American Sociological Association

The Importance of Relevance to Student Lives: The Impact of Content and Media in Introduction to Sociology

To increase students’ engagement and achievement in introductory sociology courses, teachers should make them relevant to students’ lives. Students’ relevance perceptions may vary within the classroom, depending on the degree of fit between their sociocultural position and the teaching methods. To test this prospect, an experiment among 1,325 undergraduates distinguished the sociocultural mechanisms underlying content- and medium-related course relevance. The students viewed one of four versions of an introductory video lecture about Durkheim with (1) feminine/masculine content and (2) YouTube/verbal-anecdotal medium manipulated in its examples. The results indicate first, that students’ perceptions of the sociology course as relevant were associated with their course satisfaction and achievement. Second, matching students’ gender with gendered example content stimulated their relevance perceptions, while a mismatch decreased those perceptions. Finally, tentative evidence was found that the use of YouTube examples engaged disadvantaged students in the course without harming advantaged students’ learning.

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Margot Belet





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