Capital Case Study

In this activity, Nicole Deterding used a case study in her Sociology of Education section to integrate and apply theories of different types of capital (human, social, and cultural) and to clarify student understanding.  Prior to section, students had spent several weeks reading about how different types of "capital" structure education opportunity.  She decided to use a case study to clarify the authors' different theories because students had been muddling forms of capital.  In section, the students read a case study about a girl that nods to all the theories.  The case study was a narrative of how the girl ("Melissa") got to where she is today.  After reading, students were asked, "What has been most important to Melissa's success?"  In other words, they were prompted to consider what is causal in this success story.  This then became a discussion of how the different aspects of the story are examples of different types of capital.  The students were then prompted to consider how Melissa's success might have changed if they changed the details of the story.

Nicole notes that during the discussion, "students challenged one another in their interpretations of data, identified places they were confused or questioned her story, and reached better conceptual clarity...We got to a really good discussion about the limits of the concepts—what part of the equation do these factors not explain? The case got us to in an organic, grounded way to a central tension in sociology about structure vs agency. Very high level discussion!"

The idea was to both clarify the concepts used in the course and to get the students to realize that, when they are looking at data, they must think about what details about the data are important to explain the outcome they are studying.

The case study and lesson plan are attached.

section_6_capital_vignette.doc31 KB
section_6_plan.doc28 KB