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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 we’re rapidly approaching 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).

Even More Online Crime Modules

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

These online Crime and Deviance learning modules cover situational crime prevention, white-collar crime and hate crime.

After a brief detour down the side road that is Research Methods we’re back on the main Crime and Deviance highway with a serendipitous (i.e. totally unrelated but I needed to make this post a bit longer so I could fit some screenshots into it) set of modules developed by the University of Portsmouth, presumably to allow their students to enjoy the freedom to not bother attending lectures that is online learning (only joking. I’m pretty sure Portsmouth students are as diligent and industrious as the students from any other Palace of Learning you might care to name).

The three modules are as follows:

1. Situational Crime Prevention
• Prevention Strategies
• Situational Crime prevention theory
• Target hardening and removal
• Removing inducements
• Rule setting
• Surveillance (formal and informal)
• Criticism of Situational Crime Prevention

If you fancy delving a little deeper into this general area, the Situational Crime Prevention materials I’ve previously posted might help.

2. Fraud
• Fraud and Criminology
• White Collar Crime

3. Hate Crime
• Definitions
• Hate Crime Laws
• The case for and against Hate Crime laws

The By-Now Obligatory Tech Note: Depending on the age and type of your browser, you may find there are a few display issues with the resources. These issues, however, have a couple of work-arounds that should allow you to see the resources:

1. If the main information window doesn’t load correctly you may see a blank window with a menu to the left. If this happens try refreshing your browser and the main window should load correctly. Alternatively, click the on-screen arrow to close the menu, click it again to open it and select an option. This seems to refresh the main window correctly.

2. If you see an “access denied” message in the main information window click the module title link to the right of the page navigation menu (First, Previous, Next, Last…). This takes you to a page where you have the option to “View This Resource”. Clicking this link should make everything work okay.

The Dark Side of Family Life: Domestic Abuse

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

The issue of domestic abuse has hit the headlines recently with the start of both the 2018 World Cup and not-uncoincidentally, a “Give Domestic Abuse the Red Card” campaign promoted by a range of police forces and widely-reported in both old and new media.

The campaign highlights the relationship between domestic violence (defined in terms of some form of physical assault) and the outcome of England football matches and is intended to draw attention to the social problem of domestic violence by connecting it to an event on which the eyes of the nation are currently fixed.

While the intention to may be laudable – domestic violence was arguably, until very recently, an “invisible crime” rarely perceived or investigated by the authorities as anything more than a “domestic dispute” – the campaign is, intentionally or otherwise, being a little disingenuous with its selection and presentation of evidence.

While the campaign claim that “Domestic Abuse rates rise 38% when England lose” is demonstrably true, the implication this is a nationwide increase is rather more open to question. The claim seems to be based on research by Kirby, Francis and O’Flahery (2014) who analysed police reports of “domestic abuse” (which they defined in terms of physical violence) during the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

While the analysis did indeed show “violent incidents increased by 38% when England lost” we need to note a couple of qualifications:

1. In what they acknowledge was “a relatively small study”, the rise was recorded in the one police force (Lancashire) they analysed. While it’s possible to speculate similar rises may have been recorded in other areas of the country this is not something supported by the evidence from this particular study.

2. The implied casual relationship between “England losing” and an increase in male violence towards their partner is somewhat clouded by Kirby et al’s observation that male domestic abuse “also rose by 26% when England won”.

Two further problematic areas in the campaign are also worth noting:

1. The focus on male domestic abuse and the implication domestic violence is not only a “problem of masculinity” but a very particular form of working-class masculinity ignores the increasing evidence of female domestic abuse. The Office for National Statistics (2018) for example estimates a roughly 66% female – 33% male ratio of victimisation (1.2 million female and 713,000 male reported victims) and while this imbalance is clearly important it also suggests that abuse causality is more-complex than it might, at first sight, appear.

2. The implication “abuse” is has only one dimension (physical violence). Again, the ONS (2018) suggests this is only one – albeit immediate and important – dimension of domestic abuse and we need to be aware of other, perhaps less immediate – dimensions.

In this respect, while the campaign and its relationship to the study on which it seems to be based raise interesting questions about how and to what end sociological research is used, a more-nuanced way to develop student understanding of the issues and debates surrounding domestic abuse and the darker side of family life is to use the recent Office for National Statistics’ Research Bulletin on “Domestic Abuse in England and Wales” (2018).

While this offers a comprehensive overview and analysis of the debate (in addition to useful observations about the reliability and validity of domestic abuse data that can be linked to the crime and deviance module – “Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police, which is why the estimated number of victims is much higher than the number of incidents and crimes recorded by the police. Of the cases which do come to the attention of the police, many, although still recorded as incidents and dealt with as required, will fall short of notifiable offences and are therefore not recorded as crimes.”) most students (and teachers come to that) will probably find the summary of its main points most accessible and memorable.

Introduction to Research Methods

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Pages from the University of Portsmouth suitable for a-level sociology students. The resources mainly cover research methods (questionnaires, interviews, observation…) and a little bit of methodology…

Over the past few months you may, or more-probably may not, have noticed that I’ve posted a range of crime and deviance resources on theories of crime, policing and so forth from the University of Portsmouth.

Despite the well-documented problems encountered in tracking-down and assembling these resources, I decided to have a look around to see if there were any further resources available on other topics suitable for a-level students. As luck – or what I prefer to call good solid detective work – would have it, there were. On the flipside, however, is the fact they relate to most people’s least favourite module, Research Methods (or as the Unit is self-described, an Introduction to Research Skills).

As with the majority of the resources across different topics, they’re a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to content and presentation: some pages and modules seem to have had a lot of care and attention lavished on them, while others are just a page or so of plain text. Whether this reflects a deliberate policy or the fact that money and / or enthusiasm for the project ran out I’ve no idea. The resources are, however, generally pitched at a level suitable for a-level students and could be used in a variety of ways (such as flipped learning) to help students get to grips with research methods. (more…)

More Crime and Deviance Pages

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Crime pages from the University of Portsmouth archive. This set provides notes and activities focused on theories of crime that are generally suitable for a-level sociology (and criminology) students.

When I first started posting these crime resources I had to link directly to each page in a module because the menu that I was convinced bound everything neatly together was “missing” (in the sense “I couldn’t initially work out where it was hiding” rather than it having disappeared, never to be seen again).

This, as you may have discovered, was a bit of a pain and not conducive to encouraging students to explore the pages on offer.

I knew, however, there had to be a menu somewhere and that it was just a matter of finding it. And, after a bit of detective work, I did.

At least for some of the individual chapters.

While I still think there is an overall menu somewhere that provides easy access to all the materials in the complete “crime resource”, I haven’t been able to find it; so for now it’s a case of using the individual links for the various categories I have managed to find.

The first batch of modules / pages linked here mainly relate to theories of crime and deviance (some of which I’ve already posted as individual pages, but since I can’t remember which I decided to post them all).

(more…)

Youth Subcultures: The Changing Face of Gangs

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Unlike in the USA, where the study of “gangs” and “gang culture” – from “Street Corner Society” to “Gang Leader for A Day” – is firmly embedded in the sociological mainstream, the empirical study of UK gangs is fairly limited.

This makes it all the more interesting that, over the past 10 years, Waltham Forest Council in London has been responsible for commissioning two major Reports into gang behaviour in the Borough (and beyond) that give a valuable insight into the sociological background to both gang origins (including definitions and typologies) and development: the claim gangs are moving away from relatively simple “status models” that focus on the idea of “surrogate families” to a more-complex economic model that sees gangs as part of an illegal network economy that both shadows and, at some points intersects with, legal economic behaviour.

If you have the time the two Reports are worth reading for the different insights they give into gangs and gang behaviour:

The first, John Pitts’ “Reluctant Gangsters: Youth Gangs in Waltham Forest (2007), has a lot of useful information on areas like:

• Defining Gangs
• Explaining how and why gangs emerge
• Youth Gangs and the Drugs Market
• Gang Members, Culture and Violence
• The Social Impact of Gangs

Throughout the Report Pitts’ references a wide range of sociological studies that will be familiar to students studying crime and deviance, something that should help them make connections between wider sociological theories of deviance and the specific development of gang-based youth subcultures.

The second – Whittaker et. al’s “From Postcodes to Profit: How gangs have changed in Waltham Forest” (2018) – is equally worth a read because although it covers a lot of similar ground to Pitt’s initial work, its focus is less on the sociological origins of gangs and more on locating them in the social and economic structure of the area, in this case Waltham Forest, in which they arise and are embedded.

Although Whittaker et al necessarily look at ideas about gang structures and membership, from definitions, through typologies to an important and interesting section on a relatively-neglected area, the role of girls in gangs, this material is largely a scene-setter for a wider debate about the evolution of gangs in this area of London. More-specifically, the author’s central argument is one that sees contemporary gangs, at least in London, developing into what are primarily economic entities: the section on “Gangs, technology and social media”, which looks at things like “brand development and promotion” is particularly interesting and demonstrates how various forms of new technology – from mobile hardware to platform software – have been rapidly adopted and integrated into gang cultures and structures. An interesting measure of this rapid integration is that Pitts’ said nothing about the gang use of social media a little over 10 years ago.

While both Reports contain a lot of useful information relating to both wider areas like Crime and Deviance and more-specific areas like Youth Subcultures (and, as an added bonus, are both written in language that’s very accessible to A-level students), if you don’t have the time or inclination to read them, the recent publication of “From Postcodes to Profits” has spawned some useful media coverage that captures some of the major ideas contained within the Report. In this respect, it’s worth looking at:

1. Waltham Forest Council publishes ground breaking report that shows how gangs are more money than territory orientated compared to a decade ago.

2. London gangs driven by desire to profit from drug trade.

3. Gangs: More violent, ruthless and organised than ever.

Get Back The Heartbeat: A Film about Social Control

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Around 10 years ago I was contacted by a French film student asking permission to use something I’d written about social control as the basis for a Sociology lecture to be featured in a short film they were producing and directing.

I’d forgotten all about it until I was rooting around in a bookcase looking for something I’d lost and came across the DVD.

I remember being both taken aback and impressed by the film at the time and, on viewing it again after a gap of a few years, I still like what the director has done, both overall in terms of the look and feel of the film and, more specifically, in turning some simple a-level Sociology notes into something more brooding and menacing than anything I ever achieved during my 15 or so years in the classroom.

Although this is a film about “social control”, I’m still not entirely sure about its actual meaning – although that, of course, could be the point if you subscribe to a Barthesean view of the world.

The postmodernic layer of meaning-upon-meaning vibe is also enhanced by the fact that while, quantitatively, I wrote the spoken script, qualitatively, it was nothing to do with me: I played no part in its production save to provide the text that was then shaped and sculpted by the actual writer into the film you’re about to watch.

Overall, the film’s a bit weird (and then some), but I like it for its striking visuals, black-and-white visualisation and the odd sensation of hearing what were essentially some rather dull lecture notes given a new and rather wonderful sense of being.

Or something.

Maybe I’m getting a little bit carried away by the whole French auteur thing?

Popular Postmodernism and the Crisis of Masculinity…

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Popular forms of postmodernism are arguably a feature of many forms of current journalistic analysis of social behaviour, in both main stream and social media, with a current “crisis of masculinity” being a firm media narrative. Locating such arguments in their historical context may, however, be a more-sociologically useful way to understand them at a-level.

There’s an implicit tendency in contemporary journalism (in both mainstream and social media) to explain changing concepts of masculinity and femininity as a product of “postmodern uncertainty”, a condition that develops, it’s frequently argued, through a potent combination of two things:

1. An overabundance of choice relating to, in this instance, how to perform male and female social roles that leads, in turn, to confusion over both the distinction between – and content of – these gender roles.

2. A progressive loosening of the moral order, such that male and female identities that were once highly centred – “everyone” knew how they were expected to behave as “men” and “women” – have increasingly become decentred: the disappearance of a clear moral authority dictating “how to be” a man or a woman in contemporary societies leads to different people interpreting their different roles in different ways.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong in constructing this type of analysis to explain the fragmentation of both gender categories and gender roles (you’d very probably score good marks for it in an exam…) one criticism we can note about journalistic arguments focused around “the postmodern condition” is that they tend towards an ahistorical view of social development in two main ways:

Firstly, “historical development” is seen as a linear process – a straight line between “the past” and “the present” – that involves an evolutionary progression from “the simple” to “the complex”.

Secondly, ideas and events are interpreted and reinterpreted in such a way as to remove them from their historical context. Rather than locating “the past” in its own particular and peculiar social context, ideas and events are “ripped from history” to be understood solely in terms of the meanings and motivations of those living in “the present”.

While both of these ideas arguably represent a form of Functionalism in shiny new shoes, this is not to suggest popular ideas and debates about “a crisis of masculinity”, “toxic masculinity” or, moving further afield, concepts like “post-truth” are imaginary, unimportant or the product of that most-misused of ideas, “moral panics”. Rather, it’s to argue that these conditions need to be explained sociologically, with a clear eye on historical details and contexts.

As a case in point, you can use the following article by Ellie Cawthorne (“How to be a Man: tips from 1930’s agony aunts”, 2018) to show how ideas about “changing masculinity” can’t be simply and easily explained by reference to the kind of nebulous references to “postmodernity” favoured by contemporary journalists and commentators. The article can be read online at the BBC History Magazine website or offline by downloading it as a Word document I’ve very thoughtfully assembled for your viewing pleasure. Because online documents have a habit of disappearing into the ether.

The reference is, of course, only illustrative and suggestive (building a picture of masculinity using only a single historical source is not definitive). If you want a more-fully-researched example, you might find Pearson’s “Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears” useful, albeit in relation to a different topic (crime and deviance) and perception of masculinity…

“Society Is Like”: Simple Sociological Analogies

Monday, May 28th, 2018

This activity uses simple analogies (plus some optional optical illusions…) to introduce students to a variety of sociological perspectives.

Whatever you may think about the notion of “sociological perspectives” (useful categorising concepts that help students get to grips with a range of related ideas? Or a misleading way of grouping writers in an oversimplified attempt to impose to impose a order on largely unrelated phenomena?) if you teach or study a-level sociology they are a key component of the course that has to be confronted: if you don’t teach or learn “the main perspectives” your chances of achieving top grades are likely to be severely diminished.

In other words, to paraphrase Goffman, you can love them or loathe them, but what you can’t do is ignore them.

With this in mind, therefore, I’ve always found a “Socratic Dialogue” technique, to which I was introduced many years ago at an ATSS Conference, a good way of both introducing different perspectives and getting students to work together to solve problems.

As an added bonus, this particular exercise is based on a technique – the use of analogies – often employed in a-level sociology to teach the Functionalist perspective (where “society” is likened to a human body). All this exercise does, in effect, is extend the number of analogies used to different perspectives.

In the “Society Is Like” document I’ve included a number of possible analogies you may want to consider if you’re stuck for ideas (Interactionism, for example, “is like a Play”) but if you want to use your own that’s no problem. The document is basically a series of templates students can use in relation to each perspective you want to introduce. If you want your students to complete each analogy by hand you can print and distribute the relevant page or, if word-processed answers are required you can use the Word template.

As you may or may not be aware, the use of sociological analogies is something I’ve noted before in relation to both Jill Swale’s work and an earlier version of the “Society Is Like” document. This updated version is one I put together a little while ago, forgot about, thought I’d imagined or lost and then rediscovered lurking in a forgotten sub-sub-directory.

How To…

A Young Woman – and an Elderly Woman…

The “Society Is Like” document contains general instructions about how to use the template, but how you actually use it is, of course, up to you. What I’ve tended to do, because this basic introduction to the idea of sociological perspectives is something done very early in an a-level course, is to introduce students to the idea of different ways of looking at and understanding “society” through a series of simple optical illusions. This sensitises students to the notion of people looking at the same thing (“Society”) but seeing it differently. A quick Google search throws up plenty of examples you could use.

Once this has been done, organise your students into small groups and give each group or student a copy of the template. Each group is required to focus on one perspective. The Socratic Dialogue part of the exercise is for each group to discuss among themselves two ideas:

1. Decide on 5 characteristics for their given analogy (e.g. 5 characteristics of a Play if they’re doing Interactionism).

2. Decide how each of their 5 characteristics can be used to describe some aspect of “Society” from their given perspective (e.g. one characteristic of a Play might be a script and this translates into a characteristic of society in the sense that something like gender socialisation is equivalent to a script “society” gives males and females about how to correctly perform gender).

I’ve found it useful to walk students through an initial example with the class: Functionalism is easy and works well in this respect.

Once each group has completed their work you should get them to present it to the whole class so that every student has a basic understanding of a range of perspectives.

If you want to follow this up you can start to look in a little more depth and detail at each perspective. This can include looing briefly at how each might be applied to whatever substantive section of the course you plan to do next: education, for example, is one area where there are plentiful opportunities to look at how different perspectives see this institution.

Culture and Identity

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

These documents were created for the OCR A-level Sociology Specification around 10 years ago and although they’re not bang-up-to-date in terms of the studies they cite there’s nothing to stop you adding a few more of your own if and when the fancy takes (they’re all presented as Word documents for reasonably-easy editing).

They were created by Christopher Stump around 10 years ago and I’m guessing their main purpose was for “revision”, something I gleaned from the fact that a few of the files mention this in their title. Very little, as you can probably tell, gets past me.

In other news, the “Ethnic Identities” file is a simple exercise that could be easily adapted to other forms of identity, such as class or gender, with minimal changes.

They’re all mainly one or two page documents so there’s nothing too detailed or extensive, but they’re nicely put together and I’m sure someone will find a good home for them and put them to good use.

Although they’re specifically aimed at OCR, there’s nothing here that isn’t equally-applicable to any Spec (AQA, Eduqas, CIE…) that covers culture and identity:

Culture
Socialisation
Hybridity Studies
Identity Revision
The Creation and Reinforcement of Ethnic Identities through Socialisation

The Hidden Rules of (Social) Class

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Although the concept of social class is deeply-embedded in A-level Sociology Specifications, a lot of time and effort nominally devoted to this concept is actually taken-up by talking about the economic dimension of class. Although clearly important, the continued emphasis on economic class means students come to see the concept largely in these terms: class as an objectively-measurable category synonymous with wealth, income and work.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this approach, the economic emphasis (some are rich, some are poor and some are sort-of in-the-middle) often diverts attention away from the more-subjective cultural dimensions to class that, I would argue, humanises the concept and, by so doing, makes it much more intrinsically interesting for a-level students to study.

This cultural dimension gives, I think, a deeper and arguably more-involving sense of how people actually live their class lives and by conceptualising class in this way – as a social as well as an economic identity – it allows students to explore the concept in an arguably more-involving way: one that reintroduces the notion of subjective class experiences in a way that complements the idea of objective class positions and consequences.

In addition, a focus on the “social dimensions” of class also makes the introduction of concepts like cultural and social capital more meaningful to students and locates them in a conceptual framework distinct from, while closely correlated with, the notion of (objective) economic class positions.

Refocusing how students see and understand the more-subjective elements of social class also allows teachers to explore how and why these subjective dimensions impact on objective class experiences (related to areas like family life, educational achievement and the like). It should also give greater meaning to concepts like class identity, which all-to-often are simply reduced to a reading-off of class differences based around notions of economic class.

One way to do this is to get students to think about different dimensions of social class in terms of how it is governed by what Payne (A Framework for Understanding Poverty, 2001) calls “hidden rules of behaviour”: rules that, for example, condition how people in one class see their position in relation to other classes and, by extension, rules that structure and constrain individual class perceptions and behaviours.

(more…)

When All’s SED and Done: Write. Review. Revise

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Reviewing and revising student work at GCSE or A-level is a crucial part of the teaching and learning process and one way to encourage this is to use a simple formula: Save, Erase, Develop (SED). This post looks at how your students can review and revise their written work using this  formula. It can also, if you use them, be easy integrated into Structure Strips.

As someone who writes stuff for a living – from sociology textbooks, through film scripts, and biographies to the odd – actually, very oddnovel in my spare time – one of the very few things I’ve learnt is the importance of reviewing and revising what I’ve written: what eventually appears on the printed page or screen is never what first appeared on my page. Everything I’ve ever written has gone through a process of review and revision that involves:

• keeping stuff that works.
• removing stuff that doesn’t.
• developing stuff that needs more work…

And if you’re wondering what this preamble has to do with your teaching and learning, wonder no more.

I chanced across this basic idea on Pinterest through an idea called “Keep it, Bin it, Build it” broadly aimed at helping younger students redraft their work to bring it into line with various assessment objectives (such as “answering the question”…). I have no idea who originally created it but I thought it was a helpful idea that could be applied to just about any level of work or subject. As is my wont – and because I can – I thought I’d make it a little bit snappier (hence “Save, Erase, Develop”) and turn it into a simple mnemonic.

Again, because I can.

And also because it gave me a little pun to use as a title.

Anyway.

The easiest way to understand what SED involves (and like some of the very best ideas, it’s incredibly easy to understand and simple to use) is to have a look at it. I’ve created a couple of different versions you can use with your students, depending on how they create and submit work:

(more…)

Sex and Gender: A Short Film

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

If you’re into flipped teaching (or even if you’re not) and want a relatively short (around 15-minute) video-introduction to sex and gender this Ted-Talk on “Understanding the Complexities of Gender” by Sam Killermann should fit the bill for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it introduces a wide range of gender-related concepts and issues, including:
• Sex and gender
• Gender identity
• Gender roles and norms
• Gender socialisation
• Gender scripts
• Binary gender options
• Multiple gender identities
• Gender dysphoria
• Gender expression
• Masculinity and Femininity

Secondly, Killermann is an American stand-up comedian and he uses these skills to get his (sociological) ideas across in a clever and amusing way…


(more…)

Introduction to Psychology: The Noba Collection

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

The simplest way to describe The Noba Project is that it’s a collection of free Introductory Psychology (Psychology 101) modules designed to fulfil, in the words of its creators, three main aims:

1. To reduce the financial burden on students by providing access to free educational content.
2. To provide instructors with a platform to customize educational content to better suit their curriculum.
3. To present free, high-quality material written by a collection of experts and authorities in the field of psychology.

Each module is designed as a series of standalone texts covering a particular area of psychology (Science, Development, Personality and so forth), each containing a number of different chapters. Psychology as Science, for example, covers, among many other things:

• Why Science?
• Conducting Psychology in the Real World.
• Research Design.
• Statistical Thinking.

Taken together, however, the modules are designed to replicate a complete Introductory Psychology course textbook, albeit one aimed at American undergraduates (Psychology 101). The level of these courses, however, is not dissimilar to the level found in A-level Psychology (particularly at A2).

Customisation

Aside from being both free and freely-available online, however, one really interesting feature of the site is that teachers are encouraged to take and customise the chapters in any way they want. This has obvious advantages for A-level teachers who may want to customise the basic text to meet the requirements of their own particular Specification and students. In this respect teachers may:

• Copy the text
• Paste it into Word or a favourite Desktop Publisher
• Remove unneeded text.
• Add their own text, pictures, illustrations.
• Distribute personalised chapters to their students…

This customisation aspect could prove a real boon to teachers who like to produce their own resources tailored to the requirements of their own teaching methods and students. While the Noba text serves as a time-saving basic template, all kinds of other information can be added to personalise the look, feel and content.

Print Versions

If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this – or you like your students to have a physical textbook in their sweaty little hands – there’s an option to buy printed versions of the chapters or, indeed, the complete textbook. While this can get a little expensive – particularly if you’re ordering copies from outside the USA – one interesting feature is that you can customise the printed textbook by only including the chapters you teach and excluding those you don’t.

Overall, however, you decide to use the chapters available this is a potentially useful resource, either as a customised textbook or as a supplementary resource for your main psychology textbook.

Paranormal Activity: Another Dimension to the Secularisation Debate?

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Although the secularisation debate in sociology has a number of different dimensions, involving arguments over issues like sacralisation, desacralisation, resacralisation, post-secularisation, religious fundamentalism and the like, one key assumption in the debate is rarely, if ever, questioned: the idea that “secularisation” is effectively a zero-sum game that consists of two, fundamentally-opposed, sides:

1. The Religious, defined in a variety of ways from the very narrow – adherence to what we might call conventional forms of religious practice (such as attendance at religious services) and belief (such as prayer) – to the very wide, which includes things like a range of New Age spiritual beliefs and practices. An even wider interpretation of “individual religiosity” might include something like Davie’s “believing without belonging” argument which, at it’s most elastic, can be used to argue that even within widely-secularised societies there is a fundamental core of religious belief. As a leading article in the conservative Spectator magazine put it (2017): “While fewer of us in Britain call ourselves Christian, we remain a country steeped in Christian values”.

Whatever the merits – or otherwise – of this particular argument, there’s little doubt the evidence relating to conventional religious practice and belief points in a quite specific direction. In the UK, for example, the 2017 British Social Attitudes survey notes:

• 50% of the UK population say they have no religion
• 75% of young people (18- to 24) say they have no religion
• Just under 1 million people attend church services each week. Depending how you count the UK population, a maximum of around 5% are regular worshippers.
• Around 6% of the UK population are “practising Christians” – defined as “people who read or listen to the Bible at least once a week, pray at least once a week and attend a church service at least once a month”.

In the USA, often cited as a “more religicised” or “resacralised” population, Routledge (2017) notes:

• 75% of the population reported “belonging to a religious group” (down from 95% 25 years ago). This “belonging” is, however, likely to be very weak (akin to people in the UK identifying with the “Church of England” rather than having any active engagement in that Church).
• Around 15 – 20% of the population are ”active churchgoers”
• Over the past 25 years “the percentage of Americans who reported being absolutely confident God exists dropped from 71% to 63%”.

2. The Secular defined in terms of a lack of religious practice, organisation or belief. In other words, everything that is not explicitly “religious”.

When this debate is conceived in zero-sum terms it follows that for one of these “sides” to win, the other must lose: in simple terms, either contemporary societies are becoming increasingly secularised or they are reinventing different forms of religious beliefs and behaviours that defies the idea of “simple secularisation”.

While both sides have, of course, a place in the evaluation of secularisation at a-level (it is arguably more-important to critically reflect on the journey rather than the eventual destination) it’s possible to add a further dimension to your students’ ability to successfully debate the issue by questioning the assumption that any decrease in religious organisation, practice or belief automatically means an increase in secular beliefs and behaviours.

And one way to do this is to introduce the concept of a belief in the paranormal.
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Three More GCSE Sociology Revision Guides

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

These revision guides were created for the WJEC exam board so if you don’t follow this Specification you need to be careful about the areas that might be included in your Specification that are not covered in these guides.

And vice versa, of course. There’s not a great deal of point revising material from these guides if it doesn’t appear on the Specification you’re following. Even though education – like travel – may well broaden the mind, if you’re looking around the Internet for a GCSE sociology revision guide there’s a fair bet you’re not actually looking to do a great deal more than you actually have to…

Keeping this very important caveat in mind, these resources hail from Corby Technical School and while there’s no named author they are dated 2017. This, somewhat unusually, makes them bang up-to-date at the time of posting.

Even if you don’t teach WJEC there’s plenty of information here that you’ll probably find useful, whatever GCSE Specification you follow:

Crime and deviance
Family Life
Society and the Individual

Sociology and You: Supporting Materials

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

The original publishers of Sociology and You (Glencoe) made a bit of an effort to produce branded PowerPoint resources to accompany each chapter and while there’s nothing very special about them – they’re pretty much bog-standard “text on a white background” slides – these ready-made resources can be useful as a way of introducing key ideas, concepts and theories to students. In the main they take the format of a chapter preview, key terms with short definitions and some expanded text that variously includes discussion and / or simple multiple choice questions.

If you just want these resources, they are the first link under each chapter heading but I’ve also included further PowerPoint resources created by various teachers (check the metadata if you want to know who) that seem to reference, directly or indirectly, this particular textbook.

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Sociology and You. Too

Friday, May 4th, 2018

A later (circa 2008) version of this American High School textbook that has a clean, attractive, design and some interesting content. Might well be worth considering as supplementary material to your existing resources, particularly because it is free…

I’ve previously posted an earlier version of this American High School textbook that seems to have gone through a number of different editions, the latest of which may have been around 2014 before being “retired” (as they say in Contract Killer circles and also, apparently, American Publishing).

This version dates from around 2008 and uses the same chapter categories as its predecessor. There are however design changes, although these are fairly cosmetic (a new picture here, a different typeface there) and, more importantly, changes to the text that brings it a little more up-to-date. Given it was originally published around 10 years ago, it’s never going to completely replace your current textbook / resources. Where it covers all the “standard stuff” (research methods, classic studies and theories…) this isn’t really a problem and I’d consider using it to supplement existing resources. There are, for example, opportunities for discussion, self-assessment and the like sprinkled liberally through the book.

One thing you’ll probably note is that, by-and-large, there isn’t a great deal of depth or breadth to the coverage of different topics. This is partly a consequence of the design – the liberal use of pictures, graphics and tables allied to the “Creative Use of White Space” ethos leaves a lot less space for text – and partly, I assume, the level at which it’s aimed. On the other hand, some ideas / topics are dealt with in rather more depth than you might expect. A section on Ritzer and McDonaldisation in one of the Focus on Research sections, for example, goes into some depth and detail about the concept and it’s application to developments in Higher Education – something you’re not likely to see in the majority of UK textbooks.

The sections I’ve read (admittedly not that many – I’m a Very Busy Person and I have “people” do that sort of thing for me) strike me as both interesting and very readable. Although most of the examples and illustrations have, understandably given the target audience, an American focus this might be turned to your advantage at times by providing students with a comparative edge to their studies. Alternatively just ignore them or replace them with UK alternatives… (more…)

Structure Strips

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

6 mark structure strip with basic questions

This general idea – a simple and effective way to help students structure exam answers – has been around for a number of years and although structure strips were originally created for use in primary education (5 – 10 year olds) it’s an idea that can, with a few modifications, be applied to both GCSE and A-Level teaching. If you want a relatively simple, clear, explanation of what structure strips are and how they have been used, have a read of this blog post.

If you haven’t followed this link, structure strips were originally colour-coded and made to be stuck into the exercise books of primary school children. In this A-level version, however, the idea is to create the strips as Word format templates that students can either use to word process their answers to exam questions or print out to complete by hand.

In this respect think about structure strips as being like training wheels when you’re learning to ride a bike: they’re designed to help you keep your balance and stop you falling over until you’ve mastered the skills required to safely venture out on your own (at which point they can be removed).

Similarly, when answering exam questions, while all of your students may start-off needing help, some will probably require more help than others – and structure strips can be used to guide how they approach and respond appropriately to different questions. (more…)

Free Psychology Textbooks

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Following soft on the heels of the open-source Psychology textbook comes a brief selection of additional psychology texts you and your students may or may not find useful. The list includes 4 complete textbooks, either released under a Creative Commons license or as an out-of-print edition a of current textbook. You need to be aware, if you use them, these texts are a few years “out of date” (I’ve avoided including anything more than 10 years old) and don’t exactly match any UK A-level Specification. While most, if not all, of the following are generally aimed at an American undergraduate “Introductory Psychology” audience the information is generally reflective of a-level psychology, albeit more A2 than AS.

1. Psychology: Themes and Variations (7th edition)
This American “Introductory Psychology textbook”, probably released around 2009 in this version, is mainly aimed at first year undergraduates (Psychology 101, at a guess) but it’s design and content probably makes most, if not necessarily all, of the information it contains suitable for a-level students.

2. Psychology: Themes and Variations (9th edition) Chapter 1
The opening chapter in the 9th (2011) edition of the textbook serves as a general introduction to the study of psychology.

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Sociology and You: A Free Textbook

Monday, April 30th, 2018

This American High School textbook just scrapes into the “published in the 21st century” criterion I set myself for finding free, out-of-print sociology texts, but I’ve included it because although it’s obviously a little dated – at least in terms of content if not necessarily design – Sociology and You (2001) was probably one of the first to push at the boundaries of textbook design for “Grades 9 – 12”. This, by my calculations, means 15-18 year olds and if you’re wondering, as we probably all are, how this fits into the UK grading system I’d say the text equates to “high GCSE” / AS-level. But this is only a rough guess – there are bits that could fit into A2 – so if you want to use it with your students it’s probably a case of suck-it-and-see before you let them have copies.

The book itself exhibits most of the features we now take for granted in contemporary textbooks: short bursts of text, lots of big colourful pictures, key terms identified and defined, tables, boxouts, short readings, simple assessments and white space.

Lots and lots of white space.

In other words, anyone familiar with UK A-level texts over the past few years will see this as very familiar territory.

Except, of course, most of the examples and illustrations are drawn from North America. Which is okay if you’re North American (or are really into comparative sociology / North Americana) but not quite so brilliant if you live and study elsewhere.

Keeping this in mind, if you decide to have a look at the text I’ve made it available it as either a complete textbook or by chapter. I’ve provided the latter option because there are some chapters, such as those on “Sport” or “Political and Economic Institutions”, you may not need or want: put bluntly, you’re probably not going to teach stuff that’s not on the A-level Spec.

You can also use the chapter option to see if or how the text might fit with your teaching because, as I’ve noted, judging the level is a little problematic given differences in both the US and UK grade system and the skill levels each requires of its students at different ages.

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More Free Sociology Texts

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

This post continues the Great Sociology Textbook Giveaway by stretching the definition of “textbook” to breaking-point with a dictionary, encyclopaedia and, in an SCTV first, an actual text published by a real UK publisher.

Following hard on the heals of the first set of textbooks comes another batch of free Sociology texts I’d like you to think I discovered by digging diligently through the detritus of an untold number of obscure web sites, but actually found by Just Googling Stuff.

This time, while there are some textbooks on offer, notably one from the UK, the net has been widened a bit to include a dictionary, encyclopaedia and a couple of texts devoted to family life and religion.

Texts

1. Sociology: 6th edition (2009): This is a slightly-ageing edition of Giddens’ long-running text, currently in its 8th edition (the latter has a website, if you’re interested, that could best be described as “satisfyingly-retro” in both design and content if you were being…errm…charitable). Despite it’s relative age, it’s still as text packed with all kinds of useful information. Some of it may, however, be a step too far for some a-level students, particularly at AS level, so discretion is required over how you use the text. In terms of current Specification coverage most of the usual suspects (Family, Education, Crime, Media…) are included, but so too are areas (such as Nations, War and Terrorism) that decidedly don’t need to be studied.

If you don’t fancy the pdf version there’s also an online flipbook version which is quite fun in a flipbook kind of way.
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Sociology Textbooks From Around The Web

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

A couple of days ago I posted a link to a free, open-source, textbook (Introduction to Sociology), the open-availability of which made me think about whether there were any other sociology books lying around in some dusty corner of the web just waiting to be found, dusted-down and presented to a wider audience.

And the answer, since you’re currently reading this post, is that clearly there was. I’ve managed to uncover 7 such texts that should be of at least some interest to a-level Sociology students and teachers. There are, however, a few things it might be useful to point out:

1. The texts I’ve listed aren’t the very latest versions in a series. While I’ve tried not to include very old editions (there’s nothing from the last century…) if you want the most up-to-date versions you’re going to have to buy them.

2. Most of the texts are from American publishers. They reflect American Sociological Specifications and preoccupations and invariably draw much of their illustrative material from American society. While this is not necessary A Bad Thing (depending, of course, on your view of Americentricity) it does mean you’re not going to find many references to non-American examples and illustrations. You’ll also find that data about areas like crime, marriage, education and so forth is pretty-much wholly-focused on North America. While this may be useful for comparative purposes you need to be careful students don’t assume such data necessarily reflects the situation in other countries around the world.

3. Following from the above, these texts are not likely to fit neatly with, for example, UK A-level Sociology Specifications. You will, however, find a lot of the content is universal: theories of crime commonly discussed in UK textbooks, for example, are also likely to be discussed in American textbooks.

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An Open-Source Psychology Textbook

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

A free (open-source) Psychology textbook (plus resources) that could be used to supplement your existing textbooks and classroom resources.

As with the open source “Introduction to Sociology” textbook, “Psychology” is a free open-source textbook, now in its 2nd edition, created and distributed by the OpenStax College. It comes in a range of versions, most of them digital (although there’s also an option to by a paper version of the text for around £20 / $38) and will happily integrate an LMS such as Canvas.

The book has been written by a number of contributing authors and seems to have been designed mainly as a primer for American undergraduates taking an introductory Psychology module (“Psychology 101”). The general level should be perfectly acceptable for A-level, although you may need to dip in and out of the book depending on the Specification you follow – the 700+ pages cover a wide range of options:

• Introduction to Psychology
• Psychological Research
• Biopsychology
• States of Consciousness
• Sensation and Perception
• Learning
• Thinking and Memory
• Lifespan Development
• Emotion and Motivation
• Personality
• Social Psychology
• Industrial-Organizational Psychology
• Stress, Lifestyle, and Health
• Psychological Disorders
• Therapy and Treatment

The book also comes with a range of Instructor resources (access to PowerPoint Presentations and Test Banks require you to sign-up for a free account), plus a host of free community-created resources.

Other free textbooks you might want to notify subject colleagues about:

• Mathematics (Algebra, Calculus, Statistics)
• Biology, Physics, Chemistry
• Economics
• History

An Open-Source Sociology Textbook

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

A free (open-source) Sociology textbook (plus resources) that could be used to supplement your existing textbooks and classroom resources.

While the idea of “open-source software” – programs created, modified and freely distributed to users who also contribute in various ways to their subsequent development – has long-been a feature of digital technology, it seems a little odd the concept hasn’t been applied to other areas, such as textbook publishing, given how easy it is to collaborate, design, publish and distribute books largely indistinguishable from those produced by professional publishers.

Whatever the reason, the free textbook “Introduction to Sociology” – created and distributed by the OpenStax College and now in its 2nd edition – is the first sociology textbook I’ve come across organised around open-source principles (as opposed to simply being freely distributed by its author).

What this means is that not only can you use the text as you would any other textbook (giving students individual digital or paper copies, for example, or integrating it into Canvas if you use this free LMS) you also have a wide range of format options, most of which (reading online, downloading to desktop, viewing on mobile devices) are free. If you really must have a properly bound copy this can be purchased for around £16 / $30.

Once you get past the various viewing options you’ll find a textbook created by a number of different authors (all, I assume, employed by Rice University?) designed primarily as a primer for American undergraduates taking an introductory module in Sociology (“Sociology 101”). This level, from what I’ve read of the text, seems perfectly acceptable for A-level Sociology (which probably says something about either the American or the British education system).

While you need to take into account both its target audience (most of the text, illustrations, examples and so forth reference American society – it is, in other words, pretty ethnocentric) and some of the preoccupations of American Sociology (a focus on areas like race and ethnicity, for example, that isn’t given such a central focus by A-level Sociology) the textbook covers areas that will be very familiar and useful to a-level sociologists. These include:

• Culture and Socialisation
• Family
• Education
• Health
• Inequality
• Religion
• Deviance
• Media

Although most of these aren’t covered in any great depth – and you’ll find significant parts of UK Sociology Specifications aren’t addressed – there’s plenty of useful material here for a-level students and teachers. While it’s probably not going to replace your main sociology textbook it could be worth considering as an additional text to supplement the existing resources you use – particularly because of its portability across different devices.

In addition, there are a number of Instructor and Student resources you can sign-up for. To access some – such as PowerPoint Presentations and the Test Bank – you need to register with a school / college email account, but the resources are free once you’ve registered.

It’s also possible, even if you don’t want to contribute suggestions for future updates, to add “community resources” to support the text. While there’s not much available at the moment, one example of these resources is a series of short video lectures you may or may not find helpful.

Globalisation and the Digital World: Revision Stuff

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Colourful PowerPoint Presentation summarising the OCR Globalisation and the Digital World Unit, plus a range of 6 / 9 mark exam practice questions.

It’s somehow typical that you see nothing about this OCR A-Level Sociology Unit for months and then, just as you’ve posted a “6 week course” guide, you stumble across a couple of PowerPoint Presentations that actually complement this quite well.

The first is a Big, Bold and Colourful Revision Presentation by Marc Addison that covers:

• What is the relationship between globalisation and digital forms of communication?
• Developments in digital forms of communication in a global society
• The Marxist Perspective
• The Feminist Perspective
• The Postmodernist Perspective
• The Impact of Digital Communications
• What is the relationship between globalisation and Conflict and Change?
• Cultural homogenisation, hybridity or resistance?

The second is neither Big, Bold nor Colourful because it doesn’t aim to be. It just wants to do its job quietly, efficiently and with the minimum of fuss. So, if you want to give your students some practice 6 and 9 mark questions, based around the PEEL mnemonic, this Presentation should fit the bill nicely.

Globalisation and the Digital World Resource Pack

Friday, April 20th, 2018

A “6 week course”, built around a variety of PowerPoint Presentations and supporting documents, designed to help you teach the Globalisation and the Digital World Unit of the OCR Specification.

I found this set of documents buried on my hard drive the other day and I know very little about where I found it, its creator (J. Ellison who may or may not work at Langley Park School for Boys) or creation (circa 2016). That aside, I do know the title refers to a section on the latest (2017) OCR A-level Sociology Specification called, spookily-enough, “Globalisation and the Digital World”.

More-interestingly, the pack of materials I’ve managed to somehow acquire refers to it being a “6 week course” which, taking this at face-value, means it’s a set of resources and activities specifically designed to teach this section of the course – potentially a huge time-saver, even if you decide to customise the base PowerPoints to the needs of your particular students (you may want / need to do this because some, if not all, of the supporting materials may well be a little too advanced for some students – and then some. The Castells article, for example, is likely to prove well beyond a lot of a-level students so you might want to think about replacing it or summarising it).

The only alterations I’ve made to the original slides are:

1. Removing specific references to textbook pages (because there’s no indication as to which textbook they refer). You may want to edit the PowerPoints to include specific references to the textbook/s you use with your students.

2. Changed YouTube links to play inside the Presentation.

In addition, you may want to add slides containing activities, notes and so forth you currently use in your classes. My way of thinking about this resource is to use it as the base for materials you normally include in your teaching – a basic structure, in other words, around which you can hang whatever resources / activities you normally use / do.

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A-Level Sociology Revision: 7. Families and Households

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

As with some of the other topics, revision materials for family life are both a bit scarce and a little bit dated, in the sense that where the UK Specs. have recently changed, older revision guides obviously don’t cover the newer additions.

On the other hand, there’s still a strong continuity between the older and newer Specs. (some ideas never grow old – looking at you “1950’s Functionalism and the Family”) so as long as you keep this in mind the various Notes on offer here may prove useful. You also need to note that most of the materials here refer to the AQA Specification, so if you’re following a different Spec. you need to check which areas are – and are not – applicable. There are probably few things worse than getting into an exam room to find that you’ve revised the wrong Specification (this, of course, is a lie. There are a lot worse things).

Also.

If you find yourself in the position of not knowing which Specification you’ve been studying for the past two years then either your teacher has seriously given-up on you or you’ve been mistakenly following the wrong course (Psychology was in Room 101…).

Either way, these Notes aren’t going to help you.

For those of you not in this unhappy situation you should find stuff to aid your revision (particularly if, for whatever reason, you’ve got gaps in your revision notes). I’ve also added a couple of PowerPoints and some Mindmaps to the list, both because I think the latter, in particular, can be a good revision resource and also because I can.

1. Family and Households Revision Booklet (John Williams)
2. Families and Households Revision Guide 2011
3. Families and Households Revision Pack 2016 (S Hickman)
4. Families and Households Revision Booklet 
5. Revision Notes

6. Family Revision PowerPoint
7. The Sociology of the Family PowerPoint (L Ricker)

8. Mindmaps: Feminism | Functionalism | Marxism | Family and Personal Life
9. Spider Diagrams

Culture and Identity PowerPoints

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

To complement the Culture and Identity Revision booklets I’ve assembled a range of PowerPoint Presentations from a variety of sources including some nice little presentations put together by the OCR Exam Board (with accompanying Instruction and Activity booklets).

While the Presentations are probably more-suited to integration into an Introductory Sociology / Culture and Identity teaching session (the Presentations cover areas like culture, socialisation, identity, perspectives and the like), some may have value as a revision tool.

As ever, the Presentations vary in size, complexity and competence (although I’ve tried to weed-out Presentations I didn’t think added much value or which weren’t sufficiently focused on A-Level Sociology). Where known I’ve indicated the author of each Presentation, to whom you should direct any plaudits, questions or brickbats.

1. Culture and Identity (Steven Humphreys)
2. Introductory Concepts (Mark Gill)
3. Social and Personal Identities (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
4. Culture
5. Socialisation
6. Feminism and Patriarchy (Chris Deakin)
7. Class identity (Liz Voges)
8. Primary and Secondary Socialisation
9. Socialisation and Resocialisation (Gobind Khalsa)
10. Class, Gender, Ethnicity (Mark Gill)
11. Social Control (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
12. Culture and Social Identity (Joe McVeigh)
13. Elements of Culture (Rebekah Colbeth)
14. Identity and Hybrid Identities (OCR) | Teacher Instructions | Activity Booklet
15. Culture and Cultural Identity (Jane Lister Reis)
16. Sport and National Identity
17. Culture, Values and Norms (OCR) | Teacher Instructions | Activity Booklet 
18. Culture and Cultural Hybridity (OCR) | Teacher Instructions | Activity Booklet

OCR Topic Exploration Packs

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Four (or possibly five, depending on how you view it) Introductory Packs on Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Postmodernism.

If you use OCR for A-Level Sociology you’ll probably be aware of these Packs covering Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Postmodernism. For non-OCR users, however, the Packs could still prove useful because they contain the kinds of general “Introductory” information applicable to most UK Exam Boards and general sociology courses elsewhere.

Each Pack uses the same basic format: a series of “Tasks” designed to introduce the “domain assumptions” of each perspective and, in some instances, relate them, with varying levels of effort and success, to an interpretation of different aspects of culture and identity.

The Packs are split into two sections; one has questions with suggested answers, the other has the same questions minus the answers. If you want your students to complete the Tasks digitally (i.e. they can wordprocess their answers) you will need to edit the document to delete the answer section. Oddly, the Marxism Pack just has Tasks minus suggested answers (there is a separate pdf version with suggested answers).

When all’s-said-and-done the Packs are really just a set of simple worksheets trying quite hard to pretend they’re not worksheets – but they’re colourful, nicely put together and most-importantly, free. So, if you ignore all the guff about “formative” and “summative” assessment (I get the impression the authors’, in the main, did just that) what you have are some simple resources that could be easily and effectively introduced into the classroom.

The resources have their faults, both in terms of design and in some instances content (although I couldn’t see anything particularly major – my main gripe is a reference to “Interpretivism” rather than “Interactionism”). The 4 packs also vary quite considerably in quality, with the Feminism Pack probably being the weakest overall. There is also, strangely given the structure / action references throughout, little or nothing on the latter. On balance, however, I’d say the Packs are worth having.

Whether or not OCR have any plans to extend the resources I’ve no idea, but based on past performance they tend to start out with a Big Idea and then signally fail to carry it through. On this basis I’d say get these resources while you can:

Functionalism

Marxism (Student Activity Pack)

Marxism: Although they have different names the only difference between this and the “activity pack” is that this includes “suggested answers” to task questions and is a pdf rather than a Word file (although, having said that, a few of these “answers” are missing for some reason). Otherwise they are identical in terms of content, save for some introductory text that explains how to use the materials. Unfortunately, a conversion error makes one page unreadable in this version, so if you want a pdf version (minus the Introduction) you will need to convert the Word version.

Postmodernism

Feminism

Culture and Identity: The Erasmus+ Project

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Although I’m not exactly sure what the Erasmus Project was – it seems to have come to an end in 2017 – but from what I can make out from its web site it appears to have been a collaborative project between non-profit organisations in England, Poland and Slovakia designed to create and distribute resources to young people to promote multiculturalism.

These resources consist of six “scenarios” or Study Packs containing suggestions for a range of mini-lectures, activities – from how to create a Mind Map or Infographic to methods for activating student discussions – and simple games.

The materials are based around a series of lesson plans designed to explore different areas and aspects of “multiculturalism” and while a-level sociology teachers probably won’t want to follow the plans precisely, there are bit and pieces that could be usefully extracted and integrated into lessons related to culture and identity.

While nothing in the resources is going to radically change the way you teach, they might give you a few ideas to contemplate.

Or indeed pinch.

I’m going for the latter.

Probably.

1. Multiculturalism: What is it?

2. Culture vs cultural identity

3. Equality vs Diversity

4. Human Rights

5. From conflict to consensus

6. Multicultural labour market

Sociology Revision Booklets: 6. Culture and Identity

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me, there seems to be a positive dearth of Culture and Identity related revision material, at least of the Word / Pdf variety (PowerPoint users seem much better served). Why that should be I don’t know but I have managed to find a few resources you and your students might find helpful:

1. Revision Checklist (K.Birch): I’ve included this because it’s one of the few revision resources I’ve been able to find for the OCR Board and while it’s not particularly exhaustive it does provide a list of key concepts, some simple practice questions and some sample exam-type questions for each topic in the Culture and Identity module.

2. Sociological Perspectives: Some quite extensive notes dedicated to different types of sociological perspective.

3. Culture and Identity: This is another set of paged Notes by Mark Gill that I’ve collated into a single document for the convenience of everyone involved. I’ve kept it as a Word document so that you can easily separate-out sections if you want to give your students Notes on a specific topic. As ever with these Notes there’s quite extensive coverage of a range of areas: socialisation, perspectives, identities and globalisation.

4. Culture, Socialisation and Identity: This combines short Notes focuses on the concept of culture with simple student exercises

5. Culture, Identity and Agents of Socialisation: Short Notes mainly aimed at illustrating the relationship between different identities (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.) and different agencies of socialisation.

6. Facebook and the Presentation of Self: This is an article originally published in Sociology Review (2017) that uses the example of Facebook to illustrate arguments about structure and action. While it’s not exactly a revision piece it might help students clarify this relationship if they need it. It also looks at how personal and social identities relate to structure and action.

Raised Without Gender

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Culture and Identity is an important part of the a-level sociology specification for a number of Boards and this 30-minute film might be a good way to get your students thinking about both cultural norms generally and gender / sexual identities in particular.

The film looks at the idea of “gender neutrality” through the lens of a series of gentle interviews and observations with families and in kindergartens in Sweden, a society that has arguably gone furthest down the gender neutral route.

Although it mainly focuses on the adults and children who have, by-and-large, embraced the concept of non-binary gender, a contrary view is provided by psychiatrist David Eberhard.

The piece lends itself quite nicely to flipped teaching. Your students can watch it outside the classroom and can then be prepared for any work you decide to do on this area inside the classroom.

Psychology Students YouTube Channel

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

I came across this Channel after following a Twitter link to one of its videos (Experimental Design in Psychology – well worth a watch if you’re interested in knowing more about Independent Groups, Repeated Measures or Matched Pairs designs).

Overall, the Channel offers three types of video:

1. “To Camera” video lectures, which although quite long at times held my attention through a mix of presenter and on-screen graphics. Since this is (quite literally judging from the setting) a home-made affair the camera angle, lighting and cutting are a little suspect, but I’ve seen a lot worse and they don’t detract from what’s being taught.

2. Screencasts that consist of a series of static, narrated, text and graphics. These work well and the technical limitations (sound is always a problem with this type of presentation) aren’t too intrusive.

3. Short, To Camera explanations of different types of variables that have been “SnapChat” filtered in a way that is, quite frankly, scary. As some sort of weird experimental films these might have had some currency; as video lectures I think the best that can be said here is that the medium definitely obscures the message. And then some. I may have nightmares.

Despite this – and there are only three such films on the Channel to avoid – there’s a lot of useful, well-presented, A-level Psychology information here.

And it’s all free.

Education PowerPoints: Part 2

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Part 2 of the Education Presentations gives you more of the same, only less of it.

More PowerPoints, in other words, but fewer of them than in Part 1.

Most of these are fairly straightforward “Teaching Presentations” but some contain YouTube videos (again, I’ve converted the links so they will play directly inside the Presentation) and one, the Social Class revision exercise, is a simple “sift-and-sort” activity designed to help students clarify “inside” and “outside” school factors in class differential achievement.

The Presentations, in no particular order:

1. Marketisation (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
2. Social Class – revision exercise
3. Ethnicity and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
4. Material Deprivation (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
5. Anti-School Subcultures (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
6. Feminist / Postmodernist Perspectives (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
7. The Purpose of Education

Education PowerPoints: Part 1

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Alongside the Revision Guides I seem to have collected a large number of Education PowerPoints that, while not explicitly geared towards revision, could be used in this way. Alternatively, they could just be used as part of your normal classroom teaching.

The Presentations are by a mix of authors (where known) but the majority are by Leigh Rust-Ashford, so they have the same “look and feel” and follow a similar format – clear teaching points, a few questions and simple exercises, a couple of illustrative YouTube videos (the only changes I’ve made to the files, apart from deleting dead links, is to format the video links so they use the PowerPoint video player) and so forth.

I’ve split the Presentations into two parts, in no particular order:

1. Meritocracy
2. Functionalism (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
3. Interactionism (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
4. Organisation of Education
5. Postmodernism4. organisation-of-the-education-system (N Sharmin)
6. Working Class Culture and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
7. Locality and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
8. Gender and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
9. Class and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
10. Postmodern education (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
11. Marxism (Leigh Rust-Ashford)

Sociology Revision Booklets: 5. Education

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Another day, another set of A-level revision booklets.

This time, as you may have guessed from the title, it’s the turn of Education with 5 resource packs of varying length, depth and complexity for your revising pleasure. Where known I’ve identified the author and, as ever, most are AQA with the odd-sop thrown in the direction of OCR.

Again, as ever, you need to check the Spec. you’re using to ensure you’re not revising stuff that’s no-longer relevant (probably not a sentence anyone should ever have to write, but what the heck). Where possible I’ve kept the materials in Word format because that makes editing them easier for everyone.

The materials are mainly Notes – some very comprehensive, some a bit more revision-friendly – with a few questions thrown in for good measure. (more…)

The Sociological Detectives: Hiding in Plain Sight

Friday, April 6th, 2018

In this third outing in the Research Methods series, the Sociological Detectives investigate Overt Participant Observation through a simple piece of hands-on research.

This PowerPoint Presentation – the 3rd in the Research Methods series (the others being The Research Process and Non-Participant Observation) – combines a hands-on approach to doing Overt Participant Observation with a classroom-based evaluation of the method.

Students take-on the role of Sociological Detectives which, in this instance, means they are set “a Task” to complete (it’s probably no great secret that this involves doing a simple bit of Overt Participant Observation) outside of class time.

Students can then use their (brief) experience of using the method to inform the evaluation work they then do inside the classroom.

While actually doing the Observation is not essential (the Task Options document that outlines some suggestions for how the Observation might be carried-out includes a simple Thought Experiment option for classrooms where, for whatever reason, students can’t physically carry-out this type of observational research) it does, I think, represent a useful teaching and learning device.

It is, in this respect, a relatively simple – and hopefully interesting – way for students to bring their personal experiences to bear on the more-theoretical aspects of sociological research. (more…)

The Sociological Detectives: BOLO

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

In this research methods simulation students take on the role of Sociological Detectives to investigate formal and informal norms using non-participant observation.

In the second simulation in the Research Methods series – the first, Trial and Error,  introduced the Research Process – students again take-on the role of Sociological Detectives. This time, however, they are investigating and evaluating a specific research method, Non-Participant Observation and the simulation offers two ways to do this

1. Field research involves students actually carrying-out a short – typically 30-minute – observational study of their choice (although they are encouraged to check its appropriateness and safety with you). Once you have accepted their choice this is something they should be able to complete outside the classroom, in their own time. The remaining part of the sim – evaluating non-participant observation as a research method – can then be completed in class time when you’re available to provide help and assistance if necessary.

Alternatively, you can run the sim as a whole-class exercise by looking at the respective strengths and weaknesses of non-participant observation as a class, with individual students able to illustrate key ideas with examples drawn from the observation they’ve done.

(more…)

Office Online: For Free (and Quite Legal)

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

The free version of Microsoft’s Office Suite may have a reduced functionality when compared to the desktop version but for “no money” it has to be a bit of a bargain for both teachers and students.

While applications like Word and PowerPoint are probably staples of any teaching toolkit, they can be expensive, even when you take into account the various “Teachers and Students” discount versions of the Office Suite currently available: “Office Home & Student 2016 for PC”,
for example, can set you back around £90 for access to just 4 programs (Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Excel).

For a-level students this cost can be prohibitive, which may go some way to explaining the plethora of cheap “Word” clones on the market and the popularity of free online apps like Google Docs.

Another problem if, like me, you prefer to use desktop versions of these apps, is their lack of portability. If you want to move your work freely and easily across different platforms it’s a real pain because you don’t have access to online versions of programs like Word or PowerPoint.

Microsoft’s “solution” is Office 365 – the online version of their Office Suite. Once again, however, this is expensive. Office 365 Home will set you back around £80 per year for the privilege of access to the above four apps plus:

• Publisher (Microsoft’s expensive, Very Ordinary and Just-A-Little-Bit-Clunky DTP).
• Outlook (an email client that has better and cheaper (i.e. free) competitors such as Mozilla Thunderbird) and
• Access (a very good database but, be honest, how often do you use a database in your everyday teaching / learning?). (more…)

Psychology Studies Mat

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Neat Notes!

The idea for Psychology Study Mats came to me while idly browsing Pinterest and chancing upon Emily’s blog.

I was initially struck by what may well prove to be some of the neatest and well-organised Psychology Notes I’ve ever seen and while exploring further I came across an interesting idea in the Printables section: a Study Template students use to summarise the studies they need to know in detail.

The Template, however, is in pdf format and I guess the basic idea is to print the file (hence Printables – very little gets past me) and complete it by hand. Alternatively, it’s possible to enter text directly into the Template using something like the Acrobat Reader, but personally I find this a clunky method, particularly if there’s a lot of text to position and enter.

So, while the basic structure and content seemed sound, I thought I might be able to add something to the Template by adapting it slightly to fit it the format I used for the PowerPoint-based Sociology Learning Mats I’d previously developed: (more…)

More Criminal Pages

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

If you’ve been following the saga of the crime resources put together by the University of Portsmouth you’ll know that when I first started posting these I had to link directly to each page in a set of resources because the menu that bound everything neatly together was “missing” (in the sense that “I couldn’t initially work out where it was hiding” rather than the sense of it having disappeared, never to be seen again). This, as you’ve probably discovered, was a bit of a pain.

• For those of a non-technical disposition, or who couldn’t care less about such things, skip the next paragraph.

• For those of a technical disposition, the site used a Frames set-up where a menu in one window used javascript to change the appearance of a second, related, window. Because each window has its own unique Url, this meant it was possible to address each page individually outside of the menu system. What should have been coded into the pages was an instruction that if the frameset was “broken” (i.e. an individual window within the frameset was directly addressed) this page should have been forced back into the original frameset. For some reason, the pages weren’t coded this way, hence the problems I encountered.

Since I knew there must be a menu system somewhere it was just a matter of being able to find it and, after a bit of detective work, I did – at least for some of the individual chapters. I’m still convinced that “somewhere” there is a main menu that details all the materials in the complete resource and that, if I could find it, it would just mean posting a single link. However, since I haven’t found it I can’t, so if you want to review the following crime resources you’ll have to use the individual links.

This is not as bad as it might sound, however, because each of the following categories includes a number of pages that a-level students should find useful. Although the resources don’t seem to have been designed for a-level, per se, they seem broadly fine for a-level sociology students.

You may find some duplication with these resources and some of the other resources in this series that I’ve posted.

This mean I either thought it might be useful to have all the related material in one place or I can’t remember what I’ve previously posted and can’t be bothered to check.

How you interpret this probably says a lot more about you than it does about me…

(more…)

Sociology Revision PowerPoints: Crime and Deviance

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

The second part of the Crime and Deviance Revision series (the first, if you missed it,  involves revision booklets) is devoted to a range of PowerPoint Presentations that I’ve collected from various places. Just have a look at the document properties if you want to know who created them.

The quality of the Presentations is “variable” at times so it’s probably a case of having a look at any that take your fancy to see if they’re something you can use. You also need to keep in mind the date when some of these were created (again, just check the document properties).

Although most of the Presentations are just a relatively simple mix of text and graphics, some include links to YouTube videos (which you can, of course, edit accordingly if you want) and some are a little more interactive in terms of their content (posing questions, setting short exercises and the like).

Although I’ve signposted the Presentations as a revision resource there’s no reason why you couldn’t incorporate some of these into your everyday teaching if you like to use PowerPoint. They can, of course, be edited to your particular requirements.

The Presentations (all 25 of them…) are as follows:

(more…)

Sociology Revision Booklets: 4. Crime and Deviance

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

As you might expect, given its status as one of the most-popular a-level sociology options, when it comes to revision resources for crime and deviance both teachers and students are rather spoilt for choice.

I’ve decided, therefore, to split this post into two parts (probably – there may be more): the first (this one) has a range of Word / Pdf resources aimed at students, while the second focuses on PowerPoint resources teachers are more-likely to find useful for delivering revision lessons.

As ever, if you decide to use these resources you need to check:

• the Specification: is it the one you’re following?
• the date: has the Spec. you’re using been updated since these resources were created?
• the content: even if you’re following a different Spec., there may well be a fair bit of information crossover which means revision material produced for one Spec. may still be useful in the context of another.

Once you’re happy with this, I’ve found what I think are a number of useful revision resources:

(more…)

Sociology Revision Booklets: 3. Mass Media

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

The third in our occasional series covering free revision resources on the web looks at the Mass Media (as you’ve probably guessed from the title).

The number of resources is substantially less than previous offerings on Theory and Methods and Beliefs in Society but what they lack in number is more than made-up for by the depth of their content.

Possibly.

I may just have been making that up.

Anyway, you can see for yourself by downloading any, or indeed all, of the following:

1. Media Revision Pack [Word version | Pdf version]: Although I’ve called this a Revision Pack (because that’s what it is…) it wasn’t originally created in that form. Rather, it’s an amalgam I’ve put together of a range of media revision documents, authored by Mark Gill, that cover:

• Ownership and Control
• New Media
• Representations
• Audiences
• Social Construction of News

Part of the reason for making the Pack available in different formats is that if you’d prefer to break the document down into its constituent parts it’s a fairly simple job to do this in Word. It’s possible to do this with a pdf document but that would mean faffing around with software that splits pdf files and you’re probably much too busy to bother with stuff like that.

The Notes themselves are coherent and competent, with good coverage of the major Specification areas (although it’s aimed at AQA there are parts that apply to other Specifications). (more…)

Your Own Personal (YouTube) Examiner: Part 2

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

A couple of months ago I posted about TeacherSociology’s YouTube Channel and its AQA exam technique videos and on the basis that if, in these testing times, you just can’t get enough of Sociology Examiners (particularly Senior Examiners – I’m not altogether sure what the difference between these and Non-Senior examiners might be, but I’m sure it must be Important) walking your students through exam papers, Mr Blackburn’s new YouTube Channel does exactly that.

The format is a simple screencast focused on an on-screen exam paper, with Mr Blackburn highlighting, annotating and talking you through the questions. This includes:

• how to decode exam questions

• exactly what the examiner is asking you to do for each question

• how to write high mark answers that covers everything required by the examiner.

At the time of posting there are two screencasts available, each lasting for around 15 minutes:

1. AS Paper 1 (Education) , covering all the questions.

2. A2 Paper 2 (Global Development), covering both 10 and 20 mark questions.

If you’re teaching or studying either of these AQA Sociology Units, this Channel is well worth a little of your time.

The Extent of Crime and How It’s Measured

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Another trawl through the Crime and Deviance pages from the University of Portsmouth reveals this set covering, in the main, the measurement of crime through official statistics.

The information in the pages is generally short (or, if you prefer, to-the-point) and gives the impression that either they’d run out of money, couldn’t really be bothered or just couldn’t find that much interesting and / or useful to say on the topic.

Having said that, some of the pages may be a useful starting-point for a-level students. (more…)

Why Don’t More People Commit Crimes?

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

In a world where most theoretical approaches to crime either focus on the socio-psychological backgrounds of criminals (most conventional criminology), the social contexts in which crime plays-out (labelling theory) or a combination of the two (radical criminology), one particular strand of criminology stands-out because it focuses less on trying to understand and explain why a minority of people commit crime and more on understanding and explaining why most people do not.

Control theories are, in this respect, a little different to most conventional forms of criminology and this set of pages from the University of Portsmouth looks at different aspects of this general perspective on crime through the work of different writers working in this tradition. In this respect it’s worth noting two things:

1. Control theories have a relatively long and persistent tradition – going back to the 19th century at least – in the explanation of crime and deviance.

2. The broad theoretical sweep of the general theory – explaining why most people obey laws and rules – means it has been interpreted in different ways by different writers, a diversity of opinion reflected in the following pages:  (more…)

Quick Quizzing

Friday, March 16th, 2018

This simple ungraded quiz idea, one that can be used to test how much your students have actually understood by the end of a teaching session, has been adapted from (or, if you’re a stickler for accuracy, shamelessly half-inched) the University of Waterloo’s “Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)”.

The reason I don’t feel bad about this – apart from the fact I am literally without shame – is that the idea itself just a simple variation on the Exit Ticket quizzes popular in American – and increasingly UK – schools and colleges.

Be that as it may, like all good ideas it’s very simple and although it will involve a little more preparation than some other forms of feedback the information gathered will be worth the extra effort.

The basic idea here is that, near the end of each class, students take a short quiz designed to test, at a very basic level, how much they’ve understood about the work they’ve just done. You should, however, make it clear that the test is diagnostic: its purpose is to inform your teaching not to grade your students with passes and fails (which is why the CTC calls the quizzes ungraded tests).

The only interest you have in their answers is to help you understand what parts of the lesson were clearly understood and which aspects may need more work or explanation. The test is just a simple way to do this while everything is still fresh in their minds (or not, as the case may be). (more…)

Further Five-Minute Feedback

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Whatever teaching methods you use it’s not always easy to know whether your crystal-clear, carefully-crafted, teaching has actually been understood by all of your students.

This is something I’ve previously addressed with the original Five-Minute Feedback Form that allows you to quickly and efficiently collect some very simple, useful, information about the most important things students think they’ve learnt during a class.

One drawback with this Form, however, is that although it can be used to inform your teaching – are students taking-away from a class the most important points you’ve made about a topic and, if not, what can I do about it? – the format means you can’t easily explore deeper questions:

• What are my students learning?
• What are they not learning?
• Does my teaching always have clarity?
• How could something be taught better?
• What could students do to improve their understanding?
• What teaching techniques do my students like?
• What teaching techniques don’t my students like?

To remedy this omission, the Further Five-Minute Feedback Form – an idea I’ve adapted slightly from “The One-Minute Paper” developed by the University of Waterloo’s “Centre for Teaching Excellence” – lets you ask different types of questions depending on the specific feedback you want for each lesson.

• On some occasions you might want to ask a direct question to test student understanding (“What did you not understand in this lesson?” or “Was there anything in the lesson you found confusing?”). For this type of question where you might need to do some follow-up teaching with individual students, there is space on the form for them to add their name.

• At other times you might want to ask more general questions (“How could the lesson have been improved?) that don’t require students to identify themselves by name.

The Further Feedback Form follows much the same general principle as the original Form: you set-aside 5 minutes at the end of each class to allow sFurther Feedback tudents time to think about and complete the Form.

While it’s possible to use both Forms at the same time this is probably too much to ask of your students – and having to sift through a lot of feedback at the end of each class probably defeats the objective of the exercise.

If you keep the time students spend giving feedback to a minimum, a short, regular and expected session that closes the class for example, you’re more-likely to get honest and useful responses – particularly if your students can see you listening to and acting on their feedback. (more…)

Leave Nothing to Chance: An Education Simulation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

“Leave Nothing to Chance” is, unless I’m very much mistaken (and I probably am), my first real attempt at a “proper classroom simulation”.

I’d like to say I’m excited about it, but when all’s-said-and-done it’s only a simple simulation.

On the other hand, I very much hope you like it, use it, develop it and share it.

Not necessarily in that order, but you probably get the idea.

Aside from this, if you need a bit of convincing about the content, the sim is designed to illustrate differential educational achievement and uses the mechanism of a lottery – or to be more-precise, a series of Key Stage lotteries – to explore how differences in achievement are, for sociologists, the result of material and cultural factors that occur both inside and outside the school.

The lotteries, although a central feature of the game (there can only be one winner. Unless you decide otherwise), are the device through which students are encouraged to explore, with your help, direction and guidance (you know, the teaching stuff), how and why different social groups achieve differently in the education system. They are, in other words, the glue that holds the lesson together.

(more…)