Using The Office to Teach Goffman


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Erving Goffman’s theories of symbolic interaction have the potential to appeal to students due to their immediate applicability to dissect everyday social interaction. However, contemporary students may find his writing to be less than straightforward and his illustrative examples old fashioned. This limits their ability to see his theories as relevant for understanding their own lives and social practices. This activity pushes students to take Goffman’s concepts from off the page to analyze a comedic sitcom, and then to generate examples from their own daily routines.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity, Video 
Karam Hwang 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
College 100 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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This activity requires 1 long class period (85 minutes) or two shorter class periods (50 minutes).

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Students demonstrate reading comprehension of a theoretical text
Assessment 1:
Students explain Goffman’s concepts based on selections from The Presentation of Everyday Life
Goal 2:
Students reaffirm understanding of theoretical concepts by recognizing them in a familiar sitcom
Assessment 2:
Students seek examples of concepts from the first episode of The Office: an American Workplace, a situational comedy in the format of a documentary (aka a “mockumentary”)
Goal 3:
Students creatively apply concepts in their own lives
Assessment 3:
Students seek examples of concepts in their own behavior and peer interactions in the days before the next class session.

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Using the Office to Teach Goffman_revised.docx
Goffman Student Assignment - Key.docx
Goffman Student Assignment.docx