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Book Chapter



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Teaching and Learning in Large Classes


American Sociological Association


George Bridges, Scott Desmond

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One of the main disjunctions that exists in undergraduate education within the discipline of sociology is the increased stress we now place on the importance of writing, and the inadequacy of the training we provide our students to become bet­ter writers. The call for improved student writing ranges from professors surprised and dismayed with reading student essays, which they consider to be inadequate to the complexity of course material, to those who see the task of sociology as providing a general liberal education, with writing an important skill for the development of a well rounded member of society. Although greater and greater attention is being paid to the role of writing in a college educa­tion, little has been written specifically about the role of writing within the discipline of sociology, or how to incorporate the teaching of writing within the con­text of sociology classes. In this paper, I give an overview of the case to be made for incorporating writing in the sociology curriculum, as well as why and how it could be included in the "mass class"that typically is the first contact students will have with the field of sociology. I argue that not only is the addition of writing not incompatible with the mass class, but that it can serve as a powerful pedagogi­cal tool in enhancing student learning within this environment. While few sociology instructors question the im­portance of training students to become good writ­ ers, what is less clear is how much of that role should be undertaken within the discipline of sociology. Some would argue that the responsibility of teach­ing sociology lies with sociology instructors, while that of teaching writing with English composition in­structors. The argument here is not that sociology should try to take on the role of the English depart­ment, but that writing instruction within the field of sociology can meet needs that cannot be adequately addressed outside the discipline.

Incorporating Writing into the Mass Class: An Alternate Model for Quiz/Discussion Sessions