July/August 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 6

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New Website for Teaching
Introductory Sociology

Caroline Hodges Persell, New York University

Have you ever wondered where you could easily find data or other exercises to involve your students in active learning? If so, there is introsocsite, currently available for free at www.nyu.edu/classes/persell/aIntroNSF/home.html and soon to be part of ASA’s TRAILS, a collection of digital resources for teaching and learning in sociology.

While aimed primarily at Introduction to Sociology courses, the site includes resources in research methods, culture, sociological reasoning, groups, organizations and networks, socialization, social inequalities, deviance and conformity, social institutions, social change, and population that could be useful for teaching other courses as well.

The website grew out of the work of an ASA Introduction to Sociology Course Task Force charged with developing a curriculum for a college-level (i.e., advanced or honors) course for high school students. The task force included sociological scholars and teachers as well as teachers in community colleges and high schools. They drafted a set of learning goals and a curriculum.They also began collecting active learning resources and materials that would involve students in the process of exploring data and thinking critically about the social world.

When the task force disbanded, further work was done by Barbara Schneider (Michigan State University) and Caroline Hodges Persell (New York University) validating and assessing the curriculum, with support from the National Science Foundation CCLI Program (now the Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science). They thought it would be valuable to compile and enhance the many valuable resources collected by the task force into a website; hence the development of introsocsite. Two undergraduate research assistants, Jennifer N. Gerdes and Maude B. Shepard, helped to evaluate, refine, and, in some cases, write the exercises assembled by the task force. We would like to thank Jonathan Kelly who provided technical expertise for the website, Dominick Bagnato who was also helpful as a web consultant, and Michael Chavez Reilly who contributed as a creative graduate research assistant.

The site offers three major pathways into the resources:

  1. Resources for Teachers,
  2. Resources for Students, and
  3. Units of Sociological Study
    Each unit has a blue button on the upper right side to submit feedback.

For Teachers and Students

For teachers, there are learning goals, unit pages, a table indexing the resources by unit and type, instructors’ manuals for each of the nine units of sociological study, for example for research methods, lesson plans, and additional materials contexts.org/teaching/ including a list of introductory sociology textbooks, a link to Contexts Crawler, a 400-item glossary In addition, the site includes a bibliography of readings, an annotated list of films for teaching sociology, and a link to the Contexts magazine podcasts "Teaching the Social World," and assessment resources, including a Critical Thinking Test in Sociology (developed by Vanessa A. Keesler), and a bibliography of assessment materials.

For students, there are inventories of six types of resources. These include ones exploring data, simulations, exercises, films, readings, and "fun stuff." The resources are intended to engage students with current data, involve them in active learning, connect to students through visuals and video, and show them the fun and relevance of sociology outside of the classroom.

The units of sociological study contain a short description of the content of each of the nine units, and contain links to the outline and narrative drafted by the task force as well as to the Instructor’s Manual for the unit.

Some of the useful features of the website include:

  1. Google search box on each page,
  2. Toolbars with links to resources for students, resources for teachers, and the field of sociology, or the course,
  3. A feedback tab on each page allowing users to easily rate the resource,
  4. An index table of learning resources that can be sorted by type or unit,
  5. A slideshow illustrating how to use the website, and
  6. full-text articles from Teaching Sociology and the American Sociological Review, used with permission of the ASA.

The website appears among the top results of a Google search using any of the following search terms: introsocsite, teaching introductory sociology, introduction to sociology resources, and sociology lesson plans. Google Analytics enables the collection of data on site usage. Between April 2006, and May 2010, there were 42,654 visits from 166 countries and territories. The comprehensive website consists of 618 files and 89 folders in 263 MB of space.

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