University of Utah
Sociology of Education
Cori Groth
First taught as service-learning Spring, 1998
SOC 343R-60: Sociology of Education
Office: BEH S 334
Phone: 801-581-5842

The purpose of this course is to introduce the general theoretical perspectives and lines of research in the sociology of education. The goal is to give you an exposure to the ways in which sociologists study education in order to better understand contemporary educational systems. We will be exploring various aspects of schools, taking different levels of analysis as our focus. We will also be exploring the ways in which educational systems are interconnected with other social institutions. In particular, we will pay special attention to the ways in which schools work to create and/or maintain inequality. In contrast, we will also look at the linkages between education and social mobility. By the end of this course, you should be well acquainted with the prominent theories of schooling and education.

  1. Students in the class provide a needed service to individuals, organizations, schools, or other entities in the community. Students in SOC 343 will be expected to provide tutoring or assistance in elementary or secondary schools. The schools with which we will be working serve high risk student populations based on demographics such as the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, the mobility rate, the percentage of students with limited English proficiency, and the percentage of minority students. Educators in these schools indicate a great need for additional support from the community in the form of tutoring and classroom assistance. For these reasons, the students in SOC 343 will be providing a needed service to children in public schools.
  2. The service experience relates to the subject matter of the course. SOC 343 is designed to introduce students to the theories and research in the sociology of education. We pay particular attention to the ways in which schools are organized, how they change, how inequality is maintained through education, and how education is interconnected with other social institutions. We focus on various levels of analysis, especially the dynamics of the classroom and the "hidden curriculum". Students will be able to relate their experiences working in classrooms to the material we cover throughout the course. Students' service experiences will be particularly useful for class discussions and student engagement in what can sometimes be quite abstract and difficult theoretical readings.
  3. Activities in the class provide a method or methods for students to think about what they learned through the service experience and how these learnings related to the subject of the class. Students will be required to make journal entries describing and commenting on each of their visits to the schools. In addition, students will be asked to incorporate their service experiences into class discussions. Finally, students will be required to create a final group project analyzing a particular aspect of schools, including a proposal for school reform, using some of the prominent theories in the sociology of education.
  4. The course offers a method to assess the learning derived from the service. Credit is given for the learning and its relation to the course, not for the service alone. Students will be awarded credit for their journal entries based on the following criteria: (1) how well they are able to apply concepts presented in class to their service; (2) use of critical thinking in their comments about their experiences; and (3) the progress of their writing over the course of the quarter. In addition, students will earn credit for the final group project in which they use their experiences in the schools as the basis of a theoretical discussion of how schools work and a proposal for school reform.
  5. Service interactions in the community recognize the needs of service recipients, and offer an opportunity for recipients to be involved in the evaluation of the service. Prior to assigning students to work in the various schools, the instructor will be communicating with the teachers and administrators in those schools to assess the best ways in which the students from SOC 343 can participate in the classroom settings. (In some situations, parents may be involved in this process as well.) Teachers and administrators will be asked to evaluate the service of the students from the SOC 343 class on a weekly basis, indicating if the students were on time, if they conducted the tutoring session effectively, if they behaved in a professional manner, and how well they assisted teachers in achieving their educational goals. Teachers will also be asked to complete an evaluation for each student at the end of the quarter.
  6. The service opportunities are aimed at the development of the civic education of students even though they may also be focused on career preparation. One of the primary goals of having students serve in schools is to enable them to develop a greater understanding of the dynamics public education, particularly as they participate in the institution as parents or community members. In other words, after having this service learning experience, these students should be better equipped to be advocates for their own children or neighbors, be more informed about how to implement effective change in schools, and be able to evaluate educational policies, at all levels of the educational system.
  7. Knowledge from the discipline informs the service experiences with which the students are involved. As we cover material pertaining to education and how schools work, SOC 343 students will have an additional advantage in their service experiences because they will have been exposed to many of the problems and challenges that educators face, particularly in urban schools. My hope is that they will be in a better position to assist teachers and students if they are sensitized to the issues faced in schools.
  8. The class offers a way to learn from other class members as well as from the instructor. In the group projects, students will be collaborating with each other to create a final product that incorporates the experiences of each group member. In addition, students will be exposed to feedback from each other's service experiences as we discuss them during weekly class meetings.
  9. Course options ensure that no student is required to participate in a service placement that creates a religious, political and/or moral conflict for the student. Although I do not anticipate any religious, political, or moral conflicts with service placements in the public schools, students will be given the option of developing a research paper and a weekly journal in replacement of the service learning and group projects.


Ballantine, J.H. (1997). The Sociology of Education: A Systematic Analysis (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Kozol, J. (1 99 1). Savage Inequalities. New York: Harper Perennial.

The grade for this course will be based on two exams and three short papers. The points awarded for each is as follows:

Exam I 100 pts.
Exam II 100 pts.
Group Project 150 pts.
Journal 50 pts.
Total ............. 400 pts.

Exams. Each exam is a combination of multiple choice and essay. Essays will be graded using the following criteria: (1) knowledge of the material, (2) demonstration of critical thinking, and (3) use of clear arguments. (The essay questions will be provided prior to the exam.) I will be discussing the exam material throughout the quarter, and I will provide a review session and study guide prior to each exam. The second exam is not cumulative.

Group Project. Delineate what you consider the most troublesome social problem (or potential social problem) in the school or district in which you are providing service. Then develop a solution and implementation package. This report, which you will present in class, should include:

1 - a definition and description of the problem, with an empirical indication of its degree of prevalence (stats, if possible);

2. a social analysis of the possible causal factors;

3. the consequences for your school/district if the problem goes unchecked;

4. a listing of possible solutions, both reactive and preventive, and an assessment of their strengths and weakness;

5. designation of the best solutions, and a strategy/action plan for introducing them;

6. plan for evaluating the effectiveness of your strategy.

We will be spending the first several weeks getting acquainted with the sociology of education, the theoretical perspectives used to study education, and possible project topics. Unlike most term papers, we will be working on this project throughout the quarter. I will provide class time for groups to construct the final project.

A detailed grading criteria handout will be provided.


Although I will not be awarding participation points each time we meet, it does play a role ' borderline cases. I would advise you to contact a class-mate in order to get a copy of the notes for any day that you might have to be absent. I will not provide copies of notes or handouts to those who miss class.

A lively class is only possible if everyone keeps up on their readings and shares their thoughts. I strongly encourage dialogue as a means of learning. For this reason, we will be engaging in small group work and discussions during class to balance out the readings from the text and class lectures. To be sure that everyone completes the readings and to ensure good class discussions, we will be spending the first five minutes of class summarizing the central issues/topics/questions for that day. This requires that you have done the reading for that day. Be prepared to turn these in to me to be used for class discussions.

You may also want to be thinking of the following as you do the readings:

1 . The most significant piece of new knowledge or important insight you got from the readings.

2. The most significant question or problem you found from the readings.

3. What do you conclude from the readings?

Because I incorporate a great deal of in-class discussion and because many of the subjects we cover may be quite controversial, it is extremely important that we all show respect to each other. Although I strongly recommend everyone's participation and I encourage everyone to share their particular points of view, I will not tolerate any personal attacks or name-calling.

Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 15:02:58 MST
From: Renee Buchanan <>
Subject: Sociology 343