Susan E. Mannon
My approach to teaching sociology is to invite students into the world of the sociologist - to give them a glimpse of what I do as a practicing sociologist. Who are sociologists? What do they do? And how do they see the world? In short, I want students to understand sociology as a field of practice. Since research is what sociologists do and the basis for how we see the world, sociological research is at the center of my teaching.
In the classroom, I highlight sociological research through the use of research monographs, journal articles, and other multimedia. Textbooks typically do not feature prominently in my courses, since most mention sociological research only in passing. I also structure my courses around bodies of sociological knowledge, rather than sociological topics. I want undergraduate students to learn how sociologists carve out areas of research and to appreciate how sociological knowledge is contested among scholars. Finally, I assign coursework that teaches students core sociological competencies, such as conducting a literature review and evaluating different types of evidence. Most of my assignments touch on one or more of these competencies, such that students understand how sociologists go about studying society.
In the end, my goal is to provide a window for students to see into my "laboratory", which is not a sterile room with glass beakers and lab coats, but a world of fascinating social patterns that tell us something about the human condition. Importantly, this glimpse into my professional world doesn't end in the classroom. I am available to supervise students in independent study projects, mentor them through their first academic conference, and/or co-author publications with them. In and outside the classroom, sociology is at its most exciting when it is understood as a way of uncovering truths about the social world.
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Susan E. Mannon
Wendell Phillips Center