RETHINKING THEORY AND THE ROLE OF WRITING
My participation in WAC during the 2017-2018 academic year happened at a very opportune moment. I had been working on redesigning the sociology department’s classical theory course (SOC 302) so that it moved away from the standard delivery of ideas and focused more on engaging and using theory the way sociology as a profession does. Although I had been using theory-driven material for a while in my other courses, I was teaching theory with “revamped” learning objectives for the first time.
WAC was thus the ideal environment to develop a series of low and high stakes writing assignments through material provided by the organizers, ideas shared as a group, feedback received from participants and insight offered by my writing fellow, Ashley, about the class dynamic. I therefore decided to center and organize my work in WAC around the following question:
What kind of writing exercises can help students engage with complex ideas and start using them the way a sociologist would in the practice of their profession?
Changes in the level and nature of “engagement” are at times hard to assess. Therefore, a series of interrelating questions helped me think about the writing assignments:
- Can some informal forms of writing exercises help model the habits of advanced sociology students or faculty to increase reading comprehension of complex texts (such as quick notes, jottings, and diagrams)?
- Can free and more structured forms of writing help identify and critique various sociological traditions?
- Can writing help students highlight the main ideas of various theories and put them to the scrutiny of empirical evidence?
The current portfolio seeks to highlight aspects of the redesigned course and how writing fit in by discussing the syllabus, providing examples of assignments and student work, and, offering reflections on its effectiveness.