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Program Goals and Learning Outcomes

For our program to be successful, students should leave with the basic knowledge in many key areas within the discipline of sociology. During SY 499 Sociology Senior Seminar, we measure the proficiency of our students in these areas and report them to the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Success is determined through aggregate scores as well as a comparison with sociology seniors at universities across the United States. 

Our program student learning outcomes are that students demonstrate understanding of and recall information about these key areas:

  1. Social Theory
  2. Sociological Research Methods and Statistics
  3. Race, Class and Gender
  4. Deviance and Criminology
  5. Social Institutions  
  6. Gender Issues
  7. Critical Thinking

Below are explanations of specific content associated with each learning outcome: 

Social Theory

Social Theory is the framework from which we analyze the diverse selection of social phenomena of humans found throughout the world. It is a means by which we draw upon to aid in our perception of reality. Social Theory also provides us the abilities to see things we have never known.  After completing course work in sociology students will be able:

  1. conduct a meta-theoretical analysis by dissecting theories into underlying constituents and classifying those constituents) and synthesis by classifying theories using typologies. 
  2. describe sociological theory systematically, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, and propose solutions to the problems described. 
  3. apply sociological concepts to explain social phenomena.
  4. demonstrate an understanding of the impact of major social institutions on individual actions/interactions.
  5. analyze how theories elucidate race/class/gender/sexual orientation (and other social locations) impacts individuals' experiences with/in major social institutions.


Sociological Research Methods

As a science, sociology has tried and true methods of studying social phenomena. Students will learn about many aspects of research methods both as it applies to sociology, as well as science in general. To be competent in sociological research methods students should be able to:

  1. Recognize the strength and weaknesses of the major data collection techniques.
  2. Recognize major ethical issues in conducting research.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to properly construct measures.
  4. Identify the steps used in testing models and theories.
  5. Identify the importance of research designs in the research process.

In the program students will learn such things as: the relationship of theory to research, the role of independent and dependent variables, the role of the hypothesis, developing a research question, how to develop a research design, how to plan a budget, the value of forms of reliability and validity, various forms of sampling, and different types of scales used in research.  The program includes a focus on both quantitative and qualitative methods including surveys, participant observation, content analysis, and many others.

The overall goal is to understand that research methods bring sociology to a place well beyond simple common sense, but instead to a place of scientific understanding.


Race, Class and Gender 

Students will develop knowledge of the many factors involved in multiculturalism. 

A sociological emphasis on multiculturalism generally refers to understanding cultural differences and how culture impacts how societies are organized and how individuals view the world.  Through an emphasis on cross-cultural studies students should gain not only an appreciation of cultural differences, but an understanding of the relationship between culture and structure (macro), culture and interaction/organizations (meso) and culture and identity (micro).  Cross-cultural research also helps us understand our own cultural assumptions of what is 'natural' by showing the wide diversity of the way people organize their lives around the world.   


Deviance and Criminology

Students will have a working knowledge of deviance, its influences, trends, and patterns, as well as means of correcting such behavior if warranted. You should know the diverse perspectives, such as statistical deviance, absolutist deviance, relativist deviance, pathological deviance and normative deviance. Because the study of deviance in sociology is highly theory driven, it is best also to be aware of the many theories involved in the study of deviance such as Differential Association,  Neutralization Theory, Labeling Theory, Control Theory, Anomie theory, social constructionism, feminist theory, queer theory, feminist disability theory, and standpoint theory as well.

With regard to social problems, most of our courses address social justice issues. As part of this, you will be exposed to the many variables involved in social life, as well as the critical thinking to recognize social problems, and the means to find their cure.


Social Institutions

A social institution is a patterned regularity designed to meet the needs of society.  Examples of social institutions include the state (maintains social order), religion (gives a sense of common purpose), the educational system (trains individuals to be productive members by passing on the necessary skills), science (solves problems), the media (gives people a sense of common purpose), the economy (produces and distributes goods necessary for physical existence) and the family (births and socializes the young).  Institutions are society's enduring (permanent) system of relations comprised of specific roles (what individuals must do) statuses (the amount of prestige delegated to each role), and normative expectations. A society's institutions are created by people that interact with each other and thereby maintain the institutions.  In this way, institutions are both created by interacting individuals and enable and impede individual interactions.  Finally institutions are linked together in a social system.  Sociologists examine this social system as 'sui generis' or greater than the sum of its parts. 

While theoretically, social institutions are patterned regularities designed to meet the needs of a society, whether or not they do is a research question.  In research, sociologists examine specific institutions and test whether or not these institutions are in fact meeting the needs of their members. Alternatively, sociologists may investigate whether the institutions are meeting the needs of some members better than, or at the expense of, others. In the sociological sense, institutions (e.g. the educational system) pattern the way organizations (e.g. Jacksonville State University) work.

Adapted from "The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology," by Lisa J. McIntyre


Gender Issues

Students will develop an understanding of the dynamics of gender in everyday life.

Gender is one of the most important areas of human development and human relations. Gender, as a master status, influences people throughout their lives, how they form their identities and frame their experiences, how they are treated, and how they treat others and their access to resources.

Gender has many dimensions. For example,

  1. Gender is a social institution. Gender, as a social institution, refers to a society's enduring system of gender relations that specifies gender statuses (boy/man and girl/woman), normative expectations about gender, a system of gender-based social relations, a stratification system based on gender, gendered practices/activities, gender ideology, as well as gender stereotypes. A society's gender institution is created by people in a society that interact with each other, and maintain those interactions over time.
  2. Gender is a system of stratification. Gender stratification refers to a societal system whereby men/boys and women/girls that are otherwise status equals (e.g., age, social class, race/ethnicity, religion, etc.) have unequal access to scarce and valued resources in a society (e.g. wealth, health care, nutrition, education, training). Historically and geographically, females are and have been at a disadvantage. No known society has ever favored females.
  3. Gender is a social status for individual people (see girl, woman, boy, man, gender status).
  4. Gender is practice, an accomplishment, actions people do.
  5. Gender exists as an ideology or set of beliefs, expectations, and stereotypes about what women and men, boys and girls are, should do, and can do.

Adapted from Patricia Yancey Martin, as well as Chafetz, Janet. 1990. Gender Equity: An Integrated Theory of Stability and Change.


Critical Thinking

To be a critical thinker means to ask the question:  "Do I do well to have the beliefs that I do."

“Critical thinking is concerned with explicit criteria of epistemic adequacy.” To be critical means to be more discerning in recognizing faulty arguments (hasty generalizations, assertions lacking evidence, claims based on unreliable authority and other logical fallacies).   Thinking critically involves recognizing the kind of claim being made as well as the appropriate evidence we need to say that ‘we do well to have the beliefs that we do.’  Critical thinking aims at “…..freeing us from unwarranted control of unjustified beliefs”.  (Harvey Siegel)  

Critical theory "regards specific belief claims, not primarily as propositions to be assessed for their truth content, but as parts of systems of belief and action that have aggregate effects within the power structures of society.  It asks first about these systems of belief and action, who benefits?  The primary preoccupation of critical pedagogy is with social injustice and how to transform inequitable, undemocratic or oppressive institutions and social relations. They are in the service of demonstrating how certain power effects occur, not in the service of pursuing truth in some dispassioned sense" (Burbules 1992/1995).    

Critical theory uses critical thinking but critical thinking does not necessarily use critical theory. A critical pedagogy would use critical theory and critical thinking in the classroom. 

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