Archive for February, 2017

Five Functions of Identity

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

A great deal of discussion about identity at a-level can be fairly abstract and concerned with the mechanics of construction – how and why, for example, certain identities are created and assumed. In the midst of all this some relatively simple questions sometimes get obscured – an idea addressed by Adams and Marshall (1996) when they suggest five functions of identity; here the focus on what identity does for the individual and, by extension, society, ‘rather than how identity is constructed’ – and we can use a relatively simple education example to illustrate these functions:

  1. Structure: Identities provide a ‘framework of rules’, used to guide behaviour when playing certain roles, that helps us understand our relationship to others.
  2. Goals: We develop a sense of purpose by setting goals for our behaviour. A ‘student identity’, for example, involves the desire to achieve goals like educational qualifications.
  3. Personal control: Identities provide a measure of ‘active self-regulation’ in terms of deciding what we want to achieve and how we plan to achieve it. An A-level student, for example, understands the need to take notes to help them remember the things they might be tested on in an exam.
  4. Harmony: When adopting a particular identity (such as teacher or student) we have to ensure the commitments we make (the things others expect from us) are consistent with our personal values and beliefs. A teacher or student who sees education as a waste of time is unlikely to be able to successfully perform this particular role.
  5. Futures: Identities allow us to ‘see where we are going’ in terms of likely or hoped-for outcomes (what we want to achieve). A student identity, for example, has a future orientation: the role may be performed to achieve the goal of going to university, which requires the passing of A-level exams.


PowerPoint: The Hypothetico-Deductive Model

Monday, February 27th, 2017

This is a simple one-slide PowerPoint presentation of Popper’s classic model of scientific research. The presentation contains two versions:

  1. Click-to-advance: this allows teachers to reveal each element in the model at their own pace. This is useful if you want to talk about each of the elements before revealing the next.
  2. Self-advancing: if you want to just show a class how the model develops this option slowly (there’s a two-second delay before each reveal) displays each element in turn.


If you want to give your students some notes to accompany the presentation the following should help:


School Climate: A different dimension to differential educational achievement?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

The relationship between social class – or socio-economic status (SES) if you prefer – and differential educational achievement is well-known at A-level and students are expected to discuss and evaluate a range of possible factors / explanations for this relationship; these are usually grouped, largely for theoretical convenience, into “outside school” and “inside school” factors, each involving a range of material and cultural factors. The latter, for example, conventionally include things like:

  • Type of School (private, grammar, comprehensive…)
  • Teacher Attitudes that involve ideas about labelling and self-fulfilling prophecies
  • Ability grouping – practices such as streaming, setting and banding.
  • Social inclusion / exclusion – for example, physical exclusion / suspension as well as self-exclusion (truancy).
  • Pro-and-anti school subcultures.


Although each of these is arguably significant, they reflect a rather piecemeal approach to explaining educational achievement differences, particularly those of social class.

One way of pulling some – if not necessarily all – of these strands together is through the concept of school climate; this encompasses a range of material and cultural organisational factors focused on “the school” that, proponents argue, foster academic achievement.


ShortCuts to Sociology: Organised Crime

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

A few years ago we did some interviews for a film on organised crime that, for one reason or another (money, probably), didn’t get made – if memory serves we were going to include a version on ShortCuts to Crime and Deviance Vol. 1 but it didn’t make the final selection.

Anyway, I was searching through an old hard disk recently and came across an interview we shot with Dr James Treadwell – who’s something of an expert on organised crime – and decided it might be worthwhile to edit the interview and put it out as part of our occasional, free, Shortcuts to Sociology series. So that’s what I did.

The film covers some basic introductory stuff (such as defining organised crime) and illustrates a number of different models of organised crime (from clan models to network structure models).

It’s the kind of material that can be used to introduce a broad range of ideas (and misconceptions) about organised crime – both inside and outside the classroom for flipped teaching: students are introduced to a topic overview that can be considered in greater depth and detail inside the classroom.


Deviancy Amplification Spiral: Legal Highs

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Wilkins’ (1964) concept of a deviancy amplification spiral (or ‘Positive Feedback Loop’ as he called it) has been a staple of the crime and deviance Specification for many years and there’s a range of ways to present the feedback process, both statically and a bit more dynamically.

Examples of a “successful” feedback loop are, however, a bit thinner on the ground: while “mods and rockers” in the early 1960s and “dangerous dogs” in the early 1990’s are good historical examples, a more-contemporaneous example is the banning of “legal highs” in 2016 – the consequences of which are just starting to work their way through the criminal justice system, thereby providing an interesting application of the amplification spiral