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Situational Crime Prevention: The (New Right) Theory

Monday, July 10th, 2017

In two previous posts (Categorising Situational Crime Prevention Strategies  and Categorising Situational Crime Prevention: Techniques and Exampleswe looked at some examples of situational crime prevention strategies and techniques and this third post examines the theoretical background to situational crime prevention in a couple of ways:

Firstly, by looking at the broad background in terms of a general “environmental discourse” that encompasses both cultural and physical environments.

Secondly by looking at a couple of specific New Right approaches – Control Theory and Routine Activities Theory – that flow from this general discourse.

 

SCP and the Craving for Hot Products

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

An important dimension of Routine Activities Theory is the element of target suitability and selection. Even in situations where a motivated offender is somewhere that lacks active guardians, how and why they select one target rather than another is an important question in relation to situational crime prevention.

This was directly addressed by Felson and Cohen (1979), for example, in their “VIVA” mnemonic (Value, Inertia, Visibility, Accessibility) but Clarke (1999) has taken these general ideas further by arguing that some potential targets have what he calls “choice structuring properties”.

That is, rather than thinking about crime conventionally in terms of an offender setting out to commit a criminal act, arriving in a place where the act can be committed and then selecting a suitable target some targets – what Clarke terms “Hot Products” – have characteristics that may:

  • Suggest the idea of theft to potential offenders and
  • Encourage them to seek out settings where desired products may be found.

  • In other words, the existence of “hot products” contributes to various forms of both opportunistic and carefully-planned crime and if we understand the characteristics of these products – the things that make them desirable objects (in both the manifest sense of their value and the latent sense of motivating individuals to possess them) – this will contribute towards an understanding of the situational controls that need to be developed around such targets.

    Clarke, in this respect, developed the mnemonic CRAVED to define the characteristics of hot products and I’ve developed two PowerPoint Presentations identifying each element in the mnemonic.

    This version simply displays the mnemonic as a self-running presentation – you can use this version if you simply want to present these ideas to students.

    This version offers the same information but can be used if you want to involve your students a little more. The presentation displays the CRAVED mnemonic but in order to display the meaning of each letter it has to be clicked. If you wanted to see if your students could work-out the characteristics of a hot product (such as a mobile / cell phone) this is the version to use.

    If you want to look in more detail at either the CRAVED mnemonic or Clarke’s ideas about hot products you can download his 1999 chapter “Hot Products: understanding, anticipating and reducing demand for stolen goods”.

    Visualising Routine Activities Theory

    Friday, July 7th, 2017

    Routine Activities Theory has been described (by me, just now) as one of the key theoretical contributions to the development of Situational Crime Prevention strategies and techniques. In broad terms it sees crime as the outcome of both “opportunity” (Mayhew, 1976; Clarke, 1988) and “routine activities” (Cohen and Felson 1979) and represents, for Felson and Boba (2010), “A theory of how crime changes in response to larger shifts in society”.

    While the general theory can appear quite complex to students – and contains numerous developments and qualifications – at root it offers a fairly simple outline of the relationship between, on the one hand, potential offenders and, on the other, the social controls that may exist to deter offending.

    The objective of this PowerPoint Presentation, therefore, is to provide a visual representation of the factors that contribute to both offending and crime prevention, within the context of routine activities theory.

    Patterns of Crime and the Social Characteristics of Offenders: Gender and Ethnicity

    Monday, July 3rd, 2017

    After a brief hiatus, we’re back to business with a fifth example of Jill Swale’s ATSS work, this one focusing on patterns of offending and how differences based on gender and ethnicity (you can easily add further variables, such as age, to the exercise if you want) can be identified and explained.

    The exercise itself is a simple one to organise and run, although you’ll need to update the “Websites and Other Sources” section of the instructions because the suggested web data no-longer works and you’ll need to use texts that reference more contemporary crime statistics. That aside, the exercise is generally straightforward and is designed to encourage students to apply a range of skills to sociological data and research in terms of: 

  • Researching patterns of offending.
  • Identifying major trends.
  • Developing explanations / hypotheses for gender, ethnic and age differences in offending.
  • Testing explanations against sociological research and data.
  • Evaluating sociological research.
  • BBC “Analysis” Podcasts

    Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

    Over the past 10 years BBC Radio 4’s Analysis series has created a range of podcasts “examining the ideas and forces which shape public policy in Britain and abroad, presented by distinguished writers, journalists and academics”.

    There are over 200 podcasts to trawl through, many of which won’t be of any interest or use to sociology teachers and students, but a relatively smaller number just might. To save you a lot of time and trouble (there’s no need to thank me, I’m nice like like) I’ve had a quick look through the list to select what I think might be the sociological highlights.

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    Gay Best Friends as Consumers and Commodities

    Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

    If you’re looking for something slightly different to incorporate into your Culture and Identity / Media Sociology teaching this book chapter on “Effeminacy and Expertise, Excess and Equality: Gay Best Friends as Consumers and Commodities in Contemporary Television” by Susie Khamis and Anthony Lambert might well fit the bill.

    Of particular interest here might be the way it links identity to consumerism and consumption by focusing on “the gay male best friend as a possessable, commodified identity”.

    It’s probably not something you’d necessarily give to students to read – it’s quite long and complex in places – but it’s definitely something teachers might find useful to precis or draw examples from to illustrate some interesting ideas about gender, identity and consumption.

    Given A-level Sociology has a largely female demographic it’s also something this particular audience may find both easy to relate to and the basis for discussion based on their own ideas and experiences.

    Methods, Mobiles and Media

    Monday, June 19th, 2017

    Research Methods can be a little abstract and dry (teacher-speak for dull), particularly when opportunities to experience and apply what’s being taught are limited by things like time and a lack of easy access to suitable research subjects.

    This is where Steven Thomas’ “Patterns of Mobile Phone Use” article might help. The research example it suggests takes advantage of a ubiquitous resource – student ownership of mobile phones – to promote a relatively simple and straightforward way of applying and evaluating a range of methods, from questionnaires to participant observation.

    It does this by suggesting students (loosely) replicate Maenpaa’s (2001) examination of the impact of mobile phones on social interaction through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods designed to monitor mobile phone use in a small case study scenario. The article suggests a set of general areas to study – from the simple quantitative, like the length of time people spend on their phones each day, to more qualitative questions relating to how people behave when using their mobiles.

    Media: Context / Background

    Although the article is mainly designed to help students get to grips with research methods, if you’re teaching media there is an additional aspect to the research you might find interesting: evaluating the social impact of new media.

    The concept of “New Media” appears somewhere on all Sociology a-level Specifications, frequently in conjunction with an instruction to examine its role / impact / significance in contemporary societies, both local and global:

    AQA: New media and their significance for an understanding of the role of the media in contemporary Society

    OCR: The impact of digital forms of communication in a global context

    WJEC: New media and globalisation

    CIE: The impact of the ‘new media’ on society.

    In Thomas’ article the student research is based around a contrast between Negreponte’s slightly gung-ho and highly-individualistic “digital optimism” and Maenpaa’s more-nuanced approach to communication and interaction.

    One interesting aspect of Negreponte’s work is the claim that in a digital society of “email, fax and answering machines” (the fact he only said this in 1995 shows how rapidly the technology has changed) the world will become asynchronous. That is, in order to participate or communicate people do not need to be interacting at the same time. As he predicted (Wired, 1998):

    “We’ll all live very asynchronous lives, in far less lockstep obedience to each other. Any store that is not open 24 hours will be noncompetitive. The idea that we collectively rush off to watch a television program at 9:00 p.m. will be nothing less than goofy. The true luxury in life is to not set an alarm clock and to stay in pajamas as long as you like. From this follows a complete renaissance of rural living. In the distant future, the need for cities will disappear”.

    One way in which new media has become increasingly ubiquitous is through the exponential growth of mobile / cell phone ownership and you would think that if any technological development has created or expanded asynchronous interaction it would be this one: technology that even a few years ago could be used to symbolise wealth and social status is now pretty-much everywhere.

    While Negreponte’s arguments have a ring of truth about them – a certain face validity as it were – others have not been so sure. Maenpaa’s (2001) examination of the impact of mobile phones on interaction is a case (study) in point, with his key findings summarised by Thomas.

    Methods

    If you just want to use the activity as a way of teaching research methods, researching mobile use could be used to devise and apply methods such as:

  • Questionnaires / Structured interviews
  • Unstructured interviews
  • Observation – non-participant
  • Participant – overt and covert

  • Equally you could use a combination of quantitative / qualitative methods if you wanted to illustrate concepts of triangulation.

    If you don’t have the time, opportunity or inclination to do this as a practical exercise, try doing a thought experiment where students have to imagine what it would be like to do the research. This particular route can be instructive if students already have a good grounding in different methods, their strengths, weaknesses, uses and limitations and you want to explore a range of more-theoretical issues (different research methodologies, different aspects of triangulation and so forth).

    What’s in the Envelope?

    Friday, June 16th, 2017

    This activity from Sharon Martin is relatively simple to set-up and run and, as an added bonus, can be used with any area of the Specification (both Psychology and Sociology): this example is based on the Sociology of Crime and Deviance.

    The activity is mainly for revision / recap sessions, although there’s probably no reason why it couldn’t be adapted to areas of the course the students are about to study as a form of exploratory activity.

    Instead of asking students to display knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories with which they are already familiar they can be encouraged to research and report on these in some way.

    The instructions for the activity are straightforward and self-explanatory, but the activity does leave teachers a lot of scope to introduce their own variations.

    Sociology and Issues in the News

    Saturday, June 10th, 2017

    This simple activity, culled once more from the ATSS archive, has a dual purpose in terms of helping students:

    1.     Develop a critical and sociological understanding of “news” and how it is socially constructed and presented.

    2.     Interpret and apply sociological knowledge to real social situations.

    The activity requires no great preparation and involves students examining a story currently in the news from a sociological perspective. Stories can be chosen individually by you or your students or you can assign the class the same story. The objective here is to encourage students to:

  • identify the underlying assumptions and perspectives used to frame and present “news”.
  • explore alternative sociological explanations and evidence.

  • While the “news angle” is a bonus for those studying media, this is an exercise that can be used from time to time to help students sharpen and apply their sociological knowledge and understanding right across the a-level specification.

    If, for example, students are studying crime and deviance, stories relating to this area can be used to examine alternative sociological explanations.

    Making the Sociology of Crime and Deviance 10 Years Younger: Steve Taylor

    Thursday, June 8th, 2017

    Let’s face it the A2 Crime and Deviance syllabus is looking old. The years of blocked aspiration, anomie, unjust labelling and misplaced radicalism have taken their toll. A recent shopping mall poll put most the major theories at pensionable age, and even the dynamic ‘young’ radical ones were seen as ‘pushing 40’!

    But we have to teach them no matter how old and run down they look and so we should because underneath those theoretical wrinkles and conceptual decay, there’s a good body of ideas that still have some life in them.

    So what these ageing theories need is a make-over to see if we can make them look at least ten years younger. One of the best ways of doing this is to import some newer developments that reduce some of those wrinkles and surplus bulges. Examiners will also appreciate students trying to link the old with new, or at least with the newer.

    A useful class exercise, therefore, is to help students give these “classic explanations” a new coat of paint through the use of contemporary connections and examples – here’s a few to get you started:

    Ecological theory may date back to the Chicago School and the 1930’s, but the idea of socially disorganised areas, where formal and informal social control has broken down, was a key idea in Wilson and Kelling’s famous ‘Broken Windows’ theory which was the basis for more recent environmental control theory and a number of policy initiatives, including zero tolerance policing. So don’t leave ecological theory in the 1930s.

    Robert Merton’s Strain Theory may be pre-war but its key idea of rising crime and relative deprivation was not only incorporated into radical crime theory, but was also one of the pillars of ‘left realism’. It also continues to be the key finding of contemporary comparative studies of crime in affluent societies – the greater the inequalities in the distribution of wealth the higher the crime rate. 

    Labelling theory dates back to the 1960’s but we don’t have to stay in the 60’s with Jazz musicians, Mods and Rockers and Notting Hill bohemians to illustrate it. Many of its key concepts, such as stigma, secondary deviance and deviant careers are fundamental to more recent work, such as John Braithwaite’s study of crime and reintegration and the pioneering of restorative justice. So you can get interactionism out of those dated 60’s fashions.

    So there’s life in the old theories yet and with this kind of make-over they can be applied to the more recent, rather than the distant, past and made to look at least 10 years younger.

    Situational Crime Prevention Video

    Thursday, June 8th, 2017

    This is a video version of the Cornish and Clarke Situational Crime Prevention PowerPoint presentation.

    The film runs for around 3 minutes.

    Categorising SCP: Techniques and Examples

    Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

    The first post in this short series outlined what Cornish and Clarke (2003) called 5 Situational Crime Prevention strategies and this PowerPoint Presentation develops this to include what they argued were “25 crime prevention techniques” associated with these strategies. In the presentation each technique is both briefly explained and illustrated.

    This material is presented as a PowerPoint because this format allows you to control how much – or how little – information to give your students.

    It may be that for some purposes it’s enough for students just to understand that grouping Situational Crime Prevention into 5 broad strategy categories (from Increasing the Effort to Reducing the Reward) will help them organise their thoughts about this general area.

    For others it might be helpful to illustrate each strategy with 5 crime prevention techniques and, if necessary, further illustrate each technique with examples.

    Categorising Situational Crime Prevention Strategies

    Thursday, June 1st, 2017

    Situational crime prevention is an area that has grown in significance over the past 30 years, both in terms of social policies towards crime and sociological / criminological solutions to “the problem of crime”; it involves, according to Clarke (1997), a range of measures designed to reduce or eliminate “opportunities for crime” in three main ways:

    • The measures are “directed at highly specific forms of crime”.
    • They involve “the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environment in a systematic and permanent way”.
    • They “make crime more difficult and risky, or less rewarding and excusable”.

    One potential difficulty for a-level students new to the concept, however, is the number and variety of different examples of situational crime prevention – from spatial and environmental controls (Designing Out Crime), through different forms of target hardening, to various types of formal and informal population surveillance and beyond.

    To help students organize and make sense of this material, therefore, it can be useful to categorise it in terms of different situational crime prevention:

    • Strategies – the primary level of organisation.
    • Techniques associated with these strategies – the secondary level of organisation.

    In this respect the work of Cornish and Clarke (2003) is instructive here because they identity 5 strategies that can be used as a primary level of organisation for ideas about situational crime prevention:

    1. Increase the effort required to commit a crime: This deters a wide range of opportunistic crimes if the time and effort to commit them is increased.
    1. Increase the risks associated with the crime: Increasing the likelihood of apprehension lowers the likelihood of a crime being committed.
    1. Reduce the rewards of crime: If the value gained from offending can be lowered there is less incentive for crime.
    1. Reduce stimulus that provokes crime: Careful management of the social and physical environment reduces incentives for criminal behaviour
    1. Remove excuses: Clearly signposting behavioural rules and laws removes the argument that people did not know they were behaving deviantly or illegally.

    The secondary level of organisation identified by Cornish and Clarke involves 25 different crime prevention techniques (5 associated with each strategy) that can be introduced to students if you want them to dig deeper into situational crime prevention. These ideas will be introduced and explained in a subsequent post (probably, but not necessarily, called “Part 2″).

    Plus, Minus, Interesting: A Thinking Hats Tool

    Monday, May 29th, 2017

    If you’ve been following recent posts featuring the work of Dr. Jill Swale you’ll have come across her “Thinking Hats” activity  that’s partly designed to structure classroom discussions.

    If you want an activity that eases your students gently into the whole “6 Hats” process, “Plus, Minus, Interesting“ is a simple evaluation exercise that uses the Yellow (advantages), Black (disadvantages) and Green (creativity) hats to evaluate a specific question or situation.

    In the supplied example there are a range of Crime and Deviance “What If?” questions – from “What if drinking alcohol become illegal in Britain” to “What if there was Saturday prison for children not working hard enough at school?”.

    If you want to use your own questions I’ve added a document with a selection of different types of evaluation table,  although each is based around the “Plus, Minus, Interesting” format. There’s also no reason why you couldn’t use a grid drawn on a Whiteboard if you’re doing this as a whole class exercise.

    Super Sites for Time-Starved Teachers No.2

    Sunday, May 28th, 2017

    Free AQA Sociology Course Handbook

    Creating a Course Handbook for your students has probably never been easier: the software’s freely available (in some cases, literally so), there’s an almost unlimited store of graphics on the web to illustrate your creation and it can all be neatly packaged in a range of handy formats – from pdf files to online flipbooks. The only “problem” is the time it takes to produce…

    One way around this is to use an off-the-shelf Handbook, such as this excellent example produced by Kim Constable (the Hecticteacher – her website is well worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a Course Handbook). This contains a range of information students will find useful – from an overview of course content, through information about course resources, to a variety of study tips and tricks.

    While most of the content applies to everyone following the AQA Specification there may be bits – such as the textbooks particular teachers like to use (not everyone uses Webb et. al.  for example) you’d like to change – and this is where the editable version of the file comes into play.

    Drop Kim an email via her Contact page and she’ll let you have a version of the Handbook you can customise to your heart’s content.

    Super Sites for Time-Starved Teachers No.1

    Saturday, May 27th, 2017

    I seem to bookmark a lot of sites, for some reason, and every so often when I’m a bit bored, I like to review what I’ve saved, try to understand why I saved it and cull the contents of my favourites folder. It’s a safer alternative to tinkering with my computer settings and doesn’t result in my computer going belly-up, having to spend hours getting it back to a semblance of normality and swearing. A lot.

    Anyway.

    Another benefit of clearing out the bookmarks is that I get to look at the sites I’ve saved and, very occasionally, find one I think might be useful. So, by way of a preamble:
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    Using “Thinking Hats” to Structure Discussions

    Friday, May 26th, 2017

    I’ve always thought Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” (1985) is an idea that fits quite neatly with the demands placed on students in a-level sociology and psychology. Three hats speak directly to the assessment process:

    1.White: facts, information known or needed.

    2. Black: weaknesses, limitations and judgements.

    3. Yellow: advantages and uses.

    The remaining hats also have a part to play in developing the general skills required of students at this level:

    4. Green: creativity, exploring new ideas and possibilities

    5. Red: feelings and intuitions

    6. Blue: control of the thinking process

    However, while it’s relatively easy to identity such things the problem is always one of how to successfully apply them in particular classrooms.

    As luck – or more-correctly the ATSS archive I’m currently wantonly mining – would have it, the fourth example from the guilded pen of Dr. Jill Swale is an activity designed specifically to use De Bono’s 6 thinking hats in sociological discussion (although it could equally be applied to psychological discussions with a bit of tinkering).

    The activity itself is pretty simple – divide the class into groups and ask them to discuss a question or topic – but the thinking hats approach provides a strong structure that encourages students to be both productive and engaged at all points in the process.

    Which strikes me as a Win-Win scenario all-round.

    Education and the New Right: The 3 “C’s”

    Thursday, May 25th, 2017

    Working backwards in the alphabet, as you do, the second element to Boyd’s (1991) characterization of new Right approaches to education (the first is here if you missed it) focuses on the “3 C’s”: Character, Content and Choice.

    1. Character refers to the notion of moral character and, more-importantly from a New Right perspective, how to encourage and develop it through the education system. In this respect the socialisation function of education means schools have an important role to play in both producing new consumers and workers and also ensuring children have the “right attitudes” for these roles. Part of this process involves (in a similar sort of argument to that used by Functionalists’) instilling respect for legitimate authority and the development of future business leaders.

    More recently, a refinement on the notion of moral character has focused on what Duckworth et.al. (2007) have called grit, something they define as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”.

    The idea here is that the combination of passion for educational goals coupled with the desire to achieve them is a key indicator of educational achievement – one they claim is a more-important predictor of “future success” (an idea you might like to subject to critical evaluation) than any other notable variable).

    This claim does, of course, open up a range of critical possibilities for students – from Crede et.al.’s (2016) conclusion that “the higher-order structure of grit is not confirmed, that grit is only moderately correlated with performance and retention, and that grit is very strongly correlated with conscientiousness” to why it should be an attractive idea to New Right approaches.

    2. Core Content: The emphasis here is the establishment of a curriculum designed to meet the needs of the economy, an idea that links neatly into discussion of the role and purpose of the education system. From this perspective the main objective for schools is to adequately prepare children for their working adult lives in ways that benefit the overall economy. This generally involves the idea that there should be a mix of academic and vocational courses and qualifications open to students; in the past this has meant the New Right championing Grammar schools (an idea currently (2017) being revived in New Right political circles) that provided an academic type of education for a relatively small elite (around 20%) of children and Secondary Modern / Technical schools that provided a vocational type of education.

    Currently the vogue is to provide different types of academic / vocational qualifications (such as “ordinary” GCSEs and “vocational” GCSEs) within the same school. For the majority of students the curriculum emphasis should be on some variety of training with the objective being to ensure schools produce students with the skills businesses need (“Key Skills”, for example, such as Maths, English and ICT).

    The New Right is, as might be expected, keen on “traditional subjects” (English, Maths and History) and antagonistic to subjects like Media and Film Studies – and, of course, Sociology.

    3. Choice of school: Parents should be free to choose the school they want their children to attend – whether this be State maintained or private. The basic model here is a business one: just like with any business, those that offer the customer good value will thrive and those that offer poor value will close – or in the current case, “underperforming schools” are forcibly converted into Academy Schools run by a variety of Trusts. When parents exercise choice “good” schools will expand to accommodate all those who want a place and “bad” schools will close as their numbers decline.

    Maths in Psychology

    Thursday, May 25th, 2017

    Three more documents, authored by Dr. Julia Russell and salvaged by yours-truly from the Uniview archive, these focus on the Maths in Psychology component recently introduced into the a-level the Psychology Specification.

    The basic format for each document is a brief outline of a specific study followed by exam-style questions and answers to these questions. The final component is a suggested extension activity.

    1. The Apple Logo: Blake et.al (2015)
    2. Dreaming of failing works!: Arnulf et.al. (2014)
    3. Learning Not to be Prejudiced: Lebrecht et.al. (2009)


    If you prefer your pictures moving, we’ve produced a range of introductory films, written and narrated by Deb Gajic, that take students step-by-step through a number of different statistical tests:

    Sign Test 

    Spearman’s Rho 

    Mann-Whitney

    Chi Square

    Wilcoxen

    Probability

    The films are also available as a:

    Big Value 6 film bundle for 48-hour rental:

    DVD 

    Education and the New Right: The 5 “D’s”

    Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

    If you want a simple, straightforward and memorable (possibly) way to sum-up New Right approaches to education, you could do worse than adopt Boyd’s (1991) characterisation of the “5 Ds” of the New Right perception of the role of education and training in contemporary English / Western societies:

    1. Disestablishment: The school system should be decoupled from State control; private businesses should be encouraged to own and run schools, just as private companies run supermarkets or accountancy firms. The government doesn’t, for example, tell Tesco how to organise and run its shops so the New Right see little reason for governments playing such a role in education.

    2. Deregulation: Within certain broad limits private owners should be free to offer the kind of educational facilities and choices they believe parents want; schools should be “freed” from Local Authority / government control.

    3. Decentralisation: Control over the day-to-day decision-making within a school should fall on the shoulders of those best-placed to make decisions in the interests of their clients – something that involves giving power to those closest to individual schools (governors and headteachers) rather than decision-making being in the hands of those who are remote from the specific needs of such schools (governments, politicians and the like).

    Power, in this respect, is seen to be most efficiently exercised by those furthest away (school leaders) from the centre of government power (because they know and understand particular local conditions and circumstances and can respond quickly to change in a way government bureaucracies cannot).

    4. Diminution: Once each of the above ideas are operating the State has a much-reduced role to play in education and hence national education spending should fall (to be replaced by a variety of localized initiatives – including private, fee-paying, education, local forms of taxation and so forth). This idea dovetails with the idea of “consumer choice” in education and general New Right thinking about the size and role of the State; if education takes a smaller part of the national tax budget people pay less tax and are free to spend that money on the education of their choice.

    5. De-emphasis: With each of the above in place the power of government is diminished (or de-emphasised) with the power to make educational decisions focused at the local level of individual schools.

    Crime and Gender: Critical Thinking and Essay Writing

    Sunday, May 21st, 2017

    A third example of Jill Swale’s work, once more culled from the ATSS archive lurking in my expansive filing cabinet, is an essay-writing exercise constructed around the question:

    “Assess the view that the women’s crime rate, according to official statistics, is lower than men’s because of differential enforcement of the low.”

    The activity has three main objectives:

  • To examine some important studies attempting to explain gender differences in crime rates.
  • To encourage critical thinking about the methods sociologists use, and whether data can always be taken at face value.
  • To help select material for a logically planned and balanced essay.

  • The exercise combines small group and individual work as students are required to examine ways to structure and answer the question.

    Although the resource materials provided are fairly comprehensive they’re now quite a few years old and probably need to be updated with some new material.

    You will need to check the suggested web links are still working and you may need to substitute some of your own.

    Exploring the Nurture in Our Nature?

    Friday, May 19th, 2017

    The Nature-Nurture debate in both sociology and psychology at a-level has, historically, generally been framed in terms of an either / or approach to understanding the relationship between genes and social / environmental influences. In short, either our behaviour is fundamentally a product of our genetic inheritance (biological determinism) or it is a product of our cultural experiences (cultural determinism).

    Recent developments in neuroscience – and, in particular, the ability to see, understand and interpret MRI scan data – have, however, cast doubt on the utility of seeing human behaviour in terms of this relatively simple biology-culture dichotomy.

    More specifically, the work of researchers like James Fallon and Kent Kiehl in relation to psychopathy and Randy Jirtle in the field of epigenetics (“above genetics”) has suggested that even though very clear genetic differences exist between the brain structures of “psychopath” and “non-psychopath” the frequently-destructive behaviour of the former can’t simply be explained in terms of simple genetic predispositions: even in what seems one of the most clear-cut examples of genetic predispositions, cultural factors play a clear – and possibly crucial – role in the social development of psychopaths.

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    NotAFactsheet: More Deviance

    Thursday, May 18th, 2017

    Three new NotAFactsheets to add to your growing collection covering:

    1. Interactionism (labelling theory, personal and social identities, master labels)
    2. Deviancy Amplification (an outline of the model plus the role of the media)
    3. Critical Theory (Instrumental and Hegemonic Marxism, Critical Subcultures)

    Each NotaFactsheet is available in two flavours: with and without short (1 or 2 minute) embedded video clips:

    D4. Interactionism | Interactionism with short video clip 

    D5. Deviancy Amplification | Deviancy Amplification with short video clip 

    D6. Critical Theory | Critical Theory with short video clip

    Using Analogies in Sociology

    Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

    Although analogies don’t seem to be widely used in sociology teaching – with the exception of the organismic analogy conventionally used to introduce Functionalism and the “Warm Bath” analogy used in relation to Functionalist views on Family Life – I’ve always felt that, used carefully and with suitable warnings not to stretch them too far, they can help students grasp the salient points underlying some complex ideas.

    For example, analogies can be used to help students grasp how different perspectives “see society” (“Society is Like” pdf / “Sociological Theory” PowerPoint) as well as gain a greater insight into how concepts like Cultural Capital can be demonstrated.

    This third example of Jill Swale’s work in relation to applying critical thinking skills to a-level sociology involves a slight change from the previous examples in that it ranges across the whole course and focuses on the use of analogies in sociology in a way designed to:

  • develop the use of analogies to aid student understanding and application.
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different analogies.

  • The Analogies in Sociology document has full instructions about how to use it in the classroom although, as always, there’s plenty of space left to adapt the exercise to your own particular classroom needs.

    Why is Gaz in Court for Mugging?

    Monday, May 15th, 2017

    A second example of Jill Swale’s work, lovingly-culled from the ATSS archive, is based around the requirement for students to “solve a mystery by selecting and ordering relevant material through group discussion”.

    In terms of game mechanics, this is a relatively simple sift-sort-match exercise: students work in small groups to link case study material to different sociological approaches to understanding and explaining crime and deviance.

    Once completed the relationships between the evidence and theory can be opened-up for class discussion and there is further scope to set extension work, such as an essay, on the basis of the work done in the classroom. 

    The exercise is designed to encourage students to interpret data and apply theories to a specific instance and while the supplied materials cover a variety of situations and theories, you can easily add or subtract material of your own – such as different forms of evidence and newer theories – by using a word processor to create new cards. This facility means you can tailor the level of work to the requirements of both the whole class and specific students within the class if necessary (by using a group-work format teachers can, if necessary, spend more of their time with students who need a bit more focused help).

    If you find this type of exercise works well for you and your students you should be able to use it as a template to create and explore other scenarios across different Units / Modules – basically any area of the course that requires students to link evidence to theories.