Reflective Pedogogy Practice – Sociology Program Capstone

Description

The Online BA in Sociology is one of the newest of the SPS online BA programs, launched in Fall 2011. The program differs from other BA in Sociology programs: (1) it is fully online, and (2) the creation of a new degree program provided an opportunity to create courses and curriculum integrating eportfolio pedagogy with a curriculum mapping project using learning goals and outcomes based on those developed and published in a recent American Sociological Association (ASA) Task Force report: Liberal Learning and the Sociology Major Updated. As a new program, we were able to build from scratch, integrating eportfolios and eportfolio pedagogy into the curriculum development process.

Also useful for our Sociology Program Eportfolio , the SOC Senior Capstone course and the SOC 499 Senior Capstone Template was an ASA longitunal study of graduates on satisfaction with the major. Students who reported being most satisfied five years after graduation are those students who have jobs related to what they studied. Students most likely to have jobs related to their degree typically develop skills in research methods, refer to these skills on their CVs and discuss them in job interviews. We have therefore used SOC Program Capstone to emphasize integrative learning and reflection, requiring students to reflect on their prior course work, write and revise a statement of purpose, and develop at least two CVs. Students then select and revise a project from one of their courses to demonstrate competence in learning outcomes viewed by ASA as pivotal to success in the job market: framing an important research problem, the collection and analysis of data and writing a report that conforms to our standards and ASA journal formatting.

ASA Pathways to Job Satisfaction

Especially challenging is the coupling of the important learning objectives with our retention goals. The skills needed are difficult and students often enter our online program after some time lapse between the present and their last educational experience. They want “to finish,” a goal that often takes precedence over acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to compete successfully in the contemporary world. The Sociology Program ePortfolio promises a more integrative approach, hopefully engaging students in meaningful lifelong learning goals. Especially the Senior Capstone provides an opportunity for students to integrate what they have learned in the program, meaningful life and career plans and a showcase of skills known to be important in career placement.

Our first Online BA in Sociology students completed capstone projects in Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. The ePortfolio Senior Capstone in Sociology builds on pilot work in the Online BA in Communication and Culture Program. Students will create an ePortfolio Capstone project that integrates learning in the Online BA in Sociology Program with life and career goals, creating an attractive showcase for prospective employers and graduate admissions officers.

A syllabus along with the capstone research project assignment description, developed Professor Barbara Walters, Academic Director of the SPS Online BA in Socioloy, is attached, along with the rubric. Going forward, with larger numbers of students, faculty design specific projects within their courses for later selection and development by students as part of the capstone experience. An example in an assignment developed by Professor Lacey Sischo for SOC 380 Sociology of the Body is attached along with the rubric. Examples of an earlier team project from the Communicaiton and Culture program is also attached

Program
The Online Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology (B.A.) prepares students to succeed in the 21st century, where careers are marked by perpetual change, diversity, and enhanced educational requirements. Students study social interaction, social change, and diverse communities. They learn basic tools for social science research: observation, interviews, survey questionnaires, and data analysis. They apply these tools and the scientific method to fascinating and complex real-life social questions. Sociology challenges students to see the world through the lens of cultural diversity and broader communities; it builds skills for collaboration with others in multi-cultural and international situations. Learning sociological methods helps students strengthen their math and science proficiency. And, in the preparation and delivery of topical papers that engage data across the curriculum, students learn to support theories with evidence and to communicate effectively to various audiences through different styles and media.

Based on models and recommendations from the American Sociological Association, skills needed in the 21st century and developed in our program include:

  • Creativity and Innovation,
  • Critical thinking,
  • Analytic Problem-Solving,
  • Communication,
  • Collaboration,
  • Multi-Cultural and Global Understandings,
  • Strong Math and Science Skills,
  • Excellent Written Expression.

General education courses complement this specialized study and emphasize critical thinking, qualitative reasoning, effective communication and the exploration of the foundations of knowledge and culture.

Practice Step-by-Step

Formal reflection assignments are positioned at three different places in the course: at the beginning, at midsemester, and during the last three weeks. The prompts require students to reflect on specific program goals.

Reflection #1:

Read and Study

To reflect is to think deeply about an experience, something you have read, or a person you have come to know. Read the material bulleted above carefully.

Write
Write a short essay in which you reflect on your course work and other academic or life experiences in the Sociology Online B.A. in light of the student goals and expectations for SOC 499 Senior Capstone. Your essay should address specific knowledge and skills you have developed as part of your Sociology course work and experiences. How well prepared are you to work independently and as a team member to contribute to and complete the SOC 499 project? What are the most important things or skills you have learned? What strengths do you bring to the project? What about the project most interests you? How does this course fit into your other plans for Fall 2012 and your future career or academic goals?

Your final essay should be approximately 250 words and should be completed on the Reflection Tab #1 in your ePortfolio.

Reflection #2
As you write your literature review, reflect on the research process and the items added to the Grade Center to date. Read through the Integrative Learning rubrics again. Do you have a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the data base and the challenges of data analysis? What skills and knowledge do you bring to this? What are the special problems and challenges of quantitative methods? What have you learned in the Sociology Program that helps you frame a meaningful research question that can be addressed in one semester? Add your reflection to your ePortfolio under Reflection #2.

Reflection #3:
As we wrap up the semester, reflect on the semester, what you have learned and your work on your project. Write a brief reflection — about 200 words — no later than midnight EST at the end of Week 13, and respond to at least two of your classmates by the end of Week #14. When you have finished, edit your reflections and post them to the final reflection tab on your ePortfolio. Your reflection must address the following points.

  • Reflect upon relevant and meaningful life and academic experiences that enhance knowledge and understanding of the Sociology curriculum from different and/or broad points of view;
  • How does sociological research help others – individuals, organizations, and/or groups make better decisions?
  • How will you use your capstone as an important piece in your transition to the world of work or for admission to a graduate or advanced training program?

Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration

Reflection as integrative
Student ePortfolio reflection prompts require students to reflect, to think deeply, about their course work in the Sociology Program, specific knowledge they have gained, and their level of preparation for the capstone and for the transition to the world of work and/or additional academic training. Students should make connections:

  • Within the course
  • To courses – both substantive and research methods courses – taken earlier in the program
  • To personal life and career goals

Reflection as systematic and disciplined
The Final Project assignment is staged and scaffolded across the semester, requiring both team and individual work. Key is moving beyond the mechanical completion of an assignment to the creation of a meaningful project meant to be shared with a larger audience.

Reflection as Social Pedagogy
Students in the Senior Capstone must:

  • Create ePortfolios in a common course space and a common program space;
  • View and comment on each other’s ePortfolios;
  • Create a showcase for external viewers.

Reflection as a guide for personal change
Students all too often rush through sociology degree programs without adequate thought about why they are doing this or where it might take them. The capstone ePortfolio will provide a structure for:

  • Integrative learning;
  • Creating, explaining, and sharing future career and/or advanced educational plans;
  • Showcasing work for peers, employers and graduate admissions officers.

Professional Development

The SPS ePortfolio Faculty Development Workshop encourages participants to incorporate reflection into their ePortfolio practice. We begin the workshop with an in-person kickoff session that explains different ways of using ePortfolio and provides examples. Many of the sample ePortfolios we share include examples of reflection. The second phase of the workshop is completed asynchronously. One of the activities asks participants to read two articles about the importance of reflection: “Action + Reflection = Learning,” and “Reflection and Learning from Experience.” We read the first article as part of our C2L jam and found it very helpful. The second article was recommended by Kati Lewis at Salt Lake CC, who kindly sent us the.pdf. We ask our workshop participants to “reflect on reflection,” by posting their responses to the articles and their ideas for how they might incorporate reflection into their ePortfolio assignments to the workshop discussion board forum. This activity is a step toward the workshop deliverable, an ePortfolio template with an “about me” page; a scaffolded assignment that incorporates prewriting, evaluation of sources, multimedia, and reflection; and an evaluation rubric.

  • “Action + Reflection = Learning,” TAP Into Learning (2000)3:2 1-4.
  • “Reflection and Learning from Experience,” an abridged version of chapter two from Dannelle D. Stevens and Joanne E. Cooper, Journal Keeping: How to Use Reflective Writing for Learning, Teaching, Professional Insight and Positive Change. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, 2009

Over half of the sociology faculty have participated in one of our ePortfolio workshops. The sociology capstone will help faculty who are designing ePortfolio assignments and courses in the program:

  • Identify key skills,
  • Identify skills development processes
  • Create assignments and assessments that address these;
  • Inform quantitative reasoning and writing skills across the curriculum;
  • Develop project ideas that can lead to Senior Capstones.

Other ePortfolio Resources for Faculty

Workshop Materials

Attachments and Supporting Material

Assignments/Rubrics/Etc.

Student work/ePortfolio examples
Fall 2012 was the first semester in which students in the new Sociology Program are ready for capstone projects. However, this capstone ePortfolio was piloted with students in the online BA in Communication and Culture Program in Fall 2011. Since then, eleven sociology students have graduated from the program and created capstone ePortfolios. Below are two very successful Communication and Culture projects plus four Sociology Capstone Eportfolios.

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