Sociological Perspectives Active Learning Assignment


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Teaching the three major sociological perspectives in an introductory course can be challenging. The perspectives can be difficult for students to understand, but applying the perspectives to concrete examples can help clarify them. This active learning exercise gives students the opportunity to apply the perspectives to some familiar and interesting social phenomena. Students work in small groups and first find some data relevant to one of seven different contemporary topics using their phones. They then answer questions on their topic from the Conflict, Functionalist, and Symbolic Interactionist perspectives. The topics include: Tattoos, Death and Dying, Engagement Rings, the Super Bowl, Concerts, Social Media, and Marijuana Usage. Sample answers for each topic are included with this activity. This active learning exercise has been used in ten Introduction to Sociology classes at a community college in the second or third week of the semester. The classes were small, with each capped at 25 students. This exercise challenges students to engage with the course early in the semester, although it could also be used at other times. When conducted at the start of the semester, it sets a high expectation for the frequency and quality of student contributions.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Jennifer McSpadden 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Introduction to Sociology/Social Problems 
Class Level:
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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1. Materials The student handout contains seven topics. Each group should select one of the topics to discuss and present. 2. Timing This activity is best done after a lecture on the perspectives, so students are familiar with them. I have only used it at the start of the semester, but it...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
“To think critically, such that the student will be able to: … engage in teamwork where many or different viewpoints are presented” (ASA 2004).
Assessment 1:
During the discussions, the instructor should move around the room, ensuring each student contributes to their group discussions.
Goal 2:
“Communicate effectively the basic theoretical perspectives of sociology by … applying each major theoretical perspective to a current event” (TCCD 2005).
Assessment 2:
Groups demonstrate the ability to apply the perspectives by reporting to the class. They receive feedback from the instructor and other students, which should ensure they addressed each question. A document with sample answers from students is attached.

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