The Impact of Sociological Orientation on Pedagogy: A Reconsideration of Teacher Training in Sociology Ph.D. Departments

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

The American Sociologist

Publication Date

Fall 2003

Abstract/ Summary

The emphasis in sociology Ph.D. programs continues to be on training researchers rather than teachers. This is a serious mistake, given the overwhelming proportion of students who go on to academic careers that require at least some time in the classroom. Departments that offer some type of graduate training in teaching focus almost exclusively on the students' mastery of pedagogical strategies—tools, tips, and techniques for improving their instruction. But this approach neglects students' assumptions about sociology as a discipline—or their sociological orientations—that underlie and inform their pedagogical choices. This paper explicates the relationship between sociological orientation and pedagogical practice, and asserts that graduate students need to consider their orientation to the discipline before stepping inside a classroom. This may be effectively accomplished through a required year-long seminar to be taken during the second year of graduate study. The first semester would be devoted to the issues, debates, and questions that currently characterize the discipline. The second would consider the "nuts and bolts" of teaching, and how pedagogical practice derives from sociological orientation. Students would also work as teaching assistants before, during, and after completing the seminar. They would then be required to teach at least one course of their choice before graduating. During this first teaching experience, each graduate student would work closely with a faculty mentor.