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Welcome to the ShortCutstv Blog

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

This is the part of the site we use to post anything we think might be of interest to teachers and students of Sociology and Psychology – from announcements about new Sociology, Psychology and Criminology films, to teaching and learning Notes, PowerPoints, web sites, software – just about anything that piques our interest, really.

In September 2019 we hit 600 individual Blog posts and to make it easier for you to find a particular post on a particular topic we’ve added a range of functions (on the bar to the right) that should help:

Search Box: if you’re looking for something specific. It’s not very clever so try to Keep It Simple.

Recent Posts displays the most recent posts (yes, really). Not the most useful widget in the world. Obviously.

Archive Posts: This is actually useful if you want a quick way to look back through the numerous posts we’ve made by month / year. Just click the month / year you want from the drop-down list.

Popular Tags: identifies the most popular keywords used in posts (the larger the word, the more posts there are about it). Just click the word to see the posts…

Popular Posts: identifies the posts that have had the most views so you can Follow the Crowd(tm).

Categories: allows you to filter posts by Sociology, Psychology, Simulations and Toolbox – so if you only want to see Psychology posts (or whatever), this is the filter for you.

Last, but by no means least, you can use the Get Notified box to sign-up for an email notification each time a new post appears on the Blog.

We only use this address to send you automatic notifications and it won’t be passed to a third-party, used for spamming you or whatever.

We like to think we’re better than that.

Education Workbooks

Monday, May 25th, 2020

This set of resources, created by Lizzie Read, covers different aspects of Education across three main categories:

1. The Role of Education is a 50-page+ resource that includes a Teacher version and a Student version.

2. Differential Achievement is split into two sub-categories: Class and Gender (with a Teacher version and a Student version) and Ethnicity – also with a Teacher version and a Student version.

3. Changes in UK Education looks at some changes since 1988 – particularly in relation to types of school – and has both a Teacher version and a Student version.

As with the first set on Families and Households, these resources were originally distributed as PowerPoint Presentations and I’ve converted them to Pdf files in case you want to use them as Workbooks.

The files also contain occasional references to particular “textbook pages” that you might want to update, if you follow the OCR Specification, or change / remove if you follow some other Specification. You can do this by editing the following PowerPoint versions of the files (and optionally saving them as Pdf files):

1. The Role of Education: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

2. Differential Achievement:

Class and Gender: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

Ethnicity: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

3. Changes in UK Education: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

Family and Household Workbooks

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

These resources were originally created and distributed as PowerPoints by Lizzie Read, but I’ve converted them to Pdf files. This format gives them a “Workbook” feel that, I think, works much more effectively if you want your students to work through the materials, either as an “online lockdown resource” or, when you’re able to get back into the classroom, as a general study resource.

The materials cover two broad aspects of the Family Spec.:

1. Diversity: There are two packs available, one for Teachers and one for Students.

They are basically the same with a few additions to the Teacher Pack:

  • It’s split into four discrete “Lessons” for ease of teaching.
  • It contains suggested answers to all the student activities (which may save you a little time).
  • It signposts some “Learning Objectives”, along the lines of what all students should be able to do, what most are expected to do and what some are capable of doing. How useful you find these probably depends on if or how you use learning objectives in your teaching.
  • (more…)

    SHS Sociology Resources

    Friday, May 22nd, 2020

    Padlet, in case you don’t know it, is a file-sharing site that lets you organise files into Boards, the contents of which can then be shared with anyone who happens to want them.

    Topic Sheets…

    You can upload all kinds of files (such as documents or videos), or link to files on other web sites. It’s a very visual and a very handy way to organise files and would probably be my go-to site for sharing stuff if it hadn’t decided to charge for the privilege.

    While there is a free version, last time I looked it was limited to 3 Boards for new users – which sounds okay(ish), but for teachers who want to organise information into Specification categories for their students it’s not really much cop (the Padlet I’m about to feature here, for example, consists of 66 Boards…).

    And there are alternatives, such as Wakelet, that do much the same sort of thing for free.

    Nor do they display anoying and somewhat baffling messages like “Don’t forget to drink water” when I log-in.

    Like breathing, this is not something I regularly forget to do.

    Go figure.

    Just some of the Boards…

    Anyway, the purpose of this rambling preamble is simply to draw your attention to this very useful set of Padlet Sociology Boards from shs_sociology (Laura Lakin).

    The aforementioned 66 Boards are broadly organised into half-a-dozen (or “6” as it’s sometimes known) Specification-friendly categories:

  • Education
  • Family
  • Methods
  • Theory
  • Beliefs
  • Crime and Deviance
  • These, in turn, contain all kinds of resources and links that are well worth exploring, although one of the most interesting, for my money, is to the different Topic Sheets available. These are a bit like a Knowledge Organiser / Learning Table in the sense they include key concepts and their definitions, but they also expand this a little more to include stuff like links to other topics, practice questions and the like.

    If you’ve got a bit of time to spare and enjoy nosing around other people’s files these Boards are worth the effort.

    Cherry-Picking Revision

    Thursday, May 21st, 2020

    Cherry-Picking Revision is a simple Presentation based on an original idea by History-teacher James Fitzgibbon. While the basic idea is much the same as his – getting students to identify key ideas they can “cherry-pick” to answer exam-type questions – I’ve converted it to PowerPoint and extended it slightly:

    Cherry-Picking Answers…

    1. To make it a little more interactive.

    2. To provide a range of different “revision options” to use with students.

    3. To potentially cover a wider range of questions, from simple 2-markers to essay-type.

    As you’ll see, once you fire it up, there are now 3 different types of resource contained within the Presentation. While these are all minor variations on the same basic theme, they provide a few different options for any revision exercise, depending on what you’re trying to do with your students:

    Pick-Your-Own: Students select options from a range of ideas to answer a question.

    Cherry-Picking: This has 3 different sub-options you can use it to get students to answer a wide range of questions.

    Pick-The-Best: Students are presented with 7 possible ideas they can use to answer a question, from which they need to pick 2, 3 or 4, depending on the type of question asked, but some are red-herrings they will find difficult, if not impossible, to apply.

    Finally, since the Presentation only provides a single sample question to familiarise you with its mechanics, I’ve provided a Template slide you can use to devise and implement any question(s) you want to use. I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible to create new questions and answers, particularly if you’re not familiar with the creation of slightly more-complicated forms of slide interaction.

    I’ve also included reasonably extensive Notes under each slide to explain the basic purpose of each type in the Presentation.

    Research Methods Booklet

    Thursday, May 21st, 2020

    I came across this Booklet on the Padlet site of Mrs. Booker-Parkinson and, I’m now reliably informed, it was created by Steven Humphrys, based on one of Ken Browne’s many Sociology textbooks. I don’t know which one but since the Booklet’s dated 2018 I chose the most recent.

    Probably.

    I can’t keep up.

    Also, when I say “guessing”, the Word version has a bank page that says “Ken Browne Scan”, which might be considered some sort of a clue.

    Be that as it may, the content covers pretty-much everything a student would need to know and revise about (AQA) research methods (other Exam Boards are available – but since its Research Methods the content’s going to be pretty much applicable across the board, so to speak), organised into a number of discrete sections:

  • Methodologies (positivism and interpretivism)
  • Practical, Ethical and Theoretical research considerations
  • Research design
  • Methods – from experiments to observation via questionnaires.
  • Sampling techniques
  • Triangulation (although this is treated minimally. And then some).
  • Each section is generally presented in terms of two categories:

  • keywords and concepts outlines the basic information required for the exam. This includes the aforementioned (visually signposted) key ideas, some elaborative material and, where relevant, a table of advantages and disadvantages.
  • exam focus provides a range of exam practice questions.
  • As you’ll see from the image I’ve used to decorate this Post, the document formatting is a step up from most booklet’s of this type – and therein lies a slight problem. Word is predominantly a word processor (there’s a clue in there somewhere) and while it has tried to evolve over the years into what it likes to think of itself as some-sort of all-round Desktop Publishing type program, it really isn’t.

    While you can DTP in Word, as this Booklet demonstrates, it’s not ideal because you have to be very careful about the options you set when anchoring text to graphics. To cut a long story short, if you get it wrong and the text moves slightly – which can happen when documents are uploaded to the web – so do the images…

    What I’ve done, therefore, is correct some of the formatting problems that appear in the original Word document and saved it as a pdf file. I haven’t changed any of the text, so both versions are identical (although I’ve removed the blank page from the pdf version). However, if you want a version to edit, choose the original Word one. If you want a version whose contents won’t slide around the page if you cough too loudly, choose the pdf one.

    New Media, New(s) Values?

    Monday, May 18th, 2020

    The concept of news values – the basic principles journalists use to guide their decisions about what constitutes “news” – has been a staple of media sociology since Galtung and Ruge’s (1965) taxonomy (classification) identified the various basic requirements “stories must generally satisfy” if they were to qualify as news.

    As you might expect, this initial categorisation has been reviewed and refined over the years by different researchers – one of the most-interesting and sociologically-useful being Harcup and O’Neill’s (2001) attempt to test the validity of the original classification.

    The outcome was a reduction to 10 categories (from the original 12) to take account of changing economic, political and cultural circumstances – the most-noticeable of which, particularly in a UK-context, is arguably the inclusion of an “Agenda” category, missing from the original, that highlights the significance of “owner views” – individual or organisational – on how the journalists they employ select and report “news” (I’ve left the “Examples” column blank so you can add your own. Either that or I couldn’t be bothered to think of any. I’ll leave you to decide which is the more plausible).

    Harcup and O’Neill (2001)

    While both of these classifications (and many others, such as Chibnall (1977) or Lanson and Stephens, 2003) are, in their slightly different ways, relevant to any understanding of the historical concept of news values, contemporary media developments such as the growth of the Internet and, more-specifically, the rise of social media such as Facebook (2006) and Twitter (2006), add a different dimension to our understanding of news values. This involves, as Harcup and O’Neill (2017) suggest, the need to:

    Examine the extent to which any taxonomy of news values devised in the age before Twitter, Facebook and other interactive platforms, can be taken as read today”.

    The main (sociological) reason for this relates to the relationship between news producers and consumers:

    (more…)

    Visual Media: Study Booklet

    Sunday, May 17th, 2020

    Following hard on the heels of the previous “visual media” offering comes this 18-page Pdf Study Booklet.

    Media Booklet: click to download

    It’s packed to the rafters with information presented in a variety of simple, visually-attractive, ways under six main headings with sub-headings as required:

  • New Media: changes, digital optimism and pessimism
  • Ownership and Control: trends, patterns, theories.
  • Globalisation: cultural changes, imperialism, postmodernism.
  • New Values: bias, moral panics.
  • Representations: class, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality.
  • Effects: passive and active audiences.
  • As with the previous offerings, there are no indications in the metadata about who created the Booklet, but thank you mysterious, anonymous, person anyway.

    Visual Media: Theories and Representations

    Saturday, May 16th, 2020

    As you probably know by the number of blog posts featuring the word “visual“, I’m a sucker for anything that smacks of “visual sociology” (the clue is probably in what I do…) and I recently chanced upon what I think are two very neat “picture-type” pdf resources covering:

    Media Theories

    1. Media Theories: the material here involves a page on Identity theory and two further pages on representations of youth.

    2. Media Representations: this is organised around 4 categories (Gender, Age, Sexuality and Ethnicity) and consists of a page outlining different theories and a further page packed chock-full with examples of each.

    The materials don’t go into any great depth or detail but I like the way they’ve been constructed and presented (particularly the media theory resources).

    You can use them as a way of presenting some introductory information about both topics or as an example of the type of visual notes students might be encouraged to create for revision purposes.

    Teaching Techniques: Pre-Questioning

    Friday, May 15th, 2020

    “Asking questions” of students is pretty-much a staple of any teacher’s toolkit, which is fair enough, because as Jarrett (2107) notes:

    The “testing effect” is well-established in psychology: this is the finding that answering questions about what you’ve learned leads to better retention than simply studying the material for longer. Testing is beneficial because the act of recall entrenches learned material in our memories, and when we can’t answer, this helps us make our future revision more targeted”.

    Testing, therefore, has a range of educational benefits for both teachers – such as checking how effective their teaching of a particular topic has been – and students in that answering questions appears to encourage better information retention.

    This type of practice, for reasons that are somewhat obvious, can be called post-questioning: students attempt to learn something, by viewing a short film, for example, and are then questioned on what they’ve learnt “after the event”.

    This, you may be thinking, makes sense and is how it probably should be.

    And you wouldn’t be wrong.

    There is, however, another way of asking questions that is slightly more counter-intuitive in that it involves asking questions before students have studied something. This is known as pre-questioning and, on the face of things probably sounds a little pointless.

    Bear with me however, as I outline two types of pre-questioning and suggest exactly how and why they might be useful to your teaching in different contexts.

    Type of Pre-Questioning

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 4. Social democracy

    Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

    Social democratic approaches refer to a range of ideas about the relationship between the individual and the state that focus on using various forms of social and economic interventions such as State-maintained schooling, to promote ideas about social justice within a broad capitalist mixed economy (one that combines private and state-owned business and services).

    A motor of social change?

    In Britain, for example, since 1945 both Labour and Conservative parties and governments have broadly accepted social democratic ideas about a range of issues – schooling in particular – although it’s probably important to qualify this by saying the Labour Party has historically been a “Social Democratic party” while the Conservative Party has embraced some aspects of social democracy while being, at least over the past 40 years, a generally New Right political organisation.

    Be that as it may, social democratic discourses on the role and function of education focus, for our purposes, on two processes that emerged in the post-2nd world war period:

    1. Technological changes in the workplace involving both a decline in traditional manufacturing and the rise of service industries in areas like finance and, subsequently, computing and information technology.

    2. Social changes focused on ideas about equality in areas like gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class. Various UK government Acts, from the legalisation of homosexuality (1967) through the promotion of racial equality (Race Relations Act, 1968) to the banning of gender discrimination in the workplace (Equal Pay Act,1970), used the legal system as a way of “promoting social justice” throughout various areas of society.

    For social democrats these two processes converged in the arena of education.

    The tripartite system that had evolved into a bipartite grammar / secondary modern system divided along class lines – most grammar school pupils were drawn from the middle classes – was questioned in two ways.

    Firstly, that it failed to meet the needs of a society undergoing rapid technological and sociological changes. The tripartite system produced a small percentage of highly-qualified university entrants (around 10% of 18 year olds by the early 1960s) and a large number of poorly-qualified school-leavers, a situation that failed to meet the economic need for a better-qualified service industry workforce that was growing quickly and in more-sophisticated directions.

    Secondly, the tripartite system failed to meet the requirements of social fairness because it was based on outmoded notions of fixed ability.

    The solution, for social democrats, was Comprehensive schooling designed to address the twin problems of social inequality and technological change.

    (more…)

    Lancaster Lockdown Psychology Seminar Series

    Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

    Lancaster University, a place where, coincidentally, I spent 3 years of my life studying, have announced a series of “interactive live talks from experts in the Department of Psychology” that are open to anyone.

    All you need is the Microsoft Teams app or you can view – and interact if you want – using a web browser.

    The latter allows you to join a seminar anonymously if you so choose.

    Which is either a commendable attempt to open everything up to as many people as possible or a hostage to fortune.

    I’m hoping it’s the former.

    A little weirdly, the advertising for the series is being posted from a Lancaster University WordPress page that seems to have been created in 2011 but never used for anything.

    Until now.

    So I’m guessing this is something of a mend-and-make-do effort on the part of the Psychology Department, which, if that’s the case, more power to them.

    Anyway, the seminars are 30-minute talks about “contemporary areas of psychological research” with, as I’ve suggested, an interactive element in that you can ask the Speaker questions – anonymously or otherwise. The format, in this respect, is a bit like a lecture: a 30-minute talk followed by 30 minutes for participants to ask questions.

    The Seminars are being held every Tuesday from 7.30 – 8.30pm, starting 12th May, and have the following talks lined-up:

    12th May 2020: Dr Lara Warmelink: Lying: the good, the bad, and the ugly

    19th May:  Dr Calum Hartley: Children’s understanding of ownership

    26th May: Dr Sally Linkenauger: The Pint Glass Illusion:  Large Distortions in the Perceived Shape of Everyday Objects

    2nd June: Prof Charlie Lewis: Developmental Psychology in the Courts: Can we help children provide more convincing evidence?

    9th June: Dr Ryan Boyd: How to Talk About Your Feelings: The Peculiar Relationship Between Words and Emotions.

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 2. Marxism and Neo-Marxism

    Sunday, May 10th, 2020

    marxism

    For traditional Marxism the main role and function of education is cultural reproduction – a concept based on a different interpretation of secondary socialisation to that favoured by their Functionalist (Structural) counterparts. Althusser (1971), for example, argues the reproduction of capitalism involves each new generation being taught the knowledge and skills required in the workplace, as well as children being orientated to “the values of capitalist reproduction”. These might involve ideas like emphasising individual effort and achievement, encouraging inter and intra-group competition (competition between groups – such as men and women – and within groups, such as age categories like young and old) and encouraging ideas about the private accumulation of wealth. In turn, ideas about co-operation, the socialisation of wealth and so forth are marginalised – or rarely, if ever, discussed – within the classroom.

    For traditional Marxists, therefore, schools don’t just select, differentiate and allocate children in the interests of “society as a whole” on some form of meritocratic basis. Rather, their role is to ensure the children of powerful economic elites achieve the levels of education required to follow in their parents’ (exploitative) footsteps. The role of education for Althusser was to educate most people “just enough” to be useful employees and a small number “more than enough” to take up high-powered elite working roles.

    There’s more. Quite a bit more…

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 1. Functionalism and Neo (New Right) Functionalism

    Friday, May 8th, 2020

    functionalism

    Functionalist arguments about the role of education focus on the various ways education links to other social institutions, such as the family and the workplace, as part of an overall network of connected institutions. The education system is, in this respect, conceptualised as a bridge between these institutions in two broad ways:

    1. On an institutional level, modern social systems involve different types of work and must develop ways of allocating and managing human resources to ensure they are used efficiently and effectively (such as not producing too many unskilled workers if there is no demand for their services).

    2. On an individual level education functions as an agency of secondary socialisation to, as Parsons (1959) argues, “broaden the individual’s experience” of the social world and prepare children for adult role relationships in the workplace and wider society.

    Meritocracy?

    For the education system to function efficiently on both levels it must be meritocratic. Rewards, such as well-paid, high status, work, are earned through individual abilities and efforts, such as working hard in school to gain qualifications. Merit-based systems are also competitive: different levels of reward are given for different levels of achievement. Competition must be based on equality of opportunity: if some are disadvantaged, through something like sexual or racial discrimination, society cannot be sure “the best people” occupy the most important, prestigious and well-rewarded adult roles.

    A meritocratic system involves, by definition, different levels of reward for different levels of effort and achievement – which means a major role of education is social differentiation; children have to be “made different”, on the basis of their individual merits, if education is to meet the requirements of a differentiated economy (one with a variety of different types of work, each requiring different levels of skills and knowledge). A meritocratic education system always, therefore, involves inequalities of outcome: children must leave the education system with different types and levels of qualifications appropriate to their efforts and achievements. As Parsons (1959) argues:

    It is fair to give differential rewards for different levels of achievement, so long as there has been fair access to opportunity and fair that these rewards lead on to higher-order opportunities for the successful”.

    Education systems are, in this respect, viewed as functionally necessary for both the individual – as a means of finding their place in wider society – and “society in general” because education performs a vital and necessary differentiation function in advanced industrial societies

    The development of mass education is, therefore, explained in terms of functional differentiation. That is, the idea institutions develop to perform particular specialised functions, such as “work” and “education”. If, for whatever reason, the needs of one institution are not being adequately met, tensions develop within the system that threaten its stability and ability to function – the development of industrial forms of work, for example, required a newly literate and numerate workforce and without these skills the economy could neither function nor develop. Where other institutions, such as the family, cannot meet this new requirement system stability is threatened and equilibrium can only be restored in one of two ways:

  • an existing institution, such as the family or religion, evolvesto perform the required function. This involves differentiation that occurs within individual institutions; different roles need to be developed if the institution is to perform its new function.
  • a new institution, such as formal education, arises to ‘fulfil the need’.
  • While the former is always a possibility, the scale of economic change as societies industrialise overwhelms the ability of existing institutions to cope with the new changes and demands, hence, at some point in their development all societies will necessarily develop a specialised institution (education) as a means of restoring system stability.

    The concept of functional differentiation is particularly important because it suggests how functionalists see the broad relationship between economic and educational (or cultural) institutions; the latter develops and adapts to reflect and support the former. One important dimension to this relationship is that differentiation within the workplace is reflected by differentiation within the education system. A general process across all modern education systems is, for example, some kind of division of pupils along academic and vocational lines – a distinction that’s been variously justified by reference to ideas like:

  • natural differences in intelligence and aptitude.
  • Individuals choosing different educational routes: some favour more-practical and some favour more-academic routes.
  • the particular needs of the economy in the sense, structurally, of a need for people to leave education with skills that will fit them to the available jobs.
  • In Britain, for example, the 1944 Education Act that established free, universal, education, explicitly addressed education’s relationship with the workplace through a distinction between:

  • Grammar schools designed for academic pupils who were destined to move-on to University and professional employment.
  • Secondary Modern schools designed for vocational pupils who were destined to follow a practical or technical route into the workforce.
  • This type of functional division is reflected in secondary education systems worldwide:

  • India has both academic and vocational (school and profession-based) routes through secondary education.
  • Pakistan has similarly developed academic and technical routes.
  • Mauritius organises secondary education in a slightly different way but has also developed a distinction between academic routes into the workplace and a form of prevocational education for around 5% of the school population.
  • The separation of academic and vocational educational routes, therefore, reflects the idea of functional differentiation and specialisation in terms of two basic forms of work:

  • professional careers requiring higher levels of abstract knowledge and lower levels of practical expertise.
  • non-professionalwork requiring higher levels of practical expertise and lower levels of abstract knowledge.
  • While in Britain, at least, the rather clunky physical segregation of “academic” and “vocational” pupils into separate schools largely – but not totally – disappeared with the development of Comprehensive education in the mid-1970s, the functional requirement to competitively “sift and sort” pupils of different aptitudes and abilities into different spheres arguably continues with various in-school practices such as streaming, setting and banding and external testing / examinations at 7, 11, 14 and 16 (GCSE).

    While the specific means of “sifting and sorting pupils” may have changed since Davis and Moore (1945) argued that the education system existed to ensure that “those who are most able and talented intellectually” are allocated work roles that offer the highest rewards in terms of income, power and status, the broad sentiment remains true 75 years later. For traditional Functionalism the most functionally important economic roles must be filled by the most able, capable and competent members of society. The relationship between educational systems and the workplace, therefore, is one where “Education is the proving ground for ability and hence the selective agency for placing people in different statuses according to their abilities”.

    (more…)

    Crime and Deviance: More PowerPoints

    Thursday, May 7th, 2020

    A few years ago(!) I posted a White Collar Crime PowerPoint with a note to say that it seemed like one of a pair with Corporate Crime (don’t ask me how I knew that, I’ve got no idea).

    Green Crime

    But the Bad News was I couldn’t find it.

    Never one to not persevere, I’ve been hunting night-and-day (not literally) for the missing PowerPoint and the Good News is that I’ve now found it. Corporate Crime is now available for your viewing pleasure alongside its White Collar counterpart.

    While some among us might have put their feet up and settled back a little smugly in their comfy chair content in the knowledge of A Job Well Done, others (i.e. me. In case there’s any doubt) kept their sleuthing hat on (not a Deerstalker, sadly) and continued the search.

    Which, I’m very pleased to say, has bourne fruit in the shape of three further Presentations, namely:

    1. State Crime and Human Rights.

    2. Green Crime.

    3. Cybercrime.

    Each Presentation is relatively short and generally takes the form of “defining the problem” coupled with some examples to illustrate the concept and a few class / exam questions to round things off. Having said that, the State and Human Rights Presentation is more-extensive and offers up a couple of explanations / theories that could be applied to understand the problem.

    You need to keep in mind that the Presentations seem to be around 10 years old (and reference material that is consequently a few years older than that) but otherwise all the Presentations represent relatively simple and painless ways to introduce some of the lesser, but nonetheless important, areas of the Crime and Deviance Specification.

    Education: 3. The Purpose of Schools

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

    The final part of the “Structure and Organisation of Education” trilogy (Part 1: Structure and Organisation and Part 2: Schools, Marketisation and Parentocracy are, as is the way of trilogies, also available) ends with a !Bang! (if by “bang” you mean “a slightly loud noise”) by looking at various forms of school organisation (from the formal curriulum to the informal curriculum, from streaming to cultural reproduction, from Here to Eternity etc.)

    Although the obvious answer to any question about the purpose of schools is “education”, the meaning of education is neither self-evident nor unproblematic: the former because “education” can encompass a wide range of formal and informal types of learning – from explicit teaching about ox-bow lakes in geography to implicit teaching about gendered relationships in the classroom – and the latter because what counts as “education” is always socially constructed and socially-contested. It always reflects, Weber (1922) suggests, what any society considers “Worthy of being known”.

    What constitutes education in any society, therefore – from how it is structured and organised to which ideas are actually taught in a classroom (or, increasingly, online) – is always the outcome of a power struggle between different interested parties: from business and media corporations through political parties to individual parents and teachers. It is, therefore, against this background of conflict and consensus that we need to outline and evaluate the purpose of schools.

    One way to start to do this is through Merton’s (1957) distinction between manifest and latent functions:

  • Manifest functions relate to the things schools are expected to do; in this instance teaching children the knowledge and skills required by adult society. This idea is explored in terms of the nature and organisation of the formal curriculum.
  • Latent functions refer to things not officially recognised as being part of the school’s purpose and may also be the unintended consequences of the way schools are formally organised – an idea explored in terms of the hidden curriculum.
  • (more…)

    Education: 2. Schools, Marketisation and Parentocracy

    Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

    Part 1 of this series looked at a range of general ideas about the structure and organisation of education in our society, through a broadly historical overview of educational development over the past 150 years. In part 2 the focus is on the structure and organisation of different types of school within the education system.

    Over the past 25 years secondary schooling (broadly, 11 – 18) has seen a range of organisational changes we can illustrate by looking at different types of schools now available to parents in both the private and state-maintained sectors in England and Wales.

    A Public School…

    Private sector

    According to Department of Education data (2018/19) There are around 2,400 Independent schools in the UK (out of a total of around 25,000 primary and secondary schools), funded by parental fees – Harrow, for example, charges nearly £42,000 for the 2020/21 school year  – and investment income. Around half of these schools also claim charitable status which gives them a range of tax reliefs and exemptions.

    According to the Independent Schools Council (2015) these schools currently educate around 7% of the total school-age (5 – 16) population and 14% of post-16 students. Independent schools are allowed to set their own admissions policy (the major Public Schools, for example, operate some form of entrance exam selection process in addition to charging fees) and do not have to follow the National Curriculum (although most do, usually in a modified form).

    The leading 10% of independent schools – those affiliated to the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference – are usually known as Public Schools, a label that reflects their origins as schools for the poor.

    (more…)

    Education: 1. Structure and Organisation

    Friday, May 1st, 2020

    The structure of any institution, such as education, refers to the general relationship between its constituent parts – such as, in this instance, teachers and pupils – and how they are organised to achieve certain aims, such as providing children and young adults with some form of socially-approved, sanctioned and certificated form of education.

    Old School (circa 1905)

    Organisation, therefore, refers to the objectives an institution must fulfil in order to meet its structural aims: it may, for example:

  • develop some way for teachers and pupils to formally interact (such as a classroom – real or virtual).
  • create status hierarchies involving both adults and pupils so that both are externally (from each other) and internally (within particular groups) differentiated. Teachers, for example, are a group externally differentiated from their pupils, while pupils may be internally differentiated on the basis of things like age (different year groups) and measured ability (through techniques like streaming, setting or banding).
  • There are, of course, potentially many different and varied ways to both structure and organise education. The recent (2020) coronavirus pandemic, for example, saw a temporary mass organisational change in UK schooling, away from traditional forms of face-to-face real-world classroom interaction towards virtual forms of interaction such as video-conferencing. This suggests, therefore, that such concepts always reflect ideological beliefs about things like:

  • what education means: is it, for example, the simple memorisation and appropriate regurgitation of “facts” or does it involve a more-holistic approach to both understanding and personal well-being?
  • how it should be organised: in terms of things like schools, age-defined classes, online teaching, off-line teaching, child-centred learning, teacher-led learning.
  • what it is designed to achieve: such as the development of well-rounded individuals and citizens or differentiated individuals designed to meet the needs of business corporations.
  • We can start to understand these questions by looking briefly at the historical development of education in Britain. This will help to establish the relationship between structure, organisation and beliefs that can be used to illustrate and inform our understanding of contemporary educational developments to be considered in more detail later in the chapter.

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    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | 3: Theoretical Research Considerations

    Thursday, April 30th, 2020

    Theoretical research considerations – from methodological perspective to questions of reliability and validity – form the third part of the P.E.T. (Practical, Ethical, Theoretical) triumvirate of research considerations and they represent an important counterweight to the idea that sociological research simply involves choosing the right tool for the job.

    In everyday life, when faced with a problem like hanging a picture on a wall, most of us would reach for a hammer – mainly because we consider this the most appropriate and efficient tool for the job.

    When carrying out sociological research, therefore, it would make sense to do something similar: choose a research topic and then select the most appropriate method with which to collect data.

    Seeing research methods as tools – what Ackroyd and Hughes (1992) called the “Toolbox Approach” to sociological research – is, on one level, a perfectly sensible approach: if you want to collect quantitative data about some form of behaviour it’s not a great idea to use a method better-suited to collecting qualitative data – and vice-versa.

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    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | 2: Ethical Research Considerations

    Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

    Ethics refers to the morality of doing something and ethical questions relating to sociological research involve beliefs about what a researcher should – or should not do – before, during and after the research in which they’re involved. This will, as a matter of course, include a consideration of both legal and safety issues:

  • for the researcher.
  • those being researched.
  • any subsequent researchers.
  • In this respect, therefore, ethical questions cover a range of possible issues, questions and problems relating to the conduct of sociological research that include:

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    Sociology Through Video Games

    Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

    Although I’ve long been a big fan of video games (mainly, it must be said, those that involve shooting a lot of things in what passes for their face), until recently very few games seemed to have much relevance or application to A-level Sociology per se.

    Unless you count a predilection for pretend shooting as “educational”.

    Which most people, probably rightly, would not.

    However, teachers who have given this a lot more thought than I – Matthew Noden being one – have started to see sociological teaching and learning possibilities in different types of video game, particularly more-recent offering that have started to explore economic, political and cultural questions that are generally a step-up from “Collect all the Golden Rings” or “Shoot all the Aliens in the Face”.

    As evidence of this Matthew has suggested a number of contemporary games – and their main sociological take-aways – that teachers and students might want to collectively explore.

    For my part, I’d add to the list games like:

    FarCry 3 with its exploration of interesting moral questions and player choices.

    FarCry 4 that examines the nature of revolutionary and fundamentalist politics, with a variety of outcomes.

    None of which end well.

    FarCry 5 and its exploration of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary American South.

    Bioshock, set in a dystopian Far Right world of rampant economic individualism, that forces players to confront ideas about structure and action, as well as having to make some difficult, fundamental, moral choices.

    On a slightly different tack, games such as Second Life and, more-recently, Fortnite with its in-world concerts by real-world musicians, have suggested a different way for games to develop – as on-line “Metaverses” that encourage players to live and interact in a virtual world in ways similar to their interaction “In Real Life”.

    These are just a selection of possible ways to use video games as a teaching and learning tool in sociology and you may have your own ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

    If you do, feel free to add them into the mix via the medium of the Comments section…

    Sociological Dinner Parties

    Thursday, April 16th, 2020

    This general lesson plan, created by Molly Rose and delivered in the form of a simple PowerPoint Presentation, requires students to imagine they’re organising and hosting a dinner party to which, in this particular instance, a range of sociologists of religion have been invited.

    To this end you can either use the ready-made guest list provided (from old favourites like Durkheim and Marx to newer names like Woodhead and El Saadawi) or devise your own based on the sociologists that have been introduced and discussed with your students in relation to perspectives on the role of religion.

    The Presentation is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t demand much in the way of resources, although you can supply a few white paper plates for note-taking purposes if you want to add a little atmosphere to the party.

    Although this particular example has been designed round different perspectives on the role of religion, once you’ve grasped the basics it shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange further dinner parties around any topic that involves the application of sociological perspectives…

    The Sociology Teacher

    Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

    If you’re familiar with the work of the British Sociological Association – and the Discover Sociology section dedicated to A-level-sociology in particular – you’ll probably be aware of The Sociology Teacher journal that was published by the BSA three times a year.

    I say was because the Journal is no-more.

    It has gone the way of all A-level Sociology Journals that aren’t called “Sociology Review”.

    Apparently.

    Although its anyone’s guess as to whether the Journal will actually be missed by its target audience – probably because few A-level Sociology teachers actually knew it existed – the Journal lives on in archive form.

    And said archive is now free.

    There is, at the time of writing, an issue with the site’s security certificate which means users are warned that proceeding to the site is “potentially unsafe”. This looks like a simple technical issue that should be quickly fixed and nothing bad will happen if you continue to access the site.

    Probably.

    If you don’t want to risk it (or, once things get back to normal, your school / college IT administrators block access to sites with incorrect security certificates) I have, out of the kindness of my heart, made each of the 11 issues available to download.

    I’ve even gone through each issue identifying the key articles in order to make your download choices better informed…

    Click to get to the archive

    Visual Aids for Sampling and Statistics

    Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

    Finding ways to introduce stuff like sampling (in Sociology) and statistical analysis (in Psychology) can, at the best of times, be difficult, so any type of visual aid, from simple graphics to video walkthroughs, is likely to be a useful time-saver for teachers and students alike.

    A Visual Aid.
    Not Actual Size.
    Thankfully.

    As luck would have it, the two web pages detailed below contain a set of visual representations of key sampling and statistical terms and calculations.

    1. Terms involves a range of simple visual explanations of key statistical terms.

    Most (Double Blind, Null Hypothesis…) will be relevant to psychology students but a fair few (different Types of Sampling and Data, Observation, Hypothesis…) should be of interest to sociologists.

    Each key term is given a very short overview, a slightly-longer explanation and a much more useful graphical representation. The latter is probably going to be of most interest to teachers as a way of providing a ready-made visual aid for further elaboration and explanation.

    2. Calculations are generally aimed at psychology students and basically involve short video walkthroughs of statistical tests (such as Mann Whitney and Chi-Squared).

    The videos are similar to the Psychology: Step-By-Step films we’ve produced in the past only not as good. Obviously.

    Although they are free.

    Which is something.

    You pays your money.

    Or not as the case may be.

    Psychology Shop

    Monday, April 13th, 2020
    Extended Writing in Research Methods
    Free PowerPoint

    Deb Gajic is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the BPS (AFBPsS) who has taught Psychology for over 20 years, most-recently as Head of Psychology at an outstanding school.

    She is now a freelance educational consultant and is now offering teachers a range of her teaching resources through the Times Educational Supplement web site.

    While most of the resources are available for a small charge (£3- £5), a small number are available for free (such as an Extended Writing in Research Methods PowerPoint).

    Deb’s leant her experience to ShortCutstv over a number of years, where we’ve utilised her expertise as both a consultant and presenter, most-recently on a series of short films designed to walk students through a range of statistical tests (from Spearman’s Rho to Chi-Squared).

    These are currently available on both DVD and as a Digital Download.

    Top Teams

    Thursday, April 9th, 2020
    Who will be in your starting 11?

    Sociology Support is a site run by experienced (AQA) examiner that offers a range of support for students and teachers through events, such as lectures and workshops and Continuous Professional Development (from marking and grading student answers, through Revision Days to Zoom webinars).

    In addition to the paid stuff, however, they also have a range of free resources that are a little more imaginative than the usual run-of-the-mill materials found online.

    One such offering is the idea of “Top Teams” – a simple but effective revision exercise that helps students organise their thoughts on, in this instance, social class and educational achievement.

    Tweaked…

    The real beauty of this idea, however, is that with a bit of simple tweaking it could be applied in many other contexts – anywhere, in fact, students need to identity and then apply different studies or policies to something.

    It could even be used as a means of getting students think about how to apply different theories, concepts or, at a stretch, methods to different scenarios…