Sociology Through Active Learning: Student Exercises


Edited by: Kathleen McKinney & Barbara S. Heyl

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  • Part 1: Theory and Methods

    Part 2: Culture

    Part 3: Socialization, Interaction, and Group Influence

    Part 4: Stratification

    Part 5: Organizations, Bureaucracy, and Work/Occupations

    Part 6: Race and Gender

    Part 7: Crime and Deviance

    Part 8: Social Institutions

    Part 9: Multi-Topic Exercises

    Part 10: Course Structure and Process

  • Copyright

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    Note from the Editors to the Students

    Your instructor has selected this book for your use to help you learn sociology through active engagement. He or she will have access to an instructor CD that will provide him or her with additional information and materials necessary to help you with these exercises.

    We designed the book of active learning exercises with you and your learning in mind. We selected exercises that will help you learn important sociological ideas and allow you to practice your sociological imagination. Research shows that anytime we actually get to do something, we understand it better. An old Chinese proverb puts it this way:

    • “I hear, and I forget.
    • “I see, and I remember.
    • “I do, and I understand.”

    The book will help your instructor to make use of Chickering and Gamson's “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” ( These teaching–learning principles are associated with improved learning and include the following:

    • encourages contact between students and faculty,
    • develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
    • encourages active learning,
    • gives prompt feedback,
    • emphasizes time on task,
    • communicates high expectations, and
    • respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

    You will gain another benefit of doing things and exploring, in that during the process you uncover new things and become engaged with what you are learning. Sociology has a long history of uncovering patterns in the social world of which most people are not aware because they are embedded in the patterns. These exercises will help you “see” the patterns and social processes. We fully expect that these activities will not only help you to do well in your sociology classes, but also open you up to new ways of seeing the social world.

    These exercises were developed by real faculty members and used successfully in teaching students similar to you all over the nation. As you look over the exercises in the student book, you will see that all the authors of the exercises have written rationales for their assignments that include what learning goals they had in mind when devising their projects. Next come instructions to you about how to complete the exercise. Finally, each exercise has one or more tear-out worksheets for you to complete and submit to your instructor. Your instructor will explain which exercises to do, when, how, and any grading criteria. These authors have all used these exercises in their own classes and know what student learning is fostered by the process of doing these activities.

    We have selected a variety of types of assignments: some can be done individually, some in small groups, some will take place over many weeks, and some can be done during class time. Although most of the exercises are designed to further your substantive understanding of sociological content, we have included a set of exercises at the end of the book dedicated to issues of process in your class.

    We wish you well in these explorations of sociology through active learning. We dedicate this workbook to all students—past, present, and future—developing a sociological imagination.

    Barbara S.Heyl
  • About the Editors

    Kathleen McKinney received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1982 and is professor of sociology and the Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at Illinois State University (ISU). From 1996 to 2002, she held the administrative position of Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at ISU. McKinney is a social psychologist with interests in relationships, sexuality, sexual harassment, higher education, and college teaching. McKinney has numerous scholarly publications, including several books and dozens of refereed articles in these areas. McKinney is involved in the SoTL movement at the national and international levels, working with the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Campus Program and as a founding member of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (IS-SoTL). She frequently gives workshops on SoTL to faculty at other institutions and has written Enhancing Learning Through SoTL (2007). Last year she received Fulbright Senior Specialist Candidate status for possible foreign travel to engage in faculty development work. She served three years as editor of Teaching Sociology and sits on various SoTL journal editorial boards. McKinney is also a member of the American Sociological Association (ASA) Department Resources Group, a group of about 60 sociologists who conduct teaching workshops and program reviews and write/edit teaching materials. She is also active in the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning in Sociology. McKinney was a 2003–2004 Carnegie Scholar and has received several teaching awards, including ISU's College of Arts and Sciences Junior and Senior Distinguished Teacher and Outstanding University Teacher, the ASA Hans Mauksch award for contributions to undergraduate education, and the ASA Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.

    Barbara S. Heyl received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1975 and is professor emerita of sociology at Illinois State University. For thirty years at Illinois State University she taught sociology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, specializing in the sociology of deviant behavior and qualitative research methods. During this time she served four years as graduate coordinator of the Sociology Master's Program and one year as interim director of the School of Social Work. She also served as secretary and as president of the Midwest Sociological Society. Her most recent research involved a longitudinal, qualitative study of special education in Germany supported by Fulbright and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (German Academic Exchange Service) awards, with results published both in Spain and the United Kingdom. Her past research on prostitution led to a classic book based on life history and ethnographic interviewing (The Madam as Entrepreneur, 1979). She has published articles on the positive effects of using collaborative methods for both teaching in the college classroom and for conducting field work for research purposes, including a chapter on ethnographic interviewing in the Handbook of Ethnography (Sage, 2001). Co-presenting with William Rau and other colleagues, she has had extensive experience conducting workshops on collaborative learning and other active learning techniques (20 in the U.S. and 5 in Thailand), all at the post-secondary level. She was awarded Outstanding Teacher of the College of Arts and Sciences, 2001, and University Outstanding Teacher, 2003, at Illinois State University. Heyl was recently granted Fulbright Senior Specialist status to support faculty development efforts overseas. She is currently active in local Peace and Green movements.

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