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Top TRAILS Downloads in 2015


TRAILS (Teaching Resources and Innovation Library for Sociology) is ASA’s digital library of teaching resources. As we enter our sixth year of operation we couldn’t be more optimistic about the promise of TRAILS to positively impact teaching and learning in sociology. The TRAILS editorial team would like to thank our authors and subscribers over the past six years for seeing the value in TRAILS and the ASA Council for approving TRAILS as a new benefit of ASA membership. We look forward to all of your 2016 submissions and downloads!

There are more than 3,000 resources in TRAILS and every year we compile the top 10 most downloaded. We would like to offer our congratulations to the authors who made the list for 2015:

  1. Stratification Active Learning Assignments, Annette Lareau, University of Pennsylvania.
    The number one downloaded resource was created by 2014 ASA President, Annette Lareau.  This assignment consists of a series of exercises to be completed during the course of the semester. Each empirically-based assignment engages students in activities that help deepen their understanding of inequality and stratification. This resource was number four last year.
  2. The Four Sources of Evidence, Daniel Buffington, University of North Carolina Wilmington.
    This popular resource finds itself in the top 10 for the fourth year in a row. This in-class activity is designed to introduce students to the four major sources of evidence used in most sociological research (ethnography, surveys, experiments, and archival documents/texts).
  3. Understanding U.S. Wealth Distribution: Ideals, Perception and Reality,Sara F. Mason, University of North Georgia.
    Thisclass activity, our number one downloaded resource in 2011, remains an ideal activity for an Introduction to Sociology or Social Problems class. It is designed to introduce key concepts related to wealth and inequality. Students work in small groups to visually depict their preconceived notions about U.S. wealth distribution. Then students are asked to create a similar graph for what they think an ideal distribution of wealth should be. Finally, they are presented with a graph of the actual distribution of wealth in the United States. The considerable differences between their perception and reality leads to a discussion of the role of ideology in not only justifying inequality, but in obfuscating the reality of wealth inequality.
  4. Pricing Beauty: First Day of Class Activity, Stephanie Medley-Rath, Indiana University-Kokomo.
    This resource is on our top 10 list for the third year in a row, and it is a great “ice breaker” for students who may be stepping into their first sociology class. Medley-Rath uses Ashley Mears’ book, Pricing Beauty to introduce students to concepts related to stratification, the social construction of beauty, and content analysis on the first day of class.
  5. The Other Me: An Assignment to Develop the Sociological Imagination by Imagining a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes, Fletcher Winston, Mercer University.
    Number five on our list is an assignment that asks students to explore their personal biographies and the social forces that impact their lives. Students are then asked to create new biographies and describe how these changes impact their newly created lives.
  6. Self-Graded SPSS Lab Exercises, Aya Kimura Ida, California State University-Sacramento.
    This assignment is our sixth most downloaded resource of 2015 and held the same position on our 2014 countdown. Adopting self-grading as a learning tool, this set of four lab exercises helps students practice using SPSS techniques they learned in class and gain experience interpreting the univariate and bivariate results.
  7. A Mini Mini Ethnography, Jerome Hendricks, University of Illinois-Chicago.
    Our number seven resource was submitted as part of our Graduate Program Initiative1. This ASA initiative partners with graduate seminars and incorporates a TRAILS submission as part of the course requirements. A Mini Mini Ethnography is an assignment designed to encourage discussion of qualitative research concepts as well as the implementation of a variety of research methods and skills. The lab exercises that accompany this resource can be implemented throughout the course to help reinforce the importance of these major concepts.
  8. Power and Privilege Class Activity, Brianna Turgeon, Kent State University 
    Another graduate student from our Graduate Program Initiative holds the number eight spot on the 2015 list. When learning about privilege, oppression or inequality, students may feel uncomfortable or even defensive; this class activity introduces these topics using public figures, which helps dissipate the difficulty that can arise when teaching these topics.
  9. Education and Conflict Perspective: A College Admissions Committee Activity, Todd W. Ferguson, Brita Andercheck, and Paul McClure, Baylor University.
    In this activity, students take on the role of a college admissions committee to help illustrate the concepts of the conflict perspective. The activity helps students understand how the current education system can perpetuate economic, gender, and social class inequalities.
  10. Objects from Every Day Life: A Can of Coca-Cola, Stephanie Medley-Rath Indiana University Kokomo.
    Stephanie Medley-Rath (the only author to appear twice on this countdown) authored the number 10 most downloaded resource. An adaptation from a Teaching Sociology article by Peter Kaufman (1997), this activity develops the sociological imagination by examining one cultural object (a can of Coca-Cola). Students will understand how personal biography and historical moments can influence perceptions of culture. 


1See ASA Footnotes article, “The Graduate Teaching Seminar Project” by former TRAILS Editor, Diane Pike. www.asanet.org/footnotes/septoct15/trails_0915.html. If you are interested in this project, email apap@asanet.org.

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