Updated February 2018

Looking for resources for teaching sociology?

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, 2017 Download charts that examine the race, ethnicity, age and other characteristics of people killed by police in 2015, 2016, and 2017.


RACISM AND THE POLICE: The Shooting of Michael Brown in FergusonSystematic 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 directly from recent news headlines is one way to get students’ attention and demonstrate the abundant relevance of the sociological perspective. The New York Times has a timeline of the events that serves as a useful starting point (from the mainstream media) to share the events with students that may have not kept up with the story.

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE: BLURRY DISTINCTIONS AND CHANGING CATEGORIESThe social construction of race is made evident 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 from National Geographic.


MASS INCARCERATION: DATA, TRENDS, AND COMPARISONStaggering 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’s attention. The following draws mostly on resources from the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institute (brought to my attention by Ezra Klein’s piece on Vox), and Bruce Western‘s 2006 book, Punishment and Inequality in America (Russell Sage Foundation).

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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 CONTEXTAn 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 CULTURESI 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 OUTSIDER By 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 view Break out the guacamole, 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.

VIOLATING SOCIAL NORMS: cellphonesOften 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 students take 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.

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND CLIMATE JUSTICE: WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? TEACHING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-1-07-00-pmIN SOCIOLOGY COURSES IS VITAL  and should arguably include a focus on CLIMATE 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.

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

GLOBALIZATION: MEASURING THE GLOBAL ECONOMYWhen 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 significant strides in implementing the neoliberal economic model on a global scale. In a previous post I wrote about global commodity chains, here I will explore some of the ways that the global economy is measured and tracked. 

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-53-25-pmGLOBALIZATION OF COMMODITY CHAINS: WHERE DID MY T-SHIRT COME FROM? The globalization of commodity chains is something 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 Money has come to the rescue with an amazing new story tracing every step of something as simple as a t-shirt.

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

MINIMUM WAGE: DO WE UNDERSTAND THAT REALITY? What does it mean to live on minimum wage 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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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 right hand column to search all posts for more sociology teaching tools.

Teach well, it matters.



Comments 1


Very insightful. Thank you.

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