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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 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 to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding, summarize and explain sociological theory
  2. Apply, expand upon and integrate theories that inform the field of sociology by considering various social issues from multiple perspectives.
  3. Explain the relationship between theories and the historical/cultural contexts in which they derive.
  4. Analyze sociological theory systematically by conducting a meta-theoretical analysis using a variety of typologies.
  5. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of social theories, and propose solutions to the problems described.
  6. Demonstrate analytical and evaluative skills through regular writing assignments.

Sociological research methods are “A collection of methods and methodologies that researchers apply systematically to produce scientifically based knowledge about the social world” (Newman 2006).  Methods are any application of methodology, and methodology attempts to answer the question: how do you know?  Sociological methods are commonly divided into qualitative or quantitative methods.  Qualitative methods tend to focus on the emic perspective (local, within).  This perspective typically includes ethnographic and phenomenological efforts.  Qualitative researchers evaluate their work on the lines of credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability.  Historical and archival research strengthens this perspective.  Quantitative methods privilege the etic perspective (observer, cross-cultural, removed).  Quantitative researchers evaluate their work in its validity and reliability, and they claim statistical generalizability.  Each methodological approach has the purpose of furthering (producing and building) sociological knowledge based on theoretical principles.   Methods must also address ethical guidelines which govern research.  To be competent in sociological research methods students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative methods.
  2. appropriately select which methods to employ.
  3. interpret and analyze data and charts.
  4. determine the significance of research findings.
  5. critically assess research findings.
  6. compare/contrast research methodologies and research findings.
  7. design a research proposal.

Race, Class and Gender emphasizes cultural competency, focusing on historical as well as cross-cultural studies students 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 examines deviance, its influences, trends, and patterns, as well as means of correcting such behavior if warranted. Students will learn the diverse perspectives, such as statistical deviance, absolutist deviance, relativist deviance, pathological deviance and normative deviance. Because the study of deviance and criminology 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.

Social Institutions are patterned regularities 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 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 is concerned with the criteria we use to judge our knowledge and beliefs.  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)

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