Suzanne Hopf

A&S, Sociology
Sociology 323: Diversity and Inequality

In her Diversity and Inequality course, Suzanne Hopf’s objectives were to “develop a collaborative scaffolded exercise that addresses two fundamental and powerful course concepts—social construction and structural opportunities.” To that end, she combined a reading assignment with an in-class exercise. The first step involved students reading Marilyn Frye’s essay, “Oppression,” then writing a paragraph in which they identify five relevant sociological principles or concepts (provided as a study guide for class) and why they believe these principles relate to Frye’s essay. Students were also asked to identify a “real life” example that would illustrate oppression.

Following the completion of this preparatory work, students would meet in their assigned groups for their semester project—first in pairs, then in their larger groups—to share their ideas pertaining to Frye’s essay, and to discuss their real life examples of oppression. Groups were then asked to develop a concept map to illustrate how sociological principles and concepts relate to the article. Hopf asserts that the exercise achieved a variety of teaching and learning goals:

  • Encouraging completion of the assigned reading
  • Fostering review of relevant principles and concepts
  • Encouraging students to apply the ideas presented in the essay to real life problems
  • Facilitating a collaborative effort involving the reading, applications of principles and concepts, and concept mapping

Hopf used Bloom’s Taxonomy to assess the effectiveness of the assignment and concluded that her students’ work products demonstrated knowledge, comprehension and the beginning of application ability, even as she concluded that additional coaching/prompting was needed to keep them moving towards higher levels of thinking.

Among her conclusions relative to assessing the implications and consequences of this new assignment strategy, Hopf noted that “in some ways this has been one of the best exercises I have used in a class since it is planned so that is it is built over several sessions.” She also offers a word of encouragement to faculty (and students) who shy away from group work by noting that from her perspective “groups are good.” Moving forward, she plans to strengthen the exercise by circling back to the concept maps later in the semester, and asking students to “redraft the map to reflect their own deepening analysis and synthesis of ideas and concepts.”

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