TOOLS FOR TEACHING SOCIOLOGY: Teach well. It matters. (2023)

Updated February 2018

Below are snippets of some of the sociology teaching tools you will find on this blog organized by topic.


RACE AND ETHNICITY: Teaching an introduction to sociology course? Teaching a race and ethnicity course?

POLICE KILLING OF BLACKS: Data for 2015, 2016, 2017Download charts that examine the race, ethnicity, age and other characteristics of people killed by police in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

“BUT BLACKS COMMIT MORE CRIMES”: Scholars discuss conservative logicSince 2014 there has been renewed interest, concern, and protest regarding the police use of deadly force against unarmed Blacks. Various conservative commentators and publications, as well as comments on other posts to this blog, have implied that the reason so many Blacks are killed by police is that Blacks are more likely to be involved in violent crime. For example, in an article in theNational Review, David French writes, “Moreover, racial disparities in the use of force are largely explained by racial disparities in criminality. Different American demographics commit crimes at different rates, so it stands to reason that those who commit more crimes will confront the police more often.”This postis the transcript of a conversation regarding this issue I had with three scholars, all of whom have studied the interaction of police and the African American community.

IMPLICIT RACIAL BIAS: where do we learn whom we should perceive negatively?The problem with overt racism (other than its bigoted, undemocratic, violent and discriminatory nature) is that whites (myself included as a white heterosexual male) too often think that as long as we don’t fly the Confederate flag, use the n-word, or show up to the white supremacist rally that, well…we aren’t racist. However, researchers atHarvardand theOhio State Universityamong others show thatwhites, even today, continue to maintain a negative implicitbias against non-whites. This negative bias is subconscious and is activated in split-second decisions we make…judgments about others.

RACISM AND THE POLICE: The Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.Systematic racism has been made evident again in the shooting of an unarmed young Black man, Michael Brown, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.Pulling stories directlyfrom recentnews headlines is one way to get students’ attention and demonstrate the abundant relevance of the sociological perspective.The New York Times has atimelineof the events that serves as a useful starting point (from the mainstream media) to share the events with students that may have not keptup with the story.

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE: BLURRY DISTINCTIONS AND CHANGING CATEGORIES.The social construction of race is madeevident when we see how the boundaries and distinctions that supposedly distinguish one race from another are unclear. Additionally, this is made clear when “official” categories, that seem fixed, are altered. The first of two tools that I have found to clearly demonstrate the social construction of race to students is a series of photographs fromNational Geographic.

TOOLS FOR TEACHING SOCIOLOGY: Teach well. It matters. (2)

MASS INCARCERATION: DATA, TRENDS, AND COMPARISON.Staggering rates of mass incarceration are impacting minority communities disproportionally and it is the consequence of changes in policy and the economy- changes in the social context – rather than changes in individual behavior. “An African American male born in 1975 and who didn’t finish high school has a nearly 70 percent chance of serving jail time by his mid-thirties.” That should be enough to get everyone’sattention. The following drawsmostly onresources from theHamilton Projectof the Brookings Institute (brought to my attention by Ezra Klein’s piece onVox), andBruce Western‘s 2006 book,Punishment and Inequality in America (Russell Sage Foundation).

RACE OF POLICE DEPARTMENTS: Should they be similar to the community?Since a police force is designed to protect and serve a community, should the race of the police departments align closely with the racial makeup of the communities?

(Video) Creativity in the classroom (in 5 minutes or less!) | Catherine Thimmesh | TEDxUniversityofStThomas

RACIAL PROFILING: WHAT CAN BLACK PEOPLE AFFORD?Racial profiling involves making judgmentsabout an individual based on the erroneous assumptions about the qualities of an entire racial group. What assumptions are made in society today based on the race of another person?

THE WAR ON DRUGS: RACE MATTERSThe war on drugs impacts people differently based on race. The rate of drug use among populations does not correspond to the rate of incarceration for drug use. Many students often assume that the higher rate of African American males in US prisons is simply a reflection of higher rates of crime. After all, it is called the justice system. An extensivereport by the ACLUprovides a short video, graphic presentations of the data, and a pdf of the full report on marijuana use and arrest rates among blacks and whites.

RACE IN AMERICA: HISTORICAL CONTEXTDo we have enough historical context when we talk about race in America? This past week there was a celebration ofthe 50thanniversary of theMarch on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.This larger historical event included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…” speech. First, I think we are too quick as a society to want to talk thoughtfully about somethingas it is happening(e.g. multiple 24-hour cable news networks, Twitter, etc). With our students, I think we need to encouragethe idea that critical thinking takes time and rigorous reflection. That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss events as they happen, but too often, in the public sphere, that has become the extent of it. As academic researchers, we know it can takeyearsto formulate, collect, analyze, and publish rigorous research. Back to the issue of race in the US…

. . .

THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION: Teaching an introduction to sociology course? This is the classic topic that begins most semesters. See numerous resources below.

SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION: COLLEGE ENROLLMENT IN CONTEXT.An understanding of the sociological imagination can be difficult in our very individually focused society. As a topic, the sociological imagination is usually the first or second class of every introduction to sociology course. Teaching topics by relating them to students’ immediate context (especially early in the semester) is one way to help them
see how the sociological imagination works.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION: AWAKENING IT BY VIEWING OTHER CULTURES.I have found that teaching students to understand and utilize the sociological imagination–the ability to see the relationship between one’s individual life and the effects of larger social forces –is aided by exposing them to different social structures and cultures. While study-abroad programs are ideal for experiencing this first hand, we can also bring other cultures into the classroom through film, photographs, and students’ existing experiences.

NACIREMA: UPDATING A CLASSIC TO SEE YOUR OWN CULTURE AS AN OUTSIDERBy now, many students have read the original Nacirema in high school. Here is a more modern version written by a student.

THE SUPER BOWL: A sociological viewBreak out theguacamole, it is time for Super Bowl sociology! What does the Super Bowl mean in our society? It is far from simply a sporting event or even just the final game of a season. The Super Bowl is a sociological phenomenon. It is a great teachable moment using an event that everyone has at least heard of and many of our students will be watching… or at least at a social event where the game is playing on the television. While many of our students will be highly engaged in the event, few may have thought about it from a sociological perspective. Below are some interesting resources from sociology and other disciplines that can help reveal the sociology in the Super Bowl.

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SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE BODY: The nippleExamples of the social construction of the body areprevalent in the media’s objectification of the female body in particular. See the famous documentaryKilling US Softly 4for numerous patterns in the media. The biological body has purposes driven by genetics and “human nature”, but the meanings we as a society apply to the body are not fixed, “natural”, or static. They are socially constructed.

VIOLATING SOCIAL NORMS: cellphones.Often we are not consciously aware of the prevailing social norms that dominate our culture until they are violated. Many faculty demonstrate the power of social norms to their students with an assignment for them to engage in norm violations – intentionally altering their behavior outside of the classroom to see how others react and how it disrupts social interaction. The risk of this assignment is that studentstake the norm violation too far, harming others or getting in trouble(try explaining to the Dean that you actually assigned them to do that). Therefore, rules and guidelines must be made clear if this is assigned.

NORM VIOLATION: PETS OR FOOD?Why don’t we eat dogs?That question will always get student’s attention. TOOLS FOR TEACHING SOCIOLOGY: Teach well. It matters. (4)The definitions of “appropriate” food are socially constructed and it is often only through norm violations that we see how much stronger the sociological forces are compared to actual biological limitations of the calories available to us.

. . .


MAKING CLASSIC SOCIAL THEORY RELEVANT: MAX WEBERHow do we best teach students inintroductory courses the classic social theory of Max Weber (and others) in a way that makes it consequential and relevant? This is an important question because it often makes sense to teach Marx, Durkheim, and Weber early in the semester, but they can be complex and the issues may seem distant and well…boring. This semester I have tried to pair short pieces of original scholarship bythese thinkers with a contemporary reading that shows a clear parallel.

. . .


CLIMATE JUSTICE: tolls for teachings. Here you will find a collection of different tools to teach about viewing climate change through a justice lens. These resources include a short TEDx talk on climate justice.

IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT TOO WHITE AND MALE?: Original survey data and analysis from the People’s Climate March. This post explores the issue of mainstream environmental movements being too white and often too male. Here I compile some data from Dorcetta Taylor about leadership in environmental organizations, as well as survey data I collected at the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City.

TOOLS FOR TEACHING SOCIOLOGY: Teach well. It matters. (5)

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CLIMATE JUSTICE: An analogyMany people and students are unfamiliar with the context that has generated calls from nations and social movements for “climate justice.” Below is an analogy that makes the global context behind climate justice more evident at the individual level. I have found that this helps students from the U.S. get a better idea of how people and nations of the Global South might feel about the global negotiations to address the issue. While this is very introductory, you may find it a good place to start for those that have not been previously exposed to the topic. I use it as a primer for a more detailed discussion. The analogy is able to get students feeling the emotions of injustice and subsequently, they are more empathetic to more abstract global realities.

THE TRUST GAP: Few in African civil society think the US will deliver on climate changeEven before the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the US, few members of civil society throughout Africa expressed a great deal of trust that the United States would fulfillits commitmentsregarding climate change. Data from a survey earlier this year (2016) of members of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) show that African organizations addressing climate change have little trust in the rest of the world regarding the reduction of emissions to maintain average global temperatures below1.5 degrees Celsius– with the US receiving the lowest level of trust.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND CLIMATE JUSTICE: WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?TEACHING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE IN SOCIOLOGY COURSESIS VITALand should arguably include a focus onCLIMATE JUSTICE. Teaching students about climate change should not be limited to courses in the natural sciences for many reasons.

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINTS: How many planets for our lifestyle?As the consequences of highly consumptive capitalism continue to cause problems around the world, teaching about the impacts of our consumption is an increasing necessity in every classroom. One of the best ways I have found to demonstrate the structure/agency dynamic to students is to have them calculate their ecological footprint.

. . .

GLOBALIZATION: Teaching introduction to sociology or globalization or economic sociology?

GLOBALIZATION: MEASURING THE GLOBAL ECONOMY.When most people think about “globalization”they likely think about the global economy. In the more recent era, globalization was pushed into public debate in the 1990s when NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was being debated and the WTO, World Bank and IMF were making significantstrides in implementing the neoliberal economic model on a global scale. In aprevious postI wrote about global commodity chains,here I will explore some of the ways that the global economy is measured and tracked.

TOOLS FOR TEACHING SOCIOLOGY: Teach well. It matters. (7)GLOBALIZATION OF COMMODITY CHAINS: WHERE DID MY T-SHIRT COME FROM?The globalization of commodity chains issomething that students have a general idea about, but I find it challenging to remove the abstract nature of the convoluted path that materials take before they end up in a consumer’s hands. Sure, “everything is made in China” blah blah blah, but the story of the global economy is MUCH more complex and filled with people occupying different social contexts.Planet Moneyhas come to the rescue with an amazing new story tracing every step of something as simple as a t-shirt.

. . .

INEQUALITY: Basic tools for teaching sociology using some visual graphics and dynamic figures.

A PATH TO MOBILITY? How universities maintain the class structureGoing to college is sold as the primary pathway to upward economic mobility but is that true? In today’s world, a college degree is widely understood as the ticket to success, butdo universities actually contribute to the maintenance of class structures…reproducing an increasingly stratified system?

MINIMUM WAGE: DO WE UNDERSTAND THAT REALITY?What does it mean to live on minimumwage in the US? For any student readers of this blog, you are likely very familiar with what it means to earn minimum wage, but it is also likely that fewer of you rely completely on that income for all of your living needs.How do we convey the reality of what it is like to live on minimum wage?Who is it that actually earns minimum wage?

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INEQUALITY IN THE U.S.: IMAGINED VERSUS REALITYHow muchwealthinequality do you think there is in the US? What is the ideal distribution of wealth? What is it in reality?This is always an active and fascinating way to begin any section on inequality/stratification in the classroom.This resource, a 6:23 minute video,visually demonstrates the stratification of wealth and answers those questions. (The short answers are a lot, somewhat fair, and way more than youthink!)

US INCOME INEQUALITY: AN INTERACTIVE WEBSITEIn today’s complex world students often have a hard time placing themselves in the broader social context, especially in relation to other’s income – something we rarely talk about and is generally considered a private matter in the US. Because of this, many students also struggle to talk about income inequality on a personal level. On top of that, a historical perspective beyond, well…say last week canbe difficult for undergraduates to maintain.

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CULTURAL SYMBOLS: Teaching the Confederate flagCultural symbols and the meanings applied to them are not fixed in time. Within sociology, there is no single agreed upon definition of culture and its processes, but most definitions include a reference to culture being dynamic – that is not static. In my Introduction to Sociology class, I have settled on the following definition for students: Culture is dynamic, shared patterns of socially transmitted, norms, values, beliefs, and symbols. I usually then spend time digging deeply into each of the elements that make up that definition answering such questions as: We use the term “norms” often but what are they? What is the difference between a value and a belief?

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Teaching race and affirmative action: a paper assignment. Here you will find the details of a paper assignment that I use for teaching students about inequality and racial disparity in educational access and achievement.

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See the key words in the righthand column to search all posts for more sociology teaching tools.

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What type of method of teaching is preferred in educational sociology? ›

Sociologists emphasize the careful gathering and analysis of evidence about social life to develop and enrich our understanding of key social processes. Hence, the best method of teaching Sociology is Field visit method.

What are the major themes of sociology? ›

Major themes in sociological thinking include the interplay between the individual and society, how society is both stable and changing, the causes and consequences of social inequality, and the social construction of human life.

Why is sociology of education important to student teachers? ›

Understanding the Role of Society on Education Sociology of education helps teachers to understand the relationships and interactions within the school and the community and how they affect the teaching and learning process.

What is the most common method used in sociology? ›

Social Surveys: This is the most commonly used research technique in sociology. It involves the use of a structured questionnaire that is designed to gather information from a large number of people from a certain population.

What are the four main methods to study sociology? ›

In planning a study's design, sociologists generally choose from four widely used methods of social investigation: survey, experiment, field research, and textual or secondary data analysis (or use of existing sources).

What are the two ways to study sociology? ›

The two main forms of research in sociology are primary research and secondary research. Let's look at some definitions: Primary research entails collecting new, original data in the process of conducting the research. Primary data can be collected through interviews, questionnaires, and observations.

What is sociology education with methods? ›

This approach prefers quantitative research methods such as official statistics, lab experiments, structured questionnaires, and structured interviews. These methods help researchers investigate and understand trends in education and the relationships between attainment, social class, gender, race, and ethnicity.

How to read sociology effectively? ›

Advice on How to Study Sociology
  1. Arrive Prepared to Class. You should always be prepared in advance! ...
  2. Take Notes. ...
  3. Understanding Sociological Theories. ...
  4. Take Advantage of Additional Help.
Jun 26, 2021

What are the 3 key concepts in sociology? ›

Sociologists today employ three primary theoretical perspectives: the symbolic interactionist perspective, the functionalist perspective, and the conflict perspective. These perspectives offer sociologists theoretical paradigms for explaining how society influences people, and vice versa.

What are the 5 pillars of sociology? ›

In shorthand form, or as concepts, these five basic institutions are called the family, government, economy, education and religion. The five primary institutions are found among all human groups.

What are the three 3 key of sociology concepts? ›

The three major sociological theories that new students learn about are the interactionist perspective, the conflict perspective, and the functionalist perspective. And each has its own distinct way of explaining various aspects of society and the human behavior within it.

What are the five functions of sociology? ›

These include (a) socialization, (b) social integration, (c) social placement, and (d) social and cultural innovation. Latent functions include child care, the establishment of peer relationships, and lowering unemployment by keeping high school students out of the full-time labor force.

What is the importance of sociology in our daily life? ›

Sociology provides a unique and illuminating perspective on how we, as complex human beings, influence our society, our relationships, and our culture as a whole.

What are the main objectives of educational sociology? ›

Educational sociology aims to develop a curriculum that will adequately socialize each individual student . It tries to find out what would best contribute towards the child's personality development and control the educative process to achieve personality development of each single child.

What are the 6 methods of sociology? ›

In conducting research, sociologists choose between six research methods: (1) survey, (2) participant observation, (3), secondary analysis, (4) documents, (5) unobtrusive measures, and (6) experiments.

What are the three methods sociologists use to identify social classes? ›

Sociologists use three techniques to determine social class: the reputational method, the subjective method, and the objective method. in the United States: the upper class, the upper middle class, the lower middle class, the working class, the working poor, and the underclass.

What are qualitative methods in sociology? ›

Qualitative methods include interviews, focus groups, participant observation, ethnography, historical analysis, and textual or content analysis. The methods are applied to all substantive areas of sociological inquiry.

What are the two pillars of sociology? ›

The study of social dynamics and social statics--of progress and order, of change and stability--are the twin pillars of his systems.

What are 2 fundamental concepts of sociology? ›

Some essential concepts and terms in sociology include: macrosociology. microsociology. culture.

What is the key problem of sociology of education? ›

​Therefore, the focus of concern of sociology of education, in the classical approach, has been on class conflict resolution.

What is sociology of education example? ›

Educational sociology focuses attention on the social factors that both cause and are caused by education. It includes the study of factors relating to education, such as gender, social class, race and ethnicity, and rural–urban residence.

What is method and methodology in sociology? ›

Methods are just behavior or tools used to select a research technique. Methodology is analysis of all the methods and procedures of the investigation. Methods are applied during the later stage of the research study. Methodologies are applied during the initial stage of the research process.

How do you ace a sociology class? ›

  1. Keep yourself well prepared well in advance. ...
  2. Prepare Notes. ...
  3. Do not mug the answers. ...
  4. Do not study from various sources. ...
  5. Avoid mind-boggling. ...
  6. Try to study in groups. ...
  7. Ensure that you understand all the terms in bold.
Jan 9, 2018

How to prepare sociology from basics? ›

Start with the class notes and then move towards standard books: If sociology is not your graduation subject, it is better to attend the classes first. Also class notes should be studied religiously. This will help the aspirant develop a foundation for sociology optional subject.

How do I prepare for sociology from scratch? ›

An aspirant can start their sociology preparation by reading the NCERTs for class 11th and 12 th . This will give you a brief understanding of sociology as a subject. Read and memorize the syllabus: Syllabus forms a very important part of the sociology strategy.

What is the basic concept used in sociology? ›

The term 'society' is the most fundamental one in Sociology. The term society is derived from the Latin word 'Socius' which means companionship or friendship. Companionship means sociability. In Sociology, the term society refers to a complex pattern of the norms of interaction that arise among the people.

What are the 8 concepts of sociology? ›

Traditional focuses of sociology include social stratification, social class, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, sexuality, gender, and deviance.

What is the nutshell of sociology? ›

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts.

Are there four key of sociology concepts? ›

The four paradigms of sociology (or the schools of sociological thought) are the different ways sociologists view society, its institutions, and its problems. The four paradigms are functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interaction, and feminist perspective.

What are the 6 areas concern of sociology? ›

The seven areas of sociology are social organization, social psychology, social change, human ecology, population and demographics, applied sociology, and sociological methods and research. All of these areas can be studied using many of the methods including surveys, experiments, field research, and textual analysis.

Who is the five father of sociology? ›

In this chapter, you will learn how six of the founders of sociology—Karl Marx, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, George Herbert Mead, Jane Addams, and W. E. B. Du Bois—carried out the two core commitments of sociology.

What are the 3 three factors that led sociology to development? ›

The modern study of sociology emerged out of three nineteenth century revolutions: (1) the development of modern science, (2) the emergence of democratic forms of government, and (3) the industrial revolution.

What is educational sociology in teaching process? ›

Educational sociology focuses attention on the social factors that both cause and are caused by education. It includes the study of factors relating to education, such as gender, social class, race and ethnicity, and rural–urban residence.

Which method is most highly recommended method of teaching? ›

There is no “best” method of teaching. However, many researchers today agree that including more student-centered learning approaches in the classroom can improve learning. Using only a teacher-centered approach leaves out many skills and learning opportunities for students.

Which technique of research is applied in educational sociology? ›

Different Types of Method

There are broadly four different approaches to research in the sociology of education: Survey. Ethnography. Experiment.

What are the five functions of sociology of education? ›

These include (a) socialization, (b) social integration, (c) social placement, and (d) social and cultural innovation. Latent functions include child care, the establishment of peer relationships, and lowering unemployment by keeping high school students out of the full-time labor force.

What is the difference between educational sociology and sociology of education? ›

Sociology of Education is the study of how public institutes and experience of people affect the field of education and its outcomes. Educational Sociology is the application of Sociological findings on education.

What are the five teaching methods? ›

In the contemporary classroom, five distinct teaching styles have emerged as the primary strategies adopted by modern teachers: The Authority Style, The Delegator Style, The Facilitator Style, The Demonstrator Style and The Hybrid Style.

What methods do effective teachers use? ›

12 effective teaching habits
  • Enjoy the field of education. Teachers who express a passion for their work can inspire their students. ...
  • Create a positive learning environment. ...
  • Connect with students. ...
  • Be prepared. ...
  • Manage a weekly schedule. ...
  • Use clear language. ...
  • Set reasonable expectations. ...
  • Adapt to different circumstances.
Mar 30, 2023

What are the three methods of sociology explain? ›

According to Chapin, there are three main methods of Sociology. These are the historical method, the statistical method and field work observation method. Ellwood has mentioned five methods: anthropological or comparative method, historical method, survey method, deductive method and philosophical method.

What are the six research methods commonly used for sociology? ›

In conducting research, sociologists choose between six research methods: (1) survey, (2) participant observation, (3), secondary analysis, (4) documents, (5) unobtrusive measures, and (6) experiments.

Which is the most commonly used educational research technique? ›

​ There are various techniques of educational research like Surveys, questionnaires, sociometry, observation, interview, etc but the observation technique is most used in educational research.


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