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Creating Structured Sociological Discussions with Kialo

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Although “discussions”, in one form or another, are probably a teaching staple in social science classes, one of their major drawbacks is that they can be devilishly difficult to structure, control and record.

Which is both a shame and a problem:

• the former because students seem to find discussions useful and teachers can use them to generate further knowledge and understanding about an issue or idea.

• the latter because without structure and recording it’s difficult to keep track of what’s been argued and, most importantly, why it might be significant.

In other words, one of the inherent problems with debates is the noise that intrudes: non sequiturs, moving away from the object of the debate, getting side-tracked into unfocused discussions, a small number of students monopolising the discussion and so on.

One way to resolve these problems is to create a structured debate using something like Kialo  – a free online debating platform that’s highly structured, so you can easily follow a discussion and jump into it at any point. It’s also very accessible: every student in your class, for example, can simultaneously contribute to the debate. No-one’s voice will be drowned-out and everyone, whatever their level of individual comfort or confidence, can contribute.

(more…)

23 | Health: Part 4

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

In this final chapter in the Health series the main focus is on the role of health professionals in society, as seen through the lens of four sociological perspectives:

• Functionalist, with the main focus on the role of health systems and health professionals.

• Marxist, looking at medicine in terms of its production and consumption and how it operates as a system of political and ideological social control.

• Weberian where the emphasis is on the role of status groups and hierarchies.

• Feminist, where the focus is on women as objects of medical attention.

The final section examines the rise of complementary / alternative medicine, their challenge to – and the critical response of – conventional forms of medicine.

As per, there are a few nondescript printer’s marks visible (but nothing too distracting) and a single picture (pre-copyright release) with the usual literal caption for which I take no responsibility because, in the prescient words of Shaggy “It wasn’t me”.

Visual Sociology: Picturing Inequality

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Equality of Opportunity?

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of using graphic material (pictures and illustrations rather than examples of extreme physical violence) to both illustrate sociological ideas and encourage students to think a little more deeply about such ideas and how they can be applied to increase their depth of sociological knowledge and understanding. I’ve tried to use this technique to good effect in:

• blog posts – visualising strain theory is a particular favourite
• teaching – one of my favourite “visual lessons” was to use optical illusions to introduce and illustrate the idea of different sociological approaches – how could people look at the same thing (“society”) yet see it so differently?
• my work as a video producer.

In this respect my argument is that the right picture can be a simple and evocative way of getting students to both understand and think about the ramifications of certain ideas across a range of sociological areas:

• Education and differential achievement.
• Deviance and rates of arrest / imprisonment.
• Social inequality and various forms of discrimination.
• Theory and concepts like economic, cultural and social capital.

The picture above, for example, can be used to get students to think beyond relatively simple and straightforward ideas about class, gender or ethic discrimination (it’s morally wrong…) in order to explore more complex sociological ideas about the concept of equality of opportunity: what, for example, does it really mean and can it be used by powerful groups to actually embed greater inequality into social structures?

(more…)

Sociological Theories And Frameworks

Monday, November 13th, 2017

This is a web page where you can find a bite-sized run-down of a range of:

a. Sociological frameworks – from those fairly central to a-level, such as Functionalism, Feminism. Conflict theory, Critical theory and those (symbolic interaction, phenomenology) that tend to be a little more optional.

b. Sociological theories – some fairly central ones, such as labelling and strain theory and some that are more-specialised, such as disengagement theory.

Labelling Theory

The information included for each framework or theory varies – some, such as Functionalism, are just given a brief introduction and general overview while others are covered in much greater detail. Labelling theory, for example, is given:

1. A short general introduction.
2. A brief outline of its origins.
3. A more-detailed overview of its content
4. A selection of key texts
5. A short evaluation.

You might find that some frameworks, such as critical theory,  probably go quite a bit beyond a-level so it’s probably best to review each of the frameworks / theories before you let your students loose on them (as I’ve demonstrated you can link directly to any of the frameworks / theories you think might be useful for your students).

In addition, the hosting website carries an interesting range of other sociological topics – from general stuff such as What is Sociology, through key concepts such as gender, to Units such as Crime and Deviance.

Popular Panics and the New Right

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Following the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, widespread rioting broke out during August 2011 in London and many other English cities. If you don’t remember or aren’t familiar with the civil unrest, the BBC has a handy timeline of events.

I recently came across an Economist article, written at the time and addressing the various political responses to the unrest, called “We have been here before: Centuries of nostalgia for a peaceful, law-abiding Britain” that I think teachers and students will find both interesting and useful for Crime and Deviance for a couple of reasons:

1. It documents a range of mainly New Right explanations for – and solutions to – the unrest / rioting that you might find useful as a way of illustrating “popular New Right” ideas about crime: an ever-revolving selection of The Usual Suspects – from teachers, through parents to the detrimental influence of whatever is the Popular Music Du Jour (in this particular instance, Rap takes the…err…biscuit).

2. It draws extensively on Geoffrey Pearson’s very wonderful “Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears” (1983) to show how, over the past 150 -200 years, the same kinds of “popular responses” to all kinds of civil unrest, disorder and downright deviance appear and reappear at regular intervals.

Finally, the article draws on Pearson’s work to provide an interesting comparative overview of a range of popular (and perhaps moral if you’re that way inclined) panics that students should find interesting, illuminative and instructive:

• fears, in the 1840’s, of a rise in working mothers and the detrimental effect this had on the morals of the young (a regular and long-running favourite in the popular press – or Mainstream Media if you prefer – ever since),

• the “spread of child labour” (a problem not, as you might be forgiven for thinking, because Child Labour! but rather because “it put money in the pockets of impressionable youths”, apparently).

• contemporary panics around “Rock’n’Roll in the 1950’s or sexual deviancy in the guise of “Peace’n’Love” in the 1960’s.

When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?

Friday, November 10th, 2017

I chanced across this blog post from the Smithsonian Institution of all places and it struck me as something that could be useful as a way of getting students to think about all kinds of sociological stuff – from gender and identity, through the role of the media to more-abstract ideas about childhood, invented traditions and the like.

It’s also useful if you want to illustrate the counter-intuitive nature of some sociology – not only the idea that particular cultures associate certain colours (and toys and characteristics and behaviours…) with specific genders but also that this association is fairly arbitrary (which may or may not be useful for labelling theory).

The idea of “Blue for boys and Pink for girls”, for example, is an association created around 100 years ago – only originally it was “Pink for boys and Blue for girls”. The current association – one that completely reversed “commonly accepted gender norms” – only emerged in the 1940’s…

The article also notes how the different styles of gendered clothing – skirts for girls and trousers for boys – that currently garners much discussion in the age of “back-to-basics” Academy Schools – have evolved over the past 150 years.

Further Reading

All of the following generally riff off the theme of the Smithsonian post, but I think each adds something to it, either by filling-in some of the references or expanding upon the general idea:

The Surprisingly Recent Time Period When Boys Wore Pink, Girls Wore Blue, and Both Wore Dresses

The pink vs blue gender myth

Kids Believe Gender Stereotypes by Age 10, Global Study Finds

Pink wasn’t always for girls

Then and Now

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

A few months ago I ran a couple of blog posts that featured the work of Dr Julia Russell under the headings “Hard to Find Classics”  and “More Hard to Find Classics”.

These files came from an online column she wrote, for a video-distribution company called Uniview, that I saved with a degree of prescience that, quite-frankly, surprised me. What was less-surprising is that I promptly managed to forget about the remaining files and they stayed unposted on my hard drive.

But that was then and this is now.

Which is spookily interesting (or maybe not) because the latest batch of files I’m posting goes under the “Then and Now” heading. The basic idea here was to take a “classic but dated” study and update it with contemporary evidence.

The format for each file is deceptively similar:

1. Identify and outline a classic psychological study (although, to be fair, the “outline” seems to have gone AWOL somewhere along the line. If you use the file you’ll probably need to give your students a basic idea of the original study).

2. Show how the original study has been updated, criticised, revised by later studies.

3. Add a glossary of key terms.

4. Finish with a range of activities to test student understanding.

I’ve a feeling there were only ever 5 “Then and Now” files created. Although I could be wrong I’m probably not because I was quite methodical in the stuff I saved. Anyway, the 5 files for your teaching and learning pleasure are:

Bandura, Ross & Ross’ (1961) “classic study demonstrating the acquisition of aggression through social learning”.

Dement and Kleitman’s (1957) “classic study which explored sleep and dreaming using electronic recording as well as observation and diary methods”.

Piliavin, Rodin & Piliavin’s (1969) “classic study investigating social behaviour”.

Samuel and Bryant’s (1984) (presumably classic) “study which evaluated the procedure Piaget had used to investigate children’s understanding of physical quantities”.

Freud’s (1909) “Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy” describes and interprets the experiences, dreams and fantasies of a young boy who was studied by Freud and treated for his fears and anxieties”.

Are You What Your Mother Ate?

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Randy Jirtle and Rob Waterland’s Agouti Mouse Study has been called one of the most important study’s of the 21st century, not only for its significance for our understanding of the relationship between our genetic Nature and environmental Nurture but, most importantly, for our understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms that change gene expression in both lab mice and, by extension, human beings.

The film combines extensive interview footage of Professor Randy Jirtle and original laboratory footage to both tell the story of the Agouti Mouse Study and consider its implications for our understanding of the relationship between our genetic and environmental influences.

The 14-minute film is divided into three discrete but related sections:

1. The Context of the Agouti Mouse Study outlines the development of an epigenetic approach to our understanding of disease.

2. The Experiment takes a closer look at the actual mechanics of the Agouti Study and how it demonstrated a causal pathway between a mother animal’s environment and the expression of her offspring’s genetic code (and, in the process, overturned a century’s scientific belief about how genetics worked).

3. The final section, Reactions and Implications, looks at both the impact of the study and its revolutionary implications for how we understand the relationship between our genes and our physical and social environments.

Although mainly of interest to psychology teachers and students, the film may also be useful to sociologists seeking a clearer understanding of the different ways the expression of our genetic inheritance can be modified by epigenetic environmental changes.

I would like to see this video disseminated to a large audience because it so clearly shows what our agouti mouse study accomplished. It truly ushered in the era of environmental epigenomics, which markedly changed the way we view the genesis of disease formation.”
Professor Randy Jirtle

22 | Health: Part 3

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

The third chapter in this series looks at the social construction of mental illness and disability in terms of how definitions and meanings have changed over time and between cultures.

In terms of definitions the chapter examines three basic models of mental illness the Biomedical, Psychological and Sociological (a distinction you can explore further through this short article that argues it is “unhelpful to see mental health issues as illnesses with biological causes.”.)

In terms of meanings, this involves outlining and evaluating two broad approaches to mental illness – Structural and Interactionist – that seek to explain trends in mental illness based on categories of class, gender and ethnicity.

In relation to disability this means understanding how different societies interpret the meaning of physical and mental impairments, discussed in terms of two broad interpretive models – the individual or medical and the social model.

Deviance

A further dimension here is the idea of mental illness and disability as deviance. In t respect, even if you don’t teach or study Health, the chapter contains a range of examples of non-criminal deviance.

The section dealing with Szasz’s (1961) arguments about “the myth of mental illness” may also contribute to an understanding of Interactionist approaches to crime and deviance and the idea that concepts of deviance (such as mental illness) are socially constructed across time and space.

Food Spaces: The Relationship between Economic and Cultural Capital

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

The notion of different types of “capital” (economic, cultural, social, spatial…) has become increasingly significant for students of a-level sociology – particularly through the work of writers such as Bourdieu – and while the concepts themselves may be relatively easily understood the relationship between them is not always so clear.

A deceptively-easy to illustrate the relationship between economic and cultural capital, however, is through an interesting chart I chanced upon while rooting through Pinterest (as you do. Apparently).

It’s broadly taken from Bourdieu’s “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” (1979) and updated by Molly Watson into an informative teaching device that could be used in a number of different ways – form a bare-bones version which students have to fill with their own “food suggestions” to a simple discussion-piece around the idea of different types of capital and what they signify.

Although this chart’s based on food, it’s not difficult to envisage teachers / students creating alternatives based on a range of different ideas, such as one on the UK education system, for example.

An interesting speculation here might be whether or not it’s possible to incorporate social capital into such a chart?

21 | Health: Part 2

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

The second chapter in what literally nobody but me is calling The Health Series focuses on Patterns and explanations of ill health in society and is arranged in a slightly convoluted but-quite-logical-if-you-think-about-it kind of way.

It’s basically constructed around three broad organising categories – class, gender and ethnicity – and each is considered in terms of patterns of morbidity and mortality (which explains why we spent so much time defining these ideas in the first chapter on the social construction of health and illness).

Once patterns of ill-health have been identified the chapter then looks at how these can be explained and evaluated, for each of the class, gender and ethnicity categories, in terms of four general types of explanation:

1. Artefact and measurement
2. Natural/social selection
3. Cultural/behavioural factors
4. Structural and material factors.

There are a few printer’s marks (but nothing very intrusive) and a grand total of two (I counted them to make sure) pictures. Since this is a pre-clearance version of the chapter, one has a large watermark, but given the quality of picture selection throughout this is unlikely to detract from anyone’s enjoyment. Luckily whoever did the captioning was on top form here.

To make-up for the lack of pictures there are some tables, for which I should probably take responsibility, but I’m not sure that I can.

20 | Health: Part 1

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Although Health may not be the most popular option on the A-level Sociology Spec. (and is probably next in line for the chop when they finally reduce the syllabus to the barest of bare bones) it’s surprisingly interesting – something I discovered when researching this chapter because, like the majority of Sociology teachers, it’s not a topic I’ve ever taught.

Be that as it may – and be assured that it is – this chapter looks at the social construction of health and illness beginning, as is by now traditional with these OCR chapters, with a few Key Concepts to settle the nerves and get the creative juices flowing. Or not, as the case may be.

Anyway, the first part of the chapter looks at:

• Defining health (both positive and negative state models)
• Defining illness and sickness (including an outline of the Sick Role)
• Approaches to health and illness through two opposing models (biomedical and social) in terms of their basic assumptions, relationships, strengths and weaknesses.
• The distinction between rates of morbidity and mortality

The second part of the chapter looks specifically at the social construction of heath in terms of how different societies develop different ideas about concepts like health and illness. The focus here is on three broad areas:

• Cultural relativity
• Lay definitions
• The social process of becoming ill

Overall the chapter has a few nice graphics (don’t thank me, all part of the service), some crazy mnemonics (I like mnemonics, okay) and one (count it) picture. Clearly the already “limited” (for which read “non-existent”) budget for pictures had finally run out by the time we got to this final chapter. As per, there are a few printer’s marks visible but what do you expect for absolutely nothing?

Trial: And Error: Online version

Monday, October 30th, 2017

While PowerPoint is fine for displaying via desktop devices it’s not quite so clever when it comes to the different devices, from tablets to mobiles, potentially being used inside and outside the a-level classroom.

If, therefore, you want a portable (html5) version of the Sociological Detectives Research Process Simulation that has the same functionality as the PowerPoint version, I’ve created an online version that you’re more than welcome to try. Although it doesn’t do anything different to the PowerPoint version it’s a version that students can access at anytime, before or after the particular lesson in which the simulation is used.

In the case of the former you might want your students to familiarise themselves with the sim before you link it to Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive model of research. This involves a kind of flipped learning where students familiarise themselves with the basic analogy used in the sim and which can then be applied and evaluated in a lesson.

Alternatively it can be used after a lesson as a way for students to recap the ideas you’ve introduced.

Family Relocation: A Neglected Dimension of Power?

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

When looking at power relationships within families there are a number of fairly-obvious areas – such as domestic labour and violence (both physical and sexual) – that tend to receive most of the critical focus at A-level. While not suggesting this “dark side of the family” is somehow unimportant, insignificant or unworthy of so much attention, an over-concentration on these “manifest and obvious” displays of power can result in other, perhaps more-subtle, examples of power imbalances being overlooked. This is particularly the case where power relationships become a little more complicated, messy and not so clearly bound-up in relations of individual, physical, domination and subordination.

One such area relates to work and family relocation for dual-earner families where decisions have to be made about whose work has the greatest priority when, for example, the family needs to move. Hardill (2003), for example, found women were more likely to be the ‘trailing spouse’ in this relationship: male occupations had greater priority and the family relocated to follow male employment patterns.

While this type of research is interesting and suggestive, a further question to consider is whether these types of decision-making are indicative of greater male status and higher levels of power within the family group, rather than simply reflecting male-female economic differences in wider society. (more…)

Free Resources: Napier Press

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

It’s probably fair to say that “A-level Sociology” by Webb et al is one of the best-selling textbooks for the AQA Specification and if you follow this Spec. or, more importantly perhaps, use this book the resources available on the Napier Press web site should come in handy.

If you don’t use this text the site has a range of sample pages from both the textbooks (year 1 and year 2) and the accompanying Revision Guides designed to give you a general overview of what’s on offer and maybe tempt you into a purchase.

Either way, there are still resources available that, with a bit of thought and tinkering, could be adapted for use with different texts. Whether or not you think it’s worth the effort is probably a matter of personal choice:

Schemes of work covering both Year 1 and Year 2 are probably worth a look: at the very least they give an insight into possible topic timings and learning objectives. As you’d expect, the suggested activities and resources are squarely fixed on the textbook, although there are suggestions for a few wider – mainly video – resources.

Similarly the Lesson Plans that, for some reason, begin and end with Education and Methods in Context are heavily reliant on the textbook. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, entirely-understandable, approach it doesn’t leave a great deal of scope for variety or imagination. Should you choose to ignore the content, however, they’re still a potentially useful resource as a template for lesson planning.

Alongside this there are an extensive range of ready-made student activities for Year 1 and Year 2 topics, although, like the workschemes / lesson plans they’re all quite similar in scope and format (read some text, watch a bit of video, answer the questions…). There are some, however, that break this format to provide more-innovative activities.

Finally, the site offers a number of workbooks, again divided into Year 1 and Year 2 topics. These are strictly tied to the text, which is great if it’s the one you’re using, but even if you’re not there’s plenty here to inspire – by which, of course, I mean steal and adapt – if you’re into the whole Workbook thing.

Trial: And Error Frontend

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

In response to quite literally no-one asking for it, we’ve created a Frontend – what people laughingly used to call “a Menu” – for the Research Process sim. This brings together three elements of a possible lesson (the Simulation PowerPoint, Hypothetico-Deductive PowerPoint and “Nature of Science” pdf) in one handy, easy to access, place.

Apart from the aforesaid handiness, using a Frontend looks a bit more professional and may give the not-entirely-erroneous impression that we know exactly what we’re doing when OfSted – or some over-zealous SMT-type – is In The House.

To use the Frontend all the files need to be in the same directory, but since it uses relative addressing it will work from any directory you create. Even if, for some reason known only to you and your dog, you’re in the habit of naming directories after your pets. It does happen.

A couple more things:

1. The PowerPoints run as Shows (.ppsx) which means they will work on a device that doesn’t have PowerPoint.

2. You need to have a pdf Reader – Adobe or otherwise – on your device (it doesn’t have to be in the same directory as the pdf file). Otherwise you won’t be able to open the “Nature of Science” pdf.

And that could be embarrassing.

Or maybe liberating.

One of the two.

The Sociological Detectives: Trial: And Error

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The latest addition to the burgeoning Sociological Detectives™ Universe is a role-playing simulation of the Research Process – and Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive Model of Scientific Research in particular – that uses the analogy of a criminal investigation to help students understand and experience how and why the research process is structured.

The simulation takes the students through a number of stages in the investigation – from identifying a problem to prosecuting the guilty party – that mirror the different stages in Popper’s Model.

The basic idea here is that the role-playing element, whereby students are faced with a range of suspects and evidence from which they have to choose one individual they believe the evidence shows is guilty, adds an interesting dimension to what can be a fairly dry and difficult-to-teach area – particularly if you don’t have the time or resources to engage in some hands-on application. (more…)

19 | Religion: Part 4

Friday, October 20th, 2017

The “secularisation debate” is one of the perennial themes in the sociology of religion and this chapter examining the strength of religion in society is mainly given-over to an outline and evaluation of the two main sides to the argument:

1. Evidence indicating the secularisation of society examines concepts of institutional, practical and ideological religious decline.

2. Evidence against the secularisation of society examines ideas about the overstatement of decline across different societies, the contemporary strength of religious influence and the notion of religious evolution. This includes ideas about religious pluralism and the resacrilisation of (some) societies.

In addition to the above the chapter considers two further ideas:

Firstly, the concept of post-secularisation – an acknowledgement that while religious influence has clearly declined in some areas, it still makes important cultural and moral contributions to society.

Finally, the idea that rather than see religion and religiosity in terms of pro-or-anti secularisation we need to build on the post-secularisation debate and consider whether we should move “beyond secularisation” to look at changing concepts of religiosity in terms of “competing narratives in postmodern societies”.

18 | Religion: Part 3

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The third chapter in our trawl through the murky waters of organised (and disorganised, come to that) religion looks at the relationship between religion and social position in two broad ways:

Firstly terms of the so-called (by me at least) “CAGE” variables: class, age, gender and ethnicity. This section both outlines the relationship between each of these variables and religious beliefs / practices and evaluates a range of possible explanations for the relationships uncovered.

Secondly, the chapter looks at the appeal of modern religious movements to different social groups, with the focus here on two types:

a. New religious movements, based on Daschke and Ashcraft’s (2005) idea of ‘interrelated pathways’ that examines a broad typology of five different groupings (Perception, Identity, Community or ‘Family’, Society and Earth).

b. New Age movements, based on a typology of Explicitly religious, Human potential and Mystical movements.

Those of you who like your religion with pictures will be saddened to learn that there’s only one (and since this is the “pre-permission” version of the chapter, the spiritual purity of a group of Transcendental Meditation practitioners is somewhat sullied by a dirty great watermark that takes up most of the frame). The disappointment both of these facts might engender may be dispelled by the inclusion of a few tables and a lot of mnemonics.

Or possibly not.

17 | Religion: Part 2

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

No sociological analysis of religion would be complete without looking at the role it plays in society and, as luck would have it, this particular chapter examines the role of religion from a number of different perspectives – both inclusive and exclusive – whose main ideas are outlined and briefly evaluated:

• Functionalist
• Neo-Functionalist
• Marxist
• Neo-Marxist
• Weberian
• Neo-Weberian
• Postmodern

Once again this chapter was written (a word I use loosely) for the OCR AS Sociology Specification-but-one, but since just about every other A-level(ish) Sociology Specification worth the name covers this particular area it should be applicable to them in some way.

As ever I can take no responsibility for either the pictures or their captions, for the deceptively-simple reason that They Were Nothing To Do With Me.

 

Mind Changers

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Mind Changers was a long-running BBC Radio series broadcast between 2003 – 2015 that “explored the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century” – something achieved through a series of 30-minute interviews with / about some of the major psychological thinkers of the past century.

The 33 episodes currently in the BBC Archive will be mainly of interest to psychology teachers and students (subjects range from Little Albert and Harlow’s Monkeys, through Loftus on Eye-Witness Testimony to Carol Dweck and Growth Mindset) but there are a number of cross-over studies that sociology teachers and students will find useful too:

Rosenhan’s Pseudo-Patient Study
Mayo and the Hawthorne Effect
Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment
John/Joan – The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
The Wild Boy of Aveyron
The Asch Studies of Conformity

Chinese Parents’ Involvement in Children’s Education

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that from time-to-time we’ve been able to feature research done by Richard Driscoll’s Sociology A-level students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and the latest study to come our way, by Ma Jia Ying, looks at the involvement of Chinese parents in decisions made by their sons and daughters about what to study in higher education.

The research should be interesting to UK teachers and students for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it gives a comparative cultural insight into family relationships and educational processes in an area that will be familiar to many UK students – the extent to which family pressures impact on the choices made by individual students in terms of their future educational careers.

Secondly, another interesting dimension is the construction and implementation of the research itself: this is made manifest in areas like the choices made by the researcher in terms of sampling, research methods, reliability, validity and so forth, their awareness of methodological uses and limitations and their evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of their research.

If you want to get in touch with Richard about this research, his students or maybe to make a fruitful contact between your school / college students and his – you can contact him via his Twitter account

16 | Religion: Part 1

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

The opening chapter in this series on religion looks at “Key Concepts and the Changing Nature of Religious Movements in Society” – something that lends itself neatly to two broad sections:

1. Key Concepts – an “introduction to the sociology of religion” that covers two important areas:

• how we define religion, considered in terms of inclusive and exclusive approaches
• how we measure religious belief (religiosity).

2. Religious Movements looks at their changing nature in terms of identifying and explaining:

• Different types of religious institution and movement (church, sect, denomination and cult).
• New Religious Movements
• New Age Movements
• Religious Fundamentalism.

As ever there are a few distracting printer’s marks and, mercifully, only a couple of (at that point uncleared) pictures with captions written by the “Self-Evident Caption Company”. Probably.

Youth Culture: Miscellaneous Files

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

While rooting around on one of my many hard drives I came across a folder which contained, among other things, a whole host of files on Youth Culture. They seem to have been created by a couple of people (d.capper and c.johnson) around 2009 / 10, which means they relate specifically to the OCR Specification but one (or maybe two? I’ve lost count).

Anyway, although I’ve no idea who the authors might be – or in which school / college they teach – I thought some of the files might be a useful complement to the 4 (count ‘em) Youth Culture chapters I’ve recently posted.

Although I’ve discarded files that referred directly to whatever Specification it was they originally referred to, this still leaves a batch of files I’ve divided, partly for convenience and partly because I like categorising stuff, into two areas – Notes and Activities / Planning and Feedback:

(more…)

15 | Youth: Part 4

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Although the concept of “youth culture” – a ‘shared way of life’, with its own distinctive roles, values, norms, beliefs and practices, common to young people and different to other generational groups (such as the elderly) – has a certain face validity, it’s not one that has a great deal of sociological currency in contemporary societies (for reasons we’ve previously outlined and explored).

Similarly, the concept of youth subcultures is one that has, it’s probably fair to say, fallen out of the sociological mainstream in recent times, partly because of the dramatic decline in its “spectacular” forms (the mods, hippies and punks of your parents (and possibly grandparents) generations), but mainly because even in these spectacularly overt forms there is actually very little evidence of subcultural organisation – such as the ability to socialise new members or reproduce the group over time, for example.

While “youth subcultures”, in other words, are seen as behavioural forms that are, by definition, defined by the overwhelming presence and participation of “young people”, there’s arguably little evidence they constitute subcultural groupings in the generally-accepted use of the term.

It’s Dead, Dave. They’re all Dead

Youth culture and subculture are, in this respect, sometimes called “zombie concepts” -explanations that, while they once had some form of life, have long-ago ceased to have any real meaning, currency or relevance for our understanding of young people’s behaviour. They’re dead, but they just don’t know it (although they can still be dangerous because they cloud the way we think about youth).

(more…)