Discussion Ideas for Family Communication Courses

DSC_4103 copy

This semester I put together what I call a ‘packet’ of discussion topics for my Family Communication course that we, as a class, discussed over the course of the semester. I was really pleased with the way it turned it.

As we read about and discussed the concepts in class, we watched relatable videos, tied in our own personal experiences, and also incorporated those that we saw in 3 early episodes of Modern Family over the course of the term.

The students loved it, and I decided to base my 5 short answer/essay final exam on these discussion prompts (I told the students to be sure the answers in their own packet were very thorough, since I would be choosing 5 of those discussion prompts at random to put on the exam, and they wouldn’t be able to use their notes or book).

For anyone teaching Family Communication who’s in need of something new to inject life into the students and material, feel free to borrow from the worksheets/packet below!

Happy teaching :).


Family and Communication. Spring A 2017

Discussion Prompts (Chs. 1, 2, 3)

  1.       How do you define family? What does family mean to you? What is your experience with family? (Ch. 1)
  2.       Explain how family members develop a set of shared meanings. What are some shared meanings you have with some of your family members? (Ch. 2, p. 24)
  3.       What level of cohesion does your family experience currently? What about when you were growing up? (Ch. 2, p. 32)

Modern Family Discussion Prompts (Chs. 1, 2, 3)

  1.       What shared meanings do you see? (p. 24)
  2.       What level of cohesion is present (in the family as a whole, or in the 3 individual family units)? What are examples of 3 behaviors that characterize their level of cohesion in the episode/s? (p. 32)
  3.       Does any metacommunication take place? How and in what way? (p. 31) What was said at the ‘content level’ and what was said at the ‘relationship level’?
  4.       Patterns/Self Regulation (Ch. 3, p. 62)- What communication patterns did you see within the families that made life more predictable? What communication rules existed? How did they maintain stability through ‘calibration’? Or how do you think they should have done this? What are your suggestions?
  5.       What relational currencies did you see being used in the families? By which family members? Why were they used?
  6.    Did any theories from Ch. 3 come into play? Which ones did you find? How did you see it play out in the episode/s?

Modern Family Discussion Prompts (Chs. 5, 6, 9, 10, 12)

  1.       (Ch. 5) How do you see relational maintenance taking place? (Marital/Partnership Maintenance p. 112, Parent and Child Relational Maintenance p. 114, Sibling and Step Sibling Relational Maintenance p. 115)
  •       What relational maintenance strategies do you see being used? (ie. confirmation p. 116, respect p. 118, rituals p. 118, relational currencies p. 124- and use the subcategories within these as you provide examples)
  1.       (Ch. 6) When have you seen the 3 types of commitment at work in your family or someone else’s? (ie. personal commitment, moral commitment, and structural commitment) (p. 134)
  2.       (Ch. 6) What do you think about the “naïve” quote: “If you have to work at a relationship, there’s something wrong with it. A relationship is either good or it’s not”? (p. 134)
  3.       (Ch. 6) What are the benefits and costs of self-disclosure in a family relationships? (p. 136)
  4.       (Ch. 9) Analyze an ongoing family dispute using the conflict stages model (p. 217)
  5.       (Ch. 10) What kind of ‘unconscious negotiations’ took place between you and a partner/spouse and your family of origin when you were getting married (ie. how best to argue, who would take care of certain household items, how to deal with intrusive family members, how to spend the holidays, how much each of you would work, etc.)?
  6.       Discuss your opinion about the opening quote to Ch. 12 “Family Communication and Well-Being” p. 305 by Stephen R. Covey (for those of you with a different edition of the textbook, it may be on a different page, or not included, so I’ll include it below).


“Good families- even great families- are off track 90 percent of the time! The key is that they have a sense of destination. They know what the ‘track’ looks like. And they keep coming back to it time and time again…. With regard to our families, it doesn’t make any difference if we are off target or even if our family is a mess. The hope lies in the vision and in the plan and in the courage to keep coming back time and time again.”

-Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families

Is that true? What are some ways to more effectively ‘stay on track’? Use specific examples and explanations.

  1. Search YouTube or TED.com (either works) for ‘Connected, but alone?’ by Sherry Turkle (to be watched before or after your read p. 320 through 322 of your text; for those of you with different textbook editions, look up “digital competence” in your textbook’s index to find the exact page numbers):

Each semester I have my communication-based classes watch this TED talk about how digital communication is affecting the way we connect. Is social media a good thing or a bad thing for us as humans and/or for our relationships? It’s a question I pose in my classes, and many students discuss the issue through debates I hold in my speech class. There’s no right or wrong answer/opinion, it’ just an interesting look into human connection. What’s your opinion?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *