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An Example of Learning Objectives

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I have been working on writing my learning objectives over the past couple of weeks and have found it a very valuable activity. The resources I wrote about in the previous post haven’t so much changed what I am doing as much as they have sharpened my thinking about it. I am finding that writing things out explicitly has made me bring things to the forefront that were vague or that I was just hopeful would happen. With this system, I am setting up the class work to increase the probability that they will happen. Students will be doing things in class and on assessments that require that they at least attempt all of the learning objectives.

Here is a small piece of what I have completed so far. It represents about a third of the semester in time and sets up some of the basic tools we need before we get deeper into the primary concepts.

The first column covers the multistructural level from the SOLO resource mentioned in the last post. The second and third column roughly align with SOLO’s relational and extended abstract levels. This last column is the one where my course has gained the most from this process. There are many things here that I hoped my students would be able to do, but had really only included them as that last bit on essay exams or that final complex question in a class discussion. I will be giving this diagram to my students and will be developing real activities and assessments based on these so that everyone must practice them.

This is only the first of what I assume will be many drafts. I will be using it this fall and testing it to see if it really represents the learning that I want my students to be doing and that it works within the bounds of my ability to assess students.

Explain Key Sociological Concepts. Apply Sociological Concepts to Social Phenomenon Critically Evaluate Explanations of Human Behavior and Social Phenomena
The Sociological Eye
  • Explain sociology as a discipline using examples to clarify.
  • Explain Mills’ concepts of issues and troubles and their importance in the sociological imagination.
  • Explain key concepts about changes due to the industrial revolution from early sociologists.
  • Use the sociological imagination to create examples of issues and troubles.
  • Use the key concepts to help explain the origin of sociology
  • Use basic sociological concepts to evaluate common complaints about public behavior.
  • Use the key concepts from early sociologists to evaluate current social behavior.
Sociological Methodology
  • Explain what it means that sociology is a science.
  • Describe the most common types of research methods.
  • Construct basic research plans to answer sociological questions.
  • Use content analysis to evaluate textual data.
  • Evaluate the methods used in social science research to determine if the conclusions are well supported.
  • Examine media and other representations of research to determine their accuracy.
Data Analysis
  • Define the commonly used basic statistics.
  • Identify the most commonly used types of charts and graphs, and explain what they are best at showing.
  • Use basic statistics included in research to explain parts of the social system.
  • Describe the story that is given in graphs.
  • Critically evaluate the use of basic statistics, charts, and graphs in research and the media.


Creating Learning Objectives

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Good learning objectives are very valuable for any course, but they are essential to active learning. Since the activities are intended to help the students understand and use the central concepts of the course, it is important that they are very directly connected to specific learning outcomes.

This being said, it can be difficult to create good learning outcomes. I am rewriting all of mine using two fabulous resources. Neither of these resources is specific to active learning, so they can be useful for any style of teaching. The first, by Michael Potter and Erika Kustra, at the University of Windsor, is a great introduction to writing learning outcomes. Even more importantly, it defines a great framework for mixing outcomes at all levels.

This becomes an even more powerful tool when it is put together with the Social Science Research Council’s Measuring College Learning Project. They present learning objectives along two axes: concepts and competencies. The Economics group does a particularly good job of creating a set of learning objectives that truly highlights the intersection between the two (it starts at page 112).

I will be adapting the sociology learning objectives to match my course. While they don’t exactly match my needs, they have given me a really good launching place. Learning objectives are also available for the following disciplines:

Even if your discipline is not on this list, it is definitely worthwhile to take a look. I found looking at ones outside of sociology was very useful to help me think outside my normal worn path.

Some Easy Ways to Integrate Active Learning

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I started active learning with Think-Pair-Share. This technique involves asking a question, giving students a minute or two to think about it and then a few minutes (usually about three) to discuss it with an assigned partner. The only new preparation I had to do was to create the questions. As I noted in the first post in this blog, it worked much better than I had hoped.

There are many very quick techniques that you can implement without changing your course entirely and without hours of preparation. They all do require some advance thought – the only active learning activities that did not go well for me were ones where I didn’t plan much in advance. Here is a great resource from Cornell that explains the value of adding some active learning to your classroom.

Here are some quick techniques that you could try (in addition to Think-Pair Share):

Entrance and Exit Tickets: These are very short written questions given in class that help the student focus on what they have or haven’t learned.

One Minute Write: These are very quick written assignments that serve the same function as entrance and exit tickets, but take a slightly longer form.

ConcepTests: These are quick multiple choice questions that you ask during lecture. You can use a high tech solution (clickers or a smartphone app) or 3×5 cards on which students write their answer. These are a great way to check in on understanding of clearly defined, but often tricky concepts. They are best when students discuss their answers with an assigned partner.


I will be working on making my Introduction of Sociology Course ready to be taught in an active learning classroom over the summer. This will involve techniques associated with the flipped or inverted classroom. I will be posting about that process over the summer. If you are interested, please use the subscribe link on the right since I won’t be sending out new post announcements again until the fall. I hope everyone enjoys the summer! Feel free to post comments here or email me with any questions you have.




Our New Active Learning Classrooms

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We will have two active learning classrooms at the end of the renovations – a smaller one in Hawthorne (24 seats) and a larger one in Melville (36 seats). While there are many different variations, in general, an active learning classroom is designed for group work with the faculty member stationed at the center of the room.

This is a classroom at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire that is not unlike what is planned for BCC. Each table is associated with a computer and a screen. Students can work on material jointly on the computer and share it with the entire classroom on their screens. The professor can also share material with all of the screens.


The teacher’s podium will be more central in our version, which will allow for easier interaction with each group and quicker consultation throughout the class. The student tables are mobile and can be reconfigured away from the computers or in larger groups according to the need of the class. These classrooms are ideal if you are doing a lot of group work in your classes. Feel free to stop by (I’m in M234) or email if you are interested in using an active learning classroom or just want to know more about they operate.

I will be posting more about active learning techniques and their value throughout the semester. These posts will range from quick techniques appropriate for any style class to best practices for moving to a full active learning class. You can subscribe to the blog by using the subscribe by email option in the right hand menu bar.

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