This research explores the transformative potential of a Community Action and Involvement course, an undergraduate sociological elective taught at a large southeastern university, to develop or support undergraduates' sense of personal agency and provide the resources necessary for them to engage in the work of social change. The research is rooted in both Bourdieu's conceptualization of habitus and the work of Carmen Mills (2008) on the simultaneous existence of a reproductive and transformative habitus within students. This is a mixed methods study, which includes the analysis of pre- and post-course survey data and over 800 student writings collected during the course to uncover student attitudes and behaviors regarding social change. Results suggest that many of the 47 students credited the course with their increased optimism and confidence in their own potential to change things in society; additionally, they felt they gained tools they needed to cause social change. Further, in relation to the theorization of the dialectic of the reproductive/transformative habitus, complexities emerged as indicators, including desire, feelings, beliefs, and actions, were uncovered, thus complicating the attempt to understand if the students in the class were exhibiting a reproductive or a transformative habitus. This research, though limited to the outcomes of a single course contributes to the understanding of both the need for and the student response to action-oriented sociology courses; it also suggests pedagogical aspects that students might find helpful in such classes. Finally, this study opens the door for further research into the effect of social location on undergraduates' outlook on society and their ability to cause change, as well as additional testing of the theorization of the reproductive/transformative habitus.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Savage, Brenda, ""The Best Thing Sociology Can Do": The Transformative Potential of a Community Action and Involvement Class" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5589.