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Conceptualization, Operationalization, and Measurement

This simple set of in-class activities allows students to practice conceptualizing, operationalizing, and measuring common sociological variables. I use this combination of three activities, usually across two class periods, to let students practice conceptualization and operationalization, as well as measurement of variables. Students often seem overwhelmed by the processes of conceptualization, operationalization, and measurement, and these short activities give them the chance to practice on common sociological variables in small groups in class.

Measuring Poverty in the U.S.

According to official government statistics, the poverty rate in the United States is 14.5% (2013). But what exactly does that mean--for example, how low does your income have to be in order to be considered “poor”? A PowerPoint presentation and a class exercise teach students how poverty is measured in the United States and some current debates about the adequacy of this method of measurement. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of poverty statistics that are reported by the government, and will think critically about this important policy issues. The in-class group exercise helps students process and develop their own policy positions and sets the stage for further class discussions about poverty and inequality in the United States.

Measurement Activity

The purpose of this assignment is to provide experience in applying two critical concepts connecting sociological theory and research: conceptualization and operationalization. This assignment provides students with experience applying measurement techniques to their specific conceptualization of a difficult concept (love). They must construct their own nominal definition and then appropriately construct measures to determine the extent to which potential respondents experienced their nominal definition. In their accompanying essay, students must also argue for the validity and reliability of their measures. Additionally, this assignment provides students with practice in assessing the extent to which other students have appropriately performed conceptualization and operationalization. Students constructively critique another (anonymous) student’s measurement. In their critique, students must show they understand the key areas of operationalization, including validity and reliability, by commenting on those issues in the assignment to be critiqued. By providing specifically targeted experience in measuring difficult concepts, this assignment will also provide students with a skill set that can be marketed once they have completed their degrees.