American Sociological Association

Teaching Note: Social Networks and Labor Market Inequality: A Role-playing Activity to Teach Difficult Concepts

Role-playing activities, as a form of active learning, enable instructors to teach difficult concepts in ways that better facilitate student learning. This note tests the effectiveness of a role-playing activity that simulates the job market: Most students play job seekers seeking employment, and a few play the employers who make employment decisions. However, students are constrained in that they can only talk to students they already know or meet during the game. We find two major results: (1) Students successfully achieved the learning goals from the activity, including understanding the basics of social networks and how social networks reproduce inequality in the labor market, and (2) students enjoyed the activity and felt like they learned a lot. We were especially pleased that these results were true even of students typically unengaged in the courses. Overall, we recommend role-playing activities to other instructors teaching difficult concepts to successfully engage all students.


Alanna Gillis and Brionca Taylor





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