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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2019-2020

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Sociology


Type Open Level 1 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to introduce level one students to the sociological study of contemporary societies and aspects of contemporary social life.
  • It will do this by providing students with conceptual and empirical tools with which to reflect upon the dynamic nature of such societies, including what is contributing to transitions and changes within these.
  • This will involve illustrating the range of theoretical and empirical methodologies and resources available to sociologists.


  • The module will introduce some of the main concepts that sociologists have used to describe and analyse social transformations.
  • The module will focus on key areas of social change and draw upon current staff research expertise. Students will be introduced to the critical analysis of different aspects of social change, including changing local communities, families and relationships; economies and consumerism; and patterns relating to health, social class, gender race/ethnicity and religion. The module will explore in-depth key global issues changing contemporary society, through examples such as: poverty and inequality; war, conflict and violence; diversity, migration and movement; technological change; climate change and the environment; work, under and unemployment; and demographic changes, including age and the ageing society.
  • The module will draw on national and international literature and examples, including considering various responses to these transitions by different social actors which form part of the dynamic of social change. Students will be introduced to some cross-national or comparative perspectives, and local/global interactions affecting the issues discussed and the responses to them.
  • The module will draw on the research expertise and skills of colleagues across the school and is designed to illustrate how sociological theories underpin applied social sciences.
  • The module will demonstrate the relevance of a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies when attempting to describe and analyse the social world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module students will have:
  • An ability to use sociological concepts to describe and understand how society is organised and is changing and how diverse people experience life.
  • An awareness of the ways in which different theoretical and epistemological perspectives shape such understandings.
  • An understanding that analysing the social world involves engaging with social change, incorporating an awareness of a range of sociological arguments relating to the transformation of contemporary societies and everyday life within those societies.
  • An ability to identify forms of 'continuity’ and ‘change', incorporating a basic understanding of the ways in which social transformations can be empirically analysed using quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
  • An ability to demonstrate a critical awareness of the nature and possible causes and consequences of change in key social institutions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module students will be able to:
  • Evaluate basic empirical evidence.
  • Appreciate the complexity and diversity of the social world.
  • Assess competing theories and explanations.
  • Gather and analyse information.
  • Construct reasoned arguments.
  • Interpret evidence and texts.
  • Present complex, interacting factors related to social change clearly to others.
  • Reflect on their accumulated knowledge.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module students will have demonstrated:
  • Basic written communication skills.
  • Basic bibliographic skills.
  • Basic learning and study skills.
  • An ability to manage time effectively.
  • Evaluate and synthesize information and material from a range of sources, and involving a broad range of media and sources.
  • Communicate this material using a wide range of written, oral, and visual media.
  • Develop very good teamwork skills, including time management, task division and planning, feedback and progress evaluation.
  • Critically reflect on team and personal achievements.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: provide a clear and organised introduction to topics by exploring key concepts, dynamics and issues of social change. They provide an overview of some of the theoretical and empirical resources available to sociologists in different sub-fields and encourage students to reflect on the ways in which social transformations can be empirically analysed using quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Many lectures will also incorporate examples of research into the issues covered, drawing on staff expertise from across the School, and providing an opportunity to investigate real world applications and implications of these issues, as well as to engage with how people are seeking to promote further change in respect of them. They therefore provide a framework to support the development of the subject-specific knowledge outlined above. They also encourage students to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and an appreciation of how information may be structured and presented to others. This provides the foundation for the development of subject-specific skills such as the interpretation of evidence and texts and the assessment of competing theories. By introducing students to a range of topics and sub-fields of study, lectures also encourage students to appreciate the complexity and diversity of the social world.
  • Seminars: provide an opportunity for students to develop their own understanding of relevant materials through independent preparation and small group discussion. This encourages the consolidation of subject-specific knowledge and the development of the subject-specific skills outlined above, including the interpretation of evidence and texts, the assessment of competing theories and explanations and the construction of reasoned arguments. By fostering small group discussions and full group debates, seminars can also contribute to the development of students' ability to reflect on accumulated knowledge.
  • Independent study: is central to the development of key study and time-management skills. Independent study also encourages students to gather and analyse information, interpret texts and evidence (including but not restricted to set materials) and reflect on accumulated knowledge.
  • The course will be assessed formatively through a written reflection.
  • The summative assessment will consist of one individual poster and one essay.
  • The formative written reflection will provide students with an opportunity to begin to relate module content to their own life experiences and how changing societies might have affected these.
  • Summative poster: develops subject-specific knowledge, study skills and subject-specific skills more broadly. It also provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning in relation to understanding societies and change, and receive feedback.
  • A summative essay: provides the opportunity for students to display subject-specific knowledge and skills by applying what they have learned during the module. This essay also provides an opportunity for feedback.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 15 Weekly in the first term, fortnightly in the second term 2 hours 30
Seminars 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Preparation and Reading 350
Total 400

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
One assessed essay up to 2000 words 100% Essay (up to 2000 words)
Component: Academic Poster Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Academic Poster A single-page poster (up to a maximum of A3 size) with supporting reference list 100% A single-page poster (up to a maximum of A3 size) with supporting reference list

Formative Assessment:

Reflection (up to 750 words)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

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