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Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc.

Table of Contents 2

• This lesson introduces the four major theoretical
perspectives in sociology, including structural-
functional, social conflict, feminism, and
symbolic interactionism.

• Animation video of the 4 Major sociological

• The Importance of Theory

• The meaning and examples of the four major

• CATS Lesson- Summary 4 fill in the blanks

• BOPPPS Lesson: Students take home
assignments: Watch a movie of choice, include
the 4 perspectives and explain how each one
relates to the movie.

• Questions
• Blooms Taxonomy
• BOPPPS Summary

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc.

The Importance of the Four Sociological

Theories and Video

Slide 1 of 3
• When you were in junior high or high school and you ate lunch, did certain types of

people sit at certain tables every day? Why do you think people tend to sort
themselves into groups and stay with people they see as similar to themselves? If
you have a guess as to why this happens, you could say that you have a theory
regarding how social groups function. This lesson focuses on the importance of
theory in the social sciences and the four main theoretical perspectives within
• It's important for social sciences, like psychology, economics, and sociology, to
follow theoretical perspectives as a framework for understanding occurrences,
circumstances and incidences, such as the ways people form groups. Without
theories, we'd just have a huge list of individual tendencies, or decisions people
make, or types of people, but we wouldn't have any way of organizing the field.
Theories help us see overall themes across many specific types of behaviors or
decisions in the social world.

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. 3

The Meaning • Structural-Functional Theory
and Example • Our first theory is called structural-functional theory.
of the 4
Theories This approach views society as a complex, but
interconnected system, where each part works together
Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. as a functional whole. A metaphor for the structural-
functional approach is the human body. You have arms,
legs, a heart, a brain, and so on. Each individual body
part has its own neurons and system for working, but
each part has to work together for a fully-functioning
structure, or system. What are the different structures, or
systems, in society? You can probably think of the
government, businesses, schools, and families. We need
all of these systems to work together for a fully-
functioning society.
• To make each of our four theories more memorable, let's
think about each theory from the perspective of an
example. We'll use sports. How would you apply the
structural-functional approach or theory to sports? Well,
for any given team to be successful, it needs to have a
bunch of working parts, each functioning independently
and cooperatively. If you played soccer in high school,
lets think about soccer for a second. Of course, you'll
have different positions on the team, such as the
forwards, the fullbacks for defense, and the goalkeeper.
But, you also need the coach, the referees, and someone
for the equipment; and it wouldn't be very fun to play
without an audience. Each part has its own rules and
systems. For example, the audience has to know when
to cheer, how to purchase concessions, and where to sit.
For the entire system to work, all of the individual parts
need to work together. Structural-functional theory
studies how each part of the larger social world works


Conflict Theory 5

The second major theoretical perspective in sociology is called conflict theory. This
theory views society as a system of groups that are not equal, and therefore
consistently generate conflict and change. Think back to that example from the
beginning of the lesson with the different groups of students in school.
In my high school, the athletes might have conflicts with the people in band or the
people who were in the math club. There was a popular group of kids who were
sometimes mean to the less popular kids. When you think about this type of social
conflict on a large scale, it explains unfortunate social trends such as racism, sexism,
and so on, but the theory also predicts change. For example, in the 1960s, the United
States saw a huge change in civil rights awarded to African Americans due to the
political protests that highlighted the conflict between racial groups. While racism is
still a problem in the United States, this social change helped the country make a lot
of progress toward equality.
Hopefully, it's easy to see how social conflict theory might be seen in our example
of sports. Different teams will certainly conflict with each other as they compete for
points, runs, or touchdowns. Actually, sports wouldn't make any sense without some
form of conflict or competition.

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc.

Feminism 6

Theory three out of four is feminism. Feminism is often misunderstood as coming
from a group of angry women who are trying to dominate men. That is not what
feminism is! Understood correctly, feminism is a perspective that views society as
traditionally unequal between men and women and strives for equality between the
For example, you might have heard the fact that men and women, on average, are not
paid equally in the United States. Studies show that even with the same education and
job demands, women are only paid $0.77 for the same job where a man would be paid
$1.00. Women are less represented in the government, women are less likely to be
business owners, and women are less likely to be college professors.
Of course, there are also examples of places in society where men are disadvantaged.
Men are less likely to be given custody of children after a divorce, and men are less
likely to be hired for certain jobs, such as elementary school teachers or flight
attendants. Feminism, as a theory in sociology, tries to point out these inequalities and
find solutions so that every situation is fair to everyone.
Again, think about how sports can be an example of the theory. What inequalities
between men and women can you see in the athletic world? There are not very many
professional sports available for women, unless you go to the Olympics. Many
colleges don't offer equal sports for men and women, even though the U.S. government
declared inequalities to be unconstitutional many years ago. Even when there are
teams for both sports, such as basketball, the women's team usually doesn't get very
much attention or economic support from the college compared to the men's team.

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc.

Symbolic Interactionism 7

The fourth and final theory in this lesson
is symbolic interactionism. Symbolic interactionism
views the larger society as a byproduct of the
interactions among millions of individuals. In other
words, this theory focuses more on tiny groups of two
or three people, talking to each other and interacting,
and says that society is really just millions of these tiny
groups occurring over time. So, why is it called
'symbolic' interactionism? Part of this theory is that
through these interactions, people create symbols as
ways to understand the world and shape our identities.
What's an example of one of these symbols? Well,
think about language. In English, the sound 'kitchen'
symbolizes an area of a living space where food is
stored and prepared for eating. Every language has a
sound that symbolizes this space. That symbol had to
be created for the first time at some point in history.

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc.

Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT)

• Assessing Learner Reactions to Teachers and Teaching

Group Instructional Feedback Technique: Students respond to specific to three
to four questions related to the student’s learning in the course.

Theories are needed in social sciences to help us understand and organize ideas and
findings. There are four main theories in sociology:
_______________________ - This theory is based on the idea that society is a large
system that is dependent on its individual parts working together.
_______________________ - This theory implies that society is based on small
groups that have conflicts that help society to evolve or change.
________________________ - This theory is based on the idea that there are
inequalities based on gender and the practice of trying to fix those inequalities.
________________________ - This theory implies that society is really about the
smaller groups within it and the symbols that these small groups use to communicate.
As we went through each theory, which one seemed like the most useful or
interesting? If you were a sociologist, which theory would you study?

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. 8

Boppps Lesson

• BOPPPS has the basic tools of a student-centered
learning lesson. It helps us to focus on student learning
by making the purpose of the lesson clear, by assessing
students’ prior knowledge, by engaging students in
active learning, and by reinforcing what has been
learned through summaries and assessments

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. 9


Bridge- How Social Groups Functions in Society.
Objective-The students will be able to describe the four main theories in
sociology and provide a real-world application for each.
Preassessment-Class Preparedness-The importance of the theories and the
Participatory-The meaning and example of the theories.
Post Assessment-Class assignment-Movie/Essay.

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. 10

4 questions with Bloom’s level identified:

.1 Knowledge-The students will learn material by recalling facts, terms,

basic concepts and answer. Can you list all four theories and explain them
in detail with one real-life example?
2. Comprehension-The students will demonstrate and understand facts
and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving
descriptions and stating main ideas on written essay. How would you
compare the theories to your movie?
3. Application- Solving problems by applying acquires knowledge, facts,
techniques. What Examples can you find to relate the theories?

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. 11

BOPPPS Lesson Summary

• Course Student Learning Outcome:
Compare and contrast the basic theoretical perspectives of sociology
• The Learning Goals:
• By the end of the lesson the students will understand the four sociological

• The students will be able to compare the theories to each other.
• The students will be able to evaluate the usefulness of each theory.

Copyright © 2017 W.W. Norton, Inc. 12

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