Teaching Students to Apply Sociological Knowledge to Real World Practice

 It is my intention as an instructor to stimulate student development through innovative teaching techniques. One of my pedagogical goals in the classroom is to provide students with the materials to apply sociological theory and methods to real world practices outside of the classroom. For instance, in my Social Science Statistics courses I ask students to apply statistical analysis to practices of solving global social problems such as ending education inequality or global health disparities (see Narrative and Examples page for more details on this assignment). This project asks students to take the statistical knowledge they have obtained in class and apply it to a real world problem. Students often choose a global social issue that they are passionate about and can relate to personally. This often makes statistics valuable for them on a personal level, frequently opening their minds to the possibility that statistics can be used in their daily lives and future careers.

 

        As another example, the students in my Disability and Society course, with my guidance, have recently developed a short questionnaire about disability representation in the current political climate. We then took to the free speech area on campus to observe a student political protest against an immigration ban. I asked my students to find protesters who were interested and willing to talk with them about the reason for their protest and its relation to disability. The students would then briefly interview the protesters using our questionnaire. After which, we gathered in our classroom to discuss how what they experienced at the protests reflects what they have been learning in class and how this can directly affect our community. What the majority of students discovered was that although the protesters were not specifically protesting how the current political climate depicts disability or the way the immigration ban affects people with disabilities, most of the protesters agreed that disability was an important issue and disabled people could be greatly impacted by such a ban. One student even explained that the protester she spoke to, a military veteran with PTSD, was there protesting the immigration ban but was equally terrified and angered by the possibility of losing her disability benefits. The students came to the conclusion that these interviews mirrored our societal notions of disability. Often disability is at the periphery of societal understandings but when brought in to the light many people agree that disability rights are important and should be upheld and supported. This is an exercise using a real world experience, outside of the classroom, to help students recognize the impact policy and social change has on disabled people as well as the many ways disability can be invisible. Many students expressed that they enjoyed learning outside of the classroom in this unconventional and innovative way. 

© 2017 by Justine Egner