Who are you? What makes you you? Are you a product of biology or society? Or both? This learning community will explore these questions, looking at the individual’s place in society from sociological and psychological perspectives. We will consider topics such as gender identity, memory of trauma, the impact of environments like prison on individual behavior and other social and psychological forces that shape us.
Psychology and sociology are a natural pairing because both of their shared focus on human behavior. Because of the considerable overlap we found a number of ways to integrate our courses, particularly through shared assignments that asked students to identify similarities and differences between the two fields of study. In a previous learning community, we found class debates to be useful and engaging assignments not only because they require students to argue for particular positions that can highlight differences between our fields, but also because they are fun, engaging, and help to build community. We had a series of debates this semester, in which students were put onto teams and asked to debate topics using psychological and sociological readings that we assigned. The first debate, on the topic of gender, focused on whether gender is psychologically hardwired into us or learned through social interactions as well as the question of whether culture or gender norms take precedence when the two clash. The second used the Stanford Prison Experiment as a basis for a debate about whether personality or social context are more powerful in shaping human behavior and whether prison should be used primarily for rehabilitation or punishment.
In addition to the debates, we took students on a field trip to the National September 11 Memorial Museum to highlight the topics of individual versus collective memory and the political and social impact of 9/11 and terrorism. We distributed a list of questions for students to answer while visiting the museum, focused on their own memories of 9/11 and how the events are portrayed in the museum. We then asked students to write a reflection paper in which they considered their own memories of 9/11 and the story of 9/11 as told in the museum through both a psychological and sociological lens. The students were almost all very young when 9/11 occurred it was fascinating to see what knowledge and memories they have of the attacks and how they interpreted the museum’s depiction of terrorism.
BLA Success Seminar
The integration of academic content and assignments in our two courses was strengthened by our link with BLA Advisor Mark Podlas’s Success Seminar in which students learned about resources and skills that will help them succeed in college. In addition to helping us with many practical issues like organizing field trips and contacting students, in the seminar Mark was able to support what we did in the classroom, from reinforcing norms of behavior to teaching study skills for exams.
All in all it was exciting, challenging and rewarding to link our two courses and the success seminar. We learned a lot and look forward to deepening the integration next time around!
- PSY 100 syllabus
- SOC 100 syllabus
- Assignment overview for debate on Stanford Prison Experiment and role of prison in US society
- Prompt for reflection essay on visit to the 9/11 Museum