June 01, 2006
Sociology professor's textbook offers practical view
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Southern Illinois University Carbondale professor is giving sociology students a more practical view of the subject with a new textbook that emphasizes skill development more than abstract theories.
Mark A. Schneider, associate professor of sociology, said SIUC students inspired his approach to the book, which came out this spring. Schneider hopes his take on the study of people and cultures will lead to a new practical approach to the subject.
That practical, skills-based approach to education certainly exists with many students around the state and country, Schneider said.
"That's what makes the book unique, and that's what got the publishers interested," he said.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers recently released "The Theory Primer, A Sociological Guide," accompanied by a Web site containing additional information and exercises.
Schneider, who came to SIUC in 1994 from the University of Michigan, began working on the book seven years ago after several years of working with the University's students. The book still teaches theory, but does so in a more biographical way as it examines how different theorists created constructs. Schneider said the method will result in students being better able to build their own theories, which is a skill in its own right.
For example, the first chapter explains what theories are and how researchers develop them. Subsequent chapters delve into theorists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim and explain the context in which they worked.
"Nothing is watered down," he said. "There is often a disconnect between professors and students in terms of educational background. I want to get students energized in the process of theorizing, and I think this approach is responsible to the taxpayers."
The book is written for junior level courses and might be used at SIUC. Schneider, who plans to retire next year, said the approach he is using is applicable to many subjects.
"I'd like to think professors from other disciplines can learn from what I'm doing," he said. "This strategy could be used across several sciences."
Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.
(Caption: New textbook – Mark A. Schneider, associate professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, holds his just-released textbook, “The Theory Primer, a Sociological Guide.” Schneider’s book takes a skills-based, practical approach to sociology, which he says is better suited for some students.)