An Integrative Approach to Teaching Sociology: Merging Theory and Practice When Studying Women Offenders

  • Joseph R. Franco


Introduction: For the past five years, 1 have taught Sociology courses ranging from Introductory Sociology, Cultural & Social Change, to Valuing Difference in a college-level program at a maximum-security prison for women in New York State. This program is funded through private donations and by a consortium of colleges and universities. My goal in teaching these courses is twofold: (1) to provide community service for a cause which I support, and (2) to offer my Pace University Social Science students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in prison facilities in order to experience the problems associated with these facilities firsthand. A major objective of my courses at Pace is to have students improve their critical thinking skills (see parenthetical statements throughout the paper) to facilitate their understanding of a wide variety of sociological theories/models which explain and discuss the reasons why individuals commit crimes. Through their experience at the facility, Pace students are able to apply to inmates with whom they interact these theories/models and begin to see parallels among them. The format of the courses for Pace students includes lectures and discussions on the Pace campus about theoretical perspectives related to crime, followed by several sessions with inmates at the prison either during college courses instructed by me or tutoring programs led by students under my supervision.