All course information is listed within this syllabus.

CEDEV 452: Community Structure, Processes and Capacity (3 credits). Social organization and change in rural communities; use of sociological principles in analysis of rural problems and rural development.

Prerequisites: 6 credits in rural sociology, sociology, or psychology


Instructor for CEDEV 452

Mary Kate Berardi
Assistant Teaching Professor

Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
302 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

Course Overview

CEDEV 452 is a required course for the Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development and the Community and Economic Development Graduate Certificate offered through World Campus. It also is required for undergraduates in the Community Development option of the Community, Environment and Development major. This course provides an overview of the role that communities and the organizations, institutions, and people found in communities, play in community and economic development. We will spend the first portion of the course examining how communities are believed to be organized and to function, and how organizations, institutions, and forces within and outside of communities are believed to influence individual and community well-being. The second part of the course explores the capacity of the people and organizations in communities and local areas to identify and act upon strategies to enhance well-being. The role of resources from outside the community and especially of local leaders, citizens, and organizations in the change process will be examined. While the concepts and application of the theories covered in this course are focused on communities and surrounding areas, they can be applied to understanding the change process across regions or other organizing frameworks, such as watersheds or development zones.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1. Identify and use theories of community to analyze conditions in communities and to assess strategies for community and economic development.
  2. Describe concepts of community and how they relate to community development and change.
  3. Critically assess approaches to community capacity building.
  4. Analyze the roles of social capital, citizen engagement, and community agency in development and change.
  5. Articulate how theories and concepts of community and change apply to community and economic development practice.
  6. Work with your own examples to apply the concepts and ideas to increase your understanding of the concepts and to aid in understanding barriers to change and development in a community or area.

Course Structure and Schedule

Most modules consist of 3 pages:

  1. Overview, Learning Objectives, and Readings -- on this Syllabus, you'll find the same brief overview for each module that is listed in the syllabus, along with learning objectives. All of the required readings for the module are listed on this page. Note that we use the term 'readings' to include videos, web pages, and podcasts.
  2. Framing Essay -- this essay provides a discussion of key concepts in the module, provides context for the readings, and explains why these readings are important to meeting the learning objectives. The framing essay is required reading. At the end of each essay, you'll find 'questions for reflection' which will help you think about and check your learning for both the essay and the readings for that module.
  3. Assignments -- the assignments for each module are listed here along with the due dates.

In general, each module starts on Monday and ends the following Sunday. Plan to complete your readings by Wednesday of each week.

  • For weeks when discussions are assigned, begin posting to your discussion by Wednesday night to enjoy a rich discussion with your classmates.
  • For weeks in which you are required to submit written assignments, begin writing by Wednesday night. Written assignments are due on Sunday night.
  • Some of the readings will be used again in future modules, so be cautious about skipping readings.

Overview of Discussions

Every student is expected to participate actively in discussions -- it is your assignment for the week. Occasionally a module will have 2 discussions in the same module, and you are expected to fully engage in both of them, not choose one or the other.

Another difference is that your initial 'post' should be no more than one paragraph. Instead of writing, reading, and reacting to mini-essays in the discussions, in this class you are expected to have ongoing conversations with your fellow students.

You should read everyone's posts, but you do not need to respond to each post: choose the threads that are most interesting to you. If you find the large group discussions overwhelming, please contact me to discuss approaches and accommodations.

Your grade for discussions is based on the quality and extent of your discussion and on how well you integrate the week's readings into your discussion. In other words, I am looking for evidence that you have understood and thought about the readings.

Course Activities

Citing Materials

In this class, we require the use of the American Psychological Association Style Manual (APA) or another standard academic citation style when citing and referencing materials in your weekly posts and in your essays. Perhaps the best free reference can be found at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). The OWL provides you with the basics you will need to properly cite and reference materials.

The APA Style link on the OWL page provides access to the style manuals and examples.

Class Participation

Class participation through online discussions is an expected and essential component of the class. Your participation in online discussions should reflect that you have read and thought about the assigned materials and that you thoughtfully engage in discussions with other students.


This course includes written assignments, a mid-term essay, and a final essay. You will also submit a theories matrix in Module 10 which summarizes the theories we study in Modules 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9. An explanation of the matrix and a template are provided in Module 4. You will also have shorter essays to write during Modules 2, 4, 9, and 14. 

Resource Identification

In Modules 5, 8, and 11 you will identify academic resources for information on given topics. This can include academic articles, blogs, videos, or other material that directly relates to the listed topic. Submit to this discussion a written explanation (3-4 paragraphs) summarizing what you have found and why you think it is useful. Then you can see what sources your classmates find and use these resources as you work on your capstones.

Course Outline

Module 1 - Introduction to Community Development

Module 2 - Community and Community Development

Module 3 - Community and Well-Being

Module 4 - Communities as Social Systems

Module 5 - Interactional Perspectives on Community

Module 6 - Culture and Shared Meanings Approaches

Module 7 - First Integrative Essay

Module 8 - Social Networks and Social Capital

Module 9 - Human Ecology

Module 10 - Integrating Theories to Understand Communities

Module 11 - Assessing Community Capacity for Influencing Change

Module 12 - Community, Culture and Economic Development

Module 13 - Community Visioning and Engagement

Module 14 - Strategies for Achieving Community Goals

Module 15 - Final Essay

A Word About Absences

Life happens: all of you are involved with families, professions, other courses, etc. If you know you will be unable to complete an assignment on time (including participating in discussion forums) contact me in advance to discuss accommodations, which may include accepting a late submission for full credit.

If you anticipate being unable to fulfill the requirements to complete this course by the end of the semester, you must contact both Patricia Spears-Taff, CEDEV Program Manager & Student Advisor (, and me as early as possible to discuss alternative arrangements.

Course Materials

Most World Campus courses require that students purchase materials (e.g., textbooks, specific software, etc.). To learn about how to order materials, please see the Course Materials page. You should check the World Campus Course Catalog approximately 3–4 weeks before the course begins for a list of required materials.


ISBN: 978-0941042260
Wilkinson, K. P. (1999). The Community in Rural America. Social Ecology Press.
ISBN: 978-0313264672
Wilkinson, K. P. (1991). The Community in Rural America. Praeger.

ISBN: 978-1438448862
Ramsay, M. (2014). Community, Culture, and Economic Development: Continuity and Change in Two Small Southern Towns (2nd ed.). SUNY Press. (E-Book option available)

For pricing and ordering information, please see the Barnes & Noble College website.

Materials will be available at Barnes & Noble College approximately three weeks before the course begins. It is very important that you purchase the correct materials. If your course requires one or more textbooks, you must have exactly the correct text required (edition and year).

E-Book Option

An online version of one or more of your texts is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. You can access the E-Book by selecting the Library Resources link in Course Navigation, and then selecting the E-Reserves link. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help (UL-RESERVESHELP@LISTS.PSU.EDU).


This course requires that you access Penn State library materials specifically reserved for this course. You can access these materials by selecting Library Resources in the Course Navigation Menu, or by accessing the Library E-Reserves Search and searching for your instructor's last name.

Grading Policy

Assignments for this class will be graded on a point system with a total of 1000 possible points. The turnaround time for graded assignments is generally one week or less.

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value
Discussions 330
Written Assignments 200
Resource Identification 150
Midsemester Essay 120
Theories Matrix and Final Essay 200
TOTAL: 1000

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage Points
A 100% – 95% 950–1000
A- < 95% – 90% 900–949
B+ < 90% – 86.7% 867–899
B < 86.7% – 83.4% 834–866
B- < 83.4% – 80% 800–833
C+ < 80% – 75% 750–799
C < 75% – 70% 700–749
D < 70% – 60% 600–699
F < 60% < 600

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Undergraduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State World Campus students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer, but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian and is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

Getting Help With Canvas Courses

Canvas support is available 24/7 via chat or phone.

It is in your own best interest to be as specific as you possibly can. Try to include information such as the specific course page, quiz question, etc. you were on; what you attempted to do when that failed; the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen; the date and time when your problem occurred; and any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

Support Services

As a student, you have access to a variety of services and resources, including advising, tutoring, library services, career services, and more. Please visit the following resources for more information:

Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

Login Policy

Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Course Availability

Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20, G-9 Procedures, and the Code of Conduct).

Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

Educational Equity Statement

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity on the Bias Response page.

Privacy Policies

For information about Penn State's privacy statement and what it encompasses, please read their Web Privacy Statement. Visit Penn State's FERPA Guidelines for Faculty and Staff page for information regarding its rules governing the privacy of student educational records.

Copyright Notice

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor's express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD40, Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services, addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University's Code of Conduct, and/or liable under federal and state laws.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The University offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients' cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Accommodations for Persons With Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources page.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

Course Availability

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