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Lesson Plan: Collective Behavior and Social Movements

by Margaret Andersen, University of Delaware


I. Learning Objective(s)

Applies sociological concepts and theories to actual events.

Helps students develop analytical skills that explore topics covered in social movements section of course.

Can help students develop a research design. 

II. Rationale for Objectives

Important for students to be able to use sociological ideas to understand current and historical events in society

III. Materials/Time

Materials: No special materials are needed.

Time: Can be adapted as a research project to extend over several weeks or could be used as short discussion in class.

IV. Procedures


        (1) Introduction

1. Have students identify a social movement in your community that they find interesting.

        (2) Activity

Have them identify the movement leaders and participants and, if possible, examine any written material from the movement. Have them then describe the movement in sociological terms. For example, how did the movement emerge? Is it reform, radical or reactionary? How have the available resource helped or hindered the movement’s development? What tactics does the movement use to achieve its goals? How is it connected to other social movements?

        (3) Discussion

Ask students to identify concepts in their text regarding social movements and to illustrate various concepts with the material they have identified about the movement they selected.

V. Evaluation/Assignment

Students can follow this discussion by reviewing a book about a social movement (such as the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movement). In their book report they should identify the sociological concepts that the book illustrates.

VI. Supplementary Materials


Freeman, Jo. 1999. Waves of Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

McAdam, Douglas. 1988. Freedom Summer. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marx, Gary and Douglas McAdam. 1994. Collective Behavior and Social Movements: Processes and Structure. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Eyes on the Prize

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Station and Susan B. Anthony