Designing First-year Sociology Curricula and Practice

  •  Theda Thomas    
  •  Sue Rechter    
  •  Joy Wallace    
  •  Pamela Allen    
  •  Jennifer Clark    
  •  Bronwyn Cole    
  •  Lynette Sheridan Burns    
  •  Adrian Jones    
  •  Jill Lawrence    


Many countries are now specifying standards for graduates in different disciplines, including sociology. In Australia, the Australian Sociological Association (TASA) has developed Threshold Learning Outcomes (TLOs) for sociology to provide the learning outcomes that students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology should achieve. These TLOs have encouraged universities to think explicitly about their sociology curriculum in a holistic way. This paper reports on a project that investigated the skills and concepts sociology students need to learn in first year to meet the TLOs by the time they graduate. The project identified the needs of students as they transition from school or work into the study of sociology in first year through a study of literature of first-year pedagogy and a student survey. A workshop was held for sociology that involved 37 academics from 14 universities. The workshop was used to promote a rethink of teaching of sociology in the light of the new TLOs as well as to collect ideas from the participants. The student surveys, workshop ideas and relevant literature were analyzed and synthesized for each TLO to determine what skills and concepts first-year students needed to learn, identify what they might find difficult and propose strategies for teaching. The paper also provides practical ideas for engaging academics with thinking holistically about the sociology curriculum and for teaching and learning sociology in the first year of an undergraduate degree.

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