Montana State University

Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Montana State University
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Bozeman, MT 59717-2560

Tel: (406) 994-4371
Fax: (406) 994-7989
Location: 212 Montana Hall

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Martha A. Potvin

Ideas for Engaging Students in Discussions about Diversity

Diversity
Faculty/Advisor Information

Many of the approved diversity courses have scheduled recitation sections, or incorporate discussion into the everyday activities of the course. In addition to these mechanisms for ensuring that students have the opportunity to actively engage issues of diversity, we identified a selection of other techniques incorporated in diversity courses. Some are more novel approaches to active learning (e.g., the use of simulations, active learning techniques), some offer more detail on how small group discussions might be structured in large or small classes, and some suggest ways that discussion can be effectively incorporated in larger classes.

Opportunities for discussion in large classes

Making small discussion groups work

Simulations

Formal presentations

Writing assignments that lead to discussion

Ideas for active learning

Other classroom management issues

Opportunities for discussion in large classes

  • GEOG 105 – World Geography (Joe Ashley): “Small group projects and group discussions will be incorporated so that each student participates in problem-solving on general and complex issues. In four particular sessions, students will break up into small groups, with one person designated as discussion leader and another person as recorder. The instructor will pose a general question derived from recent topics. It will be the groups’ responsibility to identify salient regional/topical examples relative to the region being covered at that particular time in the course. During the last ten minutes of class, the recorder will turn in to the instructor a listing of group members, examples identified, along with the one specific issue the majority of the group found most intriguing. Over the next week, each group member will read two to three relevant articles and turn in a succinct analysis/synthesis of the selected topic. Credit will be given for both participation and the required essays. Hypothetical Discussion Topics/Questions: 1. Diversity amid Globalization: How might nations maintain their individual economic/cultural identities under the onslaught of economic globalization, i.e., the European Union? 2. The demise of the Soviet Union: How has it impacted the world order? 3. Yugoslavia: “Land of the Southern Slavs”: one nation or many? 4. Physical size vs. economic success: is size important? 5. The future of Palestine and political and social tranquility in the Middle East: what are the most relevant issues? 6. The power and peril of oil and the future of the middle east. 7. The demographic transition model: Outdated concept or demographic tool? 8. The impacts of colonialism: 50 years thereafter.”

  • NAS 201 – American Indians in Montana (Walter Fleming): “My teaching style utilizes the Socratic dialogue. Rather than simply presenting information, this technique involves engaging the students by posing a provocative question or position, and coaxing or guiding the dialogue. I often “bait” students by making outrageous statements and soliciting comment. I try to make the discussion of particularly sensitive issues less threatening by asking students to report opinions they have heard for or against a particular view and the possible source of those views. In this manner, students do not have to ‘own’ a point of view, a scary proposition for any of us. “In this class, I have three writing assignments that are designed to create an internal dialogue, of sorts: (1) In the section during which we study kinship, the assignment requires students to diagram the seating arrangement at the last family gathering (Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner) and describe the relationships of those who attend. Students are to describe the specific relationship (i.e., mother’s sister rather than aunt) and speculate why this particular seating arrangement is practiced. (2) When we study Native religious constructs and ceremonies, I require students to attend a church service of a denomination that they do not ordinarily attend. They take note of the behaviors (practices) and speculate about the meaning of various actions. (3) Students interview a Native person. The students report on the interviewee’s personal perspectives about ‘being Indian,’ however that is defined. Native students in the class are required to interview an international student.

    “The following discussion generating ideas were gleaned from a variety of sources, but will be tested to determine if one or more will facilitate better discussion: (1) Think-Pair-Share: Ask a question of the class requiring higher level thinking skills. Encourage students to think about the question and their answer for a couple of minutes. Students then pair with a classmate to discuss answers. Volunteer groups then share their conclusions with the class. (2) One-minute paper: As a lecture interruption or in the closing minutes of a class session, ask student to take out a sheet of paper and for one minute, write three arguments for and three against a particular position. While this is not a verbal exercise, it can be utilized to generate class discussion. (3) Line estimate: Ask students to get out of their desks and line up according to their position on a value issue that pertains to the lecture (strongly against at one end, strongly supporting at the other end). Break the line in the middle, move the bottom half parallel to the top half. This creates dyads for discussion consisting of one extreme opinion coupled with a moderate opinion. Ask the pairs to discuss a question and report to the class later. (4) Reword: When there is a sharp difference of opinion between two students ask both of them to explain their positions. The listener must explain in his own words what was said by the first person. When the first speaker is satisfied that she has been understood accurately, then the two can reverse roles. In this way, accuracy of communication can be built and mutual respect encouraged. Often differences that seemed great initially are minimized or even eliminated.”


  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): “Student participation in the classroom is encouraged by engaging in discussions of readings and by responding the questions posed by the instructor. Such discussions occur on a regular basis. In one model, the professor selects a rotating ‘panel of experts’ (typically 10-12 students) to sit at the front of class and be responsible for active discussion. Each student sits on the panel approximately three times during the semester. Since participation is part of the final course grade, students are thereby encouraged to come to class ready to discuss the readings every day. They do not know in advance when they will be on the ‘panel of experts.’"

  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): "All of the professors who teach this course regularly pose questions to the entire class to encourage student interactions. In addition, the class may be divided into pairs or small groups, with questions discussed among classroom neighbors. This is then followed up with students presenting the results of their discussions to the larger class."

Making small discussion groups work

  • NAS 242 – American Indians in Contemporary Society (Wayne Stein): “The class will be divided into groups of 5 individuals per discussion during each of the three group discussions. Each group will be given a topic, chosen by the instructor, to discuss in a half-hour discussion period and will then select an individual to report in a five-minute presentation to the class the outcome of their discussion. The class will then have a question and answer period with the group on their findings (the instructor will participate at this point). A person can only present once throughout the semester. Each person participating in group discussions will be given 5 points credit for their participation. Topics such as the following will be discussed: Should only an American Indian tribe be able to decide who should be a member of the tribe? What was the role of cognitive dissonance in the telling of the American Indian story in the history of the United States? Why the need for additional laws to protect American Indian spirituality despite the First Amendment of the US Constitution? American Indian education and its transition from a weapon used against American Indian peoples to a tool used by them to better their lives. Tribal government and its functions, are they still valid in today’s world? Land and water issues facing American Indians, are the claims and rights of American Indians still necessary?”

  • PSYC 1XX – Contemporary Issues in Human Sexuality (Tracy Babcock): “Participation in discussion groups will be a mandatory part of the course. These discussion groups will be conducted during the scheduled course time and students will be allowed to self-select into a discussion group according to their comfort level. Group size will be determined by the self-selection process. If groups exceed eight students they will be encouraged to break into smaller groups. Discussions will be around the ‘topic of the day’ which will be pulled from the assigned readings or their textbook. Each of the topics will be announced on the course syllabus so that students have an adequate time to read the materials prior to the discussion. Each topic will have a written guide to be used when the discussion stalls or the group is having difficulty approaching the topic. The instructor will circulate through the room to facilitate discussions and answer group questions. These discussion groups will summarize their conclusions, thoughts or feelings about the topic discussed and report back to the rest of the class. During this reporting time, the instructor will lead the entire class in a discussion to summarize the class findings. Group discussions will be at least 30% of the class time.”

Simulations

  • MGMT 245 – Cultural Dimensions of International Business (Susan Dana): “Several simulations are employed in the course to help students engage issues of diversity. One such simulation is BaFa BaFa, a well-known simulation in which the students are divided into two cultures, one of which is a fast-paced, competitive culture while the other is a slower culture based on social relationships. Each group learns the rules of its culture in about 15 minutes, then sends ambassadors to the other culture to try to interact and learn about the other culture. The ambassadors spend approximately 5-10 minutes in the foreign culture, after which they are recalled to describe to their own culture what they experienced and their ideas on how best to succeed in the other culture. By the end of the simulation every student has visited the other culture and has interacted with the ambassadors from the other culture. The simulation is extremely effective in recreating the emotional and psychological effects of being thrown into a strange environment. It also is largely self-run by the students, who learn about diversity through their own and their classmates’ experience. The discussions that occur spontaneously among the students as they collectively try to figure out the values and rules of the other culture are priceless. Many students comment in their papers describing their BaFa experience that this is the first time they have experienced such a “foreign” culture and they are surprised at their assumptions about, and reactions to, the other culture. Many state that they will now be much more sympathetic and helpful to the foreign students they encounter on campus.”

  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): “As another example of small-group interaction in the classroom, we use an exercise in reciprocity (exchange of goods) to illustrate the adaptive or survival advantage of economic systems other than capitalism. The different types of reciprocity are introduced in class and then each student is asked to ring 12 pennies to the subsequent class. The class is broken up into ‘communities’ and they engage in several rounds of exchange following rules previously outlined. Periodically, students are asked to explain what sort of strategy they are using to achieve the goal of a ‘good life’. The exercise continues with a tally of the pennies, a natural disaster wipes out 1/3 of the wealth, and a redistribution of wealth based on previous economic interactions. Students find that many of the capitalists are unsuccessful in the long run because this economic system does not cultivate relationships that can be accessed in time of stress or strife. They see that cooperation and gift giving is actually a strategy that ensures the survival of the group and serves as a safety net to individuals who participate in these interactions.”

  • "The Stigmatizers and the Stigmatized": Enacting the Social Construction of Difference and Discrimination, Diane M. Rogers, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 3, July 2003. Abstract: The concept of social construction can be difficult to teach students. Active learning and group work have been found to be helpful in making this concept meaningful in the classroom. The following exercise uses both of these techniques to engage students in the social construction of stigma. Students choose an imaginary stigma and then divide into two groups: stigmatizers and stigmatized. These groups are then subdivided into smaller groups: medical, legal, public relations, media and new professions. The groups enact the social construction of stigma by creating campaigns which include disorders, laws, legal rights, clinics, specialists, rallies and public service announcements. The students' involvement in this exercise brings to life the social construction of difference and discrimination. The exercise has wide applicability for deviance, social movements/social change, inequality and introductory sociology classes.

  • It's Up in the Air, or is it?, Linda A. Renzulli, Howard E. Aldrich, and Jeremy Reynolds, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2003. Abstract: In his observations about the sociological imagination, C. Wright Mills argues that people have difficulty seeing connections between individual outcomes and social structures. Inspired by Mills's observations, we developed a classroom exercise for stratification and organization courses that demonstrates how social structures can constrain individual actions and still produce outcomes that students often attribute to individual effort. Using the simple process of flipping coins, this exercise minimizes the importance of individual differences while producing an aggregate outcome that mirrors the skewed distributions of personal wealth, firm size, and corporate assets in the United States. Faced with this counterintuitive outcome, we engage students in a discussion that explores how changing the rules of the game or the equivalent social structures could change the overall outcome of the exercise or the distribution of valued goods and services in the United States. In this paper, we demonstrate our students' enjoyment of the game format, but more importantly, we demonstrate how this exercise is an effective way to teach students about the importance of social structure.

Formal presentations

  • HHD 205 – Dance as Cultural Expression (Rozann Pitcher): “Panel Discussions: Students will be divided into small groups and assigned a culture. The Panel will perform an in-depth assessment of the culture, using dance to examine the social, economic, geographical, political, gender, religion and climate and trace patterns (how we move is directly related to what we do to survive (of the culture). The panel is to examine the culture’s dance and draw conclusions about the factors that have influenced its development (social values, mores, gender roles, economics, religious rites and rituals, etc.). The panel will endeavor to present an example of dance using one of the following methods: (1) learn a dance and teach it to the class; (2) guest performer who can demonstrate the dance and then teach it to the class; (3) show a video of the dance and then attempt to instruct the class in some of its movements. The panel will end with class discussion focusing on diversity. How and why is the culture different? Are their any similarities? Has learning about the dance helped to understand the diversities in this culture? How?”

  • MKTG 242 – Introduction to Global Markets (Dave Foster): “In addition to regular interaction with classmates and the instructor, students are also assigned to conduct International Executive Briefings during the course of the semester. During these sessions the students will take a case study or issue topic closely related to the current concepts chapter and provide an analytical executive summary of the key issues followed by discussion questions that lead the class in a professional dialogue on the subject. This exercise involves each student in producing a sound conceptualization, professional analysis, and the communication of ideas about global differences.”

  • Small Group Debates: Fostering Critical Thinking in Oral Presentations with Maximal Class Involvement, Lauren Dundes, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 2, April 2001. Abstract: Because many students leave college without a sense of mastery of public speaking, many instructors endeavor to incorporate an opportunity to practice this essential skill into their courses. Frequently, however, student presentations result in practice for the student at the expense of the rest of the class. Too address this commonly occurring problem of audience passivity while increasing the time that a student spends speaking, I have developed a small group debate method which provides students with greatly needed practice in public speaking while engaging the rest of the class who become active participants. When two students debate each other in front of an audience of about four persons-the essence of this technique-the relaxed atmosphere and audience involvement make an otherwise intimidating experience both more enjoyable and more conducive to critical thinking than the conventional public speaking format.

Writing assignments that lead to discussion

  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): “The domain of kinship is critical to understanding how other cultures, particularly those of small scale, construct meaningful relationships. In one exercise, students are asked to investigate their own kinship networks. Some students take this assignment very seriously, and trace their family history through many generations. Others take a more restricted approach. Students are then asked to separate close and distant kin and figure out the criteria that they are using to make this distinction. Students are also asked to describe what allows a person to be a member of their kin network and what my have happened in certain instance to allow people to lose membership in the group. Finally, students are asked to compare their results with presuppositions about kinship among the members of another society (like the Ju/’hoansi or the Trobrian islanders) in order to ascertain the ways in which the fundamental principle of interpersonal relationhip may, in fact, vary from one society to another. While this is a written exercise that encourages students to use a number of critical thinking skills, the results are also discussed in class in order to begin to see the variety of ways that members of ‘the same’ society come to interpret the world.”

  • From Student Resistance to Embracing the Sociological Imagination: Unmasking Privilege, Social Conventions, and Racism, Angela T. Haddad and Leonard Lieberman, Teaching Sociology,Vol. 30, No. 4, July 2002. Abstract: A crucial task of introductory sociology courses is to teach students the meaning and value of the sociological imagination. While this task is daunting under typical circumstances, it is more difficult when instructors are committed to raising students' critical awareness of social conventions that maintain systems of racial oppression. In this paper, we discuss our experiences with teaching this aspect of the sociological imagination to a group of ethnically and economically privileged students. Based upon our experiences and existing research, we propose that a rise in students' political conservatism and their adoption of color-blind racism may explain our students' recalcitrance and the increasing reports of resistance from those who teach race and inequality courses. We provide details of an assignment that eased students' recalcitrance by enabling them to demonstrate to themselves the fallacies of scientific racism. The assignment, a critical assessment of Rushton's scathing review of "Gould's Mismeasure of Man," required students to exercise their sociological imagination to successfully unmask the agendas, fallacies, and consequences of "scientific racism." Quotes from the students' assignments and the course evaluations show that the assignment conveys to recalcitrant students the utility of sociological analysis.

  • "I'm Glad I'm Not Gay!": Heterosexual Students' Emotional Experience in the College Classroom with a "Coming Out" Assignment, Kristine De Welde and Eleanor Hubbard, Teaching Sociology,Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2003. Abstract: Specific discourses exist around "coming out" in gay and lesbian communities. Such discourses may help heterosexual students intellectually understand the dangers and delights of coming out, but do not enable them to experience related emotions. For heterosexual students to experience the fears of being identified as gay, an experiential written assignment was created for a Sex, Gender, and Society class in which heterosexual students write a "coming out" letter to a person of their choice. Although this letter is never actually sent, it becomes the "raw data" that the student uses to analyze his/her reaction to the assignment and pertinent issues related to it. We feel it is important for heterosexual students, as part of their assimilating knowledge about sexual orientation, to comprehend as closely as possible what the coming out experience might be like. We discuss how the assignment and ensuing discussions encourage heterosexual students to explore their homophobia and heterosexism and facilitates their empathy for GLBT students.

Ideas for active learning

  • JS 150 – Law, Justice and Injustice (Seth Feinberg & Jason Clark-Miller): “In-class data analysis: Provide students with ‘raw’ empirical data, and ask them as a group to evaluate the data. Students will be asked to pay particular attention to the congruence between the data and popular/personal conceptions of justice and injustice. With this in mind, students are encouraged to discuss their reactions to their findings and the data with questions like, ‘Who collected the data and for what purpose?’ and ‘Does the data you’re looking at challenge or confirm your own views?’"

  • JS 150 – Law, Justice and Injustice (Seth Feinberg & Jason Clark-Miller): "Research-analysis groups: This is perhaps the most ambitious and interesting of the course projects because I am going to ask groups of students to conduct a systematic review of the literature regarding a particular topic that I assign to each group, and complete a simple empirical analysis using online statistical datasets and analysis programs. The project has three components. The first is the literature review and evaluation they write up and hand in to me by the mid-term exam. The second is the analysis of a SDA or NACJD data set that pertains to their topic. The third is a panel discussion that the members of each team will participate in during the last week of class. Along the way students are required to meet with their groups in class and provide the rest of the class with updates on the progress of their research. This gives the rest of the class an opportunity to recommend sources or tactics that might improve the overall quality of the research projects. The projects require small groups of students to read much more extensively about particular class topics so that I always have a group of ‘experts’ that I can ask to provide more information to the rest of the class. I found an unanticipated benefit to this exercise arose when I assigned students to their research groups rather than letting them choose their own – it required students to get to know more people in the classroom than they would have otherwise by working with their friends, and opened lines of communication between them that are sometimes closed by internal cliques within a class."

  • JS 150 – Law, Justice and Injustice (Seth Feinberg & Jason Clark-Miller): "Vignettes: Provide a small group of students with a series of vignettes in order to address issues of justice and injustice. For example, provide students with pictures of ‘offenders’ along with descriptions of the cases and imposed sentences. Students are asked to do two things: First, based on the evidence provided to them, are the sentences fair? Second, indicate what other evidence they would need to feel more confident in their evaluations of fairness. Each group is then required to present their decisions to the entire class.”

  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): "Another exercise designed to foster discussion involves students doing a very simple interview with their neighbor. They ask the neighbor his/her name, place of origin, and whether that person considers hot dogs a breakfast food. After tallying a sample of results, students discuss the interview process, the data interpretation, and possible implications. These simple questions often yield an interesting glimpse into anthropological fieldwork. For example, they find that the questions can lead to previously unexpected insights (much like real ethnographic interviewing), they can identify general patterns, and they learn about culturally defined behaviors in their own society with regard to foods that are acceptable to eat for breakfast."

  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): "In an exercise designed to encourage critical thinking, students are given an opportunity to develop meaningful interpretation of a variety of fossil primate remains based on a series of materials presented to them in the anthropology lab. (This exercise accompanies the segment of the course on human biological evolution.) The exercise requires students to develop logical arguments about possible evolutionary relationships among certain fossils, and why others cannot be fitted into the same logical interpretation. Students based their answer on their own observations (of anatomical trails of the fossils). Laboratory work presents students with other information (such as the antiquity and geographic location of the fossil specimens) that allows them (with some fairly sophisticated interpretive effort) to develop a meaningful story about the fossil materials with which they are working."

  • ANTH 101 – Anthropology and the Human Experience (Larry Carucci, Jack Fisher & Mike Neeley): "A greetings exercise has also been used in the class to promote an understanding of the multifaceted grounding of meaning in everyday speaking. (This accompanies the language and culture segment of the course.) Students collect different forms of greetings that they hear over a two or three day period, along with a description of the contexts in which these greetings are used. They then list and analyze the greetings for their meaning. Each student writes a short paper based on his/her results, and the most interesting cases are investigated further in class discussion. Some students report foreign greetings for which they can offer no interpretation. Others commonly report ‘secret codes’ that only make sense to a restricted audience. Each of these are used to show the way in which meaning is intimately attached to different interpretive contexts at the level of language, dialect register, and so forth. Using this information, the class can then begin to posit a theory that language is used in a multiplicity of complex ways, not simply as a device to communicate about actual relations in the world.”

  • The Poor Pay More, Kimberly A. Folse, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 30, No. 4, July 2002. Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to share a class project that enhances student's understanding of the economic plight and exploitation of the poor. The "Poor Pay More" includes a field research component in which students investigate the rent-to-own industry from the perspective of a poor consumer. The primary objective of this paper is to illustrate that educators can enhance students' learning by using the experiential method of teaching. A key component of this pedagogical approach, which I emphasize here, is reflection on what has been learned. I describe, briefly, supportive classroom experiential activities before focusing on the field research component and include resources for their development in an appendix. Finally, I discuss student evaluations to document the learning values of The Poor Pay More and possible pitfalls based on my experience teaching the project.

  • Teaching Critical Observation as a Sociological Tool, David Stevens & Michelle VanNata, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 30, No. 2, April 2002. Abstract: We have noticed that our undergraduate students are often ill-equipped to make sense of their everyday observations and interactions. They frequently develop accounts of behavior by speculating about peoples' values, dispositions, or moral character. While critical thinking skills are effective for helping students evaluate formal arguments, these skills are less useful in interpreting social interactions. Emphasizing the exploration of emotions may be insufficient to supplement critical thinking, since this may also generate individual explanations of phenomena. Instead, students must learn a different set of skills, which we call critical observation, to help them move beyond individual explanations of everyday events and begin to make links between personal behavior and the outside forces shaping it. We delineate the core skills involved in critical observation and present an exercise to train students to use these skills. This approach can be an important teaching tool for instructors in many areas of sociology, from research methods to social inequality.

Other classroom management issues

  • Managing Emotions in the College Classroom: The Cultural Diversity Course as an Example, Alison Roberts and Keri Iyall Smith, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 30, No. 4, July 2002: Abstract: The classroom is a probable site for emotion management, especially when courses deal with topics that may be controversial or that evoke both students' and teachers' sensitivities. In this paper, we identify and present the cultural diversity course as an example of such a classroom and define emotion management, which we suggest is relevant to the classroom setting. We then apply the theoretical concept of emotion management to teaching methods, considering ways that teachers can structure the course to best manage and utilize emotions in the classroom. A collection of emotion management strategies and exercises, which can be employed selectively, is also included. We believe that by applying an understanding of how emotional responses are socially mediated, instructors can better facilitate class and maximize learning.

  • Learning To Discuss: Strategies for Improving the Quality of Class Discussion, Jocelyn A. Hollander, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 30, No. 4, July 2002. Abstract: This paper describes a strategy for improving the quality of class discussions. I argue that discussions are often unsatisfying for two reasons. First, students and teachers tend to emphasize individual contributions rather than the collective process of discussing. Second, teachers tend to emphasize discussion performance rather than the development of discussion skills. I describe a multi-part exercise that addresses both of these issues and illustrates its effectiveness with excerpts from student self-evaluations. Students often write that this exercise helps them develop their speaking and listening skills and improves the overall quality of class discussion.

  • Teaching Uncomfortable Topics, Lisa Jakubowski, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 1, January 2001. Abstract: The purpose of this article is to provide one pedagogical model for addressing uncomfortable topics in the classroom. More concretely, the model reconceptualizes the process of teaching and learning and generates an action-oriented strategy for dealing with a topic that typically creates classroom discomfort- race and racism. Traditional modes of learning are critically evaluated, highlighting how elements of these approaches can negatively impact on one’s understanding of race and racial differences. The paper then offers an alternative, action-oriented strategy grounded in the notions of collective responsibility, dialogue and intersubjectivity, the Gramscian (1971) “intellectual,” the dialectic, and praxis. This strategy is concretized using examples of teaching and learning about racism and related forms of difference that occur both in, and outside of, the classroom.

  • Avoiding Moral Dichotomies: Teaching Controversial Topics to Resistant Students, Linda Markowitz and Mark Hedley, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 2, April 2001. Abstract: We argue that students’ classroom resistance to the analysis of social inequality and other controversial topics commonly involves their application of norm/other logic to course material. Such logic manifests itself as morally laden dichotomies that identify the “norm” as superior to all “other” alternatives. Further, we argue that norm/other dichotomies exist as social constructs that rely on dualism to foster a moral hegemony justifying social inequality. However, as social constructs, norm/other dichotomies are not immutable. Teachers may overcome students’ resistance by consciously seeking to make students aware of this logic and its inhibiting influence on the development of sociological understanding. We offer specific lecture topics, in-class exercises, and homework assignments to aid teachers in helping students overcome the limitations inherent in norm/other logic.

Questions? E-mail core@montana.edu.