Fundamental to the practice of an applied sociology are the sociological theories, perspectives and concepts that define our discipline. Indeed, it will be the application of these that differentiate a sociological approach to engaging with and addressing social situations and problems from the approaches of applied subjects such as work/occupational psychology, economics, management and organisation sciences, or social/community work.
As this is the curriculum for a 3rd year undergraduate module, it is assumed that sociology students will already have been exposed to the key theories, perspectives and concepts that comprise a sociological approach. We do not therefore expect that there would be substantive teaching of these aspects of sociological knowledge, although some revision of this material could form a way to introduce this module’s teaching activities.
What this module will do instead is give students opportunities to integrate their understanding of these elements of sociology within a sociological imagination that applies the subject-matter to real-life practical situations and problems. It will encourage students to integrate and synthesise their existing knowledge of sociology, enabling them to gain insight into the practical relevance of sociological knowledge, as opposed to its theoretical deployment in research and scholarship. We hope that this will not only provide students with entry-level skills as applied sociologists, but also broaden their insights into the relevance of sociology for understanding the social world.
As a subject, sociology embraces a range of theoretical perspectives that may offer contradictory explanations of events. Applying sociological knowledge will therefore invite students to reflect upon which theories and concepts are most applicable and relevant to a specific situation. Pedagogically, this will allow this module to be an arena for discussion of some of the foundational differences and debates within our discipline, and providers may wish to design learning activities to exploit these opportunities.
Alongside sociological knowledge, providers may also see benefits in incorporating ‘local knowledge’ in this element, for instance addressing information relevant to a university’s immediate locale.
The knowledge component of this module goes hand in hand with the other elements of this curriculum. It both underpins and is dependent upon the application of transferable and specifically sociological skills of students in practical settings. Sociological knowledge defines and locates the work and careers of applied sociologists as distinct from other disciplines who work in applied settings. Applying sociological concepts, theories and perspectives depends upon gaining practical experience of engaging with real-life situations and finding ways to apply sociological knowledge in those contexts.
Sociology is both a critical and reflexive discipline, and its appropriate, relevant and successful application in practice depends upon both these aspects remaining core to its work. Learning outcomes for an applied sociology curriculum must foreground these aspects of sociological understanding and a sociological imagination.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
|Offer examples of how sociology (unlike psychology, economics and management science) is a foundationally critical discipline and how this affects its application in practical situations.
|Suggest ways in which sociological knowledge, theories and concepts are socially constructed, and why this is relevant to applied sociology.
|Give examples of how sociological knowledge is contextual, and produced within material situations.
|Explain the importance of reflexivity in applying sociological knowledge to practical situations.
|Define a wide range of sociological concepts (see annex), and suggest how these may be applied to address particular practical situations and problems.
|Offer examples of how a range of general perspectives (such as conflict theories, social constructionism and feminism: see annex) may be applied to practical situations and problems.
|Offer examples of how foundational sociological ideas (such as social class, bureaucracy, patriarchy, alienation: see annex) may be applied to practical situations.
|Suggest ways in which a wide range of sociological theories (see annex) may be applied to practical problems and situations.
|Offer examples of how sociological knowledge articulates with knowledge about the immediate locale of the provider institution (for instance, local issues, specific social problems, demography, patterns of deprivation).
|Apply critical understanding to assess which concepts, theories and perspective are most appropriate and relevant to addressing different practical situations.
|Apply knowledge of sociological research approaches to data gathering, management and analysis when addressing practical situations.
See Annex 1 for indicative lists of concepts, theories and perspectives.