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Learning Aims

The Sociology Department has 5 key Learning Aims for students taking courses and completing the major and minor:

1. Understand and be able to apply a sociological perspective proficiently to a range of social issues, as demonstrated by:

  • Describing and giving examples of how a sociological perspective and the discipline of sociology differs from and is similar to the other social sciences.
  • Describing how a sociological perspective and the discipline of sociology contributes to the liberal arts understanding of social reality.
  • Applying the sociological imagination, sociological principles, and concepts to their own lives and to social problems.

2. Demonstrate an ability to think critically, as evidenced by:

  • Using sociological research and analytical skills to critically evaluate claims made about social reality.
  • Showing how patterns of thought and knowledge are influenced by culture and social structure.

3. Master fundamental sociological theory and concepts, as demonstrated by:

  • Defining, giving examples, and demonstrating the relevance of the following: culture, social change, socialization, stratification, social structure, institutions, and differentiations by race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class.
  • Comparing and contrasting basic theoretical orientations.
  • Applying sociological theories and concepts to social phenomena, both locally and globally.

4. Demonstrate a complex understanding of how difference and patterns of inequality in the U.S. and globally are produced and sustained, as demonstrated by:

  • Describing the significance of empirical variation by race, class, and gender/sexuality in various U.S. and international contexts.
  • Describing the role of collective action, culture, structure, and the institutionalization of culture and policies (both formal and informal) in constructing and sustaining difference and inequality.
  • Describing the intersecting nature of structures of inequality and privilege and the varied ways in which these are experienced by others and themselves.
  • Proficiently applying sociological concepts to analyze the great moral issues of our time including poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, genocide, war and peace, religious tolerance and intolerance, the defense of human rights, and the environmental impact of human activity.

5. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the role of evidence in sociological thinking and how empirical evidence may be collected and analyzed to answer sociological questions, as demonstrated by:

  • Defining and explaining the relevance of key qualitative and quantitative methodological concepts.
  • Describing the general role of empirical investigation in building sociological knowledge.
  • Comparing and contrasting the basic methodological approaches for gathering data.
  • Designing a research project in an area of choice and explaining why various decisions (concerning sampling, data collection, analysis, and informed consent, etc.) were made.
  • Critically assessing a research publication.

The Sociology Department’s goal is that all sociology majors achieve three levels of mastery by graduation.

  1. Knowledge – Correct understanding via clear description/definition of key concepts.
  2. Application – Correct use of key concepts to explain social phenomena.
  3. Integration – Effective connection of key concepts/processes employed to explain social phenomena.

Annually, the Sociology Department reviews the work of students enrolled in senior level courses to ascertain if all levels of mastery have been achieved.

(Revised December 2021)