A Textbook Approach to Teaching: Structural Uniformity among American High School Sociology Courses

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

The American Sociologist

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

There has been renewed interest over the past 5 years among sociologists in empirically examining the status of sociology in high school. The few studies that have recently been conducted, however, have focused almost exclusively on high school sociology teachers. The nature and structure of the courses themselves have been largely ignored. Given the American Sociological Association's recent attempts to develop and implement an Advanced Placement course, it seems especially important to examine the characteristics of existing sociology courses. This paper uses the results of a national mail survey to describe and discuss three aspects of the nature and structure of a random sample of sociology courses that were offered during the 2005-06 school year: instructional materials and pedagogical resources, teaching techniques, and course content. I demonstrate that these aspects of the courses look remarkably similar across the country: Teachers rely overwhelmingly on standard introductory textbooks to structure their courses. They are also apt to utilize supplemental materials from textbook publishers and from newspapers and news magazines, and to use a combination of lecture and discussion in their sociology classes. The paper concludes with recommendations for future research.