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 January 2021 we passed 700 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:

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Family Demography: is average good enough?

Sunday, August 14th, 2022

When we look at demographic concepts like “life expectancy” it’s not unusual to see statistics that show women, on average, have a longer life expectancy than men – something that holds true for just about every country in the world.

This observation can be explained in a variety of ways, from the explicitly natural at one extreme – women may be genetically predisposed towards longer life expectancy – to the explicitly cultural at the other: historically, for example, male lives have generally involved higher levels of manual labour, men are less-likely than women to recognise and act upon life-threatening illnesses and so forth.

Whatever explanation you favour, there’s no getting away from the Tyranny of the Statistics: at last count, for example, the Office for National Statistics note:

Life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2020 was 79.0 years for males and 82.9 years for females“.

So that, as they say, is that.

Except, of course, it isn’t.

Sociologists are accustomed to digging beneath the statistical surface and ideas involving an “average anything” (from life expectancy downwards) require much closer analysis than simply accepting them at face value. Statistics always require interpretation and life expectancy statistics are no exception.

To illustrate this, lets look at another statistic related to the one above. For those currently aged 65, on average:

  • men can expect to live for a further 18.5 years.
  • women can expect to live for another 21 years.
  • Although this seems to confirm what we’ve already seen – women live longer – the interesting thing here is that a percentage of men currently aged 65 will live to around 83.5 years old which, you will note, is slightly higher than the average life expectancy (82.9) for all women. In other words, some men live longer, on average, than some women. So while women generally have greater life expectancy than men this is not necessarily true for all women.

    This, if you think about it, fits with a range of things we know about various forms of inequality (social, gender, ethnic and age, for example) and how each of these, alone and in combination, have “real-world consequences” when it comes to something like life expectancy, amongst a lot of other things.

    Bergeron-Boucher et. al. (2022), for example, studied life expectancy for males and females in 200 countries across the past 200 years and concluded that “although men have a lower life expectancy than the opposite sex, they have a “substantial chance of outliving females”. They estimate, for example. “Between 25% and 50% of men have outlived women” in their study and conclude that “summarising the average length of life can be a “simplistic measure””.

    In other words, while men as a social group have a lower life expectancy than women, historically and cross-culturally a subsection of males actually have a much higher life expectancy than women.

    Talking Transgressively

    To understand why this should be the case we need to think about how the two broad categories “male” and “female” can be broken down into smaller categories that, taken together, feed into the whole. We can, in this respect, take a transgressive approach that argues while “men” as a social category have things in common that are not shared by women – and vice versa – when we look at smaller groups of men they may share distinctive social characteristics that make them different, in turn, from other groups of men. The most obvious differences, as we’ve suggested, are things like social class, ethnicity and age.

    Bergeron-Boucher et. al. note, for example, that “Males who are married or have a university degree tend to outlive females who are unmarried or do not have a high school diploma” and if we unpick these ideas – life expectancy can be related to things like marital status and education – we can illustrate the significance of transgression.

    In the first instance it’s generally the case that married men substantially outlive their unmarried / divorced male counterparts and the significance of this isn’t necessarily marriage itself but rather the lifestyle differences between married and unmarried men: these include a wide range of things, from healthier eating to a less-riskier behaviours. What we’re seeing here, therefore, is that a significant group of men are dying much earlier than the average – which, of course, lowers the average life expectancy for all men.

    In the second, educational differences are generally proxies for social class (that is, differences in educational qualifications can be clearly-related to social class differences: broadly-speaking, the higher your class, the higher your educational qualifications). This means the family history and lifestyle of a highly-educated man is likely to be very different to that of a poorly-educated woman. One, in other words, is likely to lead a much more comfortable and generally easier life than the other. One is much more likely to die from a poverty-related injury or illness than the other…

    Thinking transgressively, therefore, is a relatively simple skill to encourage and develop in students. It’s also one that will give them an edge in their exams because their thinking and approach to situations, problems and solutions will go a bit beyond the everyday, taken-for-granted, assumptions about the social world that the majority of students will reproduce.

    And it’s a mode of thinking that’s not restricted to contexts where averages apply – there are a wide range of contexts and scenarios across the curriculum where you can encourage students to take a transgressive approach to understanding social situations.

    For example, one obvious area is education and the increasingly taken-for-granted assumption that “girls do better than boys” in terms of achievement. As with something like average life expectancy, while this is true overall, this truth hides a much more complex and nuanced situation in which some boys do considerably better than some girls


    Marie-Pier Bergeron-Boucher, Jesús-Adrian Alvarez, Ilya Kashnitsky and Virginia Zarulli (2022) “Probability of males to outlive females: an international comparison from 1751 to 2020

    Tutor2U Teaching Activities

    Tuesday, August 9th, 2022
    Happy Families…

    As many of you will already know, Tutor2U produces a shed-load of revision-type resources, from workbooks to flashcards to complete courses. Most of these can be purchased for varying amounts of cash (all major credit cards also accepted) but there’s plenty of stuff you can get for free in exchange for an email address (the links I’ve provided take you to the resource page from where it can be downloaded once you’ve registered / signed-in).

    For this post I’ve focused on what they’ve called “Teaching Activities”, a relatively small, but nicely-produced, set of activities focused on a small number of topics (research methods, families, deviance).

    Theory Pyramids: In basic terms, a “card matching” activity that involves students assigning key terms / sociologists to various predetermined categories (structure or action, consensus or conflict, Functionalism or Marxism or Feminism etc.). Although it’s possible to do the activity, you need to note:

    1. The resource cards refer to both a “Theory Pyramid” and a “Crime Pyramid”, which is a little confusing. It doesn’t make the activity unplayable, but it does indicate something’s gone a bit awry with the T2U quality control department. Similarly, one of the cards references a “polygamous horde” but the suggested categorisation refers to a “promiscuous horde” (Engels’ hopelessly outdated and ahistorical categorisation of some mythical “pre-capitalist” family-type arrangement – really not sure why sociology textbooks persist in teaching Engels in the Family module). Again, a small point but one that’s going to confuse people. And by “people” I mean “everyone”.

    2. More-seriously, although the Notes refer to the fact “some key ideas can be placed in more than one category”, concepts like “role”, “nuclear family” and “gender socialisation” can be placed in every category, which kind-of defeats the objective, really. This looks like a bug that’s been turned into a feature.

    The Only Way is Ethics: Sporting the kind of pointless pun that’s very dear to my own heart, this activity provides students with a synopsis of a “research situation” and asks them to identify possible ethical issues. The resource provides some suggested ethical issues for each and students are further asked if or how these might be resolved. All good, clean, fun (although some of the scenarios aren’t. Obviously).

    Ultimate Research Champion: While this is quite a complicated – not to say convoluted – activity in terms of how it’s organised and put into practice, the basic premise is fairly simple and straightforward: students are given a “research topic” (such as “gender and subject choice”), a range of possible research methods (questionnaires, participant observation, official statistics…) and must decide which they think could be best-used to research the problem.

    While the premise may be simple, the execution certainly isn’t. In the first place, the student’s choice of method in relation to the question is automatically marked, via the accompanying PowerPoint Presentation, in terms of concepts like reliability, validity, representativeness and “practicality” (whatever that may actually turn out to mean). While this is all-well-and-good, it does mean that something like “official statistics” are automatically marked highly for “reliability” and poorly for “validity” (as in null-point), which unfortunately isn’t how these things actually work. Particularly in this instance, when official statistics on subject choice are highly valid in terms of actually “measuring what they claim to measure“. They don’t tell us why different genders choose different subjects, but that’s another problem…

    Secondly, while the objective seems to be to encourage students to discuss their choice of method in relation to key concepts and their appropriateness to studying different topics it’s not hard to see this rapidly devolving into a “guess the right method” exercise.

    Which would be a shame because it’s a decent idea that’s been let-down by poor execution.

    A further issue teacher’s might have is with the resource itself. While the integral PowerPoint  Presentation is nicely done it depends on macros being enabled which, I’d hazard a guess, is not something any school / college is going to be happy to allow (it’s just too easy to write macro viruses…).

    Happy Families: This activity uses the old card game “Happy Families” (remember Mr Bunn the Baker? No, thought not) to teach different types of family structure. It throws a bonus set of family-related questions into the mix but, when all’s said and done, it’s just a fairly long-winded way to identify different types of family…

    Interactionist Approaches to Crime and Deviance: A neat set of revision activities (multiple choice questions, fill-in-the-gaps, bingo…) in one handy PowerPoint Presentation. What’s not to like?

    The Usual Suspects: Another simple-but-interesting idea – give students a question and ask them to select 5 from a range of cards displaying crime and deviance concepts / theories that can be used to answer the question. There are a couple of glaring and confusing errors (Phegemonic masculinity? Opportunities subcultures?) but these don’t particularly detract from the activity. There are also blank cards you can use to add any theories you’ve taught that are not included in the provided pack.

    Which is thoughtful.

    Party On!

    Who Am I? Another Crime and Deviance activity that could, if you were really, really, motivated (or desperate) be adapted to other topics (although I’d advise against it). Basically, students need to identity a theorist from a range of up to 10 clues, although quite why you’d want them to do this is anyone’s guess. Still, if you do, you now can.

    Don’t Repeat Santa: Nice PowerPoint implementation of the old “guess the word without saying it” game. Mainly based around education but with a bit of crime and deviance and a random set of Christmas-appropriate words thrown-in for good measure. If your school / college allows you to run macros there’s hours of fun for all here. If they don’t, there isn’t because the Presentation won’t work.

    Sociology Party!: If you’re the kind of teacher who thinks they should “loosen-up the lesson” a bit come end-of-term (but secretly can’t bring yourself to the point where your students aren’t actually doing any exam-based Sociology), this is the activity for you. The resource lists 5 or 6 different “party activities” you could try, none of which are very demanding (although the “music quiz” that splits students into teams and gives them “5 minutes to come up with 5 songs that provide a clue to a sociological concept, theory or keyword” of your choice is likely to test everyone to the limit – particularly if you restrict them to the songs you know that were popular before they were born…).

    As a final treat you’re instructed to give them a “party bag” that involves “An essay question to take home and complete for homework!”. I’m not sure if the exclamation mark is indicative of “Surprise! You thought you were getting something good, but I tricked you” or simply “I actually hate you all”.

    If It’s Important, Then I’m Curious

    Thursday, July 28th, 2022

    As you may or may not appreciate, I’m a firm believer in two basic things:

    Stimulating Curiosity and Interest…

    1. There is no “secret formula” to helping students reach their full academic potential (despite what various forms of magical thinking – both analogue and, more-recently, digital – might claim).

    2. If you’re able to stimulate a student’s curiosity in a subject, topic or idea then you’re going some way towards realising that goal of helping them realise their full academic potential.

    As some of you may be thinking, this second statement seemingly contradicts the first: am I just substituting my favoured form of magical thinking for ones I dislike?

    Well, obviously I’d argue “no” because, firstly, I’m writing this post and secondly I want to point you in the direction of research by Dubey, Griffiths and Lombrozo (2022): If it’s important, then I’m curious: Increasing perceived usefulness stimulates curiosity that lends some empirical support to the proposition.

    While it’s no great reveal to say that if students are interested in the work they’re doing and are curious about its outcome then they’re generally more-likely to perform better in that subject. This doesn’t mean that students who have little interest in their academic work will not perform well in exams – there are various instrumental variables, from money to peer and family pressures, that may prove the contrary – but it’s probably an advantage for the vast majority of students.

    The question, as a teacher of course, is how to stimulate in your students the interest in the subject that you hold?

    The answer, according to Dubey et al, is through the application of a more-general instrumental variable, one that can be applied equally to all: “the perceived usefulness” of the information being taught.

    Their study argues that perceived usefulness:

  • “has both personal and social dimensions“: in other words, interest and curiosity can be stimulated through he idea that what is being learnt has personal utility, a wider social usefulness (“to society as a whole”) or a combination of the two.
  • goes beyond generic claims of value or importance“: that is, it’s not sufficient for a teacher to claim or point-out general or abstract forms of information usefulness (“it’s something that’s useful to know“). Rather, the student needs to understand precisely how the ideas being taught are personally and / or socially useful.
  • The authors further argue that “the connection between curiosity and information-seeking makes interventions on curiosity especially relevant for educational contexts. Indeed, the importance of perceived utility (a construct closely related to usefulness) has been documented within the education literature, with studies showing that students’ perceived ‘utility value’ i.e., how valuable they think a task would be, influences motivation as well as the allocation of study time“.

    While the research has a number of potential limitations (in their experiments the researchers gave “explicit and strong” usefulness cues to students, they also failed to “explicitly differentiate between personal and social usefulness“, which means we don’t know which type – or combination of both – is most effective in stimulating student curiosity) it does suggest both “curiosity and information-seeking behaviour can be influenced by perceived usefulness, and points to effective strategies for stimulating curiosity“.

    The most-obvious of these strategies is for teachers “to stimulate curiosity by presenting information in a way that allows people to more clearly appreciate its personal and social usefulness” – and while these will generally be different for different subjects, both sociology and psychology are, in their different ways, ideally situated to take advantage of this connection.

    It’s my guess that, in some ways, this is what many sociology teachers already do – providing a personal and / or social context for the ideas they’re teaching – without perhaps, until now, actually having any direct evidence to back-up their beliefs and practices.

    And for those of us not thinking in this way the research may, perhaps, stimulate some thought about how we can make explicit and important connections between the work done in the classroom on traditionally dry topics like family, education and research methods and their real-world importance, significance and application.

    Crime in England and Wales: March 2022

    Monday, July 25th, 2022
    Source: Kai Pilger

    While the latest set of Official Crime Statistics covering England and Wales come with what should, by now, be the familiar methodological qualifications concerning both their reliability – or, more pertinently perhaps, their unreliability – and validity, they are nevertheless useful as general indicators of crime patterns.

    As such, they’re worth perusing if you have the time.

    And if you don’t, there are always the edited lowlights…

    The lowlights

    6.3m crimes were recorded in the year to March 2022 – an all-time high for recorded crime and 4% higher than the previous high: 6.1m offences recorded in 2020.

    Although there was a 16% increase in crime year-on-year, this figure needs to be seen in the context of the depressed recorded rates in 2021 due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

    As is increasingly becoming the case there are wide fluctuations in the prevalence of different types of crime. This includes a:

  • 37% increase in online fraud and computer misuse offences.
  • 20% decrease in theft.
  • 25% increase in homicide (something that includes offences like murder and manslaughter). Compared to March 2020, however, there has been almost no change (710 offences in 2022 as opposed to 714 in 2020). The latter did, however, include the exceptional case of 39 migrants found dead inside a lorry.
  • 10% increase in knife-enabled crime. Compared to March 2020, however, knife-enabled crimes were slightly lower.
  • 32% increase in sexual offences (including 70,000 rapes).
  • This may or may not reflect a real increase in sexual offences because these statistics are impacted by campaigns focused on encouraging victims to report incidents that would, in the past, have gone unreported.

    Clear-up rates

    In England and Wales a crime is considered to be “cleared” (i.e. the police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the offence) once a suspect is charged or summonsed – not when a suspect is found guilty. In 2022:

  • 5.6% of reported offences were cleared-up, a new historic low and down from 7.1% in 2021 and 16% in 2015.
  • 1.3% of reported rapes resulted in someone being charged.
  • Nearly half (42%) of rape victims “gave up and withdrew support for seeking justice through the criminal justice system” before anyone was convicted.

    Crime Survey

    While the generally more-accurate Crime Survey of England and Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey) showed a decline in crime over the past 20 years, “offences recorded by police showed various serious offending hitting 20-year highs”. These included:

  • 70,000 rapes.
  • 200,000 sexual offences.
  • 700,000 stalking and harassment offences.
  • 900,000 domestic abuse-related offences
  • 2 million violence against the person offences.
  • Young Sociologist of the Year 2022

    Friday, July 15th, 2022
    An IPad Mini.
    Actual Size.
    I’m not really sure.
    It looks quite small.

    The British Sociological Association’s “Young Sociologist of the Year” competition is the catchy new 2022 title for what was previously the decidedly-less-catchy and not-particularly-well-known, “A Level Student Competition” (which it needs to be noted, is hardly surprising given the general “Meh-ness” of the old title).

    While the two may or may not be connected this year’s prize consists of an iPad Mini for the successful student – who must be aged between 16 and 19 and studying A level, A/S level, Scottish Higher Level or equivalent post-16 qualifications in Sociology – and £500 for their school (which can presumably be any age they like).

    As per usual, students can submit an essay, podcast or video to answer the question:

    How can sociology help us understand the causes and/or consequences of war and conflict?“.

    While the entry guidelines are suitably broad, they stipulate that entries:

  • should be based on reading sociological studies
  • should apply sociological knowledge learned during your studies
  • can include results obtained from your own research.
  • The latter can utilise any kind of research method (observations, interviews, a questionnaire-based study…), but I’ll be honest and say that I’ll be personally amazed if anyone did, particularly given the nature of the question.

    As you might expect, there are a few important things to note, not the least being the closing date: Tuesday, 1st November 2022 4pm.


  • Entries must be lone submissions: no collaborations allowed…
  • Written reports “must be 2,000 words (plus or minus 10%)”, excluding bibliography, figures, tables and the like
  • Video entries can’t be longer than 10 minutes
  • All work must be in English.
  • Sociology: No. 5 with a Bullet…

    Monday, July 11th, 2022

    We’ve been doing a bit of research on the rising popularity of Criminology, mainly it has to be said in Wales (the popularity, not the research) and speculating about why no English exam board currently offers the subject at a-level (WJEC currently offer an a-level equivalent Diploma that’s recognised by UCAS, but it’s mainly only offered by 6th Form / FE College Colleges).

    My view, for what it’s worth (not much, actually) is that school’s would struggle to staff it at a-level because of it’s combination of sociology and law – two standalone subjects that have historically struggled for staffing in English schools. There’s also an argument that one of the major English Boards decided against creating a Specification a few years back it in case it detracted from their increasingly-lucrative Sociology Spec.

    And that tenuous link brings me to the main point of this post, the increasing popularity of Sociology – and Psychology – at a-level.

    While Psychology has steadily worked it’s way to the top of the Popularity League Table (something that sort-of exists but which isn’t really A Thing. Yet) over the past 25 years, Sociology has always been a bit of a poor relation bobbing around the lower reaches of the Top 10: popular with The Kids, but not that popular…

    The latest iteration of the post-pandemic table, however, shows a couple of significant things:

    1. Both Psychology (+11.6%) and Sociology (+9.5%) have markedly increased in popularity over the past couple of years.

    2. While Psychology is the second most popular a-level subject after Mathematics (which it seems to be steadily catching), Sociology is now the fifth most popular a-level, a little way behind Chemistry and moving ahead of subjects like Business Studies, History, Geography and English Literature.

    Considering it’s not one of the so-called STEM subjects increasingly foisted on the school population by an increasingly out-of-touch Education Department and is not extensively taught further down schools at GCSE, this is, IMHO, quite a remarkable achievement.

    Not least on the part of those Sociology teachers who, with limited budgets, resources and support have managed to make Sociology an increasingly important post-16 option for their students.

    Methods in Context: Crime in England and Wales

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

    Keeping abreast of the various statistical sources and data on crime can be both time-consuming and somewhat confusing for teachers and students – both in terms of the volume of data and the reliability and validity of different data sources.

    For these reasons the Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin is a brilliant resource for a-level sociologists in terms of both crime statistics and the research methodologies underpinning their production (so it’s good for information covering both Crime and Deviance and Crime and Methods in Context).

    While the statistical bulletin contains all your favourite statistics:

    • an 18% increase in total crime, driven by a 54% increase in fraud and computer misuse offences
    • a 15% decrease in theft offences.

    it’s particularly interesting this year (2022) because of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic – both in terms of crime (“Crime recorded by police in England and Wales fell by 8% in 2020 as periods of lockdown caused theft reports to drop by more than a quarter”) and how it was recorded.

    In the latter respect the ONS trialled a new “Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW)” in 2020 “to capture trends in crime while normal face-to-face interviewing was suspended because of restrictions on social contact during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic“.

    This change raises a range of reliability, validity and comparability issues that might prove a fruitful source of discussion and instruction…


    Education and Setting

    Saturday, June 18th, 2022

    It’s probably fair to say that most discussion of concepts like setting, streaming and banding in a-level sociology focus on things like the basic principles involved or the social and psychological consequences of different kinds of “ability grouping”. While this is, of course, a perfectly valid set of concerns (pun sort-of intended), there tends to be little or no discussion of the actual mechanics of the process.

    While the benefits and drawbacks of something like “ability setting” are endlessly debated, the assumption on both sides has tended to be that this is something of a technical process of allocation: students are measured at Key Stage 2 (when they are 11 years old and in the last year of primary education before moving to secondary school) and on the basis of their KS2 results are allocated to different sets. These are usually of the “High”, “Middle” and “Lower” variety.

    Again, while there has been a measure of debate about the validity of both the Key Stage tests themselves and the testing regime, quantifiable subjects – Mathematics in particular – have largely escaped criticism precisely because, whatever the debate about the merits or otherwise of setting, at least it’s based, in this subject at least, on measurable, quantifiable, criteria.

    A recent study by Francis et al (2019) has, however, cast a degree of doubt on both the allocation process and, by extension, the claim that setting into secondary subjects is purely based on academic achievement.

    Their argument is that the process is actually infused with a range of gender and ethnic biases.

    The Research

    Manification and Mentrification

    Friday, June 17th, 2022

    Read the following and, within 5 seconds of finishing, provide an answer:

    A father and his son are involved in a car accident, as a result of which the father is very badly injured and his son is rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. 

    However, the surgeon takes one look at the boy and says “I cannot operate on him”.

    When asked why, the surgeon replies ‘Because he’s my son…‘”.

    What’s going on here?


    If you immediately and without hesitation answered the surgeon was obviously the boy’s mother, then “Congratulations!” are in order. You’ve successfully avoided the trap of manification – the process that makes, creates or causes (fication) something that is not male to be seen as male or masculine.

    In this example, those who fail to solve the problem invariably do so because they make the erroneous, if frequently unconscious, assumption that surgeon is a masculine occupation. Ergo, the father couldn’t operate on his son.

    So if you did fail to see the solution immediately don’t worry. You’re in good (or maybe that should be bad?) company.

    While manification is similar to the concept of a male gaze – the process by which the world is seen through male eyes – it describes a situation where the world is not merely seen as male but actively interpreted as such. The world, in other words, is by-and-large, assumed to be male: it is given characteristics that are assumed to be the property or preserve of men.

    Hence, for example, the historic connotation that certain types of work, pastimes (such as football or video games) and objects (such as computers) are inherently male / masculine.


    Mentrification is concept closely-related concept to Manification and is described by Badham (2019) in the following terms:

    If “gentrification” describes the process by which one “improves” a place so it “conforms to middle-class taste”, mentrification achieves an equal status transformation by taking the history of female participation and achievement and festooning its narrative with phalluses“.

    It involves, in other words, a process whereby a cultural activity or product originally associated with or created by women is reconceptualised by and for a male audience. Badham uses the example of beer, something that a few hundred years ago was almost exclusively brewed by women within the home for family consumption. With the development of capitalism, brewing moved into the factory and was eventually marketed as a drink by and for men.

    A more-contemporary example might be the development of new technology, an arena that has been both Manified (recreated as a masculine occupation / preoccupation) and Mentrified: while women were instrumental in the development of personal computing, for example, their “participation and achievements” have been – and in many respects continue to be – largely erased.

    The same process of mentrification is true historically with broader concepts such as “science”. Aside from Marie Curie  and, at a push, Ada Lovelace I’m guessing you’d be hard-pushed to name any female scientists, let alone their scientific achievements. The reverse, of course, would be true for men…

    This leads to a second dimension of mentrification whereby the cultural achievements of women become subsumed under a masculine mythology, such that those achievements are either completely forgotten or overshadowed by male achievements. This also includes the idea that men are also given the credit for something originally pioneered by women.

    And Finally

    While these aren’t two concepts you’re going to be using everyday is Sociology they are potentially useful when discussing feminist perspectives (or using them to evaluate non-feminist perspectives).

    Not only are they a useful shorthand, with the added bonus of having to explain them when you use them – because it’s a fair bet that a lot of other students won’t be using them – they also encourage students to apply these concepts creatively across a range of ideas and issues.

    Nine Family Trends

    Thursday, June 16th, 2022

    To keep you up-to-date, demographically-speaking, with all the latest family facts from the UK Office for National Statistics.

    1: Families are increasing.

    In 2021 there were 19 million families, a 6.5% increase since 2011.

    2: Households are increasing too.

    And at almost the same rate as families.

    In 2021 there were 28 million households in the UK, a 6.3% increase since 2011.

    3: Partnerships are also on the up.

    Legal or civil partnerships can be registered by two non-related individuals who are unmarried and not already part of a legally-registered partnership. These partnerships are available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

    Families formed by a couple in a legally registered partnership (a concept that combines both civil partnerships and marriages) increased by 3.7% between 2011 and 2021. There are currently 12.7 million such families.

    More Facts…

    Researching Media Inequalities: Beyond Bechdel

    Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

    While the Bechdel Test – does a film contain two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than men? – is a useful way of highlighting broad gender inequalities in the media, it wasn’t designed to capture anything but the most basic forms of gender inequality, particularly and most-notably in Hollywood films.

    Nearly 40 years after its invention, however, things have arguably moved on – not just in the sense that The Test is an exceptionally low bar that a surprisingly large percentage of films still fail miserably to clear – but more that we now recognise many more dimensions of inequality (from CAGE downward…) than in even the recent past.

    While not denying the most basic forms of gender inequality are still prevalent in many forms of media – up to and including newer forms of media such as video gamingHickey et al (2017) argue we need to rethink our ideas by introducing a range of tests designed to capture some slightly-different forms of media inequality using the 50 top-grossing films at the North American box office for 2016 as our measuring stick. These cover:

    • Working behind the camera:

    Although this includes things like the age, sex and ethnicity of major roles such as director, producer, cinematographer and the like it also involves looking at the composition of those who perform less high-profile roles.

    For the Uphold Test, for example, a film passes if at least 50% of the on-set crew are female.

    None of the 50 to films in 22016 passed.

    More Tests…

    Scaffolding for Students

    Thursday, June 9th, 2022

    The idea of “scaffolding” – providing some kind of tangible support for students when they are asked to learn something new, as opposed to simply “throwing stuff out there” and trusting that they get it – is normally traced to the work of psychologist Jerome Bruner in the mid-1970s and his social interactionist argument, familiar to all sociologists, that we learn meanings in the context of our interactions with others.

    In terms of education this is reflected in the idea that we learn more effectively when we’re surrounded and supported by more-knowledgeable individuals and while this initially means teachers it can progressively involve fellow students becoming “knowledgeable assets” in the context of our individual learning.

    In a nutshell, scaffolding involves the idea that when confronted with teaching and learning something new, students initially rely on the support and guidance of knowledgeable assets such as teachers, but as they become more confident in their acquisition of knowledge such support can be progressively withdrawn – a bit like removing the training wheels on a bike when a child is learning how to ride independently.

    This general idea both reinforces and reinterprets the role of the teacher in the classroom: rather than simply being “the giver of knowledge”, teachers provide a general structure for learning within which students can learn to be creative without ever veering too far away from the point of the overall exercise.

    Although this may sound suspiciously like recent attempts to reinvent teachers as “facilitators of learning” (whatever that actually means), it’s really not. Rather than reducing or diminishing the role of the teacher, their role is enhanced as they create a structure within which students can develop their knowledge and understanding in a context that supports their learning. Teachers in this respect become both instructors and nurturers of knowledge.

    Although the precise form of the scaffolding used within the classroom is a matter for personal development – some aspects work better than others for different subjects and different contexts – it’s possible to suggest a general form of scaffolding that can then be adapted to the particular needs of particular teachers in particular classrooms.

    Basic Structure

    Every time you’re introducing new learning it’s useful to begin with a question. It’s a useful technique in this context because it provides a clear and concise focus for whatever needs to be taught and learnt. In this instance, let’s assume that you’re at the start of a sociology course and you want to introduce the subject of “society” as a way of getting students to understand what it is and what it involves.

    1. Begin with a question.

    For example, you can start the lesson with a short introduction to the concept of “society”, with the initial question being: “What is Society?”.

    2. Present the students with a problem to solve.

    The next step in the development of the scaffold is to reconfigure the question as a problem. You might, for example, suggest that “the problem” here is how to define “society” – and this invites your students to think about how it might be solved.

    3. Where are we starting from?

    The first step on the journey to finding a solution to the problem is to discover what we (they) already know. This involves mapping-out any ideas they may have (and this can include prompting and prodding them into directions you want them to eventually explore). How you carry this part of the process out is entirely up to you and your preferred way of teaching: scaffolding can, in this respect, be a very flexible way of teaching. For some teachers this stage of the building process might involve question-and-answer probing, others might like to set-up small group exercises or whatever.

    4. Where are we going?

    The next step is to build on the previous step, which if you’ve planned everything correctly will have produced a wide range of ideas about “society” that can be researched in more depth and detail. The objective here is to move towards some sort of answers or solutions to the problem you’ve posed.

    Once again, how your students get there is a matter for you. You may want to set individuals / groups certain tasks based on what was produced in step 3 (which, in the main, should have turned-out to be exactly what you wanted / planned – it makes everything that much easier) but you don’t have to. It’s your classroom and you decide what happens within its walls.

    However you decide this “research process” exercise, the next step is to start to bring everything back together.

    5. Mystery Mapped?

    As a class you need to start to bring the work your students have done individually or in small groups together so that everyone can start to share the information they’ve researched. Although you’ll probably find a great deal of duplication here there will be things that some students / groups have explored / discovered that others will not have thought about.

    As the teacher you can decide what needs to be explained further, elaborated or discussed with the class and once you’ve exhausted as many of the possibilities as time will allow you can move to the next stage:

    6. Shared Solutions?

    Here you need to “collectively” decide which of the solutions to the question (What is Society) are the most useful or which need to be explored in more depth and detail. Again, you can direct the discussion in whatever way you think will be more useful or helpful and it might be the case that some ideas lend themselves to further development at a later time.

    The aim of this section should be to map-out a list of “shared solutions” (or Notes as they’re sometimes called) to the question.

    7. Question the map.

    The final part of the process involves asking further questions about the information that the students have developed to answer the original question. This might involve developing particular points in more detail. Equally it might involve thinking about further questions that derive from the collected information. Either way, these form the basis for the next set of questions and their possible solutions…

    As I’ve set it out here this is one possible way to scaffold your teaching in order to help students develop as independent learners.

    It’s not something that’s set hard-and-fast so feel free to adapt it in whatever way you see fit.

    Another Transition Pack

    Wednesday, June 8th, 2022
    A Page from The Pack

    As the final term of the school / college year winds softly to its close, the collective thoughts of Senior Management inevitably turn towards those long, empty, weeks of the summer holiday and how they can be filled.

    Mainly, it should be said, by teachers.

    Because, just as rust never sleeps, neither does SM and one of the latest ways they’ve devised to keep you occupied, out of mischief and with your nose firmly to the grindstone is Transition Materials.

    Or, as they’re sometimes known, “bridging tasks”. A set of materials students complete over the summer hols as either preparation for A1, if they’re transitioning from GCSE, or A2 if they’re transitioning from their first year of A-level.

    And while it would be nice to think that these things magically write themselves, we both know that’s not the case.

    As loyal supporters of this blog will further know – because as loyal supporters they will have read every single word of every single post I’ve ever written – I’ve previously posted both Sociology Transition Materials and Psychology Transition Materials.

    It is, after all, what I do when I’m not doing the other stuff that I do.

    So, you may or may not be thinking (I like to hedge my bets in order to preserve the mystique), “Why do I need yet another set of GCSE-to-A-level Transition Materials when I could spend most of my precious summer holidays creating my own?”.

    And when you stop to think about it. There’s your answer.

    This set of materials, lovingly crafted by some nameless teachers from King Charles School (and Sixth Form Centre), probably has way-too-much stuff in it for any sane individual to contemplate using in its entirety (it consists of 52 pages. I’ve written books that are smaller…), but there’s plenty here that can be usefully adapted to save a lot of time, effort and tears.

    Although it’s designed for the AQA Specification there’s little here that wouldn’t be equally-applicable to other Specs, so you’re probably free to lift as much – or as little – as you think necessary. And while there are a few “suggested readings” from the Webb et. al. textbook in the pack (I’m not going to link to it because, honestly, Rob Webb doesn’t need the money), scans of these are helpfully provided (although you didn’t hear it from me).

    Finally, the materials have one very interesting and (possibly) unique feature that caught my eye and could well be worth half-inching:

    “What kind of Sociologist will you be?” is a short multiple-choice quiz whose answers reveal the type of sociologist you are likely to turn out to be (feminist, functionalist, marxist, interactionist or postmodernist).


    Anyway, to sum it up, this is a pack of materials you could usefully dip into and out of to select bits-and-bobs to serve up to your students to keep them out of trouble over the long summer days and, indeed, nights.

    Victim Survey Report

    Tuesday, June 7th, 2022
    Click to Download copy

    The study of crime victims has, until quite recently, been a largely-neglected aspect of policing in England and Wales (and everywhere else come to that) so it may surprise you to know that since the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), there have been a succession of Victims’ Commissioners whose role is:

    To promote the interests of victims and witnesses, encourage good practice in their treatment, and regularly review the Code of Practice for Victims which sets out the services victims can expect to receive.”

    One way this is achieved is through various forms of research – survey and otherwise – into crime victims and a selection of the latest Reports can be found on the Commission website. While there’s some interesting stuff available, such as details of an upcoming Report into victims of online harm (including a copy of the questionnaire used), I thought it might be useful to bring the 2021 Victims Survey to your attention.

    While the full Victim Survey Report (it’s only 10 or so pages…) is available if you want details of the sample (not huge – 587 responses to an online survey) the questions used and answers received (a mix of qualitative and quantitative data), the edited lowlights are as follows:

  • 43% of victims would report a crime again.
  • 34% of victims would not report a crime again.
  • 50% would attend court again (a year-on-year decline from 67% in 2020).
  • 66% had to wait ‘too long’ for their case to go to court.
  • Ethnic minorities are less likely to feel like they were treated fairly and respectfully by police:
  • 33% of ethnic minority respondents “felt the police treated them fairly and with respect” (compared with 44% of white respondents).
    16% agreed “victims are fully supported by the police” (compared with 26% from white backgrounds).

  • 9% of victims thought the courts dealt with cases promptly.
  • 83% claimed to have little or no confidence in the effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in prosecuting those accused of a crime.
  • The most important factors for respondents in the overall process were:
  • “having the crime fully investigated” (48%)
    “being treated fairly and with respect by the police” (38%)
    “perpetrator being charged with a crime” (24%).

  • In 2018 39% were given the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS). This increased to 51% in 2021.
  • 29% of victims are aware of the Victims’ Code.
  • The 2021 survey covered “experiences of the criminal justice system” in the previous three years, including the Covid-19 pandemic. Although around 50% of victims reported their victimhood during the pandemic “there were few substantive differences in responses compared to those whose cases were dealt with earlier”. This suggests that problems relating to victim’s experiences in the criminal justice system are structural and endemic rather than the result of exceptional circumstances caused by the medical emergency. As Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner put it:

    Time and time again, the police, CPS and other justice agencies have been found wanting, with the CPS, in particular, shown to be inconsiderate of victims’ needs. All too often victims are still treated as an afterthought – a bystander to proceedings, rather than the valued participant they should be.”

    Key Studies and Maths in Psychology

    Monday, May 30th, 2022

    While students who decide to take Psychology at A-level or in High School may be generally aware it involves “some sort of mathematical component”, as the British Psychological Society perceptively notes:

    Students beginning A-Level psychology are often disheartened to learn that mathematics is an inescapable part of the subject. Many students are drawn to psychology by the promise of gaining a deeper understanding of human behaviour, or possibly even a deeper understanding of themselves. There are few students who choose to study A-Level psychology because of the opportunities that it provides for data analysis and statistics!”

    So while many students may need to be quickly brought up-to-speed with the mathematical requirements of the subject, the problem for teachers is when and how to do this. For many this involves “relegating mathematical skills to a standalone unit of learning; a week-long slog of lessons where all mathematical skills are taught at once. It is tempting to quarantine mathematics to its own walled-off corner of the curriculum lest we risk contaminating the rest of the course with its dullness”.

    An alternative – possibly more-interesting, not to say life-affirming – way to introduce the mathematical dimensions of psychology is, the BPS suggests, “to integrate mathematics into lessons, in particular lessons where students are learning about a key piece of research. By bringing in a little bit of mathematics here and there, students should start to gain a more cohesive understanding of the links between data analysis, statistics, and psychology. Additionally, this “little but often” form of teaching may feel less overwhelming for students than the “all at once” method often used, a gentle flurry of snowflakes rather than an avalanche!

    To this end the BPS have put together a helpful little document called “Teaching mathematical skills through key studies in psychology” designed to help teachers introduce various mathematical components through four Key Psychological Studies (Loftus and Palmer, Milgram, Rosenhan and Bandura). The document provides teachers with a range of mathematical exercises (plus answers) students can carry-out within the context of each key study.

    Your students will, of course, need to have some prior knowledge and understanding of the studies and an easy and painless way you might like to introduce them to your students is through the medium of film:

    Loftus and Palmer




    In addition, if your students need help with statistical tests, Maths in Psychology features Psychology examiner Deb Gajic providing detailed step-by-step walkthroughs that show students how to calculate and apply a range of classic psychological tests: Spearman’s Rho, the Sign Test, Chi Square, the Mann Whitney U Test, the Wilcoxen Signed Rank Test and Probability testing.

    Deb Gajic’s Introduction to Maths in Psychology:

    Sociology Shortcuts Magazine No.2: The Mass Media Issue

    Sunday, May 29th, 2022
    Issue No.2

    The first proper issue of Sociology Shortcuts Magazine (Issue No.1: Risk Society was basically just me doodling around on a new Desktop Publisher to see if I could produce some sort of “magazine format” document with it. Turns out I could) sees an expansion in pagination (as we Media Publishers say. Apparently) and the introduction of a selection of shorter articles around a theme.

    The Mass Media, in case there was any confusion.

    I’m not sure if I’m going to adopt this format for any future issues – I’m toying with the idea of having a selection of articles from a range of different areas of the Specification – but it seemed an interesting thing to do for this issue.

    The basic idea here was to combine coverage of fairly-conventional media stuff – defining the mass media, identifying its general characteristics, looking at different media research methods – with less-conventional material relating to new media: things like digital optimism and pessimism, digital natives and immigrants, augmented reality and the like.

    In other words, it’s a broad mix of the old and the new, most of which is fairly standard A-level stuff, some of which is a little more challenging and, possibly, interesting.

    As with Issue 1, this Issue is published as an Online Flipbook because I like this format and it sort-of maintains the illusion that this is a “proper magazine”.

    If you prefer a pdf version I’ve added the option to download single pages or the complete magazine from within the Flipbook.

    Media Methods and Representations: The Bechdel Test

    Saturday, May 14th, 2022
    Alison Bechdel's “The Rule” (1985)
    Alison Bechdel’s “The Rule” (1985)

    The Bechdel Test is a very simple type of content analysis, created by Alison Bechdel in a 1985 episode (“The Rule”) of her comic-strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”, that tests how women – and by extension men – are historically represented in Hollywood films.

    Aside from throwing-up, so to speak, some interesting and frankly-quite-surprising results (the Bechdel test web site has a database of films that passed (or more usually, failed), the Test itself is a simple and efficient way to allow students to “do” some Content Analysis in a context that’s easy to arrange and manage.

    In basic terms, ask each student in your class to watch a film of their choice (in their own time…) and, while their watching, record whether or not it satisfies 4 simple criteria:

    1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?

    2. Do they have names (i.e. are they something more than background extras)?

    3. Do they talk to each other?

    4. Is their conversation about something other than men?

    If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, the film fails the test.

    Applying the Test

    Five Functions of Identity

    Friday, May 13th, 2022

    A great deal of discussion about identity in a-level Sociology can be fairly abstract and concerned with the mechanics of construction: how and why, for example, particular 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, with the eventual aim of securing a particular type of employment.


    If you prefer your learnin’ with some funky backbeats and the full “Countdown To…” treatment that’s already been meted out to stuff like Culture and Revision (not necessarily in that order) then you will probably lose your mind over Countdown to Identity…

    Rules of the Exam Game

    Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

    One of the things that can be difficult to get students to grasp is the importance of exam technique: the idea that what they achieve in their final exam is not just a function of what they know but also of how they express what they know.

    Exams, in short, are a social process governed by rules specifying things like what counts as valid knowledge and, perhaps more-importantly, how students can validly realise their knowledge. It can sometimes be a struggle to convince students that it’s not enough to simply know things; you have to be able to answer specific questions in a way broadly demanded by the examiner.

    Being successful at A-level Sociology therefore, as with every other subject at this level, is a combination of learning relevant knowledge and being able to apply that knowledge in ways acceptable to an examiner.

    The Good News here is that by understanding and exploiting the rules of the sociology game students can successfully achieve their objectives.

    The somewhat Less Than Good News is that convincing them of this can sometimes be an uphill battle.

    To this end I’ve put together a couple of simple exercises, based on reconstructing and deconstructing real exam answers, designed to show students how taking the time and effort to master the mechanics of answering exam questions can pay dividends in the long run.

    1. Reconstructing the Deconstruction

    The initial exercise involves students reconstructing an exam answer and, for the purpose of illustration I’ve chosen an AQA Methods in Context one. Since all A-level sociology students have to answer Research Methods questions it’s an area with which they will be broadly familiar, regardless of the specific syllabus followed. You can, of course, do this exercise with an exam answer of your own choosing / creation.

    Most UK exam boards now seem to make exemplar answers available to teachers so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find an answer or two that fits the bill. If you’re having trouble you can either write one yourself (and maybe swap answers with other teachers?) or there are plenty around on the web for OCR (H580/01, H580/02, H580/03) and AQA. There are also commercial products – try searching for something like “crime & deviance 10 markers model answers” – that have been written as exemplars.


    Home Office Research Findings

    Saturday, May 7th, 2022

    Between 1992 and 2008 the Home Office published around 250 “Research Fundings” – a heady mixture of sociological research, British Crime Survey data, evaluations of crime policies and the like – in a short-form that consisted of 4 – 6 pages built around summaries of:

  • Key Points
  • Methods and Methodology (where relevant)
  • Key Findings
  • Conclusions.
  • These are very student (and teacher) friendly, particularly the Key Points summaries that, by-and-large, preclude the need to actually read the rest of the findings if you’re pushed for time, have a Very Short Attention Span or just can’t be bothered.

    Although the selective trawl through the available Findings might prove both interesting and informative, depending on what you may or may not need for teaching purposes, the Archive does have a couple of potential drawbacks:

    1. Some of the very early bulletins look as if they’ve been badly-photocopied from an original document that was itself badly-copied from someone’s proto-attempt to use primitive (circa 1990) DTP software. By 1996, however, someone at the Home Office had clearly made an executive design to up their design game, buy some reasonably-decent software and generally think about their end-users. At this point things start to become much more presentable, not to say readable.

    2. The bulk of the archive covers the years 1995 – 2007 which, as you will appreciate, is starting to make the research a little dated (or historically-interesting if you prefer). Having said that, it’s not too old to be badly outdated and many of the areas covered – from published sociological research on areas like gender and crime to early evaluations of schemes that have now become established on the UK crime scene – have a certain historical relevance and attraction.

    A couple of the reports in particular caught my eye:

    Firstly, Gender differences in risk factors for offending: Farrington and Painter (2004). This drew conclusions from the  Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, a longitudinal survey of crime and delinquency “in 411 males, mostly born in 1953. The Study began in 1961–62, when most of the boys were aged 8–9”. It is, if memory serves, still going strong…

    Secondly, Mike Sutton’s (1998) Handling stolen goods and theft: a market reduction approach. If you’re not familiar with this interesting approach to crime reduction I’ve previously written a handy outline that should bring you up to speed. I’d like to think it’s because I’m nice like that but, on reflection, I’m definitely not.

    Choose Sociology

    Friday, May 6th, 2022

    “My name is Rachel and I’m a non-academic sociologist…”

    If you’re in any way involved in the process of enrolling students on sociology courses you’ll be familiar with the two basic questions students – and sometimes their parents – ask:

    What Is Sociology…

    This is the easier of the two to answer and since you’ll probably have your own way of answering it there’s not a great deal of point to me adding my twopennyworth – although I would say that if you’re feeling a little adventurous, particularly once you’ve got your victims students safely sat in your classroom, you might like to have a bit of fun by taking the Foucault Route to exploring this question.

    If you need a bit of help, however, the British Sociological Association have a free Why Study Sociology? you can use to brighten-up your classroom.

    And / or cover-up that mould strain on the wall.

    And What Can You Do With It?

    The aforementioned Poster ends with the words:

    Studying sociology…equips you with the skills for many careers”.

    And while this is always good to hear if you’re planning to enter the job market, it’s a little vague.

    Luckily, the BSA site has a handy link to possible “Sociologist Careers” you can use to gen-up on the kinds of occupations sociology students enter.

    While I’m sure the Police, Voluntary Agencies, Social Work and Teaching are all, in their own ways, worthwhile and fulfilling careers, I’d hazard a guess they’re not likely to set the pulses of your prospective students racing. To be fair, there is also a vague section called “Research” that suggests “large organisations” might want to employ sociologists in some form of futurological, stargazing, capacity, presumably to try to predict trends in something-or-other.

    And while this may sound a bit more exciting than “social work” (however worthy etc.) I’m guessing it might not translate too easily into your favoured “Welllllllllll, there are lots of…umm…careers open to sociologists…” spiel.

    It’s not helped, obviously, by the fact that if said prospective students are also considering studying something like Psychology it’s a lot easier to point to “Psychologist” being a recognised job title you’d find in a wide range of businesses.

    And possibly more-attractive to doubtful parents than hearing

    learning about sociology is handy for subsequently teaching other people about sociology…”.

    However, the key point here is the specific skills sociologists can bring to the workplace, rather than a particular type of work. Sociologically this is known as second-domain analysis: the idea someone applies knowledge and skills learnt in their first domain (sociology) to the needs and requirements of a second domain, such as an organisation or industry.

    More prosaically, it’s the difference between developing a range of skills that can be applied to different types of work and having the specific skills required to do a particular job. So while some types of work clearly require specific academic skills, an increasing number require a more-general set of skills focused on a particular area. If, for example, a business involves understanding things like group behaviours, dynamics, order and change, a sociological background would be advantageous to both the organisation and the individual tasked with understanding these things.

    The Embedded Sociologist

    This is where the concept of embedding comes into play and the article Embedded Sociologists (2011) should familiarise you with the concept and highlight ways sociological knowledge has been applied in different organisational contexts.

    As an example, looking at something like Sociology in the Tech Industry reveals a range of areas where embedded sociologists can bring their academic expertise to bear. These include:

  • Public  policy: analysing, understanding, monitoring and measuring the impact company or industry policies have on different social groups.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: helping to develop industry and organisational policies around areas like education (such as the digital divide), social environments (the impact different corporate polices on things like free speech, harassment and bullying have on different communities) and inequality (how technological developments “alleviate or compound racial and socioeconomic inequities”).
  • Human Resources: Sociologists can play a crucial role in areas like diversity and social inclusion / exclusion within companies. The can also have an important input into developing non-discriminatory organisational cultures – understanding, for example, why a particular organisation or industry is unappealing to women, people of colour or those from a less-privileged background.
  • Training: These kinds of roles within companies cover a wide range of areas and ideas, but examples might include sociological insights into developing inclusive corporate cultures, diversity training, organisational impacts on the social environment and the like.
  • Research: While a conventional knowledge of research methods – including methodological concepts like reliability, validity and representativeness – can be useful to organisations, sociological understanding can be brought to bear on things like the impact of different media technologies and a range of social media questions: why people use different identities, online ethnography, social well-being and so forth.
  • While this list is neither exhaustive nor particularly representative, it is indicative of the kinds of careers and roles sociologists can have outside a relatively narrow range of “public service” occupations.

    And anything that helps to widen the horizons of your prospective students will hopefully encourage them to Choose Sociology…

    Countdown to Culture

    Friday, April 29th, 2022

    It’s a strange-but-true factette that in the 8 years – and nearly 800 posts – this blog has been active one post has stood head-and-shoulders above all others.

    Quite why an innocuous little post outlining 7 Functions of Culture should have garnered 30,000-odd views in the 5 years since it was first posted is anyone’s guess.

    Personally I haven’t a *&^%^$£ clue.

    However, not being slow to recognise that Something Might Be Happening here, I thought it might be interesting to see if I could take what’s essentially a plain-text list and turn it into something much more in-the-moment.

    Yes, you guessed it, it’s a video list!

    Or. as your students are guaranteed* to know and love it, a 3-minute romp through 10 functions of culture (I didn’t so much find three extra functions as do a bit of judicious editing) that covers the following functions:

  • Communication
  • Perception
  • Identity
  • Social Solidarity
  • Social integration
  • Values
  • Motivation
  • Stratification
  • Production and consumption
  • Norms
  • * This is only guaranteed for adverting purposes. It’s not actually guaranteed.

    Countdown to Revision

    Monday, April 25th, 2022

    Or, to give it its full title the “Top Tip Revision Countdown List”.

    This is a short (2-minute) film I put together (and for “put” you should probably read “cobbled”) as a slightly different way of highlighting some of the things students should be doing – and avoiding – when and if they get down to revising.

    In other words, I was at a loose end and thought it might be fun to take something like Collins’ free Revision Tips Poster idea to see if I could convert it into something slightly more mobile.

    Sadly, that was the extent of my ambition and, considered in those terms, I believe I have succeeded.

    As you will appreciate if you watch it, it’s designed to be a spoof of the kind of list-vids Channel 5 produce by the shedload.

    Having said that, the information it contains is pretty solid.

    If you’re interested Collins are also giving away a Revision Plan template (also known as “A Calendar”).

    Every Little Helps.


    Ask A Psychologist

    Saturday, April 16th, 2022

    In addition to offering free KS3 and 4 Debate Kits the “I’m A Scientist” web site also features a dedicated Psychology Zone, funded by The British Psychological Society, (other Zones – Health, Helium and Molecule – are available should you be interested), the main purpose of which is to enable students to participate in short question-and-answer sessions with real, live, psychologists.

    Each session lasts a maximum of 40-minutes and has to be booked in advance through the web site. This is free for schools, presumably because the Zones are sponsored. The one drawback here is that each Zone is only available at specific times during the year, with the next Psychology Zone scheduled for June 2022.

    The session includes some suggested Lesson Plans that help teachers and students understand the general process and all Chat is moderated by the site. Only students registered with your class can participate in each Chat session and a transcript of all the questions asked – and their answers – is available for download at the end of the session.

    Real. Live. Psychologists.

    While the Zone is up-and-running, which typically seems to be for about a month at a time, your students can submit follow-up questions through the site, participate in any after-school Chats that have been arranged (these are open to all participating students, not just the ones in your class, but they are fully-moderated) and vote for their Scientist of the Week (who can win a £500 prize – presumably for being the most-helpful / charming / amusing – I’m not sure, really).

    Finally, at the end of the Zone run the student who asked the best question wins a gift voucher. How this works I have no idea but it’s probably worth it if you win.

    GCSE Sociology: Debate Kits

    Thursday, April 14th, 2022

    One of the Good Things about Teaching (and, indeed, Learning) Sociology is that it offers up plentiful opportunities for classroom discussion in ways that can be a hugely-beneficial teaching and learning experience.

    A main downside to building discussions into your lesson plan is, of course, that without a strong structure designed to get students to think about different viewpoints and draw appropriate conclusions, discussion can rapidly dissolve into a distracted mess of competing opinions on and around everything but the question at hand.

    There are, as you might expect, a shed-load of practices and strategies available to anyone interested in ways of developing structured discussions, both in the offline and online classroom, but if you’re of the opinion there’s always room for different ways of doing things you might want to consider the Science Debate Kits aimed at KS3 and 4 students (14 – 16 year olds in the UK).

    Although the blurb around the kits refers to them as a STEM resource, the basic underpinning principle – students take-on a range of structured roles for the purposes of discussion – is one that’s easily-adapted to something like GCSE Sociology or Psychology.

    So while many of the prepared Kits (debates around Food Hygiene, Space Travel and IVF) are broadly aimed at KS3 and 4 Science a number have a more-general audience that could be used as is in GCSE Sociology. This includes debates around areas like Unisex Toilets, Drug legalisation / Decriminalisation and Big Data. In this respect each pre-constructed Kit provides:

  • General instructions about the debate.
  • Facilitation tips
  • Brief Learning Notes (covering the Lesson Objectives, Outcomes and Curriculum Outcomes beloved of SMT and OfSted)
  • Teacher Notes covering a more-detailed Lesson Plan, Background Notes and Suggested Homework.
  • A set of Character (role-playing) cards containing details of the character being played by each student in the debate.
  • While these ready-made Kits are undoubtedly useful as both a time-saver and pointer as to how the debate can be structured, many KS4 Sociology teachers are likely to find the Blank Debate  Template Kits more-useful. This will be particularly the case if you want to explore issues that aren’t covered in the existing Kits or if you want to adapt existing Kits to a more-sociological orientation for your students.

    Either way the Kits (and the associated website) could prove to be a valuable resource that’s well-worth exploring if you’re looking for ways to introduce debates with a clear narrative flow into your classroom.

    In addition, although the Kits are designed for 14 – 16 year olds there’s probably nothing to stop you adapting the broad principles involved to higher-level discussions post-16. You could, for example, try combining the Trial-by-Jury discussion format with the Science Kit role-playing format to create a very-interesting (or not, as the fancy takes you) discussion hybrid.

    And you don’t get more sociological than that.

    Foucault and Introducing Sociology?

    Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

    I always found giving students an “Introduction to Sociology” – whether as part of a recruitment or induction process, first lesson or whatever – something of a chore because it was difficult to:

    a. Sum-up Sociology in a short, pithy-yet-evocative sentence or two.

    b. Build on the description I offered to get students to reflect on the subject they were thinking about studying.

    After a few years (what can I say? I’m a slow learner) I sort-of distilled everything down into the idea that sociology is the study of our relationship to others (the recruitment version) or, if I was doing things a bit more formally, I’d go into how Sociology is the study of social order – how it’s created, maintained and changed.

    Since I’ve stopped teaching and have consequently had far more time than is actually necessary to reflect on stuff – why is it always the way that you think of your best lines the moment you leave the room? – I thought of a more-provocative way to “introduce sociology” to new / potential students.

    Somewhat surprisingly if you’ve ever tried to read any of his stuff, the inspiration for this better way is Michel Foucault (Dreyfus, Hubert and Rabinow, Paul (1986) “Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics”).

    He summed-up for me the essence of sociology in a neat, pithy and it must be said, delightfully abtuse, way:

    “People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does”.

    The genius of this idea is not only that it seems, at first glance, convoluted and wonderfully-nonsensical, but that it repays careful unpacking and consideration. You can, in other words, simultaneously bemuse and dazzle and enlighten your students by discussing these three ideas in turn:

    1. As thinking, rational, beings we’re all perfectly aware of the things that we do.

    2. For most of the time we have a reasonable idea about why we do the things we do or behave the way we do – although that’s not necessarily always the case.

    3. This is where the “sociology” part of things really comes into play: as sociologists we’re trying to

    understand how what people do and why they do it impacts on others. The role of the sociologist, in other words, is to show how the consequences of individual choices and behaviours ripples through society.

    And this, I hope you’ll agree, opens up a wide range of ideas for discussion and dissection – from introducing the Sociological Imagination to talking about socialisation, roles, norms, values, culture, identity…in a meaningful way.

    Sociology Magazine No.1: Risk Society:

    Sunday, April 10th, 2022
    Maybe the start of something big?

    Some time ago we shelled-out for new Publishing software to replace the tried-and-trusted PagePlus we’d been using for donkey’s years. It’s replacement, Affinity Publisher, was not so much a change as a continuity under another name: Affinity is published by Serif who also published PagePlus (please keep up at the back).

    To cut a long story short, I decided it was probably time to:

    a. Learn how to use it: this was not as difficult as it might seem given that most of the stuff I understood from PagePlus was present in Affinity. It was more a case of finding my way around the new interface.

    b. Change the way I published stuff as pdf documents: I’d always done this in a textbook stylee.

    Unfortunately this was a textbook style popular about 25 years ago so I thought it might be interesting to have a mess around with something different. Something a little more ambitious. A little more, dare I say it, modern?

    So I decided to have a go at a magazine-style document.

    And for the debut version of the New Magazine style I thought it might be interesting to re-publish the Risk Society document we produced from the interview we did with Beck a few years back (I’m putting the finishing touches to a new Risk Society script that I hope we can find time and space to film over the next couple of month if you prefer to wait for the film of the book).

    I’ve decided to call it Ulrich Beck: Risk Society to differentiate the two.

    There’s nothing particularly wrong with the original. I think it’s perfectly serviceable but I was looking around for something on which to practice and this is what I chose.

    The decision was also influenced by the fact I really wanted to create a Flipbook Magazine (I’m sometimes a little meta like that) containing some video (roughly 5 minutes) and since we’ve put out a couple of risk-related clips – Beck explaining Risk Society and Prof. Brian Wynne on Reflexive Modernisation – I thought this was something that might work. If there’s a hyperlink to the Flipbook Magazine it has. If there isn’t I’d take it as (un)read that it hasn’t.

    Either way, at least you and your students get to enjoy the spiffing (if not a little spoofy) new Magazine format.

    Issue 2

    If this Issue has whetted your appetite for more, the Mass Media Issue is now available.

    Learning Skills Booklet

    Saturday, April 9th, 2022

    Around 30-odd years ago at the FE College at which I then worked, I took it upon myself to create a whole bundle of “Study Skills” materials covering things like Essay-writing, Note-taking, Time Management, How to revise and so forth. I’ve still got them somewhere.

    Probably in the attic, because that’s where most of them ended-up: unwanted and unloved.

    The idea was to create some kind of nascent “Study Skills Department” that would sit alongside A-level teaching and support students in their academic work.

    As you might expect, it was an initiative that met with not so much as a deafening silence as active bemusement. Why, exactly, did you need to teach “so-called Skills” to A-level students who should have them in abundance simply because they were studying at this level? The idea students might benefit from “learning how to learn” was seen as not so much a radical idea as more a general waste of eveyone’s time…

    Spin-forward to the present and the idea of not teaching study skills probably seems as odd as the idea of teaching them once appeared and it’s into this space that this interesting little (if 20-odd pages counts as little) booklet authored by Andrew Mitchell falls.

    As you might expect, there’s nothing particularly new or revolutionary here, but it is free and it’s often useful to have stuff neatly gathered into one convenient place.

    So, if you’re looking for some fairly standard and painless “Learning Skills” information to use with or distribute to your students this covers all the usual suspects: from advice on “How to be a good ‘independent learner’” to a range of study skills and how to apply them in contexts like homework, revision, exam preparation and technique.

    There’s also a section dealing with stuff like Time Management, Presentation skills, critical thinking  and something called “Emotional study skill” (no, me neither – probably includes something about “Mindfulness” though ) if you need it.

    AQA GCSE Sociology: Core studies

    Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

    The AQA GCSE Sociology Specification helpfully lists 25 “Core Studies” that it describes as:

    A list of readily available classic and seminal texts that will help introduce students to sociology, stimulate their ‘sociological imagination’ and develop their ability to compare and contrast different sociological perspectives”.

    And while the Spec. is careful to point-out that “These are not the only texts that can be studied”, they’re probably a good starting-point.

    A wink, after all, is as good as a nod to a blind horse.

    However, while these texts may or may not be considered “seminal”, I’d probably take issue with a couple pf things:

    1. The claim they’re “readily available”, unless by “readily” you mean “In a University library somewhere. Possibly. But don’t quote me”. I searched online for Parsons “The Social Structure of the Family” for example, and aside from a short Tutor2u overview I could find absolutely nothing available.

    Not even on Amazon.

    2. Even if you were fortunate enough to find copies of the 25(!) texts, I’m not sure they’d do you much good. There’s no way on earth a teacher, let alone a GCSE student, is going to want to wade through the original texts of people like Parsons, Durkheim, Marx, Oakley, Bowles and Gintis…

    Obviously, I hear you say, you’re not supposed to take the AQA Spec. literally. What’s really required is a “Just the Facts” approach to these texts.

    To which I’d respond that you’re absolutely right.

    But I’d also add that it would be very useful if someone (not me) had anticipated all the potential problems and produced a document containing one-page summaries of all the key points GCSE students are likely to need for each text.

    I’m not sure where you’d find such a document, but I’m betting it would be really useful if you could.

    Harry Potter and the Functions of Crime?

    Monday, April 4th, 2022

    Teaching something like Durkheim and the Functions of Crime can sometimes be a little difficult for students to grasp, so one way to make it more accessible might be to teach it by associating it with something more well-known and accessible, such as the Harry Potter books.

    More-specifically, Jenn Simms has drawn parallels between the role of Bellatrix Lestrange and the Death Eaters in the novels and the key points of Durkheim’s arguments about how deviance is both normal and functional.

    The atrocities committed by the Death Eaters definitely count as deviance. They destroyed the Millennium Bridge in London, killed Muggles and Muggle-born witches and wizards just for entertainment and tortured the Longbottoms to the point of insanity. How could that possibly be functional for society?”.

    Crime is Functional because…

    1. It promotes social cohesion by “defining the norms of a society”. Norms are something we rarely, if ever think about – precisely because they are an engrained part of our normal lives. It is only when norms are broken – when someone deviates from the norm – that we start to think about the “unspoken rules” that promote social cohesion by specifying how we should all do something.

    In the Wizarding World, one function of deviants like Bella Lestrange is to continually remind the society of its values and norms. When she and others tortured the Longbottoms and the rest of the community quickly and rightly considered them deviant criminals for it, their actions nonetheless helps define – for example to young children growing up learning the ways of their society – that respect for life is a value that they hold and not harming others is a norm in their community”.

    2. It establishes and maintains social boundaries (a boundary setting function). For Durkheim, an important way our social and personal identities are created and maintained is by comparing ourselves with others, something that leads to the interesting and somewhat ironic observation that we can only see ourselves as individuals (our personal identity) by belonging to a much a larger group or society. Without society, there couldn’t be individuals because we would have no reason or ability to compare ourselves to others.

    In terms of crime and deviance, therefore, the behaviour of those who break legal and moral norms serves to reinforce ideas about where the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour lie.

    Criminals like Bella and the Death Eaters serve as an out-group against which the rest of the law abiding members of society define their social identify. Dumbledore touches on this when he asked Snape to kill him quickly to spare him the “messy” death Greyback would deliver or the prolonged suffering he would experience at Bella’s hands given that she likes to play with her food before she eats. In defining their actions as deviant and bad, Dumbledore was drawing a social boundary with decent compassionate euthanizers like Snape on one side and deviant torture happy murderers like Death Eaters on the other”.

    3. It  promotes social solidarity and social integration. Public displays of condemnation and punishment both strengthen social integration by making the law-abiding feel they having something in common and promote social solidarity by allowing non-criminals to share a moral commitment to uphold the law.

    “The court trials and public sentencing to prison Bella and other Death Eaters provided “rituals that helps build solitary” cohesion, among the rest of the law abiding population”.

    4. It promotes both social order and social change. Despite Functionalism being generally characterised as a perspective that has little or no interest in explaining social change, Durkheim argued crime and deviance are functional precisely because they provide a broad mechanism and vehicle to promote (evolutionary) change. Deviance has an innovatory aspect (something echoed, for example, in Merton’s later Strain Theory) because it necessarily challenges prevailing social norms. In this respect, social responses to deviance may promote changes in the law (Homosexuality in the UK, for example, was only decriminalised in 1967), the introduction of new forms of technology to combat crime and the like.

    The DA’s meeting notification coins, which were designed by Hermione and instrumental in alerting fellow students during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower and the Battle of Hogwarts, were modeled on the Death Eaters’ Dark Mark. Moreover, because of the Death Eaters’ crimes Harry, Ron, and Neville made significant improvements to Auror’s department, thereby better protecting the wizarding community from future harm of this kind”.

    And if you want to reinforce all of this with a bit of video, here’s a preview of our updated version of Durkheim and the Functions of Crime…

    Revision Tools: Personal Learning Checklists

    Tuesday, March 29th, 2022
    Personal Learning Checklist

    Personal Learning Checklists (PLCs) are a useful revision tool for both students and teachers because they allow both to identify areas of strength and weakness in an overall revision strategy: students, for example, have a list of everything they’re expected to know by way of preparation for their exams and teachers can identify any areas students feel they need additional help with in the weeks leading-up to the exams.

    Revision help can, in this respect, be precisely targeted to individual students – some of whom need it and some of whom don’t – rather than broadly aimed at everyone.

    Basically, they’re a win-win situation for all involved.

    The downside to all this general positivity is that if students don’t create their PLC as they go along, it means being faced with a huge amount of work to do at the end of the course. Time that’s normally spent revising (or “staring blankly at some notes for a few weeks” as it’s sometimes sadly known).


    For A Few (A-Level Sociology) Organisers More

    Sunday, March 27th, 2022

    Every now and then – between creating short-but-beautifully-crafted films and resources that both push the a-level envelope and suggest interesting new ways of doing familiar things – I like to revisit old hits as a way of reassuring myself that, when it comes to creating interest and generating those sweet, sweet, Likes, you just can’t beat something that’s proved hugely popular in the past.

    And one of the biggest Recurring Hits has to be Knowledge Organisers, an idea whose brief moment in the spotlight I thought had long-since passed, replaced by some New Kid in Town offering some new-fangled educational take that turns everybody’s fickle eyes.

    But what do I know?

    Knowledge Organisers are very much still in the spotlight, helped perhaps by the incredible amounts of time and effort some teachers have put into creating some fairly stunning efforts.

    So much effort for so little recognition.

    It was ever thus.

    And In the spirit of profiting undeservedly from the labour of others I thought I’d dip into my grab-bag of carefully conserved resources (aka stuff I found while looking for other stuff) to share a little of the love.

    I promise you won’t be disappointed. Although if you are, don’t blame me. Seriously, none of these are mine. Look at the metadata if you don’t believe me.

    In a slight departure from the norm I’ve split the Organisers into two types, the first being blank Organiser Templates and the second being the usual completed Organisers. I wanted to start with Blank Templates because I think they’re useful for teachers who want to encourage their students to create their own, personal, Organisers. These are probably best-created as students progress through a course, rather than at the end of Modules or Units and they can be set as a kind of running homework to encourage consistent completion.

    It may be a lot of extra work for students over the course of a couple of years  but they’ll see the benefits in the long run, not the least being they won’t have to spend time they probably won’t have between a course ending and exams starting creating these revision aids.


    Video Mentoring

    Thursday, March 24th, 2022

    Sociology, as you probably know, is consistently one of the most popular A-level subjects even though it’s competing for student time with subjects that are, with a couple of exceptions like Psychology and Business Studies, taught throughout secondary schooling.

    However you choose to frame the success of Sociology in attracting students, one of its more troubling aspects is that it’s driven by a substantial body of teachers who find themselves – particularly in the school sector – as Doo’ers and / or SaSSies.

    Doo’ers are those who teach Sociology in a “Department of One”, while SaSSies teach “Sociology as Second Subject” – a catchall category that includes, at one extreme, teachers who hold a degree in a subject that has some overlap with Sociology, such as Psychology or Geography, and at the other those having to pick-up A-level Sociology from scratch.

    Sometimes, of course, SaSSies are also Doo’ers (and vice versa). And ss someone who’s experienced “Second Subject Syndrome” I can honestly say it can be a pretty stressful experience.

    Although the conditions that have combined to create these – and similar – situations are unlikely to disappear any time soon, this doesn’t mean nothing can be done to help Sociology teachers who find themselves needing assistance: from the simple reassurance that “you’re doing things right” to more-extensive help with things like planning, resourcing and teaching.

    This is where the concept of Video Mentoring comes into play.

    If we leave to one side the actual mechanics of online teaching, many teachers have probably found that actually setting-up and using video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams isn’t particularly difficult or daunting. And the suggestion here is that once enough are familiar with its use, it can play an important role in connecting teachers as a way of exchanging ideas, information and, if necessary, reassurance.

    Some of you will already be familiar with things like online TeachMeets and Video Mentoring simply extends and solidifies this basic idea: established and experienced Sociology teachers lend their expertise to those who might be struggling to run a Department of One or who may need help and guidance in teaching a subject that may be neither familiar nor easy to grasp.


    In terms of nuts-and-bolts, Video Mentoring is extremely simple using something like Zoom. It might, for example, involve an experienced teacher volunteering to meet virtually with a group of inexperienced teachers once a month, every couple of months or whatever suits the participants best. The general objective would be for an experienced teacher to provide support for their inexperienced peers, although the precise nature of that support is something a group would have to decide among themselves. It might, for example, involve help and guidance with dealing with exam boards, how to set and mark different types of homework and so forth. Additionally, the mentored group could develop into a forum for exchanging resources.

    Ideally each mentoring meetup would be relatively short – not even the most-dedicated and well-intentioned teacher wants to spend hours each month on mentoring – and evolve into a self-supporting group where the initial role of the Mentor would be gradually reduced.

    You may, at this point, be thinking this sounds all-well-and-good, but an obvious logistical problem with setting-up mentoring groups is how the potential group members make contact with one another?

    In an ideal world this might be something British Sociological Association would be able to organise (you could always suggest it to them…), but I’m not sure they have the resources (or, maybe, even the inclination). A more-viable way to set-up Video Mentoring Groups would be through existing Facebook groups – a simple forum where potential Mentors could volunteer for the role and be easily contacted by potential Mentees (not sure if that’s a word. But it is now).

    UK Facebook Groups for different Exam Boards: these are all private groups so you need to ask to join.

    AQA: Sociology Teachers

    OCR: Sociology A Level For OCR Specification

    Edugas: Eduqas sociology teachers

    WJEC: Sociology WJEC Eduqas/ Cymdeithaseg CBAC Teacher Network

    These, as you might appreciate, are just a few intitial, not particualrly well thought-through, ideas about how we could use video conferencing and mentoring to bring UK Sociology Teachers together in a supportive and inclusive way.

    I‘m hoping others may be able to develop – and maybe even realise – these ideas…

    Sociological Scenarios™: Research Methods Revision

    Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

    Revision is probably one of the least-interesting things you’ll ever do as either a student or a human being, and if you haven’t been revising throughout your course, you’ll be faced with a few weeks of staring blankly at your “Notes” (a word I use optimistically) trying frantically to remember “stuff” that you can somehow successfully apply in your exams. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, along comes the Research Methods revision you’ve been putting-off until the bitter end…

    Methods “revision”: there is a better way.

    Thankfully, with a bit of preparation and forethought it doesn’t have to be this way (at least not for Research Methods – I don’t know about the other stuff because I haven’t thought about it yet).

    A simple way to make Methods revision more interesting, stimulating and productive (i.e. you’re probably going to remember things) is to use Sociological Scenarios™ as a way of creating a context and purpose for your revision. Scenarios are also an interesting way to actually teach Research Methods, but that’s another story I’m going to keep for another day.


    Risk Society: Simplified

    Monday, March 14th, 2022

    For Beck, the types of risk that existed in the past in countries like Britain and America and the types of risk in contemporary societies are qualitatively different. New types of risk have three main qualities:

    Ulrich Beck

    1. They are largely invisible and undetectable without science: climate change is an example here.

    2. They are universal: these risks are everywhere and affect everyone, regardless of class, wealth, etc. Examples here include climate change or man-made background levels of radioactivity.

    3. They are irreversible. We don’t, for example, know what the long-term environmental or health risks of various forms of genetic modifications (GM) – from crops to insects to foetuses – might be. If they prove to be dangerous, they cannot be recalled. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle.

    Key Question “Why now?”

    The answer involves understanding two related historical processes:

    1. The Modernisation of Society

    In Britain the modernisation of society began around the mid-16th century and involved a series of huge political, economic and cultural challenges and changes. Such as:

  • feudalism by capitalism
  • agriculture by industrialisation
  • rural communities by urban developments
  • religion by science.
  • And just as pre-modern societies were gradually replaced by modern ones, some have argued something similar is happening now. Modernity itself is in the process of being replaced.


    LSE Intelligent Question Podcasts

    Thursday, March 10th, 2022

    This series of monthly podcasts from the London School of Economics (and Political Science) “asks intelligent questions about economics, politics or society” of, mostly, LSE academics.

    Plus anyone sentient who happened to be in the building at the time.


    I may have slightly misunderstood.

    The pods (as I’m determined people should call them) have been published since April 2017 and, by my quick calculation, run to [checks sums] 49 individual programmes as of March 2022.

    Given the overall remit noted above, these are of varying interest to both A-level Sociologists and Psychologists so it may take a bit of rooting around to find stuff that will interest and be useful for your teaching and / or students.

    The format is generally similar for each podcast, with each having a general theme that’s then broken-down into shorter segments through questions posed by what sounds very much like a student presenter.

    Which is No Bad Thing because it all sounds very professionally produced.

    Most pods (as, apparently, “the kidz” are now calling them) come-in at around 20 – 45 minutes depending on the main topic and any secondary topics they’ve decided to include (although one or two run to over an hour, which is probably way-too-long for an academic “question and answer” type podcast).

    While you can access the full list of available pods online to peruse at your leisure, a recent pod caught my eye and, indeed, my ears, relating to the question Can Mothers Do It All? This involves a relatively student-friendly (i.e. no-longer than 10 minutes) segment with “LSE Academic” Shani Orgad talking about her research on Motherhood, Work and the Failed Promise of Equality and is well-worth sharing with your students.

    Educational Achievement and Intelligence 2

    Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

    The previous post in this two-part examination of the relationship between educational achievement and intelligence focused on the questions “what is intelligence?” and how can we define it? Keeping in mind definitions of both intelligence and achievement may be socially constructed, this post looks at three broad explanations for their relationship: positive, negative and agnostic.


    This explanation argues we don’t know if there is a real relationship between intelligence and achievement for two reasons:

    Firstly, there is no generally-agreed definition of intelligence so we don’t know what is being measured.

    Secondly, even if we select a quantifiable subset of intelligence there is no great consensus over how it can be reliably and validly measured.

    Further problems arise if intelligence is conceptualised as a relationship – something fluid and dynamic created by individuals as they go about their lives and expressed in different ways and contexts – rather than as something people have; a quality that has a certain permanence. This position suggests intelligence is a capacity developed through cultural practices and ways of learning, rather than a set of abilities with which we are born. As Kaplan argues “Intelligence is difficult to define precisely, but we can all agree that it refers to intellectual ability as opposed to intellectual achievement”; people can, in other words, be intelligent without necessarily being able to demonstrate their intelligence by passing exams.


    This explanation argues we can assume IQ tests measure significant aspects of intelligence in the form of skills relating to various cognitive functions; these include the ability to solve mathematical problems or understand logical arguments. Since these skills are very similar to those valued in both education and the workplace it would make sense to test the relationship between intelligence and achievement in this way. From this position IQ clearly correlates positively with educational achievement:

    • Deary et al (2006), for example, found a 0.8 correlation (1 = a very strong, possibly causal. relationship and 0 = no relationship) between “Cognitive ability tests taken at 11 and national school examinations taken at 16″. Their main finding was “the large contribution of general mental ability to educational achievement“.

    • Mackintosh (2002) notes “Schoolchildren’s IQ scores correlate in the range 0.5 to 0.7 with their current and subsequent educational attainment: the correlation between 11-year-olds’ IQ scores and their GCSE grades at age 16 is over 0.5“.

    Although this evidence of a positive relationship is significant, the level of disagreement among researchers is a potential drawback; the difference between 0.5 and 0.8 is actually very large – and these two studies are talking about the same general group of UK pupils.

    In general this approach makes a positive connection between social selection on the basis of educational qualifications and intelligence. In America, for example, Murray and Herrnstein (1994) argue race is inextricably linked to different levels of intelligence (a continuum that roughly runs from black at the bottom, white in the middle to Asian at the top) and this explains why black Americans achieve less than their White or Asian peers.

    In the UK, Saunders (2002) argues intelligence, while not determined at birth, differs between social classes; social and developmental factors mean middle-class children are, on average, significantly more intelligent than their working-class peers. Social selection based on class differences in intelligence operates in two ways:

    Firstly, middle class parents in professional employment have demonstrated their higher levels of intelligence. They have achieved high employment status through competing against their working class peers and coming out on top.

    Secondly, the knowledge and experience parents gain through this social process gives their children a distinct competitive advantage, partly because the latter have more to lose by educational failure (downward social mobility) and partly because middle class parents instil in their children the importance of educational qualifications, since this is how they achieved their current social status.

    Saunders argues, therefore, that social selection, like its natural counterpart, ensures the most academically able rise to the top of the class structure. Intelligent working class children are educationally successful and rise into the middle class while middle class children who fail to capitalise on their social advantages fall back into the working class. Social selection ensures, therefore, that middle class children will, on average, always be more intelligent than working class children.


    Explanations here generally follow two lines of reasoning:

    Firstly, it would be very surprising if there was not a positive correlation between IQ test scores and educational achievement, mainly because the skills valued and taught in schools and tested in public examinations are those measured in IQ tests. The relationship, from this perspective, is a statistical artefact resulting from how something is measured; those who, at 11, are good at verbal reasoning or solving mathematical problems are highly likely to be similarly proficient at age 16.

    One way to test the validity of this argument is to look at achievement at the highest levels of the education system, where the skills required for success are substantially different; Petty (2011), for example, argues IQ tests such as the American SAT, the British 11+ and the Australian HSC “are very bad at predicting performance in university“.

    Secondly, educational achievement is not related to intelligence, per se; rather, it is related to a range of cultural factors inside and outside the education system that allow some pupils to achieve, while severely limiting the ability of others to do the same. This achievement is simply validated by higher measured levels of IQ. In other words, cultural factors relating to class, gender and ethnicity underpin and explain both higher IQ and achievement levels. As Goleman (1995) argues “The vast majority of one’s ultimate niche in society is determined by non-IQ factors, ranging from social class to luck“. From this perspective, therefore, the crucial explanatory relationship is between cultural learning and both measured achievement and intelligence.

    Petty argues that a defining feature of IQ tests is that they “reflect the social order” because “the people who make up the IQ tests are from the educated middle class. What they are saying to others who score high on IQ tests is “You must be intelligent, you think just like me”. The values that are reflected in IQ tests are those of the middle class“.

    Educational Achievement and Intelligence 1

    Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

    To understand how intelligence relates to educational achievement it needs to be defined; we need, in other words, to know what intelligence is before we can examine how it can be measured and subsequently related to different levels of achievement.

    what is intelligence?

    Although on the face of things intelligence might appear relatively easy to describe and demonstrate, Sternberg (1987) suggests that not only is it hugely difficult to define its meaning is also vigorously contested, in that “There seem to be almost as many definitions of intelligence as there are experts asked to define it”. For convenience, however, we can group these definitions into two broad categories:

    1. Capacities: This general categorisation of intelligence is based on the idea humans have certain faculties, aptitudes and competences that allow them to behave “more intelligently” than other animals. Sternberg’s (1986) triarchic theory, for example, argues intelligence has three related components:

    • Meta-components involve the capacity to solve problems and make informed, correct, decisions.

    • Performance components involve the ability to actually carry-out meta-component actions, such as seeing a relationship between two or more ideas.

    • Knowledge-acquisition components refer to the capacity to acquire new information and make logical choices between different options.

    Intelligence, in this respect, is defined in terms of the ability to use each capacity to process information and choose appropriate responses, depending on the particular situation.

    2. Abilities: This is a narrower definition, one that focuses on the ability to perform particular tasks or solve specific problems. Binet (1916), for example, the creator of one of the first tests to measure intelligence, defined it as “the capacity to judge, reason and comprehend well”. Jensen (1973) argues that while human intelligence is complex and difficult to precisely define, it is possible to test and quantify some important aspects of what he calls “general intelligence” or the “g” factor, a subset that relates to “abstract reasoning ability”. By focusing on abilities, therefore, it’s possible to develop tests that measure the extent to which individuals are able to do things like identify rules, patterns, reasons and logical principles in three particular areas:

    • Mathematical

    • Verbal or Comprehension

    • Spatial.

    While categories based on capacities or abilities recognise different dimensions to “intelligence” it is still something conceptualised in the singular – it’s something you have or you do not. Gardner (2003), however, has introduced a further layer of complication through his theory of multiple intelligences. This questions the assumption “intelligence is a single entity” passed between generations, with children inheriting their parents’ general intelligence.

    Gardner (1999) argues there are at least 7 distinct types of intelligence ranging from the conventional linguistic, mathematical and spatial abilities through musical intelligence to interpersonal IQ – the extent to which an individual can empathise with others. This latter form is sometimes called emotional intelligence and, as Ogundokun and Adeyemo’s (2010), study of Nigerian secondary school students found, it is possible to measure and quantify. They found, for example, a strong correlation between levels of emotional intelligence and academic achievement.


    Left Realism: Key Ideas and Criticisms

    Monday, March 7th, 2022

    Left Realism is one of the major criminological theories at A-level  and, for this reason, it’s one that students need to know well. The following, therefore, is a basic overview of Left Realism’s key ideas: from how they conceptualise crime through to what they see as the main problem of crime and possible solutions to how crime can be researched and explained. The overview concludes with a couple of criticisms you may not have encountered before…

    Key Concepts

    There are three key concepts students need to know and understand:

    1. The aetiological crisis of explanation: aetiology refers to the idea of first or primary causes, a classic example in relation to crime being the conventional left / liberal criminological view that economic conditions, such as poverty and deprivation, are the key cause of crime. The problem for Left Realists such as Lea and Young was that while economic conditions clearly played some role in crime, the empirical evidence produced by crime statistics and rates showed that during the 20th century crime in Western societies appeared to rise regardless of macro economic conditions. It rose, in other words, during both economic upturns (“booms”) and downturns (“busts”).

    This being the case, Left Realism argues we need a more-sophisticated way to explain crime based around:

    2. The Criminological Triangle (Relative (economic) deprivation, political marginality and subculture). The idea, in basic terms, that decisions to commit crimes result from a combination of circumstances – economic, political and cultural – such that criminality is highly-likely if three conditions are met: the individual feels relatively deprived as compared to others in a similar social position, they believe their legitimate concerns and expectations are being ignored (political marginalisation) and they are in contact – in real and / or cyberspace – with others who share these characteristics (subculture).

    3. The Square of Crime: the focus here is on how different types of social relationship (between police and public, offender and victim, and so forth) create different social reactions and, more importantly, different (policy) solutions to the problem of crime. Young (1997), for example, sketches the broad relationships involved in the understanding of social reactions to crime and conformity in terms the ‘square of crime’, where social reactions are mediated through a range of different interdependent relationships, such as between the police and offenders – how, for example, the police view ‘potential and actual offenders’ – or how the general public view the police: if the public have a generally positive view of the police, for example, they are more-likely to be cooperative and supportive of them, which in turn makes it easier for the police to do their job and makes them more-effective in their role.


    Left Realism: The Islington Crime Surveys 1986 – 2016

    Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022
    2nd Islington Crime Survey

    One of the initial features of Left Realism, as it was developed by writers such as Young, Matthews and Lea, was the use of a very particular survey method aimed at gathering large amounts of data about a relatively small location: the local crime survey carried-out, in this instance, by Young et. al. (1986) in Islington, London.

    While there was nothing methodologically unique about the Islington Crime Surveys – the first combined a relatively simple structured interview with selected follow-up personal / victim  interviews – a number of things made these surveys sociologically interesting:

    1. The focus on relatively small-scale localities. Although similar surveys had been carried-out nationally through the British Crime Surveys (now called the Crime Survey for England and Wales) that began in 1982, Left Realist’s considered their focus was too wide and this was a problem, they argued, because crime affects individuals and households in different localities in different ways. The problems faced by police and public in a city area such as Islington, for example, may be quite different to those faced in suburban or rural areas. Consequently, Left Realism argued it requires specialised survey data to identify specific local crime problems in order to develop local crime solutions to particular local crime problems.

    Local crime surveys, of which Islington was probably the most well-known, were, as Young et al. put it: a “response to the growing recognition that crime is focused geographically in certain areas and socially amongst particular groups of people: a fact the national crime surveys are unable to deal with. Local surveys have proved successful in pin-pointing areas with a high crime rate and have enabled the impact of crime and policing to be broken down in terms of its social focus, that is on social groups based on the combination of age, gender, social class and ethnicity”.

    In basic terms, the argument here was that policing effectiveness depended on a clear understanding of the types of crimes and victimizations that were prevalent in a locality. To use a general example, if minor street crimes were not identified as “a problem” in local surveys police and public resources could be moved to deal with offences that were perceived as local problems.

    As Young et al. note: “The wide coverage of the national crime surveys prevents them from producing detailed information about the experience of crime in specific localities. Local crime surveys have, in addition, widened the scope of the crime survey to allow new areas to be investigated, for example, racial and sexual harassment, drug abuse and other forms of antisocial behaviour; the public’s policing priorities with respect to particular types of crime; opinions on the control and accountability of police forces and penality”.

    2. Fear of Crime: Following from the above, Left Realism was concerned with demonstrating empirically that in many areas of the country people had a well-founded “fear of crime” precisely because the area in which they lived was likely to have higher levels of street crime than the national average. Such fears could not, they argued, be written-off as the irrational or unfounded outcomes of moral panics, for example. To this end, therefore, “The primary aim of the crime survey was to provide a more accurate estimate of the true extent of crime than that provided by the official statistics compiled by the police”.

    3. Crime Victims: They focused on crime victimization and asked about a very narrow range of offences: the first survey, for example, only focused on “crimes of robbery, snatch and pick-pocketing”.

    1st Islington Crime Survey Questionnaire

    4. Crime Prevention: Local crime surveys demonstrated “the impact of victimization and police effectiveness” to agencies concerned with the development of crime reduction / prevention policies.

    The point of this general preamble – aside from I like to think of it as a valuable resume in its own right – is to make you aware that if you want to explore these seminal crime surveys in more detail you now can:

    1st Islington Crime survey

    2nd Islington Crime Survey

    While these artefacts are historically-interesting (or not, depending on your view of Left Realism), the first survey is probably the most-accessible to students because it contains details of the questionnaire and interview schedule used.

    In addition, a new Islington Crime Survey was commissioned in 2016 to replicate the original carried-out 30 years previously and this represents a point of comparison that you may find both useful and interesting:

    Islington Crime Survey 2016 – Part 1

    Islington Crime Survey 2016 – Part 2


    T Jones ; B MacLean; J Young (1986) Islington Crime Survey – Crime, Victimization and Policing in Inner-City London

    The English-Romanian Adoptees Project

    Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

    Between 1967 until his violent overthrow in 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu effectively ruled Romania and under his control the government outlawed abortion for “women under 40 with fewer than four children”. One consequence of this was the abandonment of large numbers of children – estimates are frequently put at around 100,000 – to the country’s orphanages because their parents could not afford to care for them.

    After the fall of Ceausescu, the outcry over the cruel and terrible conditions in these orphanages led to many of the children being adopted by couples in Europe and America – and this is where the English-Romanian Adoptees Project (ERA) comes into play as was the first study to follow a cohort of children who had suffered periods of institutional deprivation through into adult life.

    To their surprise, researchers found that problems experienced by many of the Romanian adoptees were neurodevelopmental, suggesting that deprivation had affected brain development.

    The film, featuring lead researcher Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke, provides a clear introduction to a study that is changing the way we think about deprivation and development.

    The film is available on-demand to buy or as a 7-day rental.

    A Science of Falling in Love?

    Friday, February 25th, 2022

    Poets, historians and philosophers have, for centuries, provided answers to age-old questions like:

  • Why do we fall in love?
  • What makes us fall in love?
  • And what happens to love once the first fiery spike of attraction fades?
  • But more-recently scientists have joined the debate to explore “the brain in love” and this short film, now available to buy or as a 7-day rental, features contributions from Oxford University academic Dr Anna Machin and Laura Mucha, acclaimed author of Love, Factually, as we follow a young couple as they fall into – and out of – love.

    Along the way students are introduced to a range of neuroscientific evidence that can be used to illustrate and explain the addiction, obsession and madness of the condition we call love – and also how and why it frequently evolves into various forms of long-term attachment.

    Making Friends with Methods

    Thursday, February 24th, 2022

    Many students seem to find research methods difficult and, if we’re being honest, a little dry.

    The two conditions may well be related.

    In our selfless – and possibly never-ending – quest to make sociological research methods just a little bit more moist, our latest film builds on our previous efforts (Case Studies, Self Report Methods, Participant Observation and Triangulation) by suggesting how teachers can sell the idea of research methods as transferable concepts built upon the foundation of ideas like representativeness, reliability, validity, subjectivity and objectivity.

    More-generally the film, featuring Dr Patrick White of the University of Leicester, examines the idea of research methods through three key questions:

  • What are research methods?
  • Why do students have to study methods?
  • How can methods be evaluated?
  • The film is available on-demand to buy or to rent.

    Sceptical Sociology: New Media and Digital Nativism

    Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

    Like any scientific endeavour, one of the virtues of sociology is its scepticism – and one area that’s always ripe for a sceptical approach is new media and the various claims made on its behalf.

    One such claim is Prensky’s (2001) concept of the “digital native”, something that has become widely used in both press and public to refer to a generational difference between those (natives) who have grown-up in the digital age and those (immigrants) who came to the digital realm later in life.

  • Natives, in this respect, generally refers to those born in the 1980’s (often labelled millennials, because they broadly came of age around the turn of the new millennium) who have effectively lived their whole lives surrounded by and immersed in digital technologies.
  • Immigrants refers to those born before the widespread development of digital technologies. They are in this respect latecomers to the digital party, even though many will have different levels of experience, confidence and facility with digital technology. Immigrants are, nonetheless, generally portrayed as outsiders in this new digital realm. While they may, for example, “understand the language” of digital tech and speak it relatively fluently, they are not, for Prensky among many others, “native speakers” of this language – with all that this may imply.
  • This distinction is not, on the face of things, too outrageous to contemplate, particularly if writers such as Prensky had simply restricted themselves to observing how this generational difference might be akin to the difference between learning a new language and being a native speaker.

    It may seem plausible, for example, that the digital natives who have grown-up with various forms of digital technology are likely to be much more fluent in its use than their elder(ly) peers.

    Equally, the distinction might involve a range of ways of doing (such as finding your news on social media rather than in newspapers or on television) and being (living your life on Instagram or TikTok, perhaps, or maybe in the soon-to-be unleashed multi-dimensional Facebook metaverse that looks and sounds, to me at least, very much like an unironic Matrix reimagining…) that are qualitatively different in some way. As Prensky, for example, argues, digital immigrants:

  • don’t go to the Internet first for information.
  • print things out as opposed to working on screen.
  • read manuals rather than working things out online.
  • The significance of these qualitative differences for writers such as Prensky (presupposing they actually exist) is, however, a desire to extend them, such that they become the basis for a wide-ranging and fundamental critique of contemporary forms of educational teaching and learning.

    Which, when you stop to think about for a moment, is some stretch of the imagination.

    Undeterred, however, Prensky argues that:

    “It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize. “Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures,“ says Dr Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine…it is very likely that our students’ brains have physically changed – and are different from ours – as a result of how they grew up. But whether or not this is literally true, we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed.”

    Despite the equivocation about whether or not digital natives “have a different brain structure” to their immigrant peers – although if it’s not “literally true” then it’s literally false – the claim they have a different way of thinking lays the ground for a critique of contemporary education systems based on the idea they were designed by and for the digital immigrants of the distant past.

    The upshot of this is an educational disjunction between those who control the education system (digital immigrants) and those who consume it (digital natives) which has resulted in a type of education that is no-longer fit-for-purpose. Educational systems need, in a nutshell, to be reinvented to bring them into line with how digital natives think and learn. Which according to Prensky means:

    Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work. (Does any of this sound familiar?) But Digital Immigrants typically have very little appreciation for these new skills that the Natives have acquired and perfected through years of interaction and practice. These skills are almost totally foreign to the Immigrants, who themselves learned – and so choose to teach – slowly, step-by-step, one thing at a time, individually, and above all, seriously. “My students just don‟t _____ like they used to,” Digital Immigrant educators grouse. I can’t get them to ____ or to ____. They have no appreciation for _____ or _____ . (Fill in the blanks, there are a wide variety of choices”.

    While, as I’ve suggested, the digital natives concept might have some (limited) currency, it’s questionable that it can be extended in the way Prensky claims, for a couple of reasons identified by Helsper and Eynon (2009):

    1. The validity of the generational dimension to digital nativism is open to question. As they argue:

    Those in support of this digital native / immigrant distinction tend to assign broad characteristics (e.g. a specific learning style, amount and type of technology use and / or set of learning preferences) to an entire generation and suggest all young people are expert with technology. Yet, while the proportion of young people who use the Internet and other new technologies is higher than the older population there are significant differences in how and why young people use these new technologies and how effectively they use them”.

    2. The extent to which differences between digital natives and digital immigrants can be explained by age differences rather than differences in class, socialisation, experience and the like is also questionable.

    Moreover, Helsper and Eynon’s research makes a number of observations and draws a range of conclusions about the concept that we can summarise as follows:

    1. “Generation alone does not adequately define if someone is a digital native or not”. There are a range of factors involved here, from class and gender to different levels of learning and experience.

    2. The use of digital technology and media is to some extent age-stratified in the sense younger people:

  • have a greater range of ICTs in their household
  • tend to use the Internet as a first port of call
  • have higher levels of Internet self-efficacy
  • multi-task more
  • use the Internet for fact checking and formal learning activities.
  • use the Internet more
  • are more likely to come from media-rich homes
  • are more confident about their skills
  • are more likely to engage in online learning activities.
  • Despite these differences, however, age alone is neither a sufficient nor necessary explanation. As Helsper and Eynon conclude:

    Generation was not the only significant variable in explaining these activities: gender, education, experience and breadth of use also play a part. Indeed in all cases immersion in a digital environment (i.e. the breadth of activities that people carry out online) tends to be the most important variable in predicting if someone is a digital native in the way they interact with the technology”.

    In this respect they conclude:

    1. While digital natives and immigrants exist in the sense there are notable differences in the extent to which different individuals and social groups are comfortable using digital technology and media they are not “two distinct, dichotomous generations”.

    2. “While there were differences in how generations engaged with the internet there were similarities across generations as well, mainly based on how much experience people had with using technologies”.

    3. Internet use in particular reflects “a continuum of engagement” rather than “a dichotomous divide between users and non-users”. People, in other words, of various ages use the Internet for a wide variety of purposes.

    4. Their research “supports other research that has demonstrated that there are significant differences within cohorts of young people in terms of their preferences, skills and use of new technologies”. Young people are not, in this respect, an “homogeneous generation of digital children”.


    Prensky, Marc (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” parts 1 and 2.

    Helsper, Ellen and Eynon, Rebecca (2009) “Digital natives: where is the evidence?”

    For the Price of a Cup of Tea…

    Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

    You can now get a subscription to Psychology.

    Free Will

    Films that is.

    Every Single One we’ve ever made. Plus all the one’s we’ve yet to make.

    For just £2 a month (or $2.7 if you’re dialling-in from America).

    Granted we’re probably talking about some sort of Speciality Tea here and if we’d stuck to coffee that would have definitely worked.

    For sure.

    But, against that, “The price of a cup of coffee” has been done to death and, as far as we know there’s no Belle and Sebastian tune celebrating the latter. Sort-of. If you’re not really paying attention to the words.

    More importantly, what you currently get for your £2 a month are the following films all neatly categorised as follows:

    Research Methods

    Laboratory Experiments, Experimental Design, Field Experiments, Natural Experiments, Observational Methods, Self Report Studies, Case Study Research,  Correlations, Sampling, Reliability and Validity, Variables, Reductionism


    Ethics and Ethical Issues, Using Non-Human Animals in Research, Ethnocentrism, Socially Sensitive Research, The Usefulness of Psychological Research, Beyond Milgram Obedience and Identity, Beyond Genetics, Rethinking Obesity: Nature via Nurture, Beyond Milgram: Obedience and Identity, Aftershock: Milgram, Obedience and Identity, Mental Illness: A Cage and Freezing Water


    Of Mice and Monkeys: Animal Research in Psychology, Psychology and Science, Nature-Nurture, Determinism and Free Will, Individualistic and Situational Psychology, The Ethics of Abortion, Are You What Your Mother Ate? The Agouti Mouse Study, Loftus and False Memories, Lost in the Mall, The English-Romanian Adoptees Project


    Bowlby and Maternal Deprivation, Ainsworth and the Strange Situation, MindMindedness and Attachment Security, A Science of Falling in Love?


    Why do we sleep?, The structure of sleep, Insomnia Causes and Treatments, Sleep, Memory and learning


    On Being Sane in Insane Places, Offender Profiling, Media and Aggression, Jim Fallon: Natural Born Killer?


    Natural Experiments

    Laboratory Experiments, Field Experiments, Natural Experiments, Experimental Design, Naturalistic Observation, Correlations, Self-Report Methods, Case Studies, Reliability and Validity, Sampling, Variables, Reductionism, Nature-Nurture, Determinism and Free Will, Psychology and Science, Individualistic and Situational Psychology, Ethics, Socially Sensitive Research, The Usefulness of Psychological Research, Ethnocentrism

    How To Films

    Spearman’s Rho, Sign Test, Chi Square Test, Mann-Whitney Test, Probability Tests, Wilcoxen Sign Rank Test

    Most of the films are fairly short – around 5 – 10 minutes – and they’re mainly designed to introduce students to key psychological concepts, theories or methods. Having said that we’ve included a range of revision films and some “How To” films designed to walk students through various mathematical tests. There are also a few longer films that deal with an area or writer in a bit more depth (the work of Milgram and Loftus being cases in point).

    And in case you’re wondering, we’ve gone for a monthly subscription model so you only need to pay for the subscription when you need it.

    If you’re unlikely to use it over the summer months, for example, then you can drop the subscription and pick it up again when you do plan to use it (although since the films are all available On-Demand from any machine – desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile phone. Even your fridge if it’s connected to the Internet. Possibly. We’re not certain about that last one) – you might want to let your students have access to the film library when they’re not in school / college.

    In which case, you can.

    We’re flexible like that.

    BSA Video Resources

    Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

    If my Inbox is any guide – which, of course, it really isn’t – the British Sociological Association has been making a concerted effort recently to “reach-out”, as we say, to A-level Sociology Teachers through their Discover Sociology off-shoot site.

    And by reaching-out I mean adding a steady drip of resources to those already on the site. The latter, in case you’re not familiar with what’s on offer, almost-exclusively consist of annotated commentaries on a variety of topics (Education, Media, Health…). While these are generally interesting the sheer volume of external links to text and video resources produced outside the site means they need to be regularly checked to ensure everything’s working as it should. Which, unfortunately doesn’t always seem to be the case because there are a lot – and by “a lot” I mean more than a few – of broken links dotted throughout the site / resources.

    Finn Mackay

    Be that as it may, the latest stuff to wend itself my way is a series of video resources (although some may quibble over the question of whether or not “five” constitutes “a series”) by some major UK academics. These are, in no particular order:

    Finn Mackay: Feminist theory, feminist activism and radical feminism (13 minutes)

    Grace Davie: Believing without Belonging (9 minutes)

    Louise Archer: Educational inequality (23 minutes)

    Nigel South: Green criminology (19 minutes)

    Louise Ryan: ‘Older Migrants and Changing Relationships to Places Over Time: in Contexts of Brexit and the Windrush Scandal’ (13 minutes)

    Rebecca and Russell Dobash: Domestic Violence (20 minutes)


    Sociology Through Active Learning

    Saturday, January 29th, 2022

    It’s been a while since I last posted any orphaned texts and Sociology Through Active Learning is one I’ve been meaning to post for some time but haven’t managed to get around to it until now.

    Broadly, it’s a text designed to provide teachers with a range of activities to use with their students, both individually and collectively, to help develop the kinds of skills (knowledge, analysis, evaluation – you know the drill) useful to students.

    And by “students” I’ve a strong suspicion the text was originally aimed at an American Undergraduate audience (possibly an introductory (101) undergraduate program).

    Having looked through the various activities, however, there’s not a lot here that can’t be adapted to an A-level / High School audience if any of them take your fancy and you’re looking to add a bit more interest to areas like:

  • Theory and Methods
  • Culture
  • Socialisation, Interaction and Group influence
  • Stratification
  • Organisations, Bureaucracy and Work / Occupations
  • Race and Gender
  • Crime and Deviance
  • Family
  • (more…)

    Pygmalion in the Classroom: Revisited

    Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

    Whether you’re looking generally at Education and Methods in Context or specifically at teacher expectations as an “Inside School” factor in differential achievement, a useful study to have in your locker is Rosenthal and Jacobson’s “Pygmalion in the Classroom” (1965) experiment. Accessible examples of experiments are quite rare in sociology and “Pygmalion” can be cited as either a field or laboratory experiment, depending upon how tightly you define the latter (which is an interesting evaluative point in itself).


    Rosenthal and Jacobson’s research focused on the so-called Pygmalion Effect, named after the mythical Greek sculptor who fell in love with a statue he’d created and which was given life by Aphrodite the goddess of love. A more familiar contemporary version is George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalian (1913), in which Henri Higgins, a professor of phonetics, wagers a colleague that he could transform an uncouth working-class flower-seller (Eliza Doolittle) into someone able to pass as a Duchess in upper-class English society, simply by teaching her how to speak, dress and behave in ways expected by the latter.

    The underlying ideas here are those of transformation and improvement through certain types of interventions. In the Shaw play, for example, these interventions involved an upper-class professor teaching a lower-class woman how to successfully pass herself off as a member of “polite society”, despite her lack of education and “class”.

    Shaw’s basic argument here was that differences in social class were not somehow the result of “natural differences” but rather the outcome of cultural choices and by managing the expectations of significant players – in this imaginary instance the ability to convince Eliza she could develop ways of speaking and acting that would allow her to pass as a member of the upper-class – you create a powerful expectancy effect that brings about the desired transformations and improvements.

    This relates to Rosenthal and Jacobson’s study in the sense that it was designed to test the idea that differences in educational achievement were not simply based on “natural differences” in “intelligence”, measured through success or otherwise in school examinations, but were actually based on the expectations teachers had for their pupils. In other words, they wanted to test whether or not changing the way teachers saw the abilities of their pupils would bring about a change in the measured intelligence of those pupils.

    In order to achieve this Rosenthal and Jacobson, just like their fictional counterpart Henri Higgins, introduced a series of transformations and improvements into selected classrooms through a range of interventions, most-notably those that involved “telling teachers that certain children could be expected to be “growth spurters” (i.e. academic improvers) based on the students’ results on the Harvard Test of lnflected Acquisition” – a respectable-sounding “scientific test” whose existence was entirely fabricated by the researchers.

    In the Classroom.

    As we know “the test was non-existent and those children designated as “‘spurters'” were chosen at random” and what Rosenthal and Jacobson hoped to determine by this “was the degree (if any) to which changes in teacher expectation produce changes in student achievement” – something, we further know, that broadly occurred in relation to both gender and ethnicity: those children who had been randomly identified to teachers as “special children” on the basis of a (non-existent) IQ test did indeed see an increase in their IQ level a few months later.

    The problem here is that while Rosenthal and Jacobson quite-reasonably conclude that “The results of the experiment…provide further evidence that one person’s expectations of another’s behavior (sic) may come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. When teachers expected that certain children would show greater intellectual development, those children did show greater intellectual development”, this is often uncritically expressed as the idea that if teachers expect their students to achieve academically they will (and, by extension, if they don’t, they won’t).

    The problem here, however, is that the research reality is somewhat more nuanced…


    The conclusion usually drawn here is that teacher expectations raised achievement across the board in those students who were “predicted to be spurters”. But this is not the case, as Rosenthal and Jacobson note, because “each group profited more from teachers’ prophecies in the area of intellectual functioning in which they were already a little advantaged”.

    This is an important qualification because it argues expectancy effects are not universal, as evidenced by Rosenthal and Jacobson’s pre-and-post intervention conclusions:

    (Before “special children” were identified)  
    Boys had higher verbal IQ than girls.
    Girls had higher reasoning IQ than boys.  
    (After “special children” were identified)  
    Boys increased their verbal IQ
    Girls increased their reasoning IQ.  

    The progress made by boys and girls wasn’t uniform (universal) across the different subtypes of “intelligence” supposedly being tested:

  • in measures of verbal IQ those boys who began with a higher verbal IQ gained the most.
  • in measures of reasoning IQ, those girls who began with a higher reasoning IQ gained the most.
  • In other words, it was only where the results of the pre-test conformed to general teacher expectations about ability that there were significant post-test increases in IQ.

    The significance of this more-granular breakdown of experimental results is that it suggests is teachers hold graded expectations of different groups, such as boys and girls, rather than necessarily holding an overall picture of the abilities of such broad groups. Where boys, for example, began with a higher baseline set of teacher beliefs about their verbal ability this was the area in which they improved following Rosenthal and Jacobson’s intervention, with the reverse being true for girls and reasoning ability.

    What this demonstrates, therefore, is that expectancy effects are neither uniform nor universal and we can’t simply conclude that “positive labelling”, in-and-of-itself, is a key variable in increased levels of attainment. Rather, the teacher’s underlying beliefs about student ability coupled with an acceptance of the “scientific study’s” ability to identify “bloomer children” seem to be critical variables.

    If, for example, the underlying belief is that girls are better at subject X than boys, the Pygmalion Effect improves female achievement in this specific area. If teachers have no such underlying belief, there is no such effect.

    This is significant because conventional readings of Pygmalion in the Classroom tend to emphasise the idea that teacher expectations (or labelling if you prefer) are the crucial variable in the sense that if teachers have a positive view of their pupil’ abilities (whatever this may actually mean in reality) their pupils will display higher levels of academic achievement (with, as we’ve suggested, the reverse being true by implication).

    Rosenthal and Jacobson were, however, keen to point-out that this simple reading was incorrect when they noted the results of the same basic experiment carried-out at schools with different student intakes.

    In broad terms, while Rosenthal and Jacobson’s original experiment (at “Oak School”) involved pupils drawn from a “lower-class community” with a substantial proportion of “minority-group members”, subsequent experiments at “two elementary schools located in a small Midwestern town” drew their pupils from a mainly “middle-class community” with few minority-group members.

    In the latter case, a similar identification of “special children” not only found “No expectancy advantage for either boys or girls as measured by total IQ or verbal IQ” but also a reversal of the “reasoning results” found at the original (Oak) school:

    (Before “special children” were identified)  
    Boys had higher verbal IQ than girls.
    Girls had higher reasoning IQ than boys.  
    (After “special children” were identified)  
    Boys increased their reasoning IQ
    Girls did not increase their reasoning IQ.  

    Now it was the boys who showed the benefits of favorable (sic) teacher expectations. Those who had been expected to bloom gained over 16 IQ points compared to the less than 9 gained by control-group boys. Among the girls it was the control-group children who gained about 15 IQ points while those of the experimental group gained just over 5”.

    The significance of this reading, therefore, is that while we may be reasonably sure teacher expectations play some role in student achievement, this is neither universal – applicable to “every school in every situation, regardless of intake, class and ethic background and so forth” – nor uniform: expectation outcomes depend to some unknown extent on the initial expectations teachers have about their school and pupils, allied to the social and intellectual qualities of the students involved.

    Crime and Deviance Study Guides

    Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
    Interactionist Study Guide

    The great Crime Clear-Out continues with 3 Study Guides that I probably half-inched at some point from the Queen Elizabeth High School Moodle site (which is okay because whoever put them there – along with some other crime-related bits-and-bobs that might be worth a butcher’s – seems to have got them from Greenhead College).

    From what I can gather the Guides seem to have been created 10 or so years ago (or maybe slightly earlier), a point I mention not because the basic theory and concepts used are out-of-date but because a few of the resources mentioned in the text – particularly a couple of pieces of video – no-longer seem to exist. I have, therefore, edited these references out of the text.

    Aside from this I’ve left everything much as the (unknown) author/s intended, including the references to an equally-unknown textbook / guide, sections of which students are encouraged to read before answering some of the questions. I’ve deliberately left the Guides in Word format so that if you want to use them with your students you can edit / adapt these references accordingly for whatever textbook you use.


    Globalisation and Crime

    Saturday, January 22nd, 2022
    Click to download

    For someone who explicitly rejects the notion of “postmodernity” as it’s conventionally applied in sociology (and elsewhere come to that. I try not to discriminate) I seem to have spent a great deal of my time writing about it in one form of another. This has mainly, I think, been because if it’s a widely-used term you need to address this fact, whether or not you particularly agree with it.

    And so, while clearing-out some of the vast amount of crap materials I seem to have accumulated  over the years for the dual-purpose of both getting shot of it and posting some selected pieces that may-or-may-not prove useful to teacher sand / or students, I came across this particular little gem I put together a few years ago (10 – 12 or so, to be slightly-less-imprecise). This was probably on the basis that AQA (or some such) had decided to spring the topic of globalisation and crime on unsuspecting teachers and I thought it might be helpful to write about it.

    Which indeed I seem to have done. And while I’ve evidently posted it elsewhere, I don’t seem to have ever got around to posting it here. Until now you might be relieved to know.

    Having read this far, you’re probably thinking there needs to be some sort of pay-off for all the effort.  

    And indeed there is, in the shape of this 30-page (more if you count the copious references) pdf booklet entitled Globalisation and Crime.

    For some reason – probably because I felt the concept of globalisation needed quite a bit of explanation at the time – the booklet’s split into two distinctive parts.