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Welcome to the ShortCutstv Blog

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

This is the part of the site we use to post anything we think might be of interest to teachers and students of Sociology and Psychology – from announcements about new Sociology, Psychology and Criminology films, to teaching and learning Notes, PowerPoints, web sites, software – just about anything that piques our interest, really.

At the time of writing (October 2018) there are over 500 individual posts on the Blog, so we’ve included a range of functions (on the bar to the right) to help you find the stuff you want:

• Search Box: if you’re looking for something specific (it’s not very clever so try to Keep It Simple).
• Popular Tags: identifies the most popular keywords used in posts (the larger the word, the more posts there are about it).
• Popular Posts: identifies the post that have had the most views.
• Categories: allows you to filter posts by Sociology, Psychology, Simulations and Toolbox.

Finally, you can use the Subscribe box to be notified by email each time a new post appears on the Blog (we guarantee not to do anything with your email address other than send automatic notifications).

Neo-Functionalism: Dragging “Family Functions” into the 21st Century

Monday, February 18th, 2019

The “functions of the family” is an a-level course / exam staple and you can drag it out of the 20th century Murdock / Parsons duopoly by adding a neo-functionalist twist.

Are contemporary Western families characterised by a fluidity of gender roles?

For Swenson (2004), the focus is on adults as providers of a stable family environment for primary socialisation. This involves:

1. Roles conceived as both expressive and instrumental.

2. Providing children with a safe, secure, environment that gives free range to both expressive and instrumental roles and values.

In this respect neo-Functionalism suggests parents contribute to the socialisation process by giving their children a knowledge of both expressive and instrumental role relationships.

The key thing here, for Swenson, is that it doesn’t particularly matter which partner provides which; all that matters is they do – and the significance of this idea is that it means gender roles in contemporary families are not necessarily conceived as fix, unchanging and immutable – even for Functionalists.

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Sociology in Focus for AS: Family Resources

Friday, February 15th, 2019

This second set of free resources for users of the Sociology in Focus For AS textbook covers the ever-popular Families and Households Module and includes the following:

Exam Focus

Overview Map: A basic spider diagram you can use if you want to give students a broad overview of the content to be covered in the Module.

Revision Maps: Further, more-detailed, spider diagrams that map specific content to each Unit in the Module. These give students a broad indication of the work to be covered in each Module and can also be used as a handy revision aid.

Activity Answers: Complete, author-approved, answers to the questions that appear throughout the Module. A major time-saver when it comes to marking or an easy way for students to self-check their answers? The choice is yours.

Worksheets: Setting your students text-based tasks (individually and collectively) can be a useful way of checking learning or starting a discussion going. Each Worksheet is designed around three different activities:

  • Consolidate, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
  • Apply, designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
  • Evaluate, designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.
  • Teaching Tips provide some simple ideas for teaching activities

    Exam Focus provides specimen questions, exemplar student answers and analysis by a senior examiner. Be aware, however, that the types of questions asked and the marks awarded to each type may have changed in the 10 years since this text was originally published.

    Sociology in Focus for A2: Methodology Resources

    Monday, February 11th, 2019

    If you’ve bagged yourself a copy of the Sociology in Focus for AQA A2 textbook and you’re wondering what to do with it beside read it, help is at hand with the addition of the resources originally produced to complement and supplement the text.

    Revision Map

    These, in no particular order, consist of:

    Overview Map: An introductory overview that maps the broad content in the book to each Unit in the Methodology Module.

    Revision Maps: Complementing the introductory overview, these spider diagrams delve a bit deeper, mapping specific content to each Unit in the Module.

    Activity Answers: One of the major features of the text is the activities / questions posed throughout and if you need suggested answers – to allow students to quickly check their learning, engage in a little peer review and marking or simply because it’s easier to mark student work when someone has already provided guideline answers – you’ll love this set of resources.

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    Sociology in Focus for A2: Free Textbook

    Sunday, February 10th, 2019

    Sociology in Focus for A2 is, as you may have guessed, the companion volume to the previously-posted AS text and it’s no great surprise that its design and layout perfectly complements its AS counterpart. This includes the by-now standard colour-coded sections, lots of pictures, activities and questions that, at the time, were considered a quite radical design departure that was not, it hardly needs to be said, to everyone’s taste.
    The main concern, particularly but not exclusively among those who were concerned about this kind of thing, was that something had to make way for all the activities, pretty pictures, questions and even prettier pictures.

    And that something was, inevitably, the amount of text that managed to squeeze its way on pages crammed with all kinds of attractive, if sometimes largely superfluous, imagery.

    While it’s relatively easy to get away with this at AS level, it’s somewhat harder to pull-off the same trick at A2 level.

    So does it manage to pull it off?

    Well. Yes and No.

    The text, although limited in length, is generally well-written and informative and sometimes takes students into areas – particularly related to sociological theory – they aren’t usually expected to venture. Unfortunately, by meandering off the beaten track the text runs the risk, at times, of failing to adequately cover the bare essentials.

    Although it’s a moot point as to whether this text alone adequately prepares students for A2, this is where you and your students are quid’s in: you can use bits-and-bobs to supplement the more up-to-date texts you undoubtedly use in your day-to-day teaching.

    Alternatively, it’s a nice, big, bold, colourful text with lots of ideas for activities. And questions.

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    Sociology in Focus for AS: Culture and Identity Resources

    Saturday, February 9th, 2019
    Culture and Identity Overview Map

    Having previously posted a copy of the Sociology in Focus AS textbook, I thought it might be useful to throw-in a little additional something by way of the resources that were originally produced to accompany the text.

    While there’s nothing outrageously brilliant about the resources, you might find some – or indeed all – of them a useful addition to the textbook. To allow you to pick-and-choose which resources you want, I’ve posted them in 6 separate categories that do exactly what they say on the tin:

    Overview Map:

    A spider diagram that broadly maps the main areas covered in each Unit in the Module.

    Revision Maps:

    More-detailed spider diagrams that map the main content of each Unit in the Module

    Activity Answers:

    Although Johnny Nash may be firmly of the opinion there are “More questions than answers“, in this particular instance he would be wrong. There are exactly the same number of answers here as questions. Which, all things considered, is probably as it should be.

    As to their function, you might find them useful if you want students to quickly check their own learning.

    More adventurously they can be used for things like peer review and marking.

    Worksheets:

    A Worksheet…

    While worksheets aren’t everyone’s cup of hot chocolate, these are slightly different in the sense they place less emphasis on individual working and more emphasis on small-group and whole class work. For each module there are three types of question, each of which is designed to promote different types of responses:

    • Consolidate questions, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
    • Apply questions designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
    • Evaluate questions designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.

    Teaching Tips:

    Some fairly rudimentary ideas for different ways to teach various aspects of the Module., including some simple classroom activities.

    Exam Focus:

    Specimen questions and exemplar student answers. Be aware that the types of questions asked and the marks awarded to each type of question may have changed in the 10 years since this text was originally published.

    Free Textbook: Sociology in Focus for AS

    Friday, February 8th, 2019
    Sociology in Focus: Families and Households

    For those of you with long(ish) memories, the original Sociology in Focus textbook first appeared in the mid-1990’s and I remember being quite taken by its novel(ish) attempt to reinvent “The Textbook” as something more than just a lot of pages with a lot of text.

    Although it did, with hindsight, actually have “a lot of text” (they were much simpler times) it also had colour pages (if you include pale blue, black and white as “colour”), pictures (even though they were black and white, they still counted), activities and questions.

    A lot of questions.

    None of which had answers.

    You had to buy a separate resource if you wanted answers (something I casually mention in an apparently throwaway fashion that at some point in the future you will look back on and think “Ah! Foreshadowing).

    Anyway.

    Around 2004 Sociology in Focus was reinvented as a fully-fledged “Modern Text” with colour-coded sections, colour pictures and less text.  A lot less text.

    Although it was basically the same format laid-down by the original (activities, questions…) with a more student-friendly “down with the kids” vibe, it was now split into two books, one for AS-level and one for A2.

    Which brings me to 2009 and the emergence of a “2nd edition” (that was really a 3rd edition, but who’s counting?), suitably reorganised to take account of yet another Specification change that no-one asked for but which everyone got anyway.

    I’m guessing you’ll not be that surprised to know the format was pretty much the same (and by “pretty much” I mean “exactly”) because it clearly worked, although by this stage I got the distinct impression that most of the production effort was being put into what the text looked like and rather less effort was being placed on the task of updating it.

    While the new edition did reflect further changes to the AQA Sociology Specification – Mass Media, for example, was moved to A2 – there is actually little or no difference between the “AS Media” text of the 2nd edition and the “A2 Media” text of the 3rd edition…

    If you decide to use this textbook with your students – and it does actually have a lot going for it in terms of design and presentation – you need to be aware that the level of information in some sections (looking at you, Mass Media) may be slightly lacking in terms of depth of coverage. In addition, given yet more changes to the A-level Specification, some of the areas covered in the text are no-longer present in the latest Specification and one or two newer inclusions are obviously not covered.

    Having said that, I do think this is a worthwhile text to have available for your students and, given that it’s out-of-print, one of the few ways they’re ever going to be able to read it.

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    Progress Mat

    Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

    Although the idea of “learning progression” is something to which all teachers aim – if there was no progress there probably wouldn’t be much point in the class taking place – one problem is that it’s frequently difficult to successfully and succinctly document progression, whether you want such documentation as proof of progress to an outsider (such as a colleague or inspector) or for your own peace of mind.

    A Progress Mat…

    And this is where the Progress Mat comes into play.

    It provides a simple way to record and document learning within a class.

    It’s also a useful starting-point for a particular teaching technique.

    Who originally designed it, I’m not quite sure since the metadata simply reveals the rather enigmatic “Keith” as the author. All I’ve actually done is change a few minor things like the size of the presentation, replaced a rather horrible rainbow triangle with a “prior learning” square, added a couple more boxes and changed the colours slightly.

    I’ve also removed the rudimentary and frankly-quite-annoying animation. Because I could make such executive decisions and also because it was, frankly, quite annoying.

    Be that as it may, the Mat reflects a simple way of demonstrating progress: it begins with a baseline set of ideas – what students “already know” about a question or topic – and then documents how they add to and develop their knowledge and understanding during a lesson. The three broad areas on the Mat (new ideas / concepts, contemporary applications and links to sociological studies / writers) were created by the aforementioned Keith and while they fit broadly with the kinds of categorical skills students need to understand / acquire, I’ve left the Progress Mat in its original PowerPoint form so you easily change any, or indeed all, of these categories.

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    Revision Game: Crumple and Shoot

    Sunday, January 27th, 2019

    Crumple-and-Shoot is a simple, whole-class, team-based, revision game that’s similar to the GrudgeBallUk revision game I’ve previously posted.

    It’s revision, Jim, but not as we know it…

    The main difference between the two is that Crumple and Shoot (or as I’d like to call it, “Bin It to Win It”) is much easier to set-up and play and requires very few resources: some questions, pieces of paper on which to write group answers and the all-important waste-paper bin.

    It’s a game devised and developed by Jennifer Gonzalez and you can find a video explanation of what the game involves and how to play it on her Cult of Pedagogy website.

    In addition there’s a How To Play pdf file available with a detailed description of the (minimal) rules.

    You can, of course, adjust the rules to suit (such as awarding groups points for answering a question correctly as well as gaining the chance to score extra points in the “crumple and shoot” part of the game).

    While the game can be played as part of end-of-year revision sessions, the simple set-up particularly lends itself to quick end-of-week / end-of-module revision – something that has the added bonus of encouraging students to see revision and review as an integral part of their GCSE or A-level course.

    Sociology Flipbooks

    Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

    A Flipbook is a way of displaying a pdf document online so that it has the look-and-feel of a paper-based magazine, one whose pages you can turn using a mouse (desktop) or finger (mobile).


    A Flipbook.
    Not Actual Size.
    Unless you’re using a mobile.
    Then it might be.

    That’s it, really.

    I could talk about stuff like whether this creates a greater sense of engagement among students than the bog-standard static pages of a pdf file, but since I’ve got no idea (and I don’t know of anyone who’s bothered to try to find out) that would just be me trying to find a deceptively- plausible way to encourage you to try them.

    So, if this Big Build-Up has piqued your curiosity and / or whetted your appetite for Flipbooks you’ll be pleased to know I’ll be adding a variety of the little blighters to this page on what might be charitably termed an ad-hoc basis (translation: whenever I can be bothered or can find the time).

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    Methods Mat

    Monday, January 14th, 2019
    Methods Mat

    A generic Methods Mat template that might be useful for both Sociology and Psychology A-level Research methods teaching. 

    The Research Methods Tables created by Liam Core got me thinking about how to present a similar level of information in a Learning Mat format (such as Stacey Arkwright’s Sociology Mats, the Psychology Studies Mat or the generic Sociology / Psychology Mat).

    What I’ve come up with is Learning Mat template – an A4 page available as either a PowerPoint or Pdf document – focused on a single research method. I’ve included the PowerPoint version for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, if you’re in the habit of displaying stuff for your students it’s much easier to do this in PowerPoint.

    Secondly, if you want to edit the template – to create, for example, a worked illustration – it’s a lot less work to do it in PowerPoint.

    Although the Mat should be fairly straightforward to use (it includes space to note the Key Features, Strengths and Weaknesses of a Research Method) I’ve added / adapted a couple of sections from the original:

    The first is fairly minor: the addition of a way to indicate if it’s a primary or secondary research method).

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    Research Methods Tables

    Saturday, January 12th, 2019

    I’ve previously posted a couple of pieces of Liam Core’s work (a Sociology Literacy Mat and an A-level Evidence Bank Template) and since these have proven very popular with teachers I thought I’d tap him up for a few more resources.

    Research Methods Table

    And, sure enough, he’s delivered.

    This time it’s a handy research methods table students use to record key aspects of a range of methods (from questionnaires to public documents). The (Word) format’s easy to replicate so if you need to add or subtract different methods before you let your students loose it’s relatively easy to do.

    In terms of completing the table, for each research method students are required to note its:

  • Key features
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Practical issues
  • Ethical issues
  • How you use the table is, of course, up to you but it’s a resource that could be useful for revision, as a prompt sheet for timed essay writing and so forth.

    Methods Mat

    The resource packs a lot of research methods onto a single A4 page and some teachers / students might find this a bit restrictive, so if you decide to use this as a paper-based resource the author suggests you enlarge it to A3 before giving it to your students. Alternatively, if you find A3 materials a little unwieldy, you might like to try this Methods Mat – an A4 document focused on a single method.

    The Cannibal on Bus 1170: Rethinking Moral Panics

    Friday, January 11th, 2019

    In July 2008, 22-year-old Tim McLean was riding Greyhound Bus 1170, on his way back to his home in Winnipeg, Canada, when he was attacked by Vincent Li, a fellow passenger. Li stabbed McLean numerous times before cutting off McLean’s head, dismembering the body and eating some of the parts.

    Li, who suffered from schizophrenia, was quickly arrested and subsequently deemed unfit for criminal prosecution on the basis that, as Canadian sociologist Heidi Rimke describes it:

    “The voices in his head were telling him Tim McClean was going to harm him and everybody on the bus”.

    For Li, therefore, killing McLean and eating his body was the only possible way to save the lives of all concerned.

    “He believed that if he didn’t dismember and destroy the body it would re-constitute and thereby remain a threat to everyone on the bus”.

    The widespread public anger and concern at these events – the brutal, apparently senseless, killing, the cannibalism and the fact Li seemed to “escape punishment” for his actions ( Li was committed to a secure medical facility from which he was released in 2017) – suggested a classic moral panic in the form described by Stan Cohen in “Folk Devils and Moral Panics” (1972):

    “A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible”.

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    Wakelet

    Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

    If you’re a teacher looking for a free Padlet replacement, this versatile Bookmarking site will probably do everything you need.

    Bookmarking sites can be a handy way for teachers to store and share all kinds of related information with their students and the leader in the field has, for me at least, always been Padlet, www.padlet.com mainly because it lets you organise and display a variety of linked documents (text, video, audio…) in a quick, simple and visual way.

    Recent changes to the site have, however, seen its functionality limited unless you fork out for the “Pro Plans” at around $100 / £75 a year. While there’s still a perfectly serviceable free version that let’s you organise a wide range of different types of information, new users are only allowed 3 free Boards (Padlet’s way of naming grouped information).

    And while you can still cram a lot of bookmarks into a Board, it’s not very useful if you want to categorise information in more than 3 ways.

    Which is probably something most teachers want to do.

    But without the price tag.

    And this is where Wakelet might be a useful alternative, particularly if you just want to store and organise basic types of information, such as links, documents and videos. While Padlet has a few more bells and whistles, Wakelet does pretty much everything a teacher / student might need (although it’s important to note it doesn’t – at least at the time of writing – allow you to directly upload Word or PowerPoint documents. You need to covert them to Pdf first – and although this isn’t an insurmountable problem, it is a definite limitation).

    Functionality

    Instead of Boards, Wakelet has Collections – places where you store related bookmarks. If you want to see how this works, this is a Collection I made earlier. It’s just a set of video links, but it should give you an idea about the sort of stuff Wakelet can do once you’ve familiarised yourself with the interface and layout.

    There are some basic customisations you can make to your Home Page and Collections (adding background images / branding for example) and you can set one of three levels of access for each Collection:

  • Public can be seen by anyone
  • Private, which only you can see
  • Unlisted, where you can invite people to view a Collection based on a link you share.
  • In terms of what you can Bookmark, this currently includes:

  • YouTube videos
  • pdf documents
  • images
  • free text (you can write whatever you like)
  • Twitter links to display a Twitter feed as a Collection (although this requires giving Wakelet a level of access to your Twitter account that you might want to think twice about)
  • Crosslinks that allow a link from one Collection to be added to a different Collection.
  • You can also give different contributors, such as your students, access to each Collection so they can add information to it.

    Overall, while Wakelet is probably not quite as flexible as Padlet, it’s a decent bookmarking site that’s easy to use and which allows you to create as many Collections as you need.

    All for free.

    Happy New Year.

    Attitudes to Marriage in China

    Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
    Click to download a pdf copy.
    Download the Report

    As you may be aware, from time-to-time I’ve featured a variety of short pieces of research, on a range of topics, carried-out by Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.
    This latest study by Elim Wu (“What are High-School Girls’ Attitudes Towards Marriage in China’s International High Schools?”), a high school sociology student at the school, is well-worth the read for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, it gives an interesting glimpse inside a non-European society that UK students in particular should find useful as a way of broadening their knowledge and understanding of contemporary societies.

    Secondly, it’s a relatively simple piece of research (in the sense that it doesn’t try to be over-ambitious in what it can realistically achieve with the time and resources available) carried-out by an A-level student.

    The study looks at female attitudes to marriage and the various pressures surrounding the development of such attitudes, with a particular focus on parental and wider cultural attitudes to marriage in contemporary China. The study has three main sections (although some of these are sub-divided):

    1. Background reading about marriage in China that’s used to set the context for the study, in terms of outlining some of the traditional social pressures faced by young women. In addition the material notes some of the contemporary attitudinal changes creeping into a Chinese society undergoing rapid modernisation.

    2. The Methodology section provides information about the research method (semi-structured interviews), sample and pilot study. There’s a helpful discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the method A-level students should find useful. Discussion of the plot study also provides an interesting reflection on the research, in terms of things like how questions evolve in the light of researcher experience. Again, this is useful information that gives students an insight into how “real-life” research changes to meet unexpected problems and conditions.

    3. Final Findings sets-out the qualitative data collected from the interviews. This is worth reading for both the content – the author interviewed a number of perceptive and articulate respondents – and the clarity with which the data is linked to the various research questions.

    While the study clearly has limitations, both in terms of the subject matter and the methodology (only 6 respondents were interviewed, for example) this makes it a useful piece of research on which A-level students can practice skills such as evaluation – to which end the author has included a helpful final section in which they evaluate the work they’ve produced.

    Ethnicity in Advertising Report

    Friday, December 14th, 2018
    Download pdf version of the Report
    Download Report pdf

    This short Report, sponsored by the Lloyds Banking Group, asks the question “Does Advertising Reflect Modern Britain in 2018?” and answers it in a way that both GCSE and A-level Sociology teachers and students should find useful.

    In basic terms, it’s a big, colourful, pdf file in three broad sections available for viewing online or offline as a pdf download.  

    In basic terms, it’s a big, colourful, pdf file in three broad sections available for viewing online or offline as a pdf download.  

    1. Key Findings does exactly what you might expect by pulling together a couple of A4 posters worth of information – covering things like ethnic identities and media representations and stereotypes – and presenting it in a clear, informative, way.

    2. Findings goes into more detail about what the research discovered, with a few bits-and-pieces of interpretation thrown into the mix for good measure. There’s also an interesting little section on “ethic identity”, plus a short discussion of the relationship between ethic and gender identities.

    3. Methodology. This adds a further dimension of usefulness as far as sociology teachers are concerned because it provides an opportunity to examine how a piece of research is constructed, particularly in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, reliability and validity.

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