teaching social movements
This semester, I taught a senior level course on social movements. The course is aimed at seniors in the sociology major. My approach:
- Start with a four week immersion on movements. Just do a bunch of readings on various movements. My four: Civil Rights; American feminism; the Tea Party; the Bolsheviks. We then talk about these case studies throughout the semester.
- The rest of the semester is spent learning about different elements of social movement theory – recruitment, framing, SMOs/SMS, spillover, outcomes, etc.
- As an intensive writing course, students are required to complete a 20 page assignment. I chose to have one long term paper on a single movement. This paper is “grown” from a short proposal to a full blown term paper. It’s repetitive.
- We have standard weekly quizzes, a midterm, final, and a journal.
- According to the evaluations, people liked the course, even though a lot of people struggled with the material.
- The main take away lesson is “structure.” A lot of people think movements are extremely unstructured events. They didn’t know about SMOs, movement strategy, etc.
- The worst part was teaching about the Bolshevik revolution, my example of a radical movement. It was really, really hard to find a concise summary. Everyone who writes on the 1917 revolution treats it as grand history, which makes it hard to learn the “who/what/when/where” of things. Students remained highly confused.
- Most popular movements to write about? Civil rights, Occupy. Most unexpected paper topic? A paper on whether the Chilean coup of 1973 fits theories of revolution.
Other pedagogical issues: many students had a tough time keeping up with the material; repetitive writing revisions actually works for about 1/3 of the class; most seniors still need tutoring on what counts as a dependent variable.
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