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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).

Flipping Good | 1. The Structure of Social Action

Friday, May 24th, 2019
Heads. Or Tails?

This is a simulation I’ve slightly adapted from Renzulli, Aldrich and Reynolds’ “It’s Up In The Air – Or Is It?”, where they use the game of “Heads or Tails?” to show “How social structures can constrain individual actions”.

They apply these ideas to an understanding of social inequality, while here I mainly want to concentrate on how the game can be used:

  • To help students understand the concepts of social structure (in particular) and social action.
  • As the building block for various applications across the Sociology Specification, both explicitly, in areas like social stratification and differentiation and implicitly, in relation to stuff  like family, education and crime.
  • Set Up

    To run the simulation, you will need:

  • Around a minimum of 10 – 12 students (include yourself if necessary), although the more students you have in the class the better because it will make it easier to see how patterns of economic inequality develop. If you only have a small number of students it’s probably worth a test run to see if it works for you. If you’re really “lacking the numbers” you could try to rope in any non-sociology students who happen to be around.
  • 5 coins for every student (such as 1p or 2p coins in the UK).
  • If you think your students are likely to cheat by introducing their own coins into the sim you can use something like plastic tokens instead. In this case you will only need one coin per student.

  • Display Board (such as a whiteboard) to show many coins each student has at the end of each round. Ideally this should be large enough for everyone to easily see how many coins each student holds.
  • Timer (optional) such as a kitchen timer that can be set to 1-minute intervals.
  • How to play the game

    Mass Media | Complete Chapter

    Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

    Over the past few weeks (months? I lose track) I’ve been assiduously assembling a series of mass media booklets from Notes that have been hanging around taking up space on a hard drive for the past few years. Where I’ve thought it necessary – either because I wanted to include some updated material or because a section had become a little outdated (mainly where statistical data was involved) – I’ve added some newer stuff. This gives the chapters a bit more contemporary relevance, particularly where it relates to the fast-moving world of new media, but the main objective here was simply to provide solid coverage of the general ideas and principles involved in studying the mass media.

    Having posted the Notes as individual units (as pdf docs and online flipbooks) I thought it might be helpful to gather them together into a complete Mass Media chapter, again as both a pdf document and online flipbook.

    I’m not sure why but it seemed like a good idea when I thought of – and actually did – it, so it seems like a waste of time and effort not to bung it online.

    So there you have it.

    The complete chapter has five main media sections, each of which are still available as individual pdf documents / flipbooks if you want to distribute them to your students in that way – and you can, as no-one ever says anymore, read all about ’em here:

    Defining and Researching the Mass Media

    The Ownership and Control Debate 

    The Selection and Presentation of News

    Media Representations 

    Media Effects 

    Podcasts With Pictures | GCSE

    Monday, May 20th, 2019

    I’ve been meaning to do a post on the growing number of teachers creating video resources for some time and now I’ve finally managed to drag myself away from Far Cry 5 make a bit of time I thought I’d start with a set of GCSE resources from MTO Sociology aimed at the AQA Specification. When I get around to it I’ll do a follow-up post on A-level video resources of which, you might not be surprised to learn, there are many more available.

    Anyway, at the time of writing the MTO Sociology YouTube Channel has 15 or so Sociology resources divided into 4 main playlists:

    Exam Ready takes you through all the information you need to cover in terms of revision in areas like Methods, Family, Education, Deviance and Stratification. These films are 30 – 60 minutes long.

    Themes focuses on concepts (socialisation, gender, class and ethnicity) that crop-up right across the sociology specification and the podcasts focus on how to apply your knowledge of these themes to questions in different areas (such as family or education). These resources are much shorter – between 10 and 20 minutes – to reflect their tighter focus.

    Perspectives provides a brief introduction to Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism and how these perspectives can be applied across different areas of the Specification. Again, these are relatively short films that come-in around the 10-minute mark.

    Questions and Answers seems to be a bit of a pot-luck resource based on whatever MTO Sociology’s students requested. If you’re having problems understanding concepts like the glass ceiling, for example, this resource will be helpful. If you’re not, it probably won’t. Which isn’t a criticism, more a heads-up. The films in this section are around the 15-minute mark.

    Finally, there are a couple more Sociology resources tucked away on the GCSE Humanities playlist that are worth checking-out: How do I answer exam questions? and Model answers and exam feedback.

    When Good Labels Go Bad…

    Sunday, May 19th, 2019
    Bad news…

    One of the enduringly fascinating things about studying sociology is the way it frequently throws up counter-intuitive ideas that lead us, as teachers and students, to question what we think we know about something. Take, for example, the concept of labelling.

    By-and-large, when we discuss labelling in the context of education the focus is generally on the impact of negative labelling, such as the kind that occurs:

    1. Within the school, through things like teacher-attitudes, the impact of organisational processes  like setting, streaming and banding and the like.

    2. Across the education sector in terms of things like institutional labelling – whether a school is rated “good” or “bad” by Ofsted, for example.

    In relation to school status, we can see evidence of the impact of both positive and negative labelling; in terms of the former, being ranked “Outstanding” by Ofsted can be seen as a major pull-factor in relation to not only attracting students per se, but also for attracting those students with high levels of prior educational achievement.

    In the case of the latter, a school negatively labelled as “bad”, “needs improvement” or, in the worst case, “failing”, may struggle to attract students and is unlikely to attract the kinds of high-achieving, largely middle class, students generally associated with “academically-successful” schools it needs to challenge the label (something that links to a further aspect of negative educational labelling: a self-fulfilling prophecy of decline).

    While these kinds of general “labelling effects” are well-known and well-embedded in the sociology canon, a new (2019) piece of research by Greaves et. al.* gives us a slightly different perspective on educational labelling by suggesting that some forms of positive labelling can have unintended negative effects.

    Positive Labelling, Negative Outcomes?

    Click to download full report
    Greaves et. al.

    Greaves et. al. used a combination of the UK Household Longitudinal Study and Ofsted data to test the effect of the published data on student exam performance. In this context we might reasonably expect that a positive Ofsted report might lead, at best, to an improvement in GCSE exam scores or, at worst, no effect at all.

    What the researchers found, however, was that the students of families who received “good news” about their school’s positive Ofsted rating at the start of the academic year “performed significantly worse in the GCSE exams” than those where the good news about a school’s improved Ofsted rating was revealed much later in the academic year.

    In other words, positive school labelling, in the shape of a good Ofsted rating, seemed to have a negative effect on the exam performance of GCSE students. The earlier in the academic year the news was received, the lower the students’ performance.

    The researcher’s accounted for this unexpected change in academic performance by arguing that “Parents typically reduce help at home when perceived school quality increases. Parents receiving good news are around 20 percentage points more likely to reduce help with homework, for example”. (If you want to take this finding further, of course, you can relate it to ideas about the levels of cultural capital parents are able to employ in pursuit of achieving educational success for their offspring).

    Overall, the “negative effect of positive labelling” in this context meant that “parents who receive good rather than bad news about the quality of their child’s school are 24 percentage points more likely to reduce the help they give their children with homework and 14 percentage points less likely to increase it”. This, in turn, suggested “reduced help by parents lowered children’s exam performance”, even in a situation where “their children’s own time investment in schoolwork increased in response to the same information”.

    In a further interesting finding the researchers’ note that “While parents’ reaction to good news is pronounced, their reaction to bad news about school quality is much more muted. Parents that receive bad news do not respond by significantly increasing their help at home”.

    This is a further finding you might want to usefully explore with your students in terms of different types of capital and their effects in terms of educational achievement.

    * Greaves, E; Hussain, I; Rabe, B and Rasuly, I: “Parental Responses to Information About School Quality: Evidence from Linked Survey and Administrative Data”: Institute for Social and Economic Research (2019)

    Mass Media 5 | Effects

    Saturday, May 18th, 2019

    The final chapter in this series on the Mass Media to accompany the chapters on:
    Defining and Researching the Media,
    The Ownership and Control Debate,
    The Selection and Presentation of News and
    Media Representations

    looks at a range of models of Media Effects: how and in what ways (if any) the mass media affects individual and social behaviour.

    The first – main – section of the chapter covers a number of direct and indirect affects models (from the Hypodermic to Cultural Effects) plus an extensive and updated section on postmodernism / post-effects theory (audience as media, media as audience…).

    The second, much shorter section, moves the focus away from media effects on individuals and groups to look at possible effects – both positive and negative – on society as a whole.

    Update
    This chapter is also now available as an online flipbook.

    Free Sociology Textbooks: A New Batch of Contenders

    Thursday, May 16th, 2019
    Seeing Sociology

    Those of you with long(ish) memories may recall the previous posts in a series that delivers a variety of slightly out-of-date sociology textbooks found gathering dust and mould in some unloved corners of the Internet to your desktop (Sociology Textbooks for Free and More Free Sociology Texts).

    If you do remember them you’ll no-doubt be pleased to know that I’ve been out rummaging once more and have collected a further batch of out-of-print editions of once-loved textbooks-that-have-been-replaced-by-newer-shinier-versions.

    And if you don’t, this should all come as a pleasant surprise.

    As ever, I’ve held fast to only two basic criteria when selecting the books (three if you count the fact that there’s not, in truth, a great deal of selecting going on behind the scenes, or four if you include the proviso they must be freely available “somewhere on the web” – i.e. I’m just the messenger bringing them to you).

    The first is they need to have been published in the 21st century (arbitrary I know, but you have to draw the line somewhere and that’s where I’ve drawn it).

    The second is that they should be out-of-print. i.e. they’re not being sold anywhere or have been supplanted by newer versions.

    Continue to the textbooks

    Sociology Flipbooks: Free Textbook Previews

    Sunday, May 12th, 2019

    So. Here’s the thing.

    I like to occasionally root around on Pinterest   – mainly, it must be said, when I’m pretending to do “research” in order to avoid doing any actual work – because it’s a good source of interesting ideas and practices.

    Like stuff I’ve shared in the past, such as structure strips or the Crumple and Shoot revision game.

    Anyhow, while idly browsing doing important research the other day I chanced upon what turned out to be a flipbook preview of my CIE Sociology textbook that I never knew existed (I’m just the guy who wrote it).

    For reasons best known to themselves, Cambridge University Press, have not only uploaded a 77-page flipbook of Chapter’s 1 and 2 (The Sociological Perspective and Socialisation and the Creation of Social Identity respectively), they’ve also included, half of Chapter 3 (Research Methods).

    Which is nice. But why it abruptly stops half way through the chapter is anyone’s guess.

    Mass Media

    Be that as it may, not content with this rather extraordinary act of generosity, they’ve also added a further 48-page flipbook of the complete Media chapter.

    To put that into context, that’s around 30% of the actual textbook.

    For free.

    That’s extraordinarily generous of CUP with my time and effort.

    Anyway, my interest, not to mention my sense of grievance, having been piqued I decided to see if there were any other previews hanging around just waiting to be discovered and, sure enough, both CUP and Collins have been busy posting both A-level and GCSE materials. Those I’ve found can be viewed online as flipbooks or downloaded for offline use as pdf files. Most only seem to have a single chapter but, since they’re free, what have you got to lose?

    Click here to read more

    Psychology Films 5 | Debates

    Friday, May 10th, 2019

    The fifth and final – at least for the time being as we concentrate on sociology and crime (of the filmic as opposed to “actually committing it” variety) – set of films in our marathon psycho upload looks at some key debates in psychology.

    As ever, the films are designed as short, highly-focused, introductions to a topic, with the emphasis on outlining and explaining key ideas, applications and evaluations relevant to an a-level or ap psychology course of study.

    The Ethics of Abortion 
    7 minutes
    The controversies surrounding abortion involve a clash between two fundamental rights: the rights of the unborn child, or foetus, and the rights of the mother.

    This film begins with the storm created by the US case of Roe vs Wade and then provides students with an unbiased analysis of the ethical issues underlying demands for the criminalisation and the legalisation of abortion.

    Free Will and Determinism 
    7 minutes
    Do we really have free will?
    And, if so, from where does it come?

    In this film, Professor Patrick Haggard explains the differences between free will and behavioural, psychic and neurological determinism.

    We then reconstruct Benjamin Libet’s seminal experiment on determinism, showing its implications for understanding consciousness and explaining human behaviour.

    Click to read more

    Deviancy Amplification: Some Notes

    Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

    I’ve been editing and updating a piece on Media Effects and decided the section on deviancy application didn’t really fit into what I was trying to do.

    Loathe to completely scrap anything at all I’ve ever written, I thought someone might be able to find some use for it as a standalone piece on deviancy amplification.

    So here it is.

    It’s a bit of a “no-frills” effort (I might manage to add some pix later, but I can’t promise anything).

    Make of it what you will.

    Click to Continue…

    Psychology Films 4 | Methodology

    Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

    The penultimate batch of films is once again methods-related, although the general focus with these four films is methodology in psychology.

    Each has been designed to help teachers introduce different topics in a simple, visual, way.

    Reliability and Validity 
    5 minutes
    Psychologists have told us a lot about human behaviour, but can we trust the findings? This film looks at the part played by reliability and validity in helping to answer this question. Reliability and external and internal validity are explained and the key tests of face, concurrent and ecological validity are illustrated with examples from major psychological studies.

    Sampling…

    Sampling 
    6 minutes
    Sampling is crucial in psychology but can be difficult to understand. This film offers a helping hand with a series of visual images that take students through target population, samples, representativeness and generalisability. It then looks at how sampling is done, illustrating differences between probability and non-probability sampling, why different techniques are used and their strengths and limitations. The final part looks at how this knowledge can be used to help evaluate any study based on sampling.

    Reductionism 
    4 minutes
    This film illustrates both the importance and limitations of reductionism in psychological explanation using the example of research into diet and obesity. It compares reductionism and holism and cautions students against simply using reductionism as a critique to be compared unfavourably with holism.

    Variables 
    4 minutes
    Although the idea of variables can seem dull and uninspiring, they are crucial because they’re everywhere in psychology. This film provides a clear introduction to this concept, explaining and illustrating the key questions of definition, types, reliability, validity and application.

    Psychology Films 3 | Non-Experimental Methods

    Monday, May 6th, 2019

    The third batch of new psychology films uploaded to the website focuses on the “other side” of research methods with 4 short films looking at non-experimental methods.

    As with Experimental Methods and Issues in Psychology the emphasis is on providing strong introductions to a specific method or concept. Each of the films includes an overview of its chosen topic, how it has been applied in a particular study or studies and an evaluation of its strengths / weaknesses / limitations. 

    Naturalistic Observation 
    4 minutes
    Some research questions in psychology involve getting out and seeing how people actually behave in real life situations and this involves naturalistic observation.

    Using several key studies, this film illustrates different techniques of naturalistic observation, why psychologists use this method, some of the difficulties involved, and the limitations of the method.

    Self-Report Methods 
    5 minutes
    Self-report methods gather data directly from the participants and this film illustrates and compares two types of self-report method: questionnaires and interviews. This involves looking at some of the problems and limitations common to all self-report methods and how they can be avoided or overcome.

    Correlations 
    4 minutes
    Correlations are relationships and this film begins by illustrating how the strength and direction of those relationships is measured.

    It then uses real research studies to illustrate their uses, limitations and how easily correlation data can be misused.

    Case studies 
    6 minutes
    This film uses the well-known case of ‘Genie’, a girl kept in solitary confinement from infancy until she was 13, to illustrate how and why case are used, what they can offer psychological researchers, their limitations and some of the ethical issues that can often arise through their application.

    Psychology Films 2 | Issues in Psychology

    Friday, May 3rd, 2019

    We’ve now added a second batch of films to the website, focused on a range of issues in psychology.

    The films are relatively short introductions to a general issue (such as ethics and ethical dilemmas) and each provides an overview of an issue, how it has been applied in a particular study or studies and an evaluation of its strengths / weaknesses / limitations.

    John Watson

    Ethics and Ethical Issues 6 minutes
    This film starts by looking at how stricter ethical guidelines were developed in psychology and then illustrates contemporary ethical guidelines and the issues arising from the potential conflicts between protecting participants and producing socially useful research. It concludes by asking whether ethical guidelines may now have gone too far and if they are stifling new research.

    Click to read more

    Visual Notes

    Tuesday, April 30th, 2019
    Family
    Families and Households

    The Sociology Guy has been busy putting together what he calls “quick glance revision notes” for his web site (which, apropos of nothing, is well worth a visit because it contains lots of good stuff) – what might be described as visual notes or mini learning tables / knowledge organisers tied to a specific idea, topic or theme.

    And if this sounds like I’m struggling to do them justice, it’s probably easier just to look at the accompanying pictures because they’ll give you a much better idea about what’s involved.

    And this, in a roundabout way, is probably as it should be, given the claim that “Research suggests that notes that are vibrant, colourful and have pictures or illustrations are 40% more likely to be recalled by students”.

    While I’m not sure what this research might be, the idea does have an initial face validity, in that the combination of text and relevant graphics should help students make evocative connections.

    Anyway, be that as it may, the Notes look attractive and deliver just the right gobbets (that’s actually a word) of information for revision purposes across 6 current areas:

    There’s a Lot more to Follow…

    Psychology Films 1 | Experimental Methods

    Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

    We’ve been adding some new films to the redesigned web site, starting with a batch of four films covering experimental research design and methods.

    Natural Experiments
    Natural Experiments

    The films have been designed as relatively short introductions to a specific method or concept and each provides an overview of its chosen topic, how it has been applied in a particular study or studies and an evaluation of its strengths / weaknesses / limitations.

    Experimental Design
    (7 minutes)
    The film starts with a simple research question – What is the most effective time of day for students to learn new material? – as a way of providing practical illustrations of the strengths and possible limitations of repeated measures, independent measures and matched pairs experimental designs.
    This is subsequently developed by using three classic experimental studies (the Stroop Effect, Loftus’ eyewitness testimony experiments and Bandura’s bobo doll experiments to show why a particular experimental design was used in each case.

    Lab experiments
    Laboratory Experiments

    Laboratory Experiments
    (7 minutes)
    This short film uses a number of well-known psychological studies (Watson, Asch, Bandura, Harlow, Loftus…) to explain the experimental method and illustrate how laboratory experiments are done. This includes evaluating their strengths and limitations and how these limitations do not apply uniformly to all experimental studies.

    Field Experiments
    (5 minutes)
    Three classic studies – Hofling’s study of nurse obedience, Fischer’s test of the cognitive interview and the Pilliavins’ research on good Samaritans – are used to illustrate what field experiments offer psychologists compared to other experimental methods. The film also looks at the difficulties involved with setting up field experiments and examines their strengths and limitations.

    Natural Experiments
    (6 minutes)
    In natural experiments, circumstances present researchers with an opportunity to test the effect of one variable on another in ways that could not be done in a laboratory experiment. This film looks at natural experiments in psychology to illustrate how they work, their differences from other methods, and their strengths and limitations.

    Free Psychology Revision Films

    Friday, April 26th, 2019

    If you fancy a break from the conventional revision slog (a change, we are semi-reliably informed, is as good as a rest) we have four free revision films you might find useful and / or interesting:

    Revise Psychology and Science

    Shows students how to get to grips with the common, but deceptively complicated, examination question of whether or not Psychology can be considered a science. The film identifies the key characteristics of science and uses a range of classic and contemporary studies to show how psychology does – and doesn’t – always measure up to the ideal.

    Revise Correlations

    Identifies and explains the key ideas and areas you need to revise for your psychology exams:
    – positive and negative correlations
    – correlation co-efficient
    – correlation and causation
    – examples: media and violence
    – ethics and socially-sensitive research

    Revise Reliability and Validity

    Outlines some key aspects of these important methodological concepts through a range of real-world examples:
    – internal and external reliability
    – standardisation and re-testing
    – internal and external validity
    – different types of validity (face, construct, etc).

    Revise Ethnocentrism

    Highlights a range of ideas and skills required for a good understanding of ethnocentrism. The film covers:
    – how ethnocentrism is defined
    – how ethnocentrism is socially constructed
    – applying knowledge of researcher, conceptual and reporting bias
    – evaluating the uses and limitations of ethnocentrism