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Trial: And Error: Online version

Monday, October 30th, 2017

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

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

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

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

Trial: And Error Frontend

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

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

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

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

A couple more things:

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

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

And that could be embarrassing.

Or maybe liberating.

One of the two.

The Sociological Detectives: Trial: And Error

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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…)

Sociological Detectives: Evidence Summary Sheet

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

sctv_evidenceTo complement the Theory Summary sheet you can combine it with the Evidence Summary sheet that performs a similar function within the Sociological Detectives sim. In this respect it provides:

  1. A basic structure for students to follow when making notes about the different kinds of evidence they can use to support or question theoretical explanations for differential educational achievement.
  2. A standardised format for sharing information around the class electronically (using Padlet / Google Drive for example).

 

 

Sociological Detectives: Theory Summary Sheet

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Iftheory_summary you’re using the Sociological Detectives sim you might find this simple Theory Summary sheet useful because it provides a couple of helpful things:

  1. A basic structure for students to follow when examining different theories of differential educational achievement. It allows them to record information in a simple, consistent, way.
  2. If you’re sharing information around the class electronically (using the Padlet / Google Drive options I suggested, for example) the summary sheet represents a standardised format that will be consistent across all students.

 

The Sociological Detectives: DEA

Monday, October 31st, 2016

In splashthis sim students take the role of “sociological detectives” investigating the reasons for differential educational achievement. Broadly, the sim involves:

  • identifying a range of theories that can be used to explain differential educational achievement across and within categories of class, gender and ethnicity.
  • identifying and collecting evidence that can be used to test (support or refute) the various theories examined.

  • The accompanying PowerPoint is designed to help you develop this structure and while it’s not essential it can help to both set and explain the scene by introducing the idea of suspects, theory development and evidence gathering at the core of the sim.

    (more…)

    7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 7: Cards, Cakes and Class

    Monday, October 3rd, 2016

    sim_cakesThe final offering in what no-one’s calling “The Wonderful Week of Sims” is designed to give students practical experience of social inequality based on the unequal distribution of economic resources (wealth) – the eponymous “cake” of the title. While this can be an end in itself – a central part of the sim is the physical segregation of students within the same classroom – it can also be the building block for an examination of the possible consequences of such inequality.

    (more…)

    Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 5: Trial by Jury

    Saturday, October 1st, 2016

    sim_trailAs with some of the others in this series, “Trial by Jury” is a building block sim that gives you a basic template that can be used to organise and run a wide range of possible simulations. In basic terms if there’s an area of the Sociology / Psychology course that involves comparing and contrasting two opposing viewpoints it can be adapted to the Trial by Jury format using this template.

    As a way of exampling this the package uses the (sociological) example of “Positivism On Trial” (effectively a debate between Positivism / Interpretivism at As-level).

    This is quite a time-consuming simulation and it’s probably best-suited to occasional use (unless you’ve completely flipped your classroom, in which case it’s something you could frequently use).

    For example, it could be used at the end of a specific teaching session (such as “secularisation”) as a way of bringing all the different arguments and evaluations together. Alternatively you might find it useful for a series of “end of course” sessions as a way of structuring student revision.

    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 about 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 – Day 2: Cultural Deprivation

    Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

    sim_deprivationCultural deprivation, as an explanation for differences in educational achievement (particularly those of class and ethnicity), is something of a Vampire Theory in the sense that no matter how many times sociologists have tried to kill it off it refuses to die. It is, for example, an explanation that continues to have currency among UK political parties, particularly in terms of ideas about the “differential aspirations” of middle and working class children.

    (more…)

    Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 1: The Urinal Game

    Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

    Background

    We can illustrate the idea of cultural learning (and show how the concepts of roles, values and norms are inter-related into the bargain) using Proxemic theory – the study of how people understand and use space in a cultural context – originally developed by Hall (1966).

    sctv_hallAlthough we are born with the ability to understand notions of space (our eyes, for example, are positioned in such a way as to create three-dimensional images that our brains have the ability to process accurately) Hall argued different cultures create different ways of “seeing space” – the most familiar example, for our current purpose perhaps, being the idea of personal space (although it’s possible to look beyond the individual to understand how whole societies organise and utilise space in culturally-specific ways – in terms of things like urban development, housing, transport and so forth).

    Personal space can be defined in terms of an area (or “bubble”) that surrounds each of us which has a couple of important characteristics:

    Firstly, the extent of our personal space varies both between cultures (in countries like England or the United States, for example, people generally like to maintain a greater sense of personal distance from others than they do in countries like France or Brazil) and within cultures – such as gender differences in our society (two women talking to each other, for example, tend to maintain less personal space between them than two men in the same situation).

    Secondly, the space that surrounds us is considered to be “our property” and entry into it is regulated in various ways – something we can relate to different roles, values and norms using Hall’s (1996) classic example of “strangers waiting for a train”.

    When waiting for a train at a railway station we are (for the sake of illustration) playing the role of “stranger” to the people who are also waiting for the train. In this situation the role, as with any other role we play, is surrounded by certain values (beliefs about how we should play this role). In our culture there are a range of values that apply (we should not behave towards strangers as if they were our closest friend in the world, for example) and in this particular example one of the values we bring to bear is that of privacy and, more specifically, the notion of personal space as a way of maintaining privacy. In other words, when playing the role of stranger we value the cultural concept of privacy, both for our own purposes and those of others.

    In this respect we understand that privacy is an important concept in our culture and we should not act in ways that invade – uninvited – the privacy of others (just as we expect them not to invade our privacy). One way this value (or general behavioural guideline) is expressed is through various norms (or specific behavioural guidelines) that apply in particular situations.

    In this instance, one norm that reflects the role of stranger and the value of privacy is that we do not sit too close to strangers; we do not, in short, invade their personal space. There are, of course, additional norms we could identify in this situation; we do not, for example, deliberately touch the people we are sitting next to, nor do we generally interact with them – although this may depend on things like the amount of time we are forced to spend sitting next to someone. We may, for example, make “general conversation” (to complain about having to wait, for example) although, once again, we need to avoid becoming too intimate or personal – a stranger doesn’t want to hear your life story. Such “conversational gambits” also have an important normative function here because they establish a “common ground” between strangers forced to sit together – we observe, for example, the norms of conversation and recognition in a way that is generally neutral (“how much longer are we going to have to wait”?) and which establishes clear behavioural boundaries.

    If you want to simulate the cultural significance of personal space, it’s relatively quick and easy to do in a couple of ways:

    1. Pair off your students and ask them to stand next to or facing each other much as they would if they were in some outside location. If you make a rough note of the distance between them you should find a consistent distance across all pairs.
    2. A variation here is to pair girls and boys separately to test if there are gendered special distances (you should find there are).

    If you want to do this in a more-structured way use these instructions (sorry but I don’t know the source):

    “Using masking tape, place an X on the floor. Attach measuring tapes to the floor around 6 inches away from the X so that the increasing measurements go away from X. Ask one student volunteer to stand on the X. Following the measuring tape, have another student volunteer walk slowly toward the student in the centre. Instruct the student in the centre to say “stop” when the approaching person is close enough that they start to feel uncomfortable.

    Record the distance. Then do the activity again from the sides and back.

    Ask students: What is the standard shape of the individual’s personal space requirements? What factors may influence the amount of personal space we need? Will there be cultural differences? How does personal space affect interpersonal relationships?

    The Simulation

    A more-structured way to achieve a similar end is to play Paul’s “Urinal Game”, the basic rules of which are outlined below.

    (more…)