage in serial killing and/or mass murder. Treatment methodologies will also be discussed. 

Educational Philosophy:
My educational philosophy is based on a collaborative combination of lectures, readings, quizzes, videos and group work. The student will be able to critically evaluate topics in psychology while engaging in positive discussion with peers. My philosophy of teaching emphasizes student learning whether that learning occurs in a face to face format or in the online environment. One of my areas of expertise is psychology, and one of the main things that I learned from the study of psychology is that people have different learning styles. I have also learned as a result of study and experience that adult learners differ in some important ways from traditional college students. I believe that students learn best when the material presented is timely and relevant and applicable. Adult students in particular like to see the relevance of what they are studying. One way that I like to do this is by including current events and cases for discussions. Discussions are the heart and soul of effective learning. This is the one way that students get to know one another and it gives them an opportunity to learn from one another.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the major psychological constructs that are important to serial killing and mass murder
  2. Students will develop an appreciation for the psychological disorders that serial killers/mass murderers often present with
  3. Identify and label psychological themes as they appear in relation to serial killers/mass murderers
  4. Explain the impact that serial killing/mass murder can have on a person and their family
  5. Understand the course of treatment that applies to serial killers/mass murderers as well as assessment procedures
  6. Demonstrate high quality written and/oral communication skills through interaction with other students and the instructor utilizing correct psychological terms and concepts.
Class Assessment:

·          Weekly Quiz.  There will be weekly quizzes administered throughout the semester – starting with week 2 and ending with week 7 (for a total of 6 quizzes). Each quiz will be made up of questions from the reading assignment for a given week.  Each quiz will be worth up to 10 points.

·          Attendance and Participation:  Attendance and participation is required for class and will be worth up to 100 points.

·          Final. A Final will be administered covering the readings from the entire semester (comprehensive).  The final will be worth up to 100 points.

·          Core Assessment. 6-8 page paper minimum worth 100 points.  See directions below on the core assessment. The core assessment is due in Week 7 on Sunday by 11:59 pm, and is to be submitted to the dropbox. 

Each student will select 1 serial killer or mass murderer and will write a paper that analyzes the person in terms of the information presented in class. Each person will be described in terms of their likely psychological disorder as well as their development as it pertains to the development of their propensity to kill. Students will prescribe a course of treatment that could have been undertaken before the killing commenced (often times there are a series of warning signs before killing commences). Note any potential shortcomings with possible treatment plans.

Possible selections include, but are not limited to:

·          Columbine High School Massacre

·          Mark Barton

·          Virginia Tech

·          The Green River Killer

·          Josef Mengele

·          Jeffrey Dahmer

·          Ted Bundy

·          Westley Allan Dodd

·          Aileen Wuornos

These people have been selected because there is a great deal of video and written material regarding their crimes available as well as numerous other written documents and interviews. You may seek permission to study a person who is not on the list, as there are many more that could be worthy subjects. 

Papers should be double-spaced, 12-point font, and in APA style. The paper will be a minimum of 6-8 pages. The paper should include at least six references. The paper is worth 100 points. 



Exceeds Expectations (2)

Meets Expectations (1)               

Does Not Meet Expectations (0)

Analysis & Evaluation

Outcome #1, 2, 3

The student ascertained all of the key factors related to the psychology of serial killing and mass murder and did an exceptional job detailing the literature review; no errors related to the discussion of a psychological concept were present, and the recommendations contain more than an adequate amount of supporting evidence.

The student ascertained most of the key factors related to the psychology of serial killing and mass murder and did an adequate job detailing the literature review; one minor error related to the discussion of a psychological concept may be present, or the recommendations may lack a small amount of supporting detail.

The student ascertained few of the key factors related to the psychology of serial killers and mass murder and made numerous errors detailing the literature review; more than one error related to the discussion of a psychological concept may be present, or the recommendations contain very little supporting detail.


Outcome #3 & 4

The student described in great detail the issues presented by their chosen criminal and outlined courses of action that are realistic and likely to be effective, along with an insightful view of potential shortcomings of the recommendations. No errors were made in using psychological terminology.

The student described in some detail the issues presented by their chosen criminal and outlined courses of action that are realistic and likely to be effective, along with an insightful view of potential shortcomings of the recommendations; the student may have omitted a few important details. Psychological terminology was used correctly, other than no more than one minor mistake, throughout the paper.

The student provided information about the criminal, but it was not very realistic and/or not likely to be effective. Shortcomings of the recommendation were not discussed in any detail. There were several errors in the use of psychological terminology.

Whole Artifact

Outcome #6 7

Paper was very well organized, and all recommendations were clearly and adequately supported with appropriate information. The entire document contained 2 or fewer errors in both mechanics and APA style formatting.

Paper was organized but may have been unclear or lacking in necessary detail at times. The entire document contained 3-4 errors in both mechanics and APA style formatting.

Sections of the paper were not very well organized, and/or most statements lacked supporting detail. The reader was distracted by numerous errors, likely to number more than 4, in mechanics and/or APA style formatting.



Week Due


Total Pts


all 8






Final Exam




Core Assessment Paper






The grading follows the standard structure (e.g. if you earn 90% of the points or more you earn an A, 80% to 89.5% is a B, etc). 

Late Submission of Course Materials:
You need to take your quizzes in the week they are open. You should make every attempt to take the quiz as soon as possible after it opens, as I will not allow anyone to take the quiz after it has closed. They are open for 7 days. Technical problems are not an excuse, and if you have difficulties with e-companion, you should contact the help desk.

If your paper is turned in late, a 10 point penalty will be assessed (this if you earn a 90 and it was turned in late, your grade will be lowered 10 points to 80). You receive your paper assignment with the syllabus in the first class, and I recommend that you start considering topics from week 1. Your paper must be uploaded to the drop-box in the e-companion shell. If it is not, a 5 point penalty will be enacted.

As far as discussion and participation are concerned, you must attend class regularly and be on time. Additionally, you are expected to participate appropriately. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to obtain the notes and materials from a classmate. I do not provide lecture notes to students who miss.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:

I expect that the interactions and communications in this class will be civil and professional. Derogatory language, profanity, and personal attacks are unacceptable.  I have noticed in recent years that people are becoming more and more uncivil towards one another. Because this class needs to be a participatory community if students are to fulfill their potential for learning, people who disrupt the community by their words or actions disrupt that community. Rude, sarcastic, obscene, or disrespectful speech and disruptive behavior have a negative impact on everyone's learning. If you find yourself unable to adhere to these guidelines, you will be asked to leave the classroom and such behaviors will be documented and addressed as per the student handbook guidelines.  
I have noticed that when one student asks a question or makes a comment, there is a tendency for others to start side conversations. This is not acceptable and your discussion/participation grade will be adversely affected.  If you have a question or comment, please raise your hand and then speak once you are acknowledged. I cannot stress enough that you will all learn more if only one person at a time speaks.
There is no recording of any kind allowed in my courses.
Please do not bring a full meal to class. Small snacks and drinks are acceptable as long as you clean up after yourself and do not disturb others.
Please do not engage in personal hygiene tasks in the classroom.
Please do not waste class time challenging quiz questions. If you have a concern about a question, please email me or see me in my office during office hours. Please realize that the weekly quizzes are used to assist you in your learning, and there are not "trick" questions. If there is a legitimate error in the construction of the question, then a regrade may be possible.
Please keep in mind that you are responsible for knowing when items are due (per the syllabus) and you are also responsible for obtaining any information you need (e.g. APA formatting) from the librarian or from internet resources. We cannot and should not waste class time on these matters. You will get more from the course if you learn how to take care of these matters yourself.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

Week 1

Introduction to the Psychological Issues Associated with Serial Killing and Mass Murder

Week 2

Antisocial Personality Disorder and Serial Killing

Week 3

Other Personality and Impulse Control Disorders and Serial Killing

Week 4

Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Serial Killing

Week 5

Schizophrenia and Killing

Week 6

Sexual Predators, Paraphilia and Murder

Week 7

Mood Disorders and Serial Killing

Week 8

Female Serial Killers

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life. Park University students and faculty members are encouraged to take advantage of the University resources available for learning about academic honesty ( or Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92-93

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95-96

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: .


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Last Updated:2/20/2011 7:29:43 PM