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Posts Tagged ‘methods’

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).

    Participant Observation: “Old Pat”

    Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

    While clearing out an old fling cabinet (not something I normally do but every once in a while I find it therapeutic to interrupt my International Jet-setting Lifestyle to do the kinds of things ordinary  people do. I find it keeps me grounded) I came across a cutting I’d saved about Pat Moore, an American Industrial Designer, and her experimental form of covert participant observation.

    In order to gain an insight into the “problems of contemporary life” faced by the elderly, the then 26-year-old didn’t simply observe or ask questions; she physically transformed herself into an 85-year-old woman called “Old Pat”.

    Over a 3-year period between 1979 and 1982 Moore played “Old Pat” in three different ways: as a wealthy dowager, as a reasonably comfortable granny and as an almost destitute bag lady (which added a class dimension to those of gender and age).

    Her experiences were detailed in a book published in 1985 (Disguised: A True Story) but if you just want an overview of what she did and discovered there are a couple of sites worth visiting:

    Designer Pat Moore Learned About Old Age the Hard Way

    How an Industrial Designer Discovered the Elderly

    While you need to keep in mind this wasn’t a sociological study, as such, it’s a good example of covert participant observation that can be used as a way of getting students to think about the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of the method.

    Connecting Walls Collection

    Monday, April 24th, 2017

    Oriel Sociology has been busy creating and posting a huge number of revision Connecting Walls on Twitter and, in the spirit of “pinching other people’s stuff and sharing it with a wider audience”, I’ve pulled all their tweets together into one handy blog post for your – and your students’ – greater convenience.

    So, if you’re looking for a fun way to spice-up classroom revision with a bit of competitive tension, try some or all of the following:

    Education

    Education Wall 1

    Education Wall 2

    Education Wall 3

    Education Wall 4  

    Education Wall 5

    (more…)

    Crime, Deviance and Methods: Self-report Questionnaire

    Thursday, January 5th, 2017

    Opportunities for students to link crime, deviance and research methods in a practical way are often limited by the constraints of time and space – but one simple approach that can be used effectively in the classroom is a self-report crime questionnaire. Although there are a few of these kicking around (from Ann Campbell’s onward…) this is a relatively recent one I’ve put together based on questions contained in the UK Crime and Justice Survey.

    It can be downloaded as a Word document so that you can amend it easily (you may not want to include all the 40+ questions and you may want to substitute some of your own…). 

    The document suggests some possible classroom uses for the questionnaire – from data and methodological analysis if you’re leaning toward research methods to using the data to think critically about official crime statistics based on categories like age and gender.

    A-level Revision Booklets

    Thursday, November 24th, 2016

    If you’re looking for revision ideas / inspiration check-out this set of AS Sociology Revision booklets produced by the Tudor Grange Academy:booklet

     

    Booklet 1

    Booklet 2

    Booklet 3

     

    And if you want something to add to your classroom walls, they’ve also produced some basic Sociology posters:

    pomo_poster

    Feminism

    Functionalism

    Marxism

    Postmodernism

    Social Action

     

    Sociology Factsheets: To Buy or DIY?

    Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

    fsheetLike all good ideas, this one is simple but effective.

    Distil topic notes into key knowledge points, add illustrative examples and brief overviews of advantages and disadvantages, throw in some exam tips and short “test yourself” questions, call it a factsheet and sell it at a very reasonable price to teachers – which is exactly what the Curriculum Press (http://www.curriculum-press.co.uk) has done.

    If you want samples of the various factsheets (their web site lists around 160), there are a few scattered around the web that I’ve cobbled together and presented here for your viewing pleasure:  (more…)

    7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 6: For My Next Trick…

    Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

    sim_trickThis sim involves a bit of very gentle trickery on your part as you use your little-known ability to mind-read as a way of enlivening some of the “possibly less interesting?” aspects of research methods.

    As with some of the other sims in the series this is a building-block resource; while it’s not very useful, in itself, for teaching, it’s possible to integrate it into curriculum content in a number of innovative and, I hope, interesting ways.  

    The specific instructions for this version of the sim relate to research methods generally and research design specifically. The background reading that’s included, at no extra cost, relates to Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive Model of science and you can build the sim around a range of general and / or specific research method issues (replication, variables, hypothesis construction and testing etc.) depending on your own particular needs and preferences. For more advanced levels the sim can be used to illustrate the difference between Positivist and Realist approaches to understanding social phenomena and action. (more…)

    7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 4: The Anomie Within

    Friday, September 30th, 2016

    sim_anomieThis short (5 – 10 minute) sim can be used whenever you want to introduce the concept of anomie, such as if you’re introducing Merton’s Strain Theory or looking at Garfinkel’s breaching experiments.

    The package includes a little bit of background on breaching experiments and a couple of different anomie variations – mild and strong – depending on the type of short, sharp, dose of anomie you want to impart to your students.

    7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 3: Window Shopping / The Art of Walking

    Thursday, September 29th, 2016

    sim_shoppingAlthough these are two different sims I’ve included them together because both involve thinking and the “rules of everyday social interaction”, albeit in different ways:

    Window shopping is designed to encourage students to think systematically about the “underlying rules” of relatively mundane behavior. It can be used to simulate sociological research (such as field experiments and naturalistic observation) and introduces what some teachers might feel is a practical element into research methods.

    The Art of Walking relates to Berger’s argument that sociology involves making “the everyday seem strange” in that it involves looking at something students take for granted (how to walk in public) to see if they can work out “the rules” by which it is underpinned. It’s a simple sim that can be used at different points in a course but can be very effective right at the start as a way for students to “do sociology” in a relative safe environment.

    Seven Sims in Seven Days: The Introduction

    Monday, September 26th, 2016

    I’ve long been interested in the idea of using simulations (and games – see Disclaimer below) as teaching tools – see, for example, a couple of online efforts I created many moons ago when the Internet was still young and frames seemed such a good idea:

    1. Education and Differential Achievement: The Sociological Detective http://www.sociology.org.uk/revtece1.htm

    Although the game is incomplete it should convey the overall idea that “studying sociology” at A-level can be a bit like being a detective – you identify “suspects”, develop theories to explain social phenomena and collect / evaluate different types of evidence.

    1. Crime, Deviance and Methods: The Great Chocolate Bar Theft http://www.sociology.org.uk/game1.htm (be aware the email answers part of the sim will not work for technical reasons that are just too boring to bother explaining)

    One of the problems, aside from having the time and ability to think them up, has always been the difficulty of finding materials that not only delight, surprise and occasionally befuddle students but which also have teaching content that repays all the time and effort required to set-up and use them effectively in the classroom.

    The Internet has, to some extent, made this easier in terms of finding stuff and it has to be noted that just about everything that’s presented here has been invented by someone other than myself. Where I know who created the materials they’re given appropriate credit but in some instances I don’t have the first idea about the identity of their creator, so if you are that person I’d just like to say “Sorry”, “Thank You” and “I’ve hidden all my money in off-shore trusts, so don’t bother suing”.

    (more…)

    Weekly Digest

    Thursday, May 12th, 2016

    All the links that caught our eye this past week in one handy post…

    Sociology

    Education

    Failure discourse: Govt must launch royal commission into ‘failing’ state system, says private school head”

    Methods in Context Mark Scheme

    Government backs down over plan to make all schools academies

    Thousands of supply teachers could lose out on more than £200 a month owing to changes to tax relief rules

    Professionalisation of governance: “Without parent governors, schools face uphill battle to engage families”

    The impact of longer school days

    I’ve seen the future and it doesn’t look good: “I Teach At A For-Profit College: 5 Ridiculous Realities”

    Students who use digital devices in class ‘perform worse in exams’

    Genes that influence how long you stay in education uncovered by study

    Crime

    Manchester’s Heroin Haters – Vigilante violence?

    Insecure working as social harm? Some thoughts on theorising low paid service work from a harm perspective

    Revealed: London’s new violent crime hotspots

    Chief Constable confirms election expenses probe involves 2 Cornish MPs, and his own boss

    Street crime resources

    Extending the Web: “Legal highs brought low as councils use banning orders to curb use”

    Tough talk on crime has led to a crisis in Britain’s prisons

    Corporate / White-collar crime “David Cameron to introduce new corporate money-laundering offence”

    Wealth, Poverty, Welfare

    Poverty by Design? “Sink estates are not sunk – they’re starved of funding”

    Top 25 hedge fund managers earned $13bn in 2015 – more than some nations

    Media

    18 Baffling Tropes Hollywood Can’t Stop Using

    Selling Shame: 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive | Mental Floss UK

    The General Strike to Corbyn: 90 years of BBC establishment bias

    How to Fabricate Front Page News

    Social Inequality

    Class, Culture and Education – a good discussion piece for students: “Why working-class actors are a disappearing breed”

    Example of different type of discrimination: “Blacklisted workers win £10m payout from construction firms”

    Tax havens have no economic justification, say top economists

    A Sandwich and a Milkshake? Interesting discussion point for UK inequality / tax cuts for wealthy

    Methods

    Statistical Artefact: Useful research Methods example “Fewer people die in hospital at weekends, study finds”

    Family

    Childhood / sexualistion  /media: “Magazine under fire for swimsuit tips for pre-teen girls”

    Psychology

    Epigenetics: “Identical twins may have more differences than meet the eye”

    Esteller study: “How epigenetics affects twins” | The Scientist Magazine

    The uses and misuses of “growth mindset”

    Miscellaneous

    The way you’re revising may let you down in exams – and here’s why

    A psychologist reveals his tips for effective revision

    Britain at a glance – lots of lovely data in easy-to-read formats!

    How to create better study habits that work for you

     

    Media Methods

    Monday, May 9th, 2016

    8lqm5uyGOne of the obvious ways to study the media is through Content Analysis and a classic – if now somewhat dated – application of the method was the Glasgow Media Group’s pioneering research, evidenced through a series of books – Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1980), Really Bad News (1982) – that examined “the ‘common sense’ acceptance of the neutrality of television news” and concluded: “Contrary to the claims, conventions and culture of television journalism, the news is not a neutral product. For television news is a cultural artefact; it is a sequence of socially manufactured messages, which carry many of the culturally dominant assumptions of our society”. (more…)

    Keyword Revision Mapping

    Saturday, April 9th, 2016

    revmap1Although revision techniques are many and varied one of my favourite techniques is based on keywords because it’s so highly-adaptable; it’s equally suited to on-course as it is to post-course revision (although I actually believe the former is both more effective and encourages a greater depth of revision).

    In basic terms keyword revision simply involves identifying and recording the most important (or key) ideas you encounter on the course. In this respect – and to use a currently-fashionable concept – keywords represent a form of metadata; ideas that provide an underlying structure to further ideas by describing how and why such ideas relate to one another.

    To use a simple example, at the end of teaching a family module it should be possible to write the word “FAMILY” at the centre of a whiteboard and expect students to generate masses of relevant data simply by focusing on the keyword and using it (and their underlying knowledge of the topic) to produce further, linked, information. This, in turn, generates further keywords, further data and so forth.

    (more…)

    Methods in Context: Crime and Official Statistics

    Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

    blog_policeWhile the validity of Official Crime Statistics has long been questioned, their reliability has tended to be assumed.

    Recent pronouncements by the ONS, however, suggest students should look at the reliability of crime statistics more critically…

    Methods in Context: Crime

    Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

    When looking at statistical relationships, a useful student exercise to demonstrate how social factors underpin the production of crime data is to examine their underlying causes.

    This piece of research, from The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact) and University of East Anglia, can be used to effectively illustrate this idea. It also has further interesting applications when looking at areas like the relationship between age and crime.

    blog_care

    Is Psychology a Science?

    Monday, April 6th, 2015

    Part of the launch of our new “Revising Psychology” series of films, aimed at a-level and ap psychology teachers and students, on Research Methods and Issues / Debates involves giving teachers and students free access to some of the series.

    If you missed the first free revision film (Correlations), you can view it online here.

    Our second free revision film looks at the question “Is Psychology a Science?” by taking students through the key characteristics of science and the scientific method, using examples drawn from classic and contemporary studies.

    The film covers key:

    • knowledge: defining science, objectivity, the scientific method
    • applications: Popper, Maguire, Zimbardo, Haslam and Reicher
    • explanations: identifying and applying the key characteristics of science

     You can view these, other free films and previews of all our sociology and psychology films on our on-demand site.

    Methods and Methodology

    Thursday, October 9th, 2014

    Jurgenson’s essay “On the cultural ideology of Big Data” will probably need some decoding for A-level students but it’s a worthwhile thing to do because it will:

    1. Give students a contemporary insight to (neo)positivist tendencies in data science.
    2. Provide some contemporary examples of positivism in the shape of “Big Data”.
    3. Introduce students to the concept of large data sets and the analysis of network relationships facilitated by new technologies.

    The UK Family and Household Study

    Friday, September 19th, 2014

    This is a fantastic free resource that works for teachers and students on a number of levels.

    Research Methods: It’s a good example of a longitudinal study that samples around 40,000 households each year. It’s also an example of a representative survey (class, age, gender and ethnicity) from which it’s possible to make generalisations.

    Health: The survey collects a range of empirical health data.

    Families and Households: The main aim of the survey is to collect data about the social and economic circumstances of the UK population, in addition to their general attitudes and beliefs. It also collects data that is of more-specific interest to students studying the sociology of families and households, both in terms of empirical data and, by implication, sociological theory.

    For example, recent research into divorce and separation based on data from the survey looks at the probability of marital breakdown as it relates to personal and structural economic factors – something that can be used to illustrate and inform debates about the relationship between structure and action at A-level (such as the significance of structural factors – economic recessions – on the choices people make about their relationships).

    The scope and size of the data also makes it a prime candidate for individual student research that can be fed into larger classroom databases. Using resources such as Padlet, Trackk or Paper.li it’s possible to build-up a valuable class resource if students are encouraged to research the site and add what they find to one of these resources.

    National Identity

    Saturday, July 12th, 2014

    The British Social Attitudes survey is useful in the context of defining national identity because it reflects how individuals themselves define their identity. This has two useful dimensions:

    Firstly. it gives a broad insight into the different meanings involved in the conceptualisation of identity.

    Secondly, it gives students a lot of scope for practical evaluations of this type of definition.

    The data is available:

    Online

    Download (select “National Identity” then “Download separate chapters” if you just want the Identity data).