If Men Could Menstruate: It's All in the Directions in the Assignment

Submitted by Olga Tsoudis on

Sociology courses have topics that are taboo, disturbing, offensive and controversial. SOC 212 (Gender and Society) students read "If Men Could Menstruate" by Gloria Steinem. Students tend to get defensive and miss the important point on power in society. On average 50% of the students would be defensive in the discussion responses and miss the importance of the article. I decided to rewrite the directions for the assignment so that students would focus on critically thinking as sociologists. The directions were edited and 5% of responses were defensive and missing the point instead of 50%. In other words, 95% of the students showed critical thinking after the directions were rewritten. I have attached the assignment. The added directions are in red as they are in red in the actual assigment. Please note that I have been using these new directions for six semesters and have had this improvement in each of the semesters. Sometimes a simple edit in the assignment can make a difference.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
SOC 212
Attachment Size
discussionsteinem.docx 142.56 KB
Assessment of the Month
Average: 5 (3 votes)


Teri Graham Wed, 10/11/2017 - 11:15am

Olga thank you for sharing this with all of us.  I agree, directions are so important.  Many of my students resist stepping away from what they already know.  I encourage them to be open and to look at things differently but they still resist.  I am going to modify some of my directions for team activities and look forward to seeing what happens with the resistance.

Amy Hill Mon, 10/16/2017 - 5:02pm

Hi Olga, I love the additions to the instructions and it really made me think about some things in my program.  I am finding that over the years, I have added similar language to SLPA discussions where I see students sharing personal opinion versus what they should be demonstrating as an SLPA.  I have been troubled with some of my students "non-verbal" interaction with other students and how they don't see the link between that and their future interactions with clients.  I am making a note to do a similar assignment specific to that issue and making clear directive instructions to help them think critically will be key!

Becky Baranowski Tue, 10/17/2017 - 4:46am

Olga - you definitely teach a subject that is difficult for people to take away their opinions, myself included.  I have found when directions emphasize taking out personal thoughts and to write from a different perspective (or write so that the reader doesn't know what point of view one has) has been very helpful for me.  Thanks for sharing this with us. 

Catherine Cochran Tue, 10/17/2017 - 8:23am


I like the revision of instructions and encouraging our students to think critically about different concepts.  Thank you for sharing!

Yvette Morales-Moller Tue, 10/17/2017 - 1:53pm

How incredible! 95% of the students took off their blinders and used critical thinking skills to read the article through the eyes of a sociologist. Well done!

Heather Muns Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:00pm

What I like about this is how a simple change not only led to better scores (which is important!) but also helped students apply and improve their critial thinking skills by helping them think outside of their "confort zone."

Rachel Holmes Tue, 10/17/2017 - 8:16pm

Olga, this such a great lesson that many of us can implement in our own classes. Helping students to develop critical thinking skills and to look objectively at content is not always easy, but it is definitely a valuable skill. Thank you for sharing!

Norma Jimenez Hernandez Wed, 10/18/2017 - 6:04am

Reminds me how we have to be explicit about what we expect.  Even though there was this direction about thinking sociologically in the first question, the addition of the statements had a positive impact.  It brings the idea of not being defensive to the forefront.  Oftentimes I have students who simply write their opinion without using the class material and/or disciplinary lens to examine the issue.  Bravo, Olga!

Christina Van Wed, 10/18/2017 - 11:36am

I think this is brilliant- thank you for sharing it. I recently assigned a very "hot" article in Abnormal PSY entitled "Is Trump Mentally Ill? Or is America?" Obviously, I had the same concern that students would respond defensively instead of focusing on the multitude of lessons and issues about the practice of ethics in the fields of psychology and psychiatry that were rife in the article. After several different incarnations, I decided to make a long video for the instructions in order to attempt to avoid provoking defensiveness or discussions of their personal politics in favor of focusing on the important ethical conundrums presented in the article. I was delighted that very few of the almost 60 responses I received focused on personal politics per se and students generally stuck to a high level analysis of the competing ethical guidelines in question. Your assessment gives me the idea that next semester I may give one class my video instructions, and transcribe the same instructions into writing for a second class to test the idea that seeing and hearing me ran interference in what could have been a habitual emotional response. Thank you so much for putting this out there, it has given me much food for thought!