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S. Michael Gaddis

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Demography, The Pennsylvania State University

Teaching

I have prepped four different undergraduate courses and a graduate seminar. As a teacher, I encourage students not to simply memorize facts but to engage their sociological imagination inside and outside of the classroom. I accomplish this by creating an active learning environment through both in- and out-of-class exercises. One of my most popular assignments is a weekly journal in which students reflect on sociological concepts in their own lives and attend and report on community activities and events. I often focus my undergraduate course goals around critical thinking and application of concepts and ideas to the real world. In leading a graduate seminar and mentoring students, I believe it is my duty to guide students toward professionalization whenever possible. To that end, I encourage students to use paper assignments as a springboard to a journal submission, share with them my own experiences with the publication process, and provide teaching exercises from my own undergraduate classes.


I am happy to share syllabi from any of my courses. Please email me if you are interested.


Sociology 101 - Intro to Sociology

Taught Summer 2009, Spring 2010, and Summer 2015 (online)


I incorporate new technologies and methods in this introduction to sociology course. I encourage students to use Twitter to discuss sensitive topics anonymously. I pose a question during class and students respond via Twitter in real time. Together, we look at their responses and see areas where students agree or disagree. I then point to data or readings that help settle debates or raise new questions. I show students how I think about these questions in relation to the literature and set an early example of thinking critically about course topics. I conduct a pre/post survey on these Twitter sessions and students report that the sessions result in more active participation and greater confidence in sharing their own ideas with classmates.


Previous book assignments include Griffin's Black Like Me, Ritzer's The McDonaldization of Society, and Gladwell's Outliers.


Sociology 122 - Race and Ethnic Relations

Taught Fall 2010


In my race and ethnic relations course, I work with small groups of students to design the course content for one half of a class period. Students form small groups and select a general topic area from the syllabus. Two to three weeks prior to their presentation date, I meet with each group under the condition that each group must already have formulated some general ideas about what and how they will teach. I listen to each group’s ideas and provide feedback and guidance. I then meet with each group again to view a practice run of their presentation. We discuss what seems to work and what does not and make adjustments together. In total, the students are responsible for 20% of the course content. Although I do not count evaluations from the rest of the students in group grades for this assignment, students consistently rate their peers’ work very highly. Moreover, on my end-of-course evaluations approximately 75% of students rate this exercise as “extremely effective” in fostering critical thinking skills.


Previous book assignments include Conley's Being Black, Living in the Red, Chavez's The Latino Threat, and Bonilla-Silva's Racism without Racists.


Sociology 251 - Measurement and Data Collection

Taught Fall 2009, Summer 2010, and Spring 2017


In my research methods course, I guide students through the process of empirical investigation from choosing a research question, to deciding on an appropriate method, to writing the final paper. I meet with students and provide feedback at each stage so they can continually improve their writing and better understand the process. To prepare them for each stage of the process, I assign exercises such as conducting a contextual analysis of Craigslist ads and designing and testing survey questions. To help reinforce the importance of these concepts outside of class, I spend time showing students how the skills they learn in my class can be used in a variety of jobs outside of academia and can help them critically analyze media reports.


Sociology 419 - Race and Public Policy

Taught Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Spring 2017


In my race and public policy course, students examine and debate a number of aspects of race relations and public policy, including the social and biological constructs of race, historical race policy, modern race policy, The Civil Rights movement, affirmative action, among other issues. Similar to the lower division race course, students keep a "Reflections on Race" journal where they record their thoughts on race, interview a family member, and attend and document community events.


Previous book assignments include Alexander's The New Jim Crow, Massey and Denton's American Apartheid, and Kennedy's For Discrimination.


Sociology 529 - Graduate Seminar in Race and Ethnicity

Taught Fall 2016


Previous book assignments include Morris' The Scholar Denied, Omi and Winant's Racial Formation in the United States, and Emirbayer and Desmond's The Racial Order.


Selected comments about my teaching and courses from students

"The format of this course was, by far, one of the best I have experienced here at Carolina. Each topic, and the assignments that went with them, was concise and helped me to learn the material. Overall, this is a great class!"

"I came into this class hating group work, but now I can appreciate it."

"I thought you did a great job providing relevant examples that were important to students."

"My writing is much improved after taking this class."

"I've had a lot of teachers over the years, and your obvious enthusiasm for teaching was fantastic. I enjoyed the class!"

"I really enjoy this course. Your teaching style is enjoyable and I feel as though I am learning a lot."

"Awesome class! Awesome teacher! I really expected this class to be boring but you made it good."

"Only 8:00 class I've ever liked, which is especially interesting as I thought this class would be a drag."


Published Teaching Materials and Exercises:

I am the author of review materials and quantitative exercises for a number of W.W. Norton's sociology textbooks. Please contact me for more information.