We have developed the sociology curriculum with several educational goals in mind. The general goals we have established for the program are meant to complement the particular goals of individual faculty in specific courses and of each student studying sociology. We expect that our students will learn:
To engage the sociological imagination. In all our courses we want students to appreciate the distinctive character, intellectual power, and practical applications of a sociological perspective and our excitement for work in the discipline. Students learn to make connections between broad social-historical patterns and unique biographical events.
To develop a substantive understanding of the dynamics of social institutions, social change, culture and identity. A central benefit of studying sociology is to gain the discipline’s accumulated wisdom about the character of social life. Through lectures, readings, and other course activities, students acquire a deeper understanding of the complex relationships among the organization and changes in society, our collective understandings about reality, and the way we think, feel, and act as individuals.
To understand social theory and methods of social research and the connections between them. Whatever the specific topic of investigation, sound sociological inquiry is always guided by systematically developed theoretical ideas and grounded in careful observation of real societies. Acquiring a deep appreciation for sociology’s rich theoretical traditions and variety of empirical techniques, and knowing how to evaluate and use these in sociological inquiry, is central to students’ work in the discipline.
To consider social dynamics in relation to time and place. Any one society can be understood on multiple levels, from the local to the national to the global, just as it can be understood in relation to its place in history. Similarly, every society is influenced by its interactions with other societies. Sociology students engage in focused, in-depth study of the United States as well as comparative international study. Students investigate connections between the local and the global, the near and the far, the past and the present.
We have constructed our program to ensure that sociology students gain skills that accord with the broad goals of a liberal education and apply to a broad range of careers and life paths following graduation from Kenyon. We ensure, then, that students develop skills in the following areas:
Critical Thinking. Systematic observation, reflection, analysis, and discernment are keys to intellectual independence, creativity and constructive group membership. Sociology offers unique conceptual tools that enable critical reflection on social processes and analytic claims.
Writing. Ideas have power when they are well-reasoned and stated clearly. Sociology students learn to develop an orderly argument, substantiate and document claims, and write with a crispness of style. A variety of formal and informal writing assignments are featured throughout the curriculum.
Oral Communication. Speaking clearly and comfortably about substantive issues, often in front of people we do not know intimately, is a frequent part of modern life. Class discussions and student presentations provide students with frequent opportunities to develop and test their skills in oration.
Working independently. Learning involves far more than passively absorbing established information. Intellectual work is most exciting when we actively pursue and create new knowledge. Through class research papers, independent studies, and senior theses, students learn how to frame good questions, identify relevant literature and other sources of information, analyze existing thought about a question, collect new data, and make connections among data and ideas to develop original answers.
Working collaboratively. Working with others allows us to identify and achieve common goals. Through group projects and other collaborative work, students learn to recognize and build on each other’s complementary strengths and to develop strategies to successfully complete complex projects.
Informal measures: (not collected on a departmental mandate, rather by individual faculty members):
Course evaluations administered separate from the College evaluation form.
Departmental majors complete written projects of original research during the course of our senior seminar in the fall semester and, in fulfillment of the College’s Senior Exercise, the students do oral presentations of their research findings during the month of February in the spring semester. The performance of students on both the written paper and the oral presentation is assessed using a rubric by which we award a grade of pass, distinction, or fail based upon whether the students have demonstrated an understanding of our learning goals as stated in the mission statement provided above.
Beginning the academic year 2008-09, we have administered a departmental survey of our graduating seniors just after the senior exercise was completed.
Students are awarded departmental prizes based upon superlative performance in the areas detailed in our mission statement.
The department chair will collect the data from the surveys administered during the last two academic years and analyze it at the end of this spring semester, presenting the results to sociology department faculty at the beginning of the fall semester in order to foster discussion of modifications to departmental programming as needed.