Culture and Identity: Caught Between Two Worlds?

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Richard Driscoll teaches A-level Sociology at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and you may recall an interesting piece of research – The Last Queendom of Women?  – carried-out by one of his students, Hecate Li, that provided a contemporary example of an alternative to the “conventional nuclear family”.

In this latest piece of research by one of his students, Sarah G. Zhang applies two complimentary research methods, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, to examine the question “How do experiences in different countries affect the social identities of American-born-Chinese (ABC) students” – a piece of research UK teachers and students should find useful for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it covers the respective strengths and weaknesses of two different research methods and shows how they can be applied to a substantive research area. The use of quantitative and qualitative methods / data is also a useful example of research triangulation.

Secondly, the research gives a fascinating insight into questions of culture and identity by choosing to look at “precarious identities” – young people “caught between two very different worlds” – expressed through a wide range of cultural concepts: language, family values and relationships, work ethics, identity and social relationships.

If you want to contact Richard Driscoll about this research you can do so through Twitter.

9 | The Research Process: Part 2

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The focus here is quantitative data and research, with the free chapter split into three discrete, but necessarily related, parts.

The first part outlines a selection of primary quantitative research methods (questionnaires, structured interviews and content analysis) and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses.

The second part does something similar for secondary quantitative methods (official and non-official statistics).

The final part turns the focus onto quantitative research methodology with an overview and analysis of positivist approaches. In addition to identifying and explaining some of the main features of this approach the link with research design in the first chapter is maintained through an overview of a classic positivist design: Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive model of scientific research.

As with previous chapters printer’s marks are visible and some chucklehead at the publisher has added some obvious pictures and even-more-obvious captions…

Structuring Actions: Classroom Discussion Strategies

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

One of the first things we usually teach students in Introductory Sociology classes is the idea that our actions are structured (the basic “roles, norms, values” etc. stuff) and classroom discussions can be an integral part of this teaching and learning process – encouraging students to think about what they’re learning and developing their knowledge and skills by exchanging ideas with others in a similar situation.

Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, all the important “structure and action” stuff tends to go out of the window when it comes to actually managing discussions – and it can be frustrating when you fail to ask questions that open-up discussion or, worse-still, end up having an exchange of views with the loudest, most-opinionated, students while the rest of the class twiddle their thumbs (or, more-likely, surreptitiously text their friends).

Luckily, someone like Jennifer Gonzalez has thought more deeply than me about this problem and actually done something about it – the upshot of which is “15 formats for structuring a class discussion to make it more engaging, more organized, more equitable, and more academically challenging”. (more…)

8 | The Research Process: Part 1

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

While Research Methods at a-level aren’t everyone’s cup of tea they can be interesting if students are given the time and space to bring together the theory with the practice. Unfortunately I can’t help you here with the practice (although I can give you a few pointers about how to carry-out a range of cheap ’n’ cheerful activities), but I can help with the theory.

This chapter kicks things off by looking at the idea of research design – from choosing a problem to research, through developing a testable hypothesis or research question, to data collection and analysis. Along the way the chapter takes in a range of research-centred ideas students will have to understand if they are to make the most of methods:

• Research respondents
• Types of representative sampling
• Types of non-representative sampling
• Pilot studies
• Concept operationalisation
• Reliability and validity
• Primary and secondary data
• Quantitative and qualitative data and methods
• Ethics

Rethinking Obesity: Nature via Nurture?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

This new film, featuring contributions from Dr Giles Yeo and Dr Clare Llewellyn, examines the evidence for and against the influence of environment and genetics in explaining obesity.

The 16 minute film is split into three sections:

The first focuses on “Nurture” – the influence of environmental factors, from advertising to food processing, as an explanation for the huge mean weight increases in Western societies such as America and Britain

The second looks at “Nature” – genetic factors such as the FTO gene – as a way of explaining why some individuals appear to gain weight more easily than others.

The final section examines the idea that to truly understand obesity we need to think in terms of the relationship between our genetic make-up and our social ad physical environment.

The complete film is available to rent or buy On-demand.

7 | Families and Households: Part 4

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

The final part of the Family chapter looks at “Roles, responsibilities and relationships within the family” through the media of:

• Domestic division of labour
• Power relationships
• Children and parents
• Functionalist / Marxist / Feminist explanations of family roles
• Demographic trends and changes

As with previous chapters I can’t emphasise strongly enough that I had absolutely nothing to do with:

a. The selection of pictures
b. The captions someone decided to add under the pictures.

6 | Families and Households: Part 3

Monday, September 11th, 2017

After the raw, enervating, excitement of Family Trends and the Role of Family in Society, the rollercoaster ride that is Family Life continues with the unalloyed joy that is Family Diversity.

While some commentators (who shall remain nameless because I haven’t named them) have described family diversity as a “thrill-a-minute fun-fest filled with fantastic fripperies”, more controversially, other, equally nameless, commentators have described it as being as dull as the rest of the family stuff. But I couldn’t possibly comment on this.

What I do know is that the chapter is filled with a range of diversity-related stuff (hence its name. Probably). This includes:

• Organisational diversity
• Class diversity
• Cultural diversity (age, gender, ethnicity)
• Sexual diversity (don’t get your hopes up, nothing to see here).

Things start to get a little more interesting (a term I use advisedly) when the chapter turns to look at two opposing views on contemporary family diversity (Postmodernist and New Right if you’re still reading this) but then things take a turn for the worse when the chapter ends with social policy.

Still, it’s free. So you can’t complain.

No, really.

Just Enjoy!

The Sociological Detectives: We Have A Situation…

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

This PowerPoint Presentation brings together a couple of ideas, one of which – the idea of “students playing the role of detectives” I’ve previously explored in a slightly different way. The other – a situation-based application – is one I’ve adapted from a couple of recent sources:

Firstly, the AQA Crime and Methods exam question that presented students with a scenario and then required them to assess the suitability of a particular research method for studying it.

Secondly the WJEC / Eduqas Criminology Specification that requires students to look at a situation – such as the behaviour of unruly youth – and show how a sociological explanation of their choice might understand and explain it.

The Situation

What this Presentation does, therefore, is set-up a situation – the behaviour of the aforementioned “unruly youth” – which students have to explain using a sociological approach of their choice. This can, of course, be adapted to your own particular teaching by, for example, asking different students to apply different approaches (Marxism, Feminism, etc.) and bringing their ideas together as a class. Alternatively, you may want the whole class to focus on a particular approach, such as Right Realism.

Where the exam / specification situation is one that’s simply described, either in words (exam) or words and pictures (specification) this version takes advantage of PowerPoint’s ability to display video – in this instance a relatively short (2 minutes 30 seconds) piece of film designed to do a couple of things:

The first minute of the film “sets-the-scene” by describing some aspects of a fictional town (“Castleton”) in terms of its broad social and economic make-up.

The remainder of the film outlines some of the “problems of unruly youth” whose behaviour students will have to explain by applying a criminological approach of their choice to the events they have viewed.

Aside from describing a situation, the film contains a number of simple visual and verbal clues students can pick-up on and use when they come to the “Report Stage” of the presentation. It includes, for example, the idea of social and material deprivation (Marxism), economic strains (Functionalism), Masculinity (Feminism) and broken windows (Right Realism). (more…)

5 | Families and Households: Part 2

Friday, September 8th, 2017

This part of the family chapter examines the role of family in society through two different and opposing structural approaches: Functionalism / Neo-Functionalism and Marxism / Neo-Marxism.

The content covered, in no particular order of significance, includes:

• Family functions and orientations
• The link between individuals and society
• Family dysfunctions (the “Dark side of family life”)
• The ideological, economic and political roles of the family
• Cultural, social and symbolic capital

As with previous chapters, the same slight caveats apply and they should not spoil your enjoyment of what must, by any yardstick, be counted as one of the most dynamic, interesting and exciting parts of the Sociology Specification.

4 | Families and Households: Part 1

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Today’s free chapter turns the focus on family life to look at “Key concepts and trends within the family” – in basic terms a short introduction to the concept of “families” coupled with an overview of “family trends”. The latter are theorised in terms of both structural and relationship trends and
the chapter covers the following key areas:

• Defining family and household
• Family structures
• Structural trends
• Trends in families and households
• Marriage, cohabitation and divorce trends

As ever you need to be aware that the first thing to date is statistical evidence (the chapter was published in 2012 and the latest statistics included go back a couple of years before this – hard as it may seem to credit, it actually takes quite a bit of time to research and write these chapters before they’re actually published). However, given the easy availability of family statistics on the web it’s relatively easy to update the statistics for your students (or, better yet, get them to research the updates for you).

I’ve chopped the chapter into 4 parts to make it easier for teachers not following the Specification for which it was created (OCR -1) to pick-and-choose the sections they want to use.

3 | Socialisation and Identity

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

The third chapter in what’s rapidly becoming something of a legendary giveaway (in my mind at least) is one that applies the concept of socialisation to the development of a range of social and personal identities in contemporary societies (or as contemporary as things get, given this was first published in 2012).

This chapter on socialisation and identity covers a range of interesting and not-so-interesting topics that, in no particular order, include:

• Social and personal identities
• Consensus, Conflict and Action approaches to understanding identity
• Postmodernity and the development of new identities (green, cyber and transformative)
• Agencies of identity socialisation and their role in the development of:
• Gender identities
• Class identities
• Ethnic identities
• Age identities

Although the text was written to support (in a very loose sense of the word) OCR Sociology, I like to think it probably has a much greater utility across a wider range of Specifications (it might, for example, come in handy for the Culture and Identity section of AQA Sociology. Then again, it  might not).

As with previous chapters this is pre-production version that still contains printer marks (I could remove them if I could be bothered, but I can’t. Be bothered, that is).

I’d also like to make it clear that neither the pictures dotted throughout the chapters, nor the captions that accompany them, had anything to do with me. Granted, it’s taken me 5 years to notice them, but in mitigation I don’t actually look at print versions of my books on what I think is the very reasonable basis that I’ve read the words so many times I just can’t face reading them again…

GCSE Psychology: How is non-verbal behaviour explained?

Monday, September 4th, 2017

FFree Chapter to downloadree chapter on non-verbal behaviour from OUP’s AQA GCSE Psychology 2nd Edition that outlines:

• Darwin’s evolutionary theory of non-verbal communication
• Is non-verbal behaviour innate?
• Is non-verbal behaviour learned?
• Yuki’s emoticons study (2007)

The Oxford Education Blog is also worth a visit – a very useful resource for A-level and GCSE Psychology

2 | The Process of Socialisation

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Click to download ChapterChapter 2 builds on the “culture material” in the first chapter by exploring how culture is created in one of two ways:

1. Through the influence of instincts, a largely non-sociological (‘nature’) approach to understanding culture.

2. Through the influence of our social environment, a conventional sociological approach that outlines different types and agencies of socialisation.

More-specifically the chapter covers the process of socialisation in terms of:

• Feral children
• Types of socialisation (primary, secondary, etc.)
• Formal and Informal social control
• Agencies of socialisation (primary and secondary)
• Structure and Action approaches
• Consensus perspectives (Functionalism)
• Conflict perspectives (Marxism, Feminism)
• Action perspectives
• Postmodern perspectives

For those of you who worry about such things the book was originally written for the OCR Specification but since it’s really just a general introduction to culture and socialisation it will cause no harm if students following other Specifications are exposed to the material it contains. Whether it will do you or them any good is, of course, not something on which I wish to speculate.

As with the previous chapter some printer’s marks are visible and a few illustrations that appear in the final version have not been included for the deceptively simple reason that I wasn’t involved in their selection and I can’t be bothered to look in the book to see what they were. That’s probably two reasons, I grant you, but you probably get the drift.

1 | The Formation of Culture

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Around 5 years ago I published a book for the OCR Specification (don’t thank me, somebody had to) and although it’s still available if you want to buy it , it’s probably out-lived what little economic utility it once had.

I decided, therefore, it’s probably time to make it freely available to anyone who wants it, starting with Chapter 1: The Formation of Culture.

Although it was written to meet the demands of a particular Specification (one that’s since changed…) that’s not to say teachers won’t find it useful: if you’re One of The Few who follow OCR there’s plenty of information in the chapter that still applies to the latest Spec. and if you’re One of The Many who use another Specification, as a colleague of mine once said “Well, it’s all Sociology, inn’it bruv?”.

So, with that fine endorsement ringing in your ears you might be interested to know the chapter covers the following:

• Defining culture (roles, norms, values, status, etc.)
• Types of subcultures (reactive and independent)
• Cultural diversity (Inter and Intra)
• Multiculturalism
• Global culture
• High and Popular culture
• Consumer culture

Because this is a pre-publication version of the final book it doesn’t look quite like the printed version (the printer’s marks are visible and one or two pictures that made the final cut may be missing from this version) but, on the plus side, it’s free and you can make as many copies as you like to distribute to your students.

Crime and Criminology: Offender Profiling

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

The final WJEC Criminology PowerPoint provides an overview of offender profiling covering things like:

• Evidence and the crime scene

• British and American approaches to profiling

• Examples of profiling successes and failures

• A Scenario that requires students to both apply any psychological theory with which they are familiar to the crime depicted and to assess the usefulness of profiling in this particular case

As with the previous PowerPoints in the series (probably by Janis Griffiths) this is concisely and clearly presented and provides a solid starting point for teachers looking to introduce the concept and practice of offender profiling.

Measuring Crime

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

This large (30-odd slide) PowerPoint Presentation was (I’m guessing) put together by Dave Bown as part of the WJEC textbook project (I think he wrote / co-wrote the online A2 eBook).

It’s an interesting and wide-ranging resource that introduces a number of different topics related to the practice and problem of measuring crime. These include:

• Crime trends
• Different ways to measure crime
• Reported and Recorded crime
• Criminal characteristics
• Dark figure of crime
• Perspectives on crime statistics (Functionalist, Marxist, Interactionist, Realist, Feminist)
• Underreporting and Under-recording crime
• Victim and Self-Report studies
• Risk Society
• Fear of Crime


Crime and Criminology PowerPoint 4

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

The fourth WJEC Criminology PowerPoint offering provides an overview of feminist approaches to crime and criminality and, as you might expect, follows the format of the previous Presentations in this series:

• brief Introductory and summary Notes

• discussion questions

• short activities

• suggestions for further personal / independent research

• a “scenario” exercise that requires students apply a social theory of their choice to understand and explain the situation described.

It’s all very nicely, concisely and clearly presented – and while it’s by no-means all students will need the Presentation provides a good starting and jumping-off point for teachers looking to introduce feminist approaches to crime.

Psych’d Magazine Issue 2

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Psych’d is a twice-yearly (October and July) Psychology Magazine, published by WJEC (formerly the Welsh Joint Examining Committee) designed to support teachers and students studying for the WJEC and Eduqas A-level Psychology qualifications.

While, as you might expect, the magazine contains material (CPD events, important dates and recommended textbooks) specific to these particular exam boards, it also features a range of short, concise, articles teachers and students following other psychology a-level qualifications will find useful.

In this respect Issue 2 has the following articles focused on research methods:

• An active way to teach ways of assessing validity
• Personal Investigations: A Guide for the Terrified
• How we conducted our experiment on bilingualism
• Questionable Research Practices
• An observation of gender differences in food choices
• Skewed Distributions
• An Insight into the Potential Issues of a Personal Investigation

Crime and Criminology PowerPoint 3

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

The third WJEC Criminology offering – again I’m thinking it’s by Janis Griffiths – focuses on Sociological theories of criminality and serves as a brief introduction to:

• Marxism,
• Functionalism,
• Interactionism and
• Realism.

The main content here is basically a one-screen summary of key points so it’s probably best seen as a launching-point for further research and discussion than an end in itself.

There are a couple of interactive slides (match the statement to the perspective, for example), class discussion questions, suggestions for personal research and the feature I find most-interesting about all the Presentations I’ve featured, “the scenario situation”.

Here, students are presented with a basic scenario – in this instance an Asian-owned shop under attack by local youths – and students are required to examine and explain the scenario from the viewpoint of one or more different sociological approaches / theories.

I think it’s probably fair to say that I like this idea so much I’m prepared, at some point when I get a bit of time, to create scenarios of my own and then pass the idea off as one I may have invented…

Psych’d Magazine

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Psych’d is a twice-yearly (October and July) Psychology Magazine, published by WJEC (formerly the Welsh Joint Examining Committee) and designed, in the words of its editor, “to provide key information, suggestions for teaching, updates and news as well as interesting features relating to our WJEC and Eduqas Psychology qualifications”. 

Although the magazine contains stuff (applying to be an examiner, CPD events, recommended textbooks…) that’s only really going to be of interest to teachers following these qualifications there are also a number of articles that teachers and students following other psychology a-level qualifications will find useful.  

Issue 1, for example, has the following:

  • The Psychology of Happiness
  • Understanding Psychological Approaches in Bowlby and Alfred Adler
  • Introducing research methods
  • Autism
  • Using technology

  • Overall, the magazine is professionally produced with short, interesting, articles aimed squarely at the a-level student. It’s well worth a look, whether or not you teach WJEC / Eduqas psychology.

    Crime and Criminology PowerPoint 2

    Monday, August 21st, 2017

    The second WJEC Criminology offering – I’m taking an educated guess that it’s by Janis Griffiths – focuses on Individualistic theories of criminality and, in particular, the assumption that criminal behaviour is related to particular types of criminal personality.

    This is illustrated by short Notes on three different theories and their major proponents: 

    1.     Eysenck (personality theory).

    2.     Sigmund Freud (psychodynamic theory). 

    3.     Albert Bandura (social learning theory).

    In addition to some simple discussion questions the Presentation also includes a “Scenario” section in which students are presented with a specific situation – in this instance, abusive partners – and asked to apply and evaluate an individualistic theory in this particular context.

    If your students need some guidance in this task there’s a further PowerPoint Presentation designed to take them through the basic steps.

    Additionally, if you want to develop the question of whether killers are “born or made” Professor Jim Fallon’s neuroscientific research will prove very helpful in this context.

    Crime and Criminology PowerPoint 1

    Sunday, August 20th, 2017

    It’s probably fair to say that over the years attempts by different UK Exam Boards to provide teaching and learning materials for Sociology have, in the main, been somewhat half-hearted. The general position seems to be that while this new Internet-thingy confers a range of opportunities to provide teachers with information and guidance, providing teaching resources is probably best left to publishing companies (particularly those companies with which a Board has an “approved textbook” relationship).

    One shining exception to this generally-depressing situation is WJEC (formerly the Welsh Joint Examining Committee) who, to their great credit, have taken the provision of teaching resources seriously (even to the extent of commissioning their own AS Sociology and A2 Sociology textbooks that are distributed freely online).

    This generosity of spirit (or, more-probably, economic necessity) extends to the Board’s Criminology Specification and while the resources are by no-means as extensive as those available to Sociology teachers, I’ve managed to dig-out a few examples that might be useful to those teaching Crime and Deviance across different exam boards (either for the Notes they contain or, in some instances, the exercises they suggest).

    This first PowerPoint presentation outlines Biological / Physiological theories of crime using a mix of Notes, questions and simple interactive tasks / activities.

    The Notes take a fairly basic, no-frills approach, to describing the main ideas underpinning biological theories of criminality (or, if you prefer, they’re refreshingly “to-the-point”) and this material is complemented and extended by identifying a range of general criticisms of these types of approach.

    The presentation is completed by a sample of standard “discussion questions” and a rather more interesting “scenario” exercise. Here, students are presented with a simple scenario – in this instance youths menacing elderly residents – and are then required to apply their knowledge of biological approaches – and their criticisms – to assess and explain the situation.

    GCSE Psychology: Revision Booklet

    Friday, August 11th, 2017

    The final offering in this short GCSE Psychology series is a revision booklet by R Cummins of Knowsley College that covers both

    Unit 1: Making sense of other people (Memory, Non-verbal communication, Development of personality, Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination and Research methods). 

    Unit 2: Understanding other people (Learning, Social influence, Sex and Gender, Aggression, and Research methods)

    The emphasis, as you might expect, is very much on revision and the booklet takes a no-frills approach to the topic through a combination of: 

  • Checklists
  • Notes and
  • Practice exam questions.

  • It’s not the most visually-dynamic offering, but it does the job it sets out to do…

    GCSE Psychology: Unit 2

    Thursday, August 10th, 2017

    Having posted stuff for AQA Psychology Unit 1 it’s probably only fair to do the same for Unit 2 so today’s post focuses on two offerings

    1. Understanding Other People: This resource, created by T Mitchell, consists of information and activities – plus a few revision tips – focused on various aspects of Conditioning. There’s one specific reference to a textbook that you may have to change if you don’t use the featured textbook.

    2. Unit 2 Revision Booklet: Although this offering from “Caz” covers some of the same ground as the previous booklet, it contains much more besides (from social learning theory through aggression to research methods) and has a much greater focus on revision. It does, however, contain a few activities and an extensive range of exam questions.

    GCSE Psychology: Unit 1

    Sunday, July 30th, 2017

    Having spent the past few weeks furiously editing videos we’re licensing to a couple of British and American publishers, one of the joys of having a bit of spare time is the opportunity for a random-trawl through my hard drives looking for stuff that “might be useful to someone, sometime”.

    The stuff I’ve selected today is a little niche – and you don’t get more niche than GCSE Psychology, unless you count GCSE Sociology, in which case it’s not quite as niche as I might have initially lead you to believe, but still quite niche. Probably. 

    Anyway, since some helpful teachers have taken the time, trouble and effort to create it the least I could reasonably do is post it. You can thank me later.

    Today’s offerings, therefore, are focused around AQA Psychology Unit 1 (Making Sense of Other People) and include: 

    1.     A Revision Booklet covering Memory, Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, Non-verbal communication, Personality, and Research Methods. This booklet was created by someone who must remain nameless (mainly, but not exclusively, because I don’t know their name). The approach adopted here is one of testing student recall rather than trying to provide a comprehensive revision document.

    2.   Personality Key Studies and Key Words created by Kevin White takes a more-conventional approach to revision with this extensive bundle of condensed course notes covering, as you might have been lead to expect, key studies and words. 

    3.     Unlike the previous two offerings, this Personality-focused resource created by T Mitchell is more of a course workbook than revision guide. Although it offers a few revision and exam tips its main focus is on individual classroom activities. The resource makes reference to a couple of specific texts so if you don’t use those texts you will need to substitute your own.