My pedagogical practice is driven by the desire to create an innovative, inclusive, and student-centered learning environment; one that is shaped by enthusiasm, begins from student’s own experiences, pushes students to question their basic beliefs, and challenges them to critically engage with the world. To achieve these aims I incorporate experiential learning processes in my courses to make visible the often invisible relations between individuals, social systems, and ecological systems.
In Introduction to Sociology students breach social norms, perform content analysis of violence and sex on TV, learn about socialization and the class structure through board games, and experience institutional discrimination through in-class activities.
For Social Theory students write papers and create media presentations that link major concepts (alienation, anomie, McDonaldization, the panopticon, and the beauty myth) to their own experiences as well as movies, television shows, and music videos.
In The Sociology of Food students engage in the SNAP challenge, map their community’s food environment, utilize food diaries to discuss how social systems structure eating habits, and work with organizations to combat food access inequities and make urban agriculture a part of the burgeoning green economy.
In Environmental Sociology students have investigated the college’s waste, water, food, energy, and transportation systems in relationship to the concepts of sustainable development and environmental justice, spoken with key institutional actors about the college’s master plan, and compared the plan to those of other campuses. Based on their analysis students have made policy recommendations to campus officials to increase both the sustainability and equity of the campus.
For Social Change students started a fossil fuel divestment campaign on campus. They created a petition, flyers, and an elevator pitch, had the student paper write an article about divestment, visited student groups, and spoke with student government and members of the university board to generate an understanding of why divestment was not only ethically necessary but also a fiscally sound policy. Through such a class project, students became more adept at thinking strategically, developed a stronger understanding of power relations on campus, and learned how to negotiate the hurdles of student organizing.
Through these varied activities and assignments students are able to illuminate the social processes and structures shaping their lives, turn course concepts into lived moments that facilitate retention and application, and cultivate the skills necessary to address real-world social problems. They have become what I call “everyday sociologists.”