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"Seeing the Theory Is Believing": Writing about Film to Reduce Theory Anxiety

Julie A. Pelton
Teaching Sociology
Vol. 41, No. 1 (JANUARY 2013), pp. 106-120
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41725584
Page Count: 15
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Abstract

Both "theory" and "writing" engender a great deal of anxiety for the typical undergraduate sociology major. Writing-intensive theory courses increase this feeling exponentially. Active learning approaches to teaching theory are often advocated as a way to combat these fears, but few studies have tested whether these innovations effectively reduce student anxiety. This article describes and evaluates the Film Analysis Papers writing assignment designed to reduce student anxiety in an undergraduate theory course. I present data from a questionnaire that asked students to assess the effect of writing about film on theory anxiety. Findings show that the film assignment reduced anxiety about writing theoretically and improved student confidence in their ability to theorize. This study is unique in that it isolates the effect of active learning approaches on theory anxiety in order to understand whether anxiety mediates the relationship between active learning and learning outcomes in theory classes.

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