Answer to Question #204437 in Sociology for Alicia Geel

Question #204437

Identify THREE principles of symbolic interactionism and discuss how you, as a teacher, would apply these principles in the classroom.

Expert's answer

 Symbolic interactionism involves perceiving society as composed of symbols that are used by individuals in the society to communicate with one another, develop meaning and perception about the world around them. This theory explains how society is made and maintained through the interactions of people in that society. The three principles of symbolic interactionism are, meaning, thinking, and language.

One of the principles of symbolic interactionism is meaning. People behave in a particular way concerning others in society based on the meaning they have given them. For instance, students will behave in a given way to a teacher due to the image they have concerning a teacher (Bernasiewicz, 2017). Therefore, these images will guide how they will behave and act around a teacher. The student’s perception of their teacher will influence their behavior concerning the subject the teacher is teaching. Therefore, the teacher should ensure that the students have the right perception about them which will influence the learning process.

 Another principle is the language which provides meaning to people by the use of symbols. People in society express the meaning of symbols they attach to object through language. Language helps to form assumptions and meaning. In relation to education, the expectations of teachers towards their student performance have an impact on their students’ performance. For instance, if the teacher expects the students to perform well then there is a high probability that those students will do well. Also, the communication pattern in the classroom has an impact on the learning process (Lithari, 2019). Therefore, as a teacher, one should consider using communication patterns that will have a positive impact on the students.

The cognitive ability of thinking is very important in solving the challenges and problems faced by the individual or by society in general. As a teacher, perceptual thinking is necessary because it will enable one to do the interpretation of sensation according to one’s experience. To make use of concepts, the generalized objects and languages conceptual thinking is important as it will economize the efforts in understanding and problem-solving in the classroom. Reflective thinking will help a teacher in solving complex problems, through reorganization of all the relevant experiences to a situation or removing obstacles instead of relating with those experiences as the thinking process will take all the relevant facts arranged in a logical order into an account in order to arrive at a solution of a problem.

The third principle of symbolic interactionism is thinking. Thinking in this context means, different interpretations that we assign to various symbols. The thinking principle is based on language. It is a mental process that involves talking about the meanings, names, and symbols of different objects. This process involves a lot of imagination. This principle has the power to provide an idea about something, although unknown based on the knowledge gained. In a class context, a teacher can apply this principle to identify the category that a certain object falls. The student will be able to categorize the given object; the student had been taught about the features of objects that fall in that category of interest.


It is important for teachers to understand the three principles of symbolic interactionism so that they could apply them appropriately in the classroom. This will have a positive impact on the learning impact of education. The three principles if applied well can help the way teachers interact with the students and assist them in bettering their performance. For instance, teachers could change the perception of girls on mathematics and sciences by changing the way they communicate in the classroom.


Bernasiewicz, M. (2017). Working with children at risk in the perspective of symbolic interactionism (IS) and situational action theory (SAT).

Lithari, E. (2019). Fractured academic identities: dyslexia, secondary education, self-esteem and school experiences. International Journal of Inclusive Education23(3), 280-296.

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