Pedagogical Supports in Social Theory

Social TheoryOne month ago, we posted a Q&A with Black Hawk Hancock, discussing the challenges of teaching sociological theory. In it, he highlighted three main challenges in teaching social theory:

1. The ways in which theorists are placed into “camps” by too many textbooks can obscure the work of individual theorists and undermine the complexity of any one thinker’s work, prompting students to rely on labels without fully understanding the intellectual debates involved.

2. Students too often have negative predisposed orientations toward theory as useless or boring.

3. Students have difficulty establishing connections between theories and empirical research, or between theories and their everyday lives and current issues.

This week, we officially launch the third and very-much-revised edition of our popular reader, Social Theory: Continuity and Confrontation, edited by Roberta Garner and Black Hawk Hancock. This book has been structured with pedagogy in mind, and provides exactly the kinds of supports that address the above mentioned challenges. It is intended to help instructors teach theory by supplying them with the materials that will make life easier for them—contextual information, biographies, a broad and diverse set of readings—while providing students with a clear idea of where the discipline has come from and where it’s heading.

Here are some of the pedagogical features:

1. Short biographies are provided for each theorist and “legacy” author, in order to give students the general historical context in which these theorists lived and worked.

2. A revised “Reading Theory” introduction and short introductory sections to chapters and readings throughout the book serve to:

  • Help students read the material without interpreting it for them
  • Help students connect theories to each other and develop a better understanding of continuities, conversations, controversies, and legacies—in short, to see theory as an ongoing process, not a bunch of abstract texts
  • Help students connect theory to everyday life and current issues
  • Establish connections between theories and empirical research
  • Link theories in sociology (and social thought) to other types of thought—for example, linking Hegel and Marx, Nietzsche to Weber, Simmel, and Foucault, and feminist theory to Freud.

3. “Suggested Readings” at the end of each chapter have been expanded from previous editions and now include contemporary research articles.

4. Each chapter includes a “Study Guide” which provides key terms for the chapter and a number of questions to stimulate review, class discussion, and observation.

5. “Questions and Exercises” at the end of each chapter include the following:

  • Visualization exercises that help students to imagine examples and situations in order to illustrate concepts
  • Discussion questions, including a format so that students can formulate their own questions
  • Theory exercises that illustrate concepts and promote understanding theories
  • Questions and exercises that link theory to empirical research, showing how theories motivate research questions or help to interpret research findings.

To download and read the revised “Reading Theory” introduction to the book, click here.

To find out more about the third edition of the reader, click here.

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