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The Sociological Perspective
This unit introduces the discipline of sociology, including something about its history, questions, theory, and scientific methods, and what distinguishes it from other social science disciplines. Central features include social interaction and relationships, social contexts, social structure, social change, the significance of diversity and human variation, and the critical, questioning character of sociology. It also explores what sociologists do. For more information, see the full curriculum description of this unit.
Learning Goals:

A threshold learning goal is the understanding that humans are social beings.  A secondary learning goal is understanding that social factors affect a great deal in life, even things that may appear not to be influenced by social factors, for example, knowledge itself. 

            Another important learning goal is being able to recognize the difference between empirical and normative statements, and realizing that in sociology empirical understanding is considered a very important way of knowing about the social world.  Sometimes these empirical investigations may disprove or debunk prevailing social beliefs.  At the same time that sociology seeks to describe and explain the social world empirically, many sociologists also desire to change the world.  They have value commitments to fairness, social justice, and the inclusion of everyone in society.

            A major learning goal is understand how sociology is similar to and different from other social sciences and what is distinctive about sociology as a field of study.  Besides its attention to some of the forgotten groups in the social world, sociology is distinctive for its focus on relationships, interactions, social processes, and contexts.  Important learning goals of this unit include understanding the types of relationships sociologists study, between what social units.  This involves an understanding some of the different social units, processes, and contexts sociologists study, and what about them is considered important.  Part of this learning goal is being able to apply those understandings to the analysis of various social situations. 
For example, these understanding can be applied to understanding the social conditions that led to the rise of sociology in Europe and later in the U.S.  This example involves understanding the difference between individual-level explanations and sociological explanations.               

            A final important learning goal of the unit is understanding what a social theory is, and why there are theories in sociology.  Some understanding of the term, theoretical paradigm, is necessary.  Part of this learning objective is being able to understand the central features of some of the theoretical paradigms sociologists use, including Functionalism, Conflict theory, Marxian theory, Exchange-rational choice, and Feminist theory.  This understanding would include being able to identify the kinds of questions these paradigms might suggest and some understanding of what aspects of the social world they are trying to explain. 


There is an outline for this unit and a course narrative.

An Instructor's Manual for this unit links topics to resources on this website.

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