Teaching contemporary sociological theory through the media

Last quarter I worked as a teaching assistant for my advisor Andy Szasz’s class on Contemporary Sociological Theory. This means that I attended lectures, graded student work, and led two break-out classes of 30 students each. Like the time I taught classical theory, I assigned the students the task of supplying me with a constant stream of media sources related to the class content.  You can see the text of the assignment below, and read descriptions of how I used some of their media pieces in class below that.


Each of you are responsible for turning in a short media assignment once during the quarter.  We will sign up for due dates on the first day of section. You are tasked with finding a news article, short video (10 min. max), cartoon, photo collection or other piece of media relevant to our readings that will help the rest of the students relate what we are reading to current events, or to help them understand the theory better in its historical context. These assignments will be due on Friday.  You should choose a media piece that helps illustrate a sociological theory from the reading due for the Monday and Wednesday lectures of the same week. I will review your assignments over the weekend and use them to help plan our discussion sections for the following week. 

After you choose your media piece, write a 1 page, type-written essay that includes the following:

  • Short summary of the media item.
  • Description of what sociological theory your media piece relates to, and how it relates to that theory.
  • The strengths and limitations of your selected media piece for understanding the sociological theory in question.
  • A description of how you suggest using this media item in section in order to help the other students better understand the sociological theory discussed in your paper.



  • Ice-breaker activity: Share Squares.
  • I used the Simpsons and The Meatrix video to discuss Marx – read about how here.

The Frankfurt School, part 1

The Frankfurt School, part 2a: The Culture Industry

  • I used Wall-E and Disneyland’s “Carousel of Progress” to explain the culture industry in section, check it out here.
  • And here’s the worksheet.

The Frankfurt School 2b, Consumer Society

  • See my post on how I used a sample “haul video” in section here.


  • I used a video of a rapping toddler and a comedy sketch to help explain structuralism, read about it here.  The comedy video also applies to some of Goffman and Garfinkle.

Goffman and Garfinkle


  • See my post on using Pink Floyd to help students understand Foucault here.

Postmodernism and review

  • I had this advertisement for Yas Island in Abu Dhabi playing as the students came into class and got settled.
  • After we briefly discussed postmodernism and how it relates to the video above, I had the students work through this worksheet to begin to review the key ideas of the different theoretical perspectives covered in this course.

One thought on “Teaching contemporary sociological theory through the media

  1. Pingback: Student-generated classroom content | Tracy Perkins

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