11.469 | Spring 2016 | Graduate

Urban Sociology in Theory and Practice

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 11.469 Urban Sociology in Theory and Practice as it was taught by Assistant Professor Justin Steil and Teaching Assistant Aditi Mehta in Spring 2016.

This course introduces students to core writings in the field of urban sociology, and explores the nature and changing character of the city and the urban experience in the U.S. and abroad. Topics include the changing conceptions of “community,” the effects of neighborhood characteristics on individual outcomes, the significance of social capital and networks, the drivers of categorical inequality, and the interaction of social structure and political power. This class is comprised of students from MIT and from the Boston University Metropolitan College Prison Education Program, and took place at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

The course has two primary goals:

  1. To give students a more critical appreciation of the contemporary, comparative, and historical contexts in which planning skills and sensibilities have been developed and are applied.
  2. To offer a “sociology of knowledge” approach to the field of urban sociology.

Instructor Insights

"The material in this course was challenging and the workload demanding.  We did not see a difference in the capabilities or dedication of MIT and BU students.  In classroom discussions, both groups of students shined.  Because the MIT grad students had more practice writing, we spent more time editing BU papers, but the analysis, arguments, and thoughts were equally impressive among both groups.  The experience reinforced the idea that everyone is capable of learning and contributing successfully if given the right opportunities."
— Justin Steil and Aditi Mehta

Below, Assistant Professor Justin Steil and Teaching Assistant Aditi Mehta describe various aspects of how they taught 11.469 Urban Sociology in Theory and Practice.

Curriculum Information


There are no prerequisites for this course. Permission of the instructor is required.

Requirements Satisfied



Offered on a variable schedule.


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 20% In-class participation
  • 30% Weekly response paper & presentation
  • 10% In-class team presentation of an ethnography
  • 15% Reflection paper on the learning experience
  • 25% Term paper or research proposal

Student Information


23 students

Breakdown by Year

Undergraduate and graduate students

Breakdown by Major

MIT students were pursuing graduate degrees in city planning and urban studies and planning.

Boston University Metropolitan College students had received or were pursuing bachelor’s degrees in urban studies and sociology.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:


  • Met 1 time per week for 3 hours, 13 sessions total.
  • Seminars included Socratic discussions, student presentations, and brief lectures about the assigned readings and study questions.

Out of Class

  • Weekly response papers
  • Preparation for team presentation of an ethnography
  • Reflection paper on the learning experience
  • Term paper or research proposal

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2016
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Instructor Insights