American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
April/May 2019

Evidence of Teaching Excellence: 2018 Top 10 TRAILS Downloads

TRAILS, the Teaching Resources and Innovation Library for Sociology, is ASA’s online, peer-reviewed repository for teaching and learning materials. Access to TRAILS is a benefit of ASA membership. With more than 3,600 resources, including syllabi, class activities, assignments, and lectures, TRAILS also features a citation system that helps provide evidence of teaching excellence as defined through peer review. It is also possible to track resource-specific downloads from TRAILS, and every year we publish a countdown of the top 10 most downloaded resources, providing additional evidence of outstanding pedagogical accomplishment.

  1. For the second year in a row, Quintin W.O. Myer’s resource “Who’s White Now? An Examination of the Social Construction of Race” was the most downloaded resource. This popular activity works well in survey classes like Introduction to Sociology, as well as more advanced courses like Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. The activity begins by outlining how students perceive race initially and then demonstrates how understanding race in the United States has changed over time. The three-part activity incudes a class discussion establishing the baseline for students’ understanding of race, a guided activity in which students act as Census enumerators, and a discussion of how the activity impacted their understandings of race. 
  2. “Understanding Intersectionality Through a Roll of the Dice: What Might the Experience Be?” by Nicole Rosen and Aya Christie de Chellis was the second most downloaded resource of the year. This activity is a great resource when teaching about intersectionality and its nuances, even for students who might typically find the concept challenging. The activity has students play with homemade dice labeled with social identities to consider how different identities intersect and influence a person’s life. 
  3. The third most popular download from 2018 is the resource “Reasons for Cohabitation Mini Quantitative Analysis” by Amanda Jayne Miller and Sharon Sassler. In this exercise, students learn both substantive content on the reasons young adult romantic couples decide to move in together and how those reasons differ by sex and social class, as well as get hands-on experience analyzing and interpreting qualitative interview data. We’re sure anyone teaching a research methods class, as well as courses that deal with family, gender, and social class stratification will benefit from this resource. 
  4. For anyone who teaches intro and is looking for activities to use on the first day, look no further. The fourth most downloaded TRAILS resource in 2018 was “Flash Data Collecting and Analysis: A First Day Activity” by Joanna S. Hunter. Students quickly collect data on a classmate and then use this data to make inferences about their subjects on a variety of outcomes. This is a great resource to get the most out of the class’s first day!
  5. Making the top-10 list for a third consecutive year in a row, the resource “Education and the Conflict Perspective: A College Admissions Committee Activity” by Ferguson, Andercheck, and McClure, is ideal for helping students understand how the current education system perpetuates inequalities. Relevant to recent news, students work in small groups and select candidates for admission and then discuss and debate their choices as a class.
  6. After being the most popular resource for two years in a row, Annette Lareau’s “Stratification Active Learning Assignments” remains in the top 10 list, this time in the sixth place. The resource is best suited for a lower level stratification seminar and consists of five exercises to be completed across the semester. It is designed to give students an in-depth understanding of the impact of inequality. 
  7. The seventh most downloaded resource of 2018 was “A Mini Mini Ethnography” by Jerome M. Hendricks. This is an excellent resource for those teaching a research methods class or teaching about methods in an introductory course. Students gain hands-on experience doing qualitative research by using a series of labs, discussion issues, and field work exercises and activities. In doing so, students not only gain a deeper understanding of research methods concepts but also learn about the complexity and demands of the research process. 
  8. The eighth most downloaded activity was Alana Gillis’ “School Choice and Inequality: Choosing Schools Activity.” In this class activity, students are split into groups and are given a family profile that includes their income, race, family structure, and geographic distance from each available school. Each group must then decide which school to send their child to based on the school profiles for five schools, which include information such as student demographics, test scores, and school type. A class discussion about choices, structural limitations, and implications for inequality conclude the activity.
  9. Coming in at number nine is Brianna Turgeon’s “Power and Privilege Class Activity.”  This activity is designed to get students to think critically about privilege and oppression and apply concepts from an out-of-class reading on privilege, intersectionality, and the matrix of domination. Additionally, students learn how to conduct discussions about privilege with their classmates.
  10. Finally, the tenth most downloaded resource of 2018 was “The Other Me: An Assignment to Develop the Sociological Imagination by Imagining a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes” by Fletcher Winston. In this activity, students create a new biography in an attempt to determine how this change in personal profile affects their interests, predilections, goals, and opportunities. Comparing these two personas along with the projected outcomes of their other me illuminates the way social forces shape their lives and helps students to develop their sociological imaginations. 

Congratulations to these authors on their outstanding pedagogical accomplishments. TRAILS is a great place to explore other sociologists’ teaching ideas and to generate and publish your own new ideas for courses and classrooms. Search more topics at