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These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Sociology (SOC)

SOC 469 Techniques in Small Group Facilitation (1-4 per semester/maximum of 12) This course is the training course for students working as facilitators with the World in Conversation Project.

SOC 469 Techniques in Small Group Facilitation (1-4 per semester/maximum of 12)

SOC 469 is an advanced training course for students who have been selected to be facilitators for the World in Conversation Project. In this course, students draw on sociological theories and methods to learn how to sharpen their group facilitation skills in order to lead small group dialogues on race relations. The main objective is to learn how to create an ideologically neutral environment in which participants will think critically and speak candidly about their views and roles in race relations. All evaluations are accomplished through “live” observations of students actually facilitating dialogue. In order to be considered for a position as facilitator with the World in Conversation Project, a student must successfully complete SOC 119 (Race and Ethnic Relations) and SOC 300 (Preceptorship in Sociology).

There are different learning objectives for students who take SOC 469 the first time as compared to those returning for multiple semesters. The general objectives are as follows:

Semester 1: During the first semester, students develop advanced facilitation skills. In the context of work with the World in Conversation Project, this means that they acquire the tools they need to encourage critical thinking, to address complex racial and culture-related subjects and emotions, to lead "ideologically neutral" dialogue, and to more adeptly understand and implement the Socratic Method. At the core of their learning is study of the sociological dynamics of group process.

Semester 2: During the second semester, students develop their social and emotional intelligence as the foundation for implementing successful conversational interventions. The core of their learning involves integrating a more advanced understanding of their own personal cultural identity with more advanced facilitation techniques. In other words, in order to master small group facilitation and group process, students need to explore the nuances of their own personal racial and cultural identities and how these enter into their work as facilitators.

Semester 3: Students stay on for a third semester only if they can clearly articulate the advanced facilitation/observation/interpretation skills learned during the first two semesters in a way that allows them to assume the role of a peer mentor with new facilitators.

A student is only invited back for subsequent semesters of SOC 469 if they have successfully accomplished the learning objectives set forth for each semester.

The method of evaluation is standard for each semester that a student takes the class, and consists of a combined approach that includes: 1) live observations via an audio/video monitoring system and performance goal-setting with instructors and WCP staff (weekly), 2) self-evaluation and personal goal-setting through review of recorded small group dialogue sessions (three times per semester), and 3) personal meetings with course instructors (twice per semester).

For Your Information:

What is the WCP?
These are campus wide 90 minute, peer facilitated small groups where trained undergraduate students (former SOC 119 facilitators) help participants explore their personal stories, views, biases and roles in race relations using a version of the Socratic Method. These inquiry-based sessions are designed to discuss the true nature of race relations face to face in an ideologically neutral environment. The conversations are extremely popular with participants (85 percent rate them as valuable and worthwhile) and the number offered each year has grown from 140 to over 800 in just six years. Currently twenty facilitators work for the project, all Penn State undergraduate students.

The WCP Mission Statement:
The mission of the RRP is to create an ideologically neutral environment for dialogue where individuals can voice their true concerns about race relations and begin to address these concerns in a productive and meaningful way.

WCP Philosophy:
Our guiding assumption is that the articulation of one’s viewpoint on an issue is the beginning of greater understanding and knowledge of that subject. And the experience of doing so with others in a group setting creates a kind of synergy that advances critical thinking as well as bridge building.

General Education: None
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Fall 2013
Prerequisite: SOC 119 andSOC 300

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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