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Welcome to the ShortCutstv Blog

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

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

In 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:

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: allows you to filter posts by Sociology, Psychology, Simulations and Toolbox – so if you only want to see Psychology posts (or whatever), this is the filter for you. We’ve also started to create a few sub-categories you might find useful. For example, the main “Sociology” category has sub-categories like “Crime” and “Family”. Selecting one of these sub-categories serves-up a post archive for your selection.

Finally, use the Please Subscribe box to be notified by email each time a new post appears on the Blog. This address is only ever used to send automatic notifications and, because we value your privacy, will never be passed to a third-party.

We like to think we’re better than that.

Sweet Sampling

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

I think it might be fair to say that the idea of teaching different types of sampling using various fruit-flavoured sweets (from Skittles to Jelly Babies / Beans) is one that’s created more relief and rejoicing among Sociology teachers than most other techniques you could name. Although that’s probably not actually saying much, given that I’d be pushed to name more than a couple – including sampling by sweets.

But you get my point.

Which is that although there are now plenty of examples of Sweet Sampling you could use as the basis for a lesson, there’s still the small matter of having to explain the basic ideas involved in various types of sampling before you can actually get to the more-interesting and enjoyable part of the lesson: using sweets as a way of illustrating different types of sampling technique and then eating the evidence.

As you may be aware (he says optimistically, but with no great conviction), I’ve previously posted examples of preparatory Sampling lessons from a variety of sources you might find useful, but I’ve recently come across a very clear, simple and straightforward PowerPoint Presentation by Zainah James that not only illustrates different types of sampling (Simple Random, Stratified Random, Opportunity, Systematic and Volunteer) but includes a concluding section that encourages students to apply their new-found knowledge of sampling using whatever soft, sickly, sweets the teacher makes available.

The only thing I’ve added to the Presentation is a slide on Stratified Quota Sampling to sit alongside the original slide on Stratified Random Sampling.

Because you’re worth it.

Risk Society: Flipbook and Pdf

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

While the Blog version of Risk Society is probably perfectly serviceable as far as it goes, I like to make different versions available when I can and in this respect I’ve put together a couple of alternatives that might be more to your taste.

Risk Society Flipbook
You won’t believe it’s not a real magazine!
Possibly.

The first is a bog-standard pdf version that’s useful if you want to distribute the file offline to your students (or even random strangers you’ve met on social media. I have next to no idea about my potential audience).

The main advantage of this version, aside from the fact it doesn’t require an Internet connection, is that the formatting makes it slightly more accessible than the online WordPress Blog version.

I know I could format the WordPress version to look slightly prettier but it’s something of a faff and I really can’t be bothered don’t have the patience – or skills – to fiddle around with the basic format.

The second is a Flipbook version that’s just like reading an online magazine (no, really), in the sense that you can turn the pages if you want to (probably a good idea, all-things-considered).

I could try to convince you there are a whole bunch of tools available in this version (from searching and annotating the text to bookmarking and sharing) you may find helpful or useful.

But really it all comes down to the fact you can turn the pages.

Just like in a Real Magazine!

Risk Society

Sunday, April 18th, 2021

Beck’s complex and at times convoluted arguments around the concept of Risk Society arguably make it one of the more-difficult theoretical areas to cover at A / High School level. This tends to mean it’s covered in a piecemeal way that focuses on one or two dimensions and manifestations of risk in contemporary societies, while also lumping it into a general “postmodern narrative”.

While this is understandable – many of the ideas and arguments Beck raises around areas like identity or uncertainty have a distinctly postmodern feel to them – one of the key things about Risk Society is how it can be used, among other things, as a criticism of postmodernity and postmodern society.

Key Concepts: Risk Society, 1st and 2nd modernity, Goods and Bads, reflexive modernisation; individualism, institutionalisation of individualism, risk, globalisation, detraditionalisation; organised irresponsibility.

Note: If you’d prefer to read a pdf or Flipbook version of this post, these are now available.

Ulrich Beck (1944 -2015)

There’s a tendency to think about the evolution of human society in linear terms, as a general line of development that flows from something like the primitive to the complex, religion and superstition to science and rationality, ignorance and scarcity to progress and plenty.

Sociologically, this sense of linear development is frequently reflected in the idea of three broad historical epochs, each with their own particular and peculiar developmental characteristics:

1. Pre-modern or feudal societies are predominantly agricultural, local in scope, involve collective identities inherited and fixed at birth, from Noble Lords and Ladies, to lowly Peasants and even lower Serfs, given a sense of order by notions of rights and responsibilities derived from God and generally held together by powerful, organised, religions.

2. Modern or capitalist societies are predominantly industrial societies, national and international in scope, where people develop increasingly individualistic identities centred around work and the workplace and ordered through a democratic politics based around the application of science, rationality and technology.

3. Postmodern or (post-) capitalist societies are predominantly post-industrial, advanced technologically, global in scope, highly-individualistic in terms of identities that form around diffuse lifestyles and increasingly fragmented across categories like class, age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality.

Locating the work of Ulrich Beck into this loose schema appears relatively straightforward given that he talks about contemporary Western societies in terms of concepts like risk, uncertainty, fear and the individualisation of biographies that involve people trying to make sense of their lives and their place in a world cut-adrift from the certainties of modernity: the nation state, stable governments, technological progress that seems to bend nature to its will, community, clearly-defined individual life-courses and the like.

Risk Society

AllSociology Podcasts

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I stumbled across Ben Hewitson’s Sociology Podcasts via his Allsociology Instagram page – the latter’s well worth a look for the free Revision Card Thingies (they’re probably not called that, but it was the best I could come up with) that highlight some key ideas in a-level sociology in a very visual way – and what’s on offer is well worth a listen.

A Revision Card Thingy
(as it must now be Officially Called).

The Podcasts have been going since October 2019 and there are currently 19 episodes available, varying in length from around 30 – 60 minutes depending on the topic. The latter include revision-type discussions on crime and deviance, religion, stratification, social policy, education and family life, but there are also a few that dip into areas like sociology at university, applying sociology to contemporary issues (such as Coronavirus), common student exam mistakes and more.

The podcasts generally consist of Ben taking around different aspects of a topic, either alone or in tandem with fellow sociologist Leanne Symonds, and while this may sound a bit dull, it actually isn’t. The two presenters work well with each other, bouncing ideas around, with one or the other able to chip-in when the threat of dead air raises its ugly little head. Which, somewhat surprisingly given the fact each podcast is done, as it says on the tin, in “1 Take” (i.e. no editing), doesn’t seem to happen very often, if at all (you’ll have to listen to find out…).

The format’s fun, occasionally funny and generally informative – I found myself happily listening to the full 40 minutes of Episode 17 on Crime and Deviance that covered definitions of crime and deviance, the social construction of crime / situational deviance, the criminal justice system, white collar crime, green crime and more.

And given that I’m definitely not the target audience (that would be a-level sociology students) the format’s clearly got something going for it.

So, if you’re in the market for pointing your students in the direction of some free, revision-type, information, the podcasts are broadcast on Spotify (although there are plenty of other options available) and while you can sign-up to the service if you want – you’re probably aware there’s a free version “supported by advertising” – there’s no obligation to do so.

Which is nice.

Using PowerPoint Speaker Notes on Zoom

Saturday, April 10th, 2021
PowerPoint Presenter View…

One problem – not admittedly the greatest problem you’re likely to face, but a problem nonetheless – for any teacher who wants to take their students through a PowerPoint Presentation on Zoom is the fact students see on their screens exactly what the teacher sees.

And while you can use PowerPoint’s Presenter View to hide all the general background stuff that goes into creating your Presentation you don’t particularly want your audience to see, Presenter View on Zoom also hides this from you.

So, if you’re using Speaker Notes to walk students through each slide you need to have them prepared separately from the Presentation because otherwise you won’t be able to see them.

And that’s not ideal.

Similarly, Presenter View on a single monitor doesn’t allow you see the next slide in a Presentation so you need to be very familiar with the slides you’re presenting in order to ensure you maintain the fiction you know exactly what you’re doing.

Or something.

If you want to resolve this problem, it’s not difficult and this video will walk you through the process.

Reflective Revision Diaries

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

A Reflective Revision Diary is a way to organise student revision: to make it more manageable and, with a bit of effort and dedication, easier, less boring and consequently more effective.

Diary Templates

Although ideas about revision – what it involves and how to do it – have generally moved-on over the past 25 years or so, one idea that has tended to persist is when to revise.

For most students (and probably teachers too) “revision” is something that’s (reluctantly) done between the end of a course and the start of their exams. For A-level students this optimistically means 9 – 12 weeks to revise 3 subjects that have been studied for 2 years. In Sociology, for example, this may come down to 3 weeks to revise 6 modules.

This, by any stretch, is a lot of work.

And too much work + too little time leads to the adoption of revision techniques – such as passively reading through folders of Notes – that take the path of least resistance. They give the impression of covering the required work while not being particularly effective as a way of actually remembering stuff. Which, when all’s-said-and-done, is probably the point.

One way to resolve this problem is that rather than condensing a large amount of work into a small amount of time is to spread revision out over the duration of the course. In other words, to encourage students to start their revision at the start of their course and carry it through until the end of the course. At this point they’ll already have done two year’s worth of revision for A-level and they can use the time until the start of the exam much more productively polishing-up on what they already (mostly) know rather than trying to relearn something they did 18 months ago and haven’t looked-at since.

In a nutshell, the idea here is that when it comes to revision “little and often” pays much higher dividends than “a lot all at once”.

To understand this involves grasping a couple of important ideas:

Firstly, the need to change how teachers and students perceive the status of revision: to see it as an integral part of day-to-day teaching and learning rather than something discrete tacked-on at the end of the course once official teaching is over.

Secondly, the need to operationalise this idea through a coherent and consistent approach to the place of revision in the curriculum. In other words, just as general teaching is organised in particular ways to help students grasp key ideas, revision needs to be integrated into the teaching programme as part of the daily routine.

Both of these ideas involve teachers and students working together to develop an organised approach to revision.

And this is where a Revision Diary could help.

Revision Diaries…

Homework Grid

Sunday, April 4th, 2021
Blank Homework Grid

While the idea of offering students a choice of homework – sometimes quite literally from a Homework Menu or, more-creatively still, in a gamified form – isn’t particularly new there’s always room for variations around this basic principle – and this is where the Homework Grid [hgrid.pdf] might conceivably find a small gap in the competitive homework market.

Preparation

The basic prep involves loading each blank Homework Grid with a range of 1 – 10 mark questions (you can, of course, change this to whatever suits you best). These are coloured-coded (because of course they are) and I’ve included the code with the template (red squares, for example are 10-mark questions).

Each Grid you create can reflect a whole course (e.g. Sociology), a specific module (e.g. Crime and Deviance), a topic within a module (e.g. Theories of Crime) or whatever arrangement best fits your homework schedule / preferences.

Set a “total question” score for each Grid. For the sake of illustration, I’ve suggested 30 marks for the blank specimen grid I’ve created i.e. students must answer questions worth 30 or more marks in total for any given piece of homework. You can vary this number depending on how often you set homework and any changes you make in the marks for each question type on a Grid.

How to use the Grid

Digital Optimism vs Digital Pessimism

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Whatever your views on whether we should be broadly optimistic about the development of digital technologies, such as the Internet and mobile computing, or view them with varying levels of pessimism, it would be helpful, teaching-wise, if someone put together a useful summary of these two opposed schools of thought.

Digital Optimism or Digital Pessimism?

Luckily for us that’s just what Adam Thierer did (albeit in 2010 – so you might want to consider if there’s anything that needs adding to the list). To help you out, because I’m nice like that, I’ve appended a few ideas of my own that you might want to consider.

Alternatively, you might want to add your own ideas, or encourage your students to research possible updates. The choices here are limitless (presupposing your concept of “limitless” extends to “probably one or two”).

The first table (Table 1) reproduced below is taken from a much longer article that’s worth a read if you have the time and inclination. It develops some of the ideas listed below and puts them into an historical context, starting with the Web 1.0 Granddaddy-of-all-debates between Nicholas Negroponte and Neil Postman in the early 1990’s. It’s fairly student-friendly and there’s a useful section that frames the debate in a general cultural context while summarising some of the main arguments.

Click here If you’re optimistic about the next bit, otherwise I wouldn’t bother…

Media Effects: A New Digital 2-Step?

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Of the four main models of media effects that developed predominantly in the latter part of the 20th century and are conventionally taught in a-level sociology, three have in their different ways managed to carve-out varying degrees of theoretical relevance in the 21st century:

  • The Hypodermic Syringe model has, for example, swivelled to focus on the idea of “vulnerable individuals and groups”, particularly children and the elderly, and the damages caused by exposure to various forms of digital media.
  • Uses and gratifications has focused on how the explosion of digital – particularly but not exclusively social – media has led to a new emphasis on understanding both how people use media for individual and cultural ends and the various gratifications they receive through such media (such as new friendships, access to much wider pools of news, information and the like.
  • Cultural effects has evolved to look at the development of different forms of media narrative and how different groups switch into and out of these narratives to fashion their own particular understanding of the world through, for example, social media.
  • The 2-Step Flow model, however, seems irredeemably trapped in a media and cultural landscape – late 20th century modernity – that seems to have consigned it to the scarp-heap of irrelevancy in the 21st century digital world.

    New research into how information can originate and spread across social media, however, may just have given the general model a new lease of life for a-level sociologists…

    Going with the (2-Step) Flow…

    The conventional way of seeing the 2-Step Flow model is as an example of a diffusion theory of media, one that broadly argues messages that originate in the media are received by audiences in two main ways:

  • Directly, by personally viewing a TV broadcast or a newspaper report, for example.
  • Indirectly, through various means, such as interaction with those who received the message directly, through other media sources reporting the original message and the like.
  • In this respect, Katz and Lazarfield (1955) argued media messages flowed in two distinct steps:

    1. From the media to opinion formers: people who directly received a message, were interested enough to want to relay it to others and influential enough for others to take the message on board.

    2. From opinion formers to a mass audience: most people, in other words, received the original media message in a form mediated through influential people in the primary groups to which they belonged (such as family, friends and co-workers).

    While the broad ideas underpinning 2-Step Flow – a theory of communication that stressed the significance of active audiences, allied to a recognition of the “importance of informal, interpersonal relations” in understanding media effects – still had some basic resonance at the end of the last century, significant cultural shifts in the early 21st century seemingly served to render the basic model somewhat redundant.

    Although the theory was interesting for its time, it was also of its time: a theoretical representation of a media and wider-cultural landscape that was broadly unchanging, hierarchical and closed to all but a relatively small, wealthy and privileged, elite.

    In other words, the theory made some sense when both access to and control over the media was tightly-controlled and hugely-restricted – in Britain in the 1950’s, for example, there were two national TV stations, one owned by the State, that broadcast for a few hours each evening, a small number of radio stations operated by the State-run BBC, a dozen or so newspapers that broadly reflected a similar, consensual, view of British society and so forth – but made much less sense in a contemporary mediascape where media access was both loosely-controlled and widely-available thanks to the development and growth of the Internet and various forms of social media.

    Second Life?

    Somewhat ironically perhaps, more-recent shifts in the political and cultural landscape – particularly in countries like America and, to a slightly-lesser extent, Britain – may have given the 2-Step Flow model a new lease of critical life as far as a-level media sociology is concerned.

    In the face of contemporary developments in media technology, one line of criticism of the 4 traditional models of media effects has been their tendency to rest on an over-differentiation between “the media” and “the audience”, such that the two are both separate and distinct in terms of structure and role. The media, for example, broadcasts messages and the audience receive and interpret them passively or, in some cases, actively. Critics of these conventional models argue this no-longer holds true for a mediascape dominated by social media where broadcaster and receiver are frequently interchangeable.

    The basic argument here is that because modern social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, provide free and open access to all content generators this creates flat user spaces that are broadly “democratic”, in the sense that no one user-voice is unduly privileged over any other; each user-voice, in other words, competes in a democratic market place to be heard.

    This does, however, beg the question of the extent to which such characterisations are themselves guilty of under-differentiating media and audience, in the sense of arguing they are one and the same. If social media, for example, is reconceptualised as a hierarchical rather than flat space it follows that some users will be able to generate and spread content in ways that mimic more-traditional forms of media / audience differentiation. If this is the case it’s possible to theorise how a broad modification of the basic 2-Step Flow model can be applied to understand a particular, distinctive and contemporary form of media effect.

    In their original characterisation, Katz and Lazerfield argued the key element in the concept of a 2-Step Flow of mediated information was an audience’s involvement in primary social groups where media messages were discussed.

    The key difference between a traditional 2-Step Flow and a modified version is that “the media organisation” (such as a newspaper) is replaced by a “new media agent” – an influential originator of media messages on, say, a social media platform, that are then disseminated to a highly-receptive audience of followers. Receptive followers, in turn, disseminate such messages to a less-involved, but still broadly receptive, wider audience and to understand how and why this works, consider the following example:

    Dwoskin (2021) details a study undertaken by Facebook looking at the prevalence and spread of “vaccine hesitant beliefs” among users on the platform. It involved “dividing users, groups and pages into 638 ‘population segments’”, where each could potentially cover 3 million users. This meant “the study could examine the activity of more than 1 billion people” – a huge sample size by any measure.

    The platform could accurately follow how information was published and republished (“shared”) by specific users / groups because of the way it tracks user behaviour (both on and off the platform – Facebook likes to know where users go once they leave): each and every “like” or “share” made by any given user is, for example, recorded and tracked which means it was possible to understand how information about, in this instance, Covid-19 vaccines, was liked and shared.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the research was the finding that 50% of the “vaccine hesitant” content (a euphemism for varying degrees of vaccine-antagonism, from conspiracy theories about mind control to simply being unsure if the vaccine had been properly tested) shared on the platform originated from “just 10 of the 600+ population segments”.

    Within this small subset “just over 100 users contributed 50% of all vaccine hesitant content”.

    The significance of this research is that it suggests a process very similar to the conventional 2-Step Flow of media information, albeit one modified to take account of the fact that those originating / initially sharing content were platform users themselves, rather than media organisations:

  • Step 1: A relatively small number of users (“opinion formers”) create the vast majority of information – either by parcelling-up and promoting existing information or by simply providing an opinion –  that is then:
  • Step 2: Picked-up and shared by-and-to a very large number of (highly-receptive) users who, in turn, dissipate such information across a wide range of less-receptive users.
  • In this instance, therefore, the process involves Step 1 influencers / opinion formers selecting information about covid-19 vaccines from the vast amount – both true and false – generated around the world and presenting it to their followers as “factual” (even where it is objectively false).

    Step 2 involves followers taking and generally accepting this (highly-partial) information and then passing it on to others by sharing the information.

    While Facebook is just one of a number of platforms (albeit the largest), the Election Integrity Project found a similar process at work across a range of other social media (such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok).

    As Dwoskin notes: “The results from Facebook’s research track with findings from disinformation researchers, who have pointed that a small minority of people, particularly influencers and people who post frequently…can have an outsize impact on the conversation and act as super-spreaders of…information.”

    What this research tentatively suggests, therefore, is that although the traditional 2-Step Flow model, as elaborated by writers such as Katz and Lazerfield, may have had its day, a similar 2-Step (Digital) Flow may have some limited (exam) currency in highly-specific media contexts. This is particularly true for hierarchical social media platforms such as Twitter, that allow verified users (so-called “blue tick” users) to display the fact they “are who they say they are” to others on the platform, thereby increasing their status as opinion formers in the eyes of different types of follower.

    Media Matters: Some Free Texts

    Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

    All of the stuff on offer here is what I’d generally call “Texts for Teachers” in the sense they’re likely to appeal – in all or more-likely part – to anyone teaching the sociology of the media. None are what I’d classify as “Media Sociology” texts, per se, but all in their different ways can be plundered for information that could be relevant to a-level / high school sociology – from simple reference material on stuff like media effects and audiences to more-specialised material on media violence and digital sociology.

    Textbooks

    Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication (2010): Released under a Creative Commons licence, which basically means you’re free to copy it, this text covers many different aspects of Media and Mass Communication (film, magazines, newspapers and the like) as well as looking at stuff like media ethics, the development of new technologies, media censorship and so forth. Of most interest to sociology teachers and students will probably be the chapters covering popular culture and media effects – but it’s an interesting read overall.

    Key Themes in Media Theory (2007): If you want to get up-to-speed on a range of media theory – from the classic (2-step flow…) through the contemporary (various forms of postmodernism) to the culturally consumerist (Fiske, Bourdieu…) this may well help you out.

    Understanding Violence: Contexts and Portrayals (2009): Pretty much everything – and then some more besides – you’d ever want to know about violence and the media covered in a wide range of discrete chapters you may want to dip into and out of.

    The SAGE Dictionary of Cultural Studies (2004): If you need concise definitions of media terms (from active audience to media values) or potted histories of media theorists (Habermas, Hebdige, Hall, Haraway – other letters of the alphabet are available) this is a useful place to begin.

    Communication, Cultural and Media Studies (2002): In a similar vein, the focus here is on Key Media Concepts (including things like culture, cultural capital, popular culture plus a whole load of other stuff that’s less-likely to be of interest to sociologists). Each Key Concept is explained at varying, if usually reasonable, length.

    Media Studies 101 (2018): Another textbook released under a Creative Commons licence, this is both more-tightly focused on “Media Studies” than “Media Sociology” and aimed at a first-year undergraduate (American) audience. While most of the material isn’t particularly relevant to a-level teaching (unless you’re into critical dissections of Habermas), there’s plenty here on things like Audiences and Effects you might find useful.

    Media, Society, Culture and You (2018): A relatively short (100+ pages) media text released under a Creative Commons licence that is not so much a media textbook as an interesting, fairly chatty, trawl through a range of media-related ideas, concepts and theories. Probably better filed under the heading of “an interesting and informative read” than “a textbook that’s going to get someone through an exam”. Although you never know.

    Chapters

    Perceptions of Media and Media Effects (2013): This chapter, unceremoniously ripped (probably) from the virtual pages of the massive “International Encyclopedia (sic) of Media Studies” offers a slightly-different take on standard “media effects” theories by outlining three broad theories (mainly, but not exclusively, with a definite psychological derivation) you might find useful and interesting: audience trust, hostile media and perceived media models.

    Introducing Digital Sociology (2013): A chapter that eventually found its way into “Public Sociology: An Introduction to Australian Society”, Deborah Lupton provides an interesting, if not always very accessible, introduction to “digital sociology”, including a useful section on the digital optimism / pessimism debate.

    Gender, Race and Media Representation: Quite an advanced text with a focus on a range of theoretical explanations for different forms of racial representation in North America.

    Gender Stereotypes: Masculinity and Femininity (2004): An interesting trawl through a wide-range of masculine and feminine media stereotypes from which it’s possible to derive a whole shed-load of interesting ideas about how masculinity and femininity has been variously represented over the past 50 or so years.

    The (Social) Magic of Sport?

    Friday, March 19th, 2021

    This Lesson Outline uses the analogy of top-level sporting achievement – and the economic, cultural and social resources needed to reach this level – to encourage students to understand and apply concepts of economic, cultural and social capital to explain how and why apparently “individualistic explanations” of behaviour can be more-coherently explained sociologically.

    This is particularly useful to demonstrate how apparently “natural” individual attributes – such as sporting ability – invariably involve underlying social inequalities.

    As a bonus, the Outline can also be used to introduce Bourdieu’s concept of social magic.

    For many Modules in Sociology you will, at some point, invariably find yourself contrasting “naturalistic” explanations of behaviour with socio-cultural explanations:

  • family life – domestic labour as “natural” to women.
  • education – some children are just “naturally” more intelligent than others
  • social inequality – some people are born to be more successful than others
  • crime – some people are naturally predisposed to break the rules.
  • While contemporary sociologists are probably not as wedded to the kind of cultural determinism you find in some textbooks – there is clearly some interplay between the physical (biological, genetic) and social environments across a range of behaviours – it’s useful to be able to demonstrate how and why cultural factors have a massive part to play in explaining people’s behaviour.

    In this respect it makes sense to encourage students to explore how and why social factors underpin and influence apparently natural behaviours – and to do this in a way that can be repeatedly applied whenever they’re confronted by the claim that this-or-that behaviour is explicable by purely “natural” factors.

    In order to do this, this Lesson Outline uses an example of behaviour that appears to be wholly-natural – playing top-level (international) professional sport – to demonstrate how a variety of social factors have crucial roles to play in explaining how and why people come to play sport at this level.

    Lesson Outline…

    Gender and Subject Choice: Archer et al (2013)

    Monday, March 15th, 2021

    The relationship between gender and subject choice in post-16 UK education is both persistent and well-known and has produced a range of explanations – some sociological, some not (Skelton et al (2007), for example, note the widespread belief  ‘natural’ differences – babies are born with an inbuilt biological and / or genetic predilection – “push boys and girls towards some curriculum subjects whilst avoiding others” or the argument “boys and girls have different brain structures that result in their gender differentiated skills and abilities”).

    Is “science” associated with a specific (and unappealing) type of masculinity?

    Most recent sociological analysis, however, has tended to focus on gender identities and how concepts of masculinity and femininity, constructed and reconstructed inside and outside the classroom in a reflexive way (how personal identities are influenced and shaped by social identities), contribute to gendered subject choices – and this research is another useful and accessible contribution to the debate.

    Methods

    Analysis was based on the ASPIRES project, “a five-year, longitudinal exploration of science aspirations and career choice among 10–14-year-olds in England”. This involved:

  • a quantitative online survey administered to a sample of over 9000 10/11-year-old students with subsequent phases at ages 12 and 14
  • in-depth, repeat interviews with pupils at age 10/11; 12/13 and 13/14).
  • in-depth interviews with their parents (once when their children are 10/11 and again at 13/14).
  • over 10,000 students from 279 schools (248 state schools; 31 independent schools) completed the questionnaire between October and December 2009. Subsequent surveys took place in autumn 2011 and autumn 2012). After data-cleansing, this left 9319 students in the sample.
  • the sample represented all regions of the country and was roughly proportional to the overall national distribution of schools in England by attainment and proportion of students eligible for free school meals.
  • the completed surveys comprised 51% boys and 49% girls. Ethnically, 75% were white, 9% Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi heritage), 8% Black (Black African, Black Caribbean), 1 % Far Eastern, 7% mixed or other.
  • The survey asked about:
  • aspirations in science
  • attitudes towards school science
  • self-concept in science
  • images of scientists
  • participation in science-related activities outside school
  • parental expectations
  • parental school involvement
  • parental attitudes towards science
  • peer attitudes towards school and towards school science.
  • Selected Findings

    Gender and Educational Achievement

    Friday, March 12th, 2021
    Download Pdf Copy

    A month or so ago I posted a 2004 resource (Gender in Education 3 – 19: A Fresh Approach) in which a range of well-known UK Education writers looked at different aspects and dimensions of gendered education and I thought it might be useful to follow this up with a slightly-later Report by Skelton, Francis and Valkanova (2007) looking at the same general area in a slightly different way.

    The main focus of “Breaking down the stereotypes: gender and achievement in schools” is the idea of developing “strategies to address inequalities in gender and education”, and while this section of the Report is interesting and thought-provoking, the parts that are most-likely to prove useful for teachers and students are those dealing with:

    1. Explanations for differences in achievement, which involves brief overviews and criticisms of explanations based on:

  • ‘Natural’ differences
  • Different learning styles
  • Feminisation of schools
  • Assessment procedures
  • Pupils’ construction of gender.
  • The overviews / evaluation represent a good opportunity to refresh your teaching notes on these topics. Alternatively, they’re a fairly straightforward way for your students to make their own notes.

    2. Statistics on achievement relating to both age groups (early years, primary and secondary) and cultural groups (gender, class and ethnicity). Although these are obviously a little dated now you should find them useful for comparative purposes.

    More generally you’ll also find useful and helpful information on concepts like the “gender gap”, subject choice, laddishness, gender stereotypes and the like.

    Sociology Revision Blasts

    Thursday, March 11th, 2021

    Having girded my loins, as you do, for this set of Tutur2U GCSE and A-level Revision videos I was quite prepared to be met with a series of “worthy-but-a-little-dull” screencasts that used a “Podcasts with Pictures” format to talk students through a range of sociological topics.

    Chatty. And Definitely Not Dull.

    In other words, someone talking over and around a series of static screens that, by-and-large, mirror whatever the narrator is saying.

    Some see this as reinforcement.

    Some see this as redundancy.

    You pays your money. Or not, in this case, because the screencasts are free (but you probably get the drift).

    Anyway, I digress.

    What we actually have here are a set of recorded webinars, featuring between 2 and 4 presenters, that run for around 40 – 45 minutes. Being a webinar, there’s also an (unseen) audience of students whose main role is to answer a wide range of different types of “revision-style questions” (multiple-choice, connecting walls, 30-second challenges and so forth) set by the presenters.

    Against all my, admittedly quite low, initial expectations I found the whole thing great fun, engaging and informative.

    This was helped, in no small measure, by the personable and chatty presenters who chivvied the unseen students into answering the on-screen questions and then provided a useful commentary on why they were (mostly) right and how this all connected to answering different types of exam question.

    While you’ll probably have to look through the webinars to see if the information tested fits with your current teaching – it’s mostly fairly generic stuff you’ll find in most GCSE / A-level textbooks, but there may be examples and references you’ve not taught or used alternatives for with your students – I think you’ll find them a really engaging way to mix-up revision sessions with your students, particularly if you’re teaching on-line.

    Webinars

    Podcasts with Pictures: Evaluating Sociological Research Methods

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

    Alexandra Sugden’s YouTube Channel contains a load of online lectures, for both GCSE and A-level, covering areas like crime and deviance, education, sociological theory, research methods and a tiny bit of religion.

    The Channel’s well worth a visit and a watch if you have the time and inclination and, as with many of the other Channels I’ve featured from time to time on this blog, what’s on offer is basically Podcasts with Pictures.

    Alexandra talks students through a range of information using static, illustrative, material that reflects and reinforces what’s being said.

    The lectures range in length from the “really short” at around 7 minutes to the significantly longer that can last upwards of 30 – 35 minutes. Although this can be quite a long time for a student to concentrate – either in the classroom or online – I found the tone of each lecture sufficiently confident and chatty to hold my attention. Others may not be as determined or dedicated, however, so if you want to use the lectures it may be useful to check them out beforehand so you can direct students to particular sections if necessary.

    In addition to the straightforward lesson content lectures there are a range of revision / exam-preparation films covering things like how to answer different types of question, how to revise using the Revision Clock method and, something that particularly caught my attention for some reason, how to evaluate sociological research methods using the PERVERT mnemonic.

    This, if you’re not familiar with it, is a 7-point checklist (Practical, Ethical, etc.) students can apply to a research methods question that helps them cover all the major knowledge, interpretation and evaluation points. The lecture covers each of the Pervert Points in turn, using examples to illustrate where necessary. Some (such as ethics) are covered in greater detail and more-comprehensively than others (such as validity).

    As with all such materials it’s possible to be picky about the information they contain (“validity”, for example, is not really about “truth” in research, while, in relation to a different lecture I watched on Broken Windows, Zimbardo’s 1969 “Anonymity of Place” experiment logically couldn’t have been about “testing Broken Windows” – a theory developed in 1982…) but as long as you’re on hand to correct any possible misconceptions all should be well.

    Otherwise, the lecture is around 11 minutes long, so probably just enough time to make a cup of coffee while your students Zoom-view the content.

    Realism and Crime | Animated

    Monday, March 8th, 2021
    Gone. In 60 seconds…

    The 4th and final (maybe for the time-being) animated crime film in the short series that includes versions of Strain Theory, Interactionism and Marxism, all presented in just 60 seconds.

    Realist approaches identifies a number of key ideas about this general orientation towards understanding crime, from its victim-centred focus to its emphasis on crime prevention as a way of reducing the impact crime has on both the individual and society.

    And if you’re in the market for more crime films, have a look around the Crime section on our site.

    One-Minute Marxism and Crime | An Animated Film

    Saturday, March 6th, 2021
    Marxism. In a minute.

    While the main focus of our collective energies is on the day-to-day production of psychology and sociology films for the A-level / High School market across the globe, we like, from time-to-time, to have a little play around with different ideas and formats – one of which was the “Just-A-Minute”

    Crime films that you can find on my YouTube Channel, along with a whole lot more free films and trailers.

    Trailers mostly, if I’m being honest.

    But also free films:

  • Strain Theory
  • Interactionism
  • Realism
  • Marxism
  • These, as you probably won’t be too surprised to learn, aimed to provide a quick, if understandably basic, overview of these four ideas in-or-around 60 seconds. I then got to thinking about how these films might look animated. As you do.

    Anyway, one injudicious application of an animation filter later, I came-up with cartoonised versions of the Strain and Interactionism films and exhausted from my labours (or I just forgot about them. One of the two) I neglected to cartoonise the others.

    Until now – or at least when you can now marvel (pun sort-of intended) at Marxism and Crime: The Animated Version.

    Realism, as is so often the case where I’m concerned, will have to wait.

    Sociology Podcasts: Theory for 10@10

    Friday, March 5th, 2021
    PowerPoint Activity

    This is a set of podcasts, plus associated supporting material (such as PowerPoint Presentations that summarise key ideas and throw-in a few student activities for good measure), created by Liz Beaven and Andy Leach from Sociology Support that are being given-away for absolutely no money (although you do have to go through a fairly-painless Checkout process to get them).

    Podcasts…

    Using Analogies: How Inequalities Create Inequality

    Sunday, February 28th, 2021

    This Lesson Outline is designed (yes, really) as a kind of skeleton structure you can flesh-out with ideas and information as and how you see fit. In other words, while it provides a basic structure for a lesson it doesn’t necessarily tell you what to teach, which means it’s not something you can just take off-the-shelf and use “as is”. Having said that, it does make for something that’s adaptable to a range of different lessons.

    Most, admittedly, centred around notions of poverty and social inequality, but, hey, you can’t have everything.

    Preamble…

    I’ve previously drawn attention to the usefulness of analogies in sociology teaching (Using Analogies in Sociology, Teaching Perspectives: Society is Like, Different types of Society), most-latterly in relation to how we can think about social mobility, moving away from a conventional “ladder analogy” towards one – climbing a mountain – that I think better reflects both the daily reality of social mobility and how it can be conceptualised for students in terms of both:

  • social action: the idea that mobility can have an individual dimension, one that reflects, for example, both the ability to rise above different types and degrees of disadvantage through a single-minded determination to succeed (upward mobility) or the inability to exploit the advantages of a privileged family and background (downward mobility).
  • This dimension, while important to keep in mind because it reflects the idea of individuals struggling to come-to-terms with – and sometimes overcoming – the problems created by societal forces largely beyond their individual ability to control, leads into the concept of:

  • social structures: the idea there are social forces surrounding the individual that place barriers in the path of their mobility, or indeed open-up gateways to such mobility. These forces – economic, political and cultural – can be brought to life for students through the mountain-climbing analogy.
  • This dimension is important because concepts like social mobility, poverty and social inequality are frequently conceptualised in our culture in terms of “individuals” standing-apart in glorious isolation from the economic, political and cultural backgrounds against which their lives are framed. These concepts, in other words, are frequently individualised – lack of mobility or poverty, for example, is framed in terms of individual failings – and the role of social structures systematically downplayed.

    We can see this most clearly in relation to the “ladder analogy” of social mobility, where “the ladder” is simply conceived as a neutral mechanism for climbing up-or-down the social scale – and since it neither hinders nor facilitates mobility, the ability to climb up or down is reduced to something like individual determination or motivation.

    If we replace this with a more realistic “mountain analogy” the reverse is true: movement up-or-down the social scale is hindered, blocked or facilitated by a wide range of structural factors – and this is where we can develop the analogy slightly to take-in concepts of poverty and social inequality.

    And to understand how this occurs we can use the analogy to construct a couple of thought experiments that can be carried-out either face-to-face in a classroom or, particularly useful in these Covid times, online.

    Setting the Scene…

    Would You Rather?

    Sunday, February 21st, 2021

    Would You Rather?” is a simple word game that involves students making a choice between two (or more) opposed choices that’s not only simple to describe, construct and run but also has the really big plus, as far as teachers are concerned, of encouraging students to think about ideas and information and make choices about them – something that has the extra advantage of helping students carry-out evaluation without necessarily realising that’s what they’re doing.

    And because it requires no pre-preparation it can be played anywhere – online or in the classroom – and at any time during a lesson (although you may find it works most effectively after you’ve introduced / explained two or more opposing ideas).

    How To Play

    The teacher poses a simple question that always has the format:

    Would you rather be “X” or “Y” (or, if you want to make things a little more complicated and interesting, “Z”).

    For example, if you’ve been teaching something like research methodology in sociology you could ask the question:

    “Would you rather be a positivist or an interpretivist?”

    If you have a small class you can give your students 5 – 10 minutes (or whatever suits your purpose best) to consider:

    1. Which answer they want to choose.

    2. Their reasons for choosing that answer: these can be positive (“I would rather be a positivist because…”) negative – “I would rather not be a positivist because…” – or a combination of the two.

    At the end of the allotted time you then bring the class together to discuss “What they would rather be” and, most-importantly, “Why they would rather be it” (the very useful evaluative part of the equation).

    If you have a large class there’s nothing to stop you running the game as above, but a variation here is to give your students a few minutes to think about which they would rather be (a positivist or an interpretivist) and then get them to form small groups based on their choice (for example, a group of “positivists” and a group of “interpretivists” or, if you have a really large class, 2 or 3 small groups of each).

    At the end of the allotted time you can again bring the groups together for a class debrief.

    As the teacher, whether playing online or offline, your role is one of offering encouragement and guidance to individuals and / or groups as and if necessary – to clarify or explain any points students might raise during the game, for example. At the end of the game, in the discussion phase, you would run it as you would run any class discussion – summarising different viewpoints, pushing for further elaboration / justification / explanation or whatever.

    The beauty of this game, apart from its elegant simplicity, is that it encourages your students to not only assimilate the stuff you’ve taught (which is obviously important) but also to engage in some higher-order thinking:

    They have to:

  • make decisions (“I would rather be…”)
  • evaluate their reasons for making those decisions (consider the pros and cons of their choices)
  • justify their decisions (“I would rather be…because…”).
  • draw conclusions based on the evidence that’s been presented (after the class has come together to discuss their arguments for and against).
  • Going a Step Further…

    Although the above describes a relatively simple “Either / Or” session once students have got the hang of what you’re asking them to do you can, if necessary, develop the game to add a few further layers of complexity. This might, for example, involve:

    1. Providing more than two options (such as Positivist / Interpretivst and Realist in the above example).

    2. Providing a context to their decision. For example, if you were teaching research methods in sociology a “question with context” might involve asking:

    “Would you rather use a questionnaire or participant observation to study criminal behaviour?”.

    3. Asking more-general questions that aren’t necessarily focused tightly on a Specification but which may nevertheless contribute something towards the general understanding of a topic and, most importantly, encourage the generic development of evaluations skills…

    And Finally…

    Although the example I’ve used here is drawn from Sociology there’s absolutely nothing in the above that precludes Psychology teachers (or indeed teachers of any subject) using “Would You Rather?” in their classroom.

    Or video monitor come to that.

    Gender in Education 3 – 19: A Fresh Approach

    Saturday, February 20th, 2021

    Gender and Education” consists of “a spectrum of views commissioned and published by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers” and while it was published in 2004 many of the ideas, themes and concepts discussed are still, as you might expect, extant in contemporary Sociologies of Education.

    In the main the articles – there are 10 in all – are:

    Click to download…
  • fairly short (7 – 8 pages),
  • reasonably accessible to a-level students,
  • written by academics who’ve subsequently become some of the most well-known and significant writers in UK education (such as, David Gillborn, Louise Archer, Heidi Mirza, Stephen Gorad and Becky Francis)
  • cover various aspects and dimensions of gendered education.
  • The articles include materials that feed directly into the A-level Specification – the gendered curriculum, gendered subject choices, intersections of class, race and gender and their impact on attainment – as well as those that might be considered more-tangentially perhaps: this might include things like discussion of gender and learning styles (one, as you might expect, that’s a lot more nuanced than the usual uncritical acceptance of style differences), classroom interaction and the uses of gendered spaces and school exclusions.

    While, as I’ve noted, you need to be aware this material was published 17 – 18 years ago there’s definitely stuff here that can contribute to our understanding of contemporary education differences and inequalities – either as a background resource for teachers to select and present to students or as material that can be given directly to students as a way of encouraging them to read more-widely.

    It can also, of course, be used as a comparative resource to assess the extent to which gendered forms of education in Britain have changed.

    Or not as the case may be.

    Groundhog Day and the Psychology of Happiness

    Friday, February 19th, 2021
    Cheer up. It might never…
    Oh.

    Over what seems like the interminable days, weeks and months of the past Year of the Pandemic we’ve watched an awful lot of TV.

    Because we’re Old School and can’t always be dealing with modern tech.

    And one of the things we’ve watched quite a few times is Groundhog Day.

    And since we couldn’t get out and about filming our usual educational stuff, we thought it might be an interesting – and perhaps a little thought-provoking – exercise to build a commentary around the film and its take on the psychology of happiness.

    So we did.

    Even though it took many months to put together, we’ve eventually managed to construct a 10-minute film based around the events of GHD (as we’ve come to know and love it) that poses the question:

    “Could a film really help you make changes to your life that could make you happier?”.

    And one of the answers we came up with is that Groundhog Day seems to have touched on a common human experience; feeling trapped in a repeating cycle of daily life that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere (sound familiar?).

    And while the solution to Lockdown Life seems obvious – get a new life, get what you think you want – there’s a problem.

    Decades of psychological research have shown how little changes in life circumstances affect our long-term happiness, something psychologists call the hedonic treadmill: running very fast to stay in exactly the same place.

     And this is where Groundhog Day comes in.

    We see someone finally finding happiness and fulfilment, even though everything around them stays exactly the same.

    And so Groundhog Day and the Psychology of Happiness uses extensive footage from the Bill Murray classic as the background for an exploration of both the psychology of happiness and our understanding of how we might achieve some form of personal happiness in these difficult times.

    Or something.

    Sociological Insights: A Curated Collection of ASA Videos

    Thursday, February 18th, 2021

    The American Sociological Association seems to take a genuine interest in the study of sociology at all levels – from the humble High School classroom to the rarefied strata of postgraduate specialisms – and their latest initiative is the creation of what they’ve called Sociological Insights:

    A curated collection of short videos, featuring sociologists sharing their expertise on some of the most pressing topics today”.

    Sociological Insights…

    And while these sociologists are, as you might expect, uniformly drawn from the ranks of American Academia and the “pressing topics” are resolutely focused on those most-pertinent to Americans and American Society – from privatised Health Care, through Evangelical Christianity, to gun crime and Black experiences of discrimination – this doesn’t mean the films don’t have value for Non-North American’s (as the rest of the world is known. Probably. I haven’t actually checked).

    On the contrary, there’s enough sociological content within each film to enable those outside the American purview to look past the specific-specifics in order to embrace and apply the more general principles involved across 6 broad categories of film:

    1. Criminal Justice encompasses illegal drug markets, the police and racism, racialised police misconduct and mass incarceration.

    2. Poverty touches on areas like food insecurity and the working poor.

    3. Environment covers areas like poverty and environmental harm and the politics of climate change.

    4. Gender – probably the most-accessible for non-American audiences – looks at gender inequality in the home, the complexity of gender identity and how “women are challenging traditional gender norms in the craft beer scene”.

    5. Technology and Aging involves online dating amongst the elderly and social networks for seniors.

    6. Miscellaneous includes the gun control debate, religiosity in America, Hate Crime, Health Care and immigration.

    The format is pretty standardised across all of the films: American sociologist talking to camera about their research interspersed with film to illustrate their ideas and arguments.

    And all in under 3 minutes.

    The Impact of Social Media

    Monday, February 15th, 2021
    Student Pack…

    This set of free resources is the outcome of a collaboration between the Hong Kong University Department of Sociology (who may just take the prize for “Worst Designed Home Page. Ever”. Take a look, if you dare and tell me it doesn’t make you feel queasy) and the UK’s Very Own OCR Exam Board.

    Aesthetics aside, what’s on offer from this collaboration is a set of free teaching resources focused on the sociology of social media, the most-immediately useful of which, for UK-based teachers, are likely to be the Teacher (available as pdf or docx files) and Student Packs (similarly available in pdf or docx format).

    UK OCR Resources

    The Teacher Pack offers an overview of the resources in terms of things like the aims and objectives of the Project, how the materials link to the OCR Specification and suggested ways to use the resources) while the Student Pack provides a range of questions and activities, many of which are linked to the University of London’s “Why We Post” research on the uses and consequences of social media. 

    PowerPoint Presentation…

    The third element to the resource is an extensive (44-slide) PowerPoint Presentation containing a whole host of interesting information, videos and activities based around the notion of “Seeing society through social media”.

    While the Packs and Presentations are all (obviously) focused on the OCR Spec. there’s plenty here for teachers of other Specs. to use, either “as is” or with a bit of judicious tweaking to fit them to the requirements of the course you’re teaching.

    HKDSE Liberal Studies Resources

    There are further resources available to support the HKDSE Liberal Studies course, focused around the idea of “Conducting Independent Enquiry About Social Media”. While the general focus of these resources – students producing “a report of not more than 4,500 words” (something that gives me a flashback to the old OCR Research Report) – is no-longer applicable to UK Specs (more’s the pity…) there are still some useful resources on Research Methods (operationalising concepts, choosing a research method, quantitative and qualitative data…) that might be worth a gander to see what might be usefully cannibalised.

    HKDSE Resources

    Sociology Texts: Another Big Bundle of Free

    Sunday, February 14th, 2021

    One of the things we like to do on this blog is discover and post orphaned sociology textbooks – as in texts published sometime this century that have either gone out of print or been superseded by later, bigger, more-colourful, All-Singing-All-Dancing versions – for the benefit of teachers and students in these straitened economic times.

    I like to think we’re giving these texts something of a new lease of life because even though they’ve been replaced by a newer version, much of the information they contain doesn’t suddenly become irrelevant or worthless – you just need to be aware that using slightly older texts can have a few potential downsides:

    1. Specifications change, both in terms of the Modules they cover and their content. Twenty years ago, for example, AQA included a Module on Power and Politics that has long-since disappeared from exams and textbooks.

    2. Statistical data does go quickly out-of-date and is likely to be more current in tater versions of texts. Against this, keep in mind that statistical data in even the latest versions of textbooks is likely to be 2 – 3 years out-of-date by the time a text is authored and published. Against this, textbooks aren’t a particularly great statistical resource anymore when all the most up-to-the-minute stats are freely available at the press of a few mouse clicks…

    3. Research cited in older texts may have been questioned or disproved by the time later texts are published and this is clearly a drawback as far as teaching is concerned. The extent to which this is actually a problem, given the texts republished here are, at most, 20 years old (i.e. they just about squeeze into contemporary definitions of, well, “contemporary”) is something you need to consider before using them.

    Free the texts…

    How to Slay Your (Exam) Demons

    Friday, February 12th, 2021

    I’m reliably informed (although, after a moment’s reflection, find it hard to actually believe) that someone called Sheena Hutchinson (no, me neither) once said that “Life is all about choices”.

    Choose wisely, Young Skywalker…

    Which, all-things-considered, is one of the most profound things you’re ever likely to read (at least on this blog).

    Or maybe not.

    You pays your money…

    And while few of these choices are as frighteningly-existential as that of “Daddy or Chips”, some come surprisingly close.

    Or at least they do according to CGP Books, purveyors and retailers of revision texts on subjects as diverse as Sociology and Psychology (and, as I’m contractually-obliged to say, “Other subjects”. But, honestly, why bother?).

    For CGP, apparently, as a student nearing the end of your course, “You have two options in life and two options only”:

    a. Exams?

    b. Demon Fighting?

    And, given their reputation for selling an attractive range of reasonably-priced revision products*, who am I – or indeed you – to argue?

    As you’re probably starting to realise, this is a stark choice and, as they wisely council, you should:

    Have a really good think before deciding. This is one of the most important decisions (and if you choose B, possibly the last) you’ll ever make”.

    Which is nice.

    Unless you choose demon fighting.

    Then probably not so much.

    Unless the “demons” you need to slay are Sociology or Psychology exams! (I’m guessing you probably saw what I did there?). In which case, as they expertly advise, choose “Option A: Learn your stuff, pass your exams and have a happy and prosperous future”.

    The alternative, in case you’re still weighing-up those life-choices, is “Option B: Don’t bother with exams, find a demon portal and spend your few remaining hours battling the beasts of the underworld until one of them kills you in a hideous and painful way”.

    Either way, the choice is yours

    And if you want my advice – it’s broadly free, although it may come with an unspecified range of strings and caveats – choose the Exam Door.

    Behind it you’ll find a solid and generally useful set of tips and tricks you can employ by way of preparing yourself for the stresses and strains of exams.

    And while a few of the tips are tongue-in-cheek – sleeping with your notes under your pillow will not magically transfer their contents to your brain – and peppered with puffs (of the non-dragon variety) for CGP Revision Books – I think you’ll find them helpful.

    Obviously. Or I wouldn’t have bothered posting them.

    This is “Dan”. He works in the dispatch dept.
    You could too if you make the wrong choice…

    Should you decide, for the purpose of slaying whatever demons haunt your personal psyche, to choose Option B, fighting your way to the end (of the page) should reveal a simple allegorical message about “demons” and “exams”.

    Unless I’ve read too much into it.

    In which case.

    Good Luck.

    * In the interests of full disclosure, I have no relationship, financial or otherwise, with CGP Books, their friends, relations, competitors or sworn mortal enemies. I may have once idly leafed through one of their books, but that’s about the extent of our so-called relationship.

    A-level Sociology Organisers: A new selection

    Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

    It’s been a while since I last posted any A-level Sociology Knowledge Organisers – a combination of both being a bit busy and a relative paucity of resources – and although this is something of a mixed-bunch, some fairly bog-standard stuff plus some rather more interesting efforts – unless you try them you won’t know if they’ll work for you and your students.

    Crime / Globalisation / Theory and Methods

    Crime and Deviance

    Crime and Deviance Questions: less a conventional Knowledge Organiser and more a set of questions with “knowledge answers” (trust me, they’re difficult to accurately describe but you’ll know what I mean when you see them). Covers lots of different areas, from perspectives through globalisation to media

    Crime and Deviance: King Charles 1 School: Again, not your standard Knowledge Organiser, this one combines elements of a glossary with key facts and figures and interesting stuff about crime and class, age, gender and ethnicity (key theories and research, in the main).

    Beliefs in Society Questions: As with their Crime and Deviance counterparts, a set of “questions with knowledge answers”. These cover things like theories of religion, organisations and secularisation.

    Families and Households

    Sociology Revision Notes: As the name suggests, less an Organiser, per se, and more a set of Organised Notes. These cover a lot of different areas but the Notes themselves are fairly sparse (and not a little superficial in places).

    Structures, family functions and diversity: Clearly constructed Organiser that identifies some of the main features of family life with the emphasis on diversity. There’s also stuff on marriage and divorce, conjugal roles and family change.

    Education

    Perspectives and Categories: Neatly constructed Organiser that identifies some of the main ideas students need to cover in terms of perspectives like Functionalism and Marxism and categories like class, gender and ethnicity.

    Education

    Learning Tables: These are laid-out as a set of Notes covering a couple of aspects of education – Marketisation / Privatisation plus Ethnic Differences in Educational Achievement. There’s also a reasonable Table looking at Researching Education that’s useful for methods in context.

    Methods

    Evaluating Research Methods: In the main, a set of tables that cover the advantage sand disadvantages of different research methods.

    Miscellaneous

    Crime / Globalisation / Theory and Methods: Extensive set of Learning Tables that, judging by the different designs, have been constructed by different teachers (or the same teacher at different times…). Most are colourful and interesting in terms of how they display essential ideas and information. One or two are just bare-bones efforts but overall, well-worth the download…

    GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Friday, February 5th, 2021

    Over the past couple of years I’ve posted a whole load of Sociology Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables as they’re sometimes known) and they continue – along with their Psychology counterparts – to be some of the most-popular posts on the site.

    Which must mean something.

    The last batch, however, seems to have been posted nearly 2 years ago, which means I either lost interest or, more-probably, exhausted the supply.

    In either case – and they’re probably not mutually-exclusive – you’ll be glad to know that while I was at a loose-end I decided to have a look around to see if there was anything new available and was pleasantly surprised to find there was.

    It seems schools and colleges have been busy encouraging teachers to create Knowledge Organisers like they were going out of fashion (although, by the time I get around to posting this, they probably will have).

    While there’s probably a sociological debate to be had about this, this is not the place and I’m not the person to initiate it. So, whatever your particular take on the question of Knowledge Organisers – as “just-another-tool in the teacher’s toolkit” to “a management tool that will revolutionise learning” – you can rest-assured that all you’re going to get here are a load of links to a variety of different types of Organiser.

    The twist, this time, is that these are all for GCSE Sociology (AQA mostly) because, unless I’m very much mistaken (unlikely I know) I haven’t previously posted any Organisers for this level…

    Click to see the Organisers

    PowerPoint Lessons: Sociology

    Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

    I chanced upon this series of “PowerPoint Lessons” from Eggbuckland Community College while looking for Knowledge Organisers (as you do) – and while the promised Organiser has either disappeared or was never posted the page contains a load of useful resources for those teaching Crime, Health, Media, and Research Methods (a rare outing for the Oxford Comma, in case you’re interested and, quite coincidentally an opportunity to create a tangential link to one of my favourite tunes…).

    These take the form of the aforementioned PowerPoint Lessons – sets of PowerPoint slides organised into topics that follow the (AQA) Spec. Crime and Deviance, for example, has 15 Lessons covering things like perspectives (Functionalism, Marxism, Interactionist), prevention, corporate and environmental crime, gender, ethnicity and a great deal more.

    The Lessons themselves generally consist of slides designed to encourage class discussions / research around specific ideas and topics – there’s a liberal sprinkling of questions and activities within each topic – rather than simple didacticism (although, having said that, some of the slides are explicitly designed to impart specific ideas and information).

    In general terms, therefore, I’d tend to see the Lessons as broadly indicative of the kinds of areas and information to cover on a particular topic rather than necessarily providing that information.

    This, of course, is No Bad Thing because it allows teachers working in different schools to add their own materials to the Lessons – one of the advantages of using something like PowerPoint is the ease with which it allows this to happen.

    Judging by the changing templates used these resources seem to have evolved over a period of years (the earliest seems to date from 2014), with their appearance becoming progressively more professional over time.

    The latest lessons on Research Methods, for example, look particularly attractive, even though this section is somewhat incomplete when compared to the Crime, Health and Media sections: currently (2021) there’s only coverage of three areas (Choosing a Method, Experiments and Questionnaires) – although it may, of course, just be the case that no-ones got around to adding further lessons yet.

    To round things off there are a few further resources on offer, such as guidance on how to approach different-mark exam questions (very useful) and a Revision Checklist and Health Mind Map that isn’t (not useful).

    Differential Educational Achievement: “Must Try Harder?”

    Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

    Explanations for differences in educational achievement based around concepts like class, gender, ethnicity and, for rather different reasons, age are well-known and generally covered comprehensively at High School and A-level, in relation to both “outside” and “inside” school factors. In terms of the former this includes a variety of material and / or cultural factors centred around the home, while for the latter the focus has tended to be on ideas like teacher labelling and, more-recently, applications of concepts like school climate.

    Educational Effort: Parents, Teachers, Students…

    In general terms, therefore, explanations at this level tend towards either the broadly structural (class, gender and ethnic differences) or the broadly actional (such as teacher – pupil relationships).

    More-recently a further, transgressive, approach has sometimes been introduced to acknowledge how concepts like class, gender and ethnicity intersect within educational systems to produce sometimes variable achievement outcomes. The most obvious example here is that while girls generally achieve more in the UK educational system than boys, upper class boys generally outperform middle-class and working-class girls. There is, however, a further dimension here, epitomised by De Fraja et al (2005).

    Their research took a more empirical approach that looked at “causes of differential achievement” by examining how relations at the level of the home, the school and the individual intersect in terms of “effort”. Or as they put it:

    This paper is based on the very simple observation that the educational attainment of students is affected by the effort put in by those participating in the education process: the schools attended by the students, the students’ parents, and of course the students themselves”.

    Their research in this respect offers a more-granular approach to understanding the specific mechanisms that account for differences in educational achievement at the individual level – something that could be helpful for teachers and students in two ways:

    Firstly, it provides an explanation for “deviant” achievement differences, such as some working-class children gaining significant educational achievements “against the odds” or some upper-class children not achieving in line with their social and economic peers.

    Secondly, their findings create a lot of space for the application of a wide range of specific explanations for differential achievement. This might include, for example, consideration of how concepts of social and cultural capital may be applied to pupil-teacher relationships.

    Main Findings and Methods

    Research Methods: Triangulation

    Thursday, January 7th, 2021

    Over the past few years the concept of triangulation has become increasingly central to an understanding of both research methodology and methods – their strengths, weaknesses and limitations in particular – at High School and A level and it’s a topic I’ve already addressed a few times in one form or another.

    Download the Abridged version…

    If you want to check out these resources, you’ll find both textbook chapters (Of Methods and Methodology: 5. Triangulation, The Research Process: Part 4) and Factsheets dealing with different aspects of the general concept – and if these aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger for “Quality Triangulation Resources” (it says here, admittedly because I wrote it) it’s your lucky day because I’ve chanced across an interesting document from the UNAIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Unit you might find useful.

    The pdf document – An Introduction to Triangulation – broadly follows Denzin’s (1970) triangulation typography as it looks at four general questions:

  • What is triangulation?
  • What are the different types of triangulation?
  • What are the strengths and weakness of the four types of triangulation?
  • Why do triangulation?
  • As an added bonus there are short sections on different types of data you might find helpful, either in the context of triangulation or research methods generally:

  • The differences between quantitative and qualitative data
  • Quantitative and qualitative data sources
  • Determining the usefulness of data
  • As you’ll notice if you decide to download the document, this is an abridged version that just focuses on the topics listed above.

    The full document is available as an online flipbook if you want it but unless you’re after a very short quiz and a quick glossary of key terms there’s not a lot extra to be had.

    Update

    If you want a visual complement to the above our latest (2021) short film introduces students to Denzin’s four types of triangulation:

    • data
    • researcher
    • theoretical
    • methodological.

    The film – previewed below – outlines and illustrates each type using an example drawn from real-world sociological research and concludes with a brief outline and assessment of the broad benefits and limitations of each of these different types.

    Psychological Applied Learning Scenarios (PALS)

    Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

    Psychological Applied Learning Scenarios represent a teaching method designed to encourage students to get actively involved in the teaching and learning process by applying their psychological knowledge to “real world” situations.

    Cognitive Scenario

    Or as the OCR Exam Board puts it:

    “One of the central skills required in any psychology exam is being able to apply psychological theory to real world situations…students will have to show their practical application skills by recognising the psychological content in a novel source, making evidence-based suggestions in relation to the source and consider the strengths and weaknesses of the suggestion(s) they have made.”

    To this end the PALS resource provides 7 examples of scenarios drawn from different psychological areas (social, cognitive, biological, individual differences, developmental) and perspectives (behaviourist, psychodynamic), plus some suggestions for further possible scenarios that are identified but not developed.

    The basic idea here is that students are required to analyse the scenarios psychologically in order to understand and explain them, something they do by following a relatively simple 4-step structure applied to each scenario:

    1. Identify the psychological content / issue / problem embedded within the scenario.

    2. Select and outline the psychological research that could be applied to an understanding of the scenario and show how it relates to the issue or problem previously identified.

    3. Apply the research / knowledge you’ve identified to the scenario and suggest how it could be modelled in real life.

    4. Evaluate your suggestion across a range of areas – from strengths and weaknesses through practical or ethical issues to methodological issues and debates.

    While this is a resource created by and for OCR to reflect the specific requirements of their particular exam, the basic principles involved in the PALS system could easily – and usefully – be adapted and applied to teaching and learning across a range of Specifications, for both Psychology and Sociology.

    Hate crime

    Saturday, December 19th, 2020

    In the UK, hate crime is defined by the criminal justice system in terms of 5 broad categories:

  • race or ethnicity
  • religion or beliefs
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • transgender identity.
  • and police recorded hate crime statistics are released annually by the Home Office.

    While these are an important and useful source of information for students and teachers they can be a little dry and dusty, so if you can’t be bothered to trawl through the Report looking for the key results, selected lowlights are as follows:

  • Over 100,000 hate crimes were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2018/19 – an increase of 10% over the previous year.
  • Increases in hate crime over the past 5 years have mainly been driven by improvements in police crime recording (i.e. they are increasingly likely to recognise and define certain actions as hate crimes). Spikes in hate crime do, however, occur in response to specific events (e.g. the EU (“Brexit”) Referendum in 2016 and terrorist attacks in 2017).
  • Race hate crimes account for around 75% of such offences.
  • There were increases in all categories of hate crime:
  • religious hate crimes increased by 3%
  • sexual orientation hate crimes increased 25%
  • disability hate crimes increased by 14%
  • transgender identity hate crimes increased by 37%
  • Half (54%) of all hate crimes recorded by the police were for public order offences (such as public alarm or fear of distress).
  • One-third (36%) of all hate crimes recorded by the police involved violence against the person.
  • The most serious forms of hate crime (5% of all offences) involved criminal damage and arson.
  • And if your students need a little more background information about the concept of hate crime:

    Race and the Criminal Justice System

    Friday, December 18th, 2020

    Official statistics on the relationship between “race” (ethnicity) and the criminal justice system in England and Wales, as you probably secretly suspect, are the kinds of things that teachers and students tend to file under the “worthy but dull” heading.

    About half the complete infographic…

    On the one hand it’s a relationship that’s useful to recognise and broadly understand as part of a crime and deviance module.

    On the other it tends to be really dry and difficult to digest.

    When even the Executive Summary (the short introduction everyone skims through because they really can’t face trawling through the full Report, but which gives us a nice warm feeling inside, safe in the pretence that at least we tried) tends to be just a long list of statistical observations there’s not really much incentive for teachers – let alone their students – to take the time to get to grips with this information.

    Which is a shame, because you know there’s actually a lot of good stuff in the Report, if only someone would take the time and effort to present it in a way that’s both short and visual.

    Happily for everyone concerned that’s just what the Ministry of Justice (something that, in passing, sounds as though it should be headed-up by Judge Dread) has decided to do by producing a nice Infographic that contains all the information you’re likely to need to keep your students up-to-date with the latest developments in all things “Race” and, indeed, “Criminal Justice”.

    Which is nice.

    Despite their scary-sounding name.

    Sociological Research Articles

    Thursday, December 17th, 2020

    I found this document lurking on a hard drive and while I’ve absolutely no idea from where it originally came, the metadata says “2008” and since it’s called “Sociological Research articles (since 2000)” it’s a fair bet it contains articles published between those two dates.

    As you can see, very little gets past me.

    Digging a little deeper – i.e. I read the blurb inside the cover – it’s an old Connect Publications err…publication that seems to have once been part of a CD-Rom (remember them? Me neither).

    Anyway, Connect was a company originally created and run by Pete Langley before he moved on to bigger and Even Bigger things so I’m guessing it’s long out of print (if that’s the right way to describe a little piece of shiny plastic filled with digital data?) and no-one’s going to argue the toss.

    The involvement of Janis Griffiths, Jonathon Blundell and Steve Chapman (although the latter only rates a “Thanks”, not a “Name on the Door” credit, so I’ve no idea what his involvement was. I’m sure he’ll probably tell me sometime) suggests, to me at least, some sort of ATSS (RiP) involvement, but I could be wrong.

    The pack is basically a set of articles, drawn from what looks like an early 2000 AQA Spec. that covered stuff that’s still standard on most UK Sociology Specs (Families and Households, Culture and Identity, Poverty and Welfare, Education, Health, Religion and Beliefs, Mass Media, Crime and Deviance, Stratification and Differentiation), each of which is broken-down into a set of easily-digestible chunks running across no-more – and no-less – than 2 x A4 pages:

  • Context
  • Methods
  • Key Findings
  • Evaluation
  • Links to Key Debates
  • Each section has between 3 and 7 articles and these are roughly representative of the general popularity of the Module in question (crime and deviance has quite a few, poverty and welfare not so many…) and while the articles are around 15 years old there’s still some useful information here.

    Plus, if you’re so inclined, the general thinking behind the project is a neat template for presenting more contemporary articles to your students (or, at least, getting them to think in terms of the categories from which each article is constructed).

    Psychological Research Methods: A Practical Approach

    Thursday, December 17th, 2020

    I know I said the Teacher Guides were the “third and final” post in this series of Psychology Lesson Elements and Delivery Guides but I may have been caught up in the moment and hence guilty of slightly over-exaggerating things, vis-à-vis the finality angle.

    In other words, I’ve found another OCR Resource that both complements the preceding stuff and which, if you teach Research Methods, either as part of OCR or some other Specification – that will be everyone, then – you will probably find useful.

    A Handbook of Practical Investigations provides 14 ready-made Research Examples students can carry-out – online or within the classroom – broken down into the following areas:

  • Laboratory experiments x 2
  • Repeated measures design experiment
  • Laboratory experiment using independent design
  • Self-report methods (questionnaires) x 3
  • Self-report methods (interviews)
  • Observational methods x 3
  • Correlational methods x 3
  • Each section provides a research scenario such as the following for a laboratory experiment:

    “You are asked to design a practical project to investigate whether chewing gum improves concentration. Your project must use an experimental method, must have an independent measures design and must collect quantitative data.”

    Hint: your project could measure concentration by giving participants a page of text to read, and asking them to cross out every letter ‘e’ they read in a fixed time of 30 seconds.

    You will need: Several packs of chewing gum, photocopied page of any text/book.

    The scenario is followed by a series of questions students are required to answer about the research they’ve done. This covers things like the method and procedure of the research, advantages and disadvantages of their design, ethical problems and how they can be resolved and the like.

    If there’s nothing in the provided examples that particularly tickles your fancy you can, of course, provide your own for your students to carry-out, based on the principles outlined in the Handbook.

    And if your students need a little extra preparation before embarking on any, or indeed all, of the research examples, you might want to check-out the following short films, created specifically for A-level / High School Psychologists, that are available to rent (one week) or buy “at very reasonable prices”:

    Experimental Methods

    Experimental Design

    Ethics and Ethical Issues

    Correlations

    Laboratory Experiments

    Non-Experimental Research Methods

    Naturalistic Observation

    Sampling

    Self Report Research Methods

    Psychology: Teacher Guides

    Thursday, December 10th, 2020

    The third – and final – OCR A-level Psychology offering complements the two previous posts on Lesson Elements and Delivery Guides in the shape of a set of Teaching Guides designed to help teachers (yes, really) get to grips with essential course information.

    Criminal Psychology Guide…

    While the majority of Guides focus on providing detailed overviews of key psychological research studies (in terms of areas like methods, sampling and key findings) you’ll also find help on relating the core studies in the Specification to different areas and perspectives, question banks on different areas of the course and a couple on teaching and learning techniques.

    As ever, even if you don’t follow the OCR Psychology Specification there’s a load of stuff here that’s worth a rummage because some of it will undoubtedly relate in some way to whatever A-level / High School Specification you’re teaching.

    The Guides

    Areas and perspectives in a nutshell

    Core studies overview and how they provide new understandings of behaviour

    Child psychology key research guide

    Criminal psychology key research guide

    Environmental psychology key research guide

    Guide to core studies

    Guide to core studies (part 2)

    Relating core studies to psychological areas and perspectives

    How the contemporary study changes our understanding of individual, social and cultural diversity

    Issues in mental health key research guide

    Sport and exercise psychology key research guide

    Question bank: Psychological themes through core studies

    Question bank: Research methods

    Spaced review and interleaving

    Guide to flipped learning

    Psychology: Delivery Guides

    Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

    In keeping with the precedent established all of two days ago with the Sociology Lesson Elements and Delivery Guides, I thought it might be useful to add a range of Delivery Guides to complement to rather large number of Psychology Lesson Elements previously posted (and if you’ve kept up with all of that, you’re a better person than I).

    A bit like a workscheme…

    So what, you might be thinking (I know I would be) is the difference between a “Lesson Element” and a “Delivery Guide”? Well, the simple answer is:

    • Guides resemble Schemes of Work in that they break-down a general Specification component, such as Criminal psychology, into “Topics” (“What Makes a Criminal?”) and then suggest a range of tasks and activities to help you teach that topic.
    • Elements, on the other hand, are specific tasks, activities and the like designed to illustrate a concept, theory or whatever.

    While it doesn’t take much imagination to see that the latter may be incorporated into the former, the Delivery Guides are, as you might expect, a little more structured in terms of what they offer:

    1. Curriculum content: an introductory overview of what’s covered in the Module.

    2. Thinking conceptually identifies some of the key concepts involved in the Module in greater or lesser detail.

    3. Thinking contextually offers a series of teaching activities designed to get students thinking about the content being studied in terms of the various topics involved. The pdf document includes two types of Resource Link: external to stuff like YouTube and internal to Learner Resources for completing tasks / activities (the latter are included at the end of the document).

    While this is all geared towards a specific Exam Board, teachers of other Specs. will doubtless find a lot of what’s provided relevant, even though it might take to little looking around for…

    Click here to go to the guides…

    Psychology: Lesson Elements

    Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

    As with its sociological counterpart – except more-so, this set of resources from the OCR Exam Board is designed to support teaching and learning for their A-Level Specification and while some of the resources may fall outside the scope of other Specifications there will probably be plenty here that doesn’t.

    Ethics

    In other words, you can easily fill-your-boots with these Lesson Elements, whether or not you happen to teach OCR Psychology.

    And by “lesson elements” we basically mean small(ish) group and individual tasks, relatively simple classroom activities and worksheets.

    Lots of worksheets (although if you want to lighten the load a little I’ve added links to our Psychology films that I think might fit well with the worksheet. These are available to either rent or buy).

    A little oddly some of these are provided as “blank” activity sheets (i.e. questions are asked and the space for student answers is left empty) while others consist of instructions for teachers with sample answers (i.e. they contain suggested student answers). There’s probably a way around this problem, but’s its probably one that should have been easily avoided.

    But what the heck, this stuff’s free and we maybe shouldn’t quibble too much about what’s on offer, particularly when there’s so much of it (around 3 times more than what’s been provided for sociologists, by my calculations) distributed across three broad categories:

    Click for Lesson Elements,,,

    Sociology Delivery Guides

    Monday, December 7th, 2020

    At some point around 2015 – presumably just in advance of the new Sociology Specification – the OCR Exam Board burst into action by creating not just the Lesson Elements previously posted and a short-but-useful set of Topic Exploration Packs on various sociological perspectives, but, more-importantly for our current purpose, a series of Lesson Delivery Guides designed to, err, guide teachers delivery of lessons I guess.

    Unlike their elemental counterparts, the Delivery Guides cover the complete Specification in terms of Modules, though obviously not in terms of lessons because that would be asking a bit too much.

    For the sake of consistency and clarity, each Guide is structured in terms of three main categories:

    1. Curriculum content is a brief overview of what’s covered in the OCR Module. If you follow a different Specification you can happily ignore this section, although since most UK Specs have a degree of overlap it can be useful to check-out what’s being covered.

    2. Thinking conceptually identifies some of the key concepts involved in the Module in greater or lesser detail (Family, for example, has a comprehensive conceptual coverage, Research Methods not so much). Again, even if you don’t follow the OCR Spec. there’s a lot here that will be relevent to other Specs.

    3. Thinking contextually offers a series of teaching activities designed to get students thinking about the content being studied (although, for some reason, the Socialisation activities also include the aforementioned Lesson Elements, whereas the Globalisation activities do not. Go figure…).

    While the activities are tailored to the OCR Spec., teachers of other Specs. are likely to find some activities relevant to their own Spec. so it’s worth having a look through the relevant Guides just to see if there’s something worth pinching…

    Click to see the guides

    Sociology Lesson Elements

    Sunday, December 6th, 2020
    A Lesson Element…

    This set of resources from the OCR Exam Board is, as you might expect, designed to support teaching and learning for their A-Level Specification. While some of the resources may fall outside the remit of other Sociology Specifications this isn’t to say that teachers of the latter won’t, with a little bit of judicious editing, be able to adapt stuff here to their own particular teaching needs.

    Lesson elements are, by-and-large, teaching and learning activities presented in two forms:

    1. PowerPoint Presentations designed for whole class consumption.
    2. Word documents designed for individual and small-group work (most have accompanying teacher instructions packs that include model activity answers).

    As far as I’ve been able to find – and believe me I’ve been led a merry dance around the Internet trying to collect these resources before eventually finding most of them in various nooks and crannies on the OCR site – the Elements only cover two areas of the Spec.

    1. Introducing socialisation, culture and identity covers some basic Introductory ideas and concepts taught by all sociology teachers at the start of a course.

    2. Globalisation and the digital social world covers various aspects of globalisation as it relates to areas like social media, social inequality and education. While I think this is pretty-much an OCR-specific Module there are elements here that teachers of other Specs. will find useful.

    As far as I can tell (and, as noted above, I’ve really tried to find out) these are the only two Lesson Elements that have been created. If you know otherwise, I’d be grateful to be pointed in their direction. It may be that these were intended to be some sort of “starter resource” for teachers and no others were produced.

    Although when I’ve looked at the Psychology Lesson Elements available there seem to be roughly 3 times more.

    Not that I’ve actually counted them.

    That would be a little sad.

    Perhaps they just ran out of money, time, patience, interest or whatever (please delete or add-to as you see fit) when it came to Sociology?

    Either way, there are some interesting resources here that you might want to examine:

    Click to access the resources

    Freedom To Teach: Collins

    Thursday, November 26th, 2020

    Despite – or maybe because? – this blog offering “articles and information by teachers for teachers” being the brainchild of a major UK Publisher it’s one that can probably be best described as an eclectic mix of the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly.

    The Bad involves the fact that although its earliest post dates from 10 years ago (a link to a Gender video whose sound has gone awol in the upload – which is a shame because I recognise it as one of our’s even though I didn’t work on it), it only contains 28 subsequent posts and has years when nothing at all has been posted.

    I’m also at a loss as to why the blog’s called “Freedom To Teach“.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems rather, well, meaningless?

    The Ugly is definitely the navigation system. Although the site looks fine – and someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to “mobilise” it – it’s difficult to find the stuff you really need to find. A technological triumph of style over substance.

    The Good, however, makes it worth persevering with the intermittent updates and wobbly navigation. Not only has the blog seen a relative upsurge in the past couple of months (okay, it’s only 2 posts after a 2-year dry spell, but what the heck) but the posts themselves are useful and, by-and-large, interesting.

    They’re also a bit of mixed bag – anything from masculinity through challenging student learning to Sociology Outside the Classroom (“school trips” to you and me, although San Francisco is probably well beyond the budget of most state schools…) – but they’re generally on the right side of good.

    Which makes it a shame there aren’t more of them.

    Family PowerPoints Bundle

    Sunday, November 15th, 2020

    This collection of PowerPoints for Families and Households comes from a variety of sources, only one of whom I know personally.

    Like all of the other Presentations, however, I know not from where it came.

    The Presentations cover a range of family-related issues and ideas, from different family perspectives, through the role of the family to areas like diversity, childhood, stability and decline and while they might accurately be described as “Something of A Mixed Bag” in terms of both design and content, they might save you a bit of time and effort.

    I’ve added a very short description of each Presentation but this is only a rough guide to content…

    Browse the Presentations…

    The Media and Moral Panics: 3 Short Films

    Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

    These films developed out of a range of interviews we did with a number of leading academics on the topic of the media and moral panics, one of which subsequently became the film “The Cannibal on Bus 1170 (Rethinking Moral Panics)” featuring the Canadian academic Heidi Rimke:

    More-generally, a key theme coming from many of the interviews was the relationship between media-generated moral panics and childhood – a reflection of the contemporary idea that children, in particular, are increasingly seen as “vulnerable individuals” who require adult protection from a range of dangers, not the least being the twin-headed threat of video games and social media.

    Sociologically, however, I was more-interested in looking at the historical development of media panics around technology in general because I think it both highlights our ambivalent relationship to powerful media, such as cinema and television, and also illustrates how moral panics around childhood don’t simply reflect contemporary fears but are rooted in long-standing power relationships between those who consume media and those who want to regulate that consumption.

    These three films, therefore, provide a broad overview of debates about media consumption and its relationship to a supposedly vulnerable group: children.

    Although the series focus is specifically the media and moral panics, the films are also useful for teachers and students looking for a different take on audience effects – particularly those models, such as the hypodermic syringe / magic bullet, that argue for direct and long-lasting media effects on susceptible audiences.

    Clcik to watch the 3 films

    500 Free Education Images

    Friday, November 6th, 2020

    If you create your own resources it’s highly-likely you’re going to want to use some sort of images to give them a little sparkle.

    A seventh-grader walks by a Black History Month display at Sutton Middle School on her way to class.
    Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

    And to do this you’ve either got to take the pictures yourself or “license” them from someone else. In other words, you Google what you need and no-one’s any the wiser (although if you’re lifting stuff from Corporate Entities like Ge**y – I’m not going to provide a link because they are an insufferably awful company – you’re going to have to contend with watermarked images that look a little naff).

    You’re also going to run the risk of a “Lawyer’s Letter” that, if we lived in an equitable world, would be seen as demanding money with menaces.

    But since we don’t, it isn’t.

    I’ve singled-out Ge**y but most, if not all, Corporate Image Mills behave in much the same sort of way.

    An additional problem is some schools and colleges laying-claim to copyright over the materials their employees (i.e. teachers) create for use in their classroom. Aside from a general managerial desire to be dickish, one reason for wanting to exert a copyright claim is that, somewhere down the line, an institution could market or license these resources without the need to get the agreement of the creator.

    Or, indeed, remunerate them.

    While this is a complex legal area in the UK – proving a teacher produced resources for use in their classroom on “school time” could be tricky – using copyrighted images in such resources would, at best, be problematic.

    There is, however, a Third Way (remember that?) and this involves sourcing images from organisations that operate under various Creative Commons rules and licenses.

    A sixth-grade math teacher writes on the board during a lesson about music and math.
    Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

    All that’s generally required to use an image is to include a credit to the creator – in this case, step-forward “Allison Shelley” and her completely-free “American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action” pix.

    The collection consists of 500 “original print-quality photos” of people in a variety of educational contexts and categories – from pre-school to high school, computer labs to outdoor learning, teacher to – you probably get the picture (pun totally intended).

    Open Source

    If this isn’t enough, the burgeoning OER (Open Educational Resource) Movement – mostly, it must be admitted, based in and around the United States – provides a range of Open-Source textbooks including substantial volumes for Sociology and Psychology.

    An open-source text is one that anyone can use as is for free.

    Alternatively, you can take the base text and modify it – add stuff you need, take away stuff you don’t – to your heart’s desire. This could be very useful if you wanted to take and adapt some of the original text to create an original resource.

    As long as you acknowledge the source, you’re home free.

    Online Classroom: Family Study Packs

    Thursday, November 5th, 2020

    Back in the day, when I was working for a company called Online Classroom, we produced a range of booklets, for both GCSE and A-level, that were sold online (hence the name…).

    To cut a long story short, when Online Classroom was sold to a video distribution company called Clickview in around 2009 they weren’t in the market for ebooks and a number of proto-projects went into abeyance – or, if you prefer, into a black hole from which they were destined never to emerge.

    Until now, as I was searching through a load of Family resources to see if there was anything worth posting. And found these that, to be perfectly honest, I’d forgotten about.

    The Packs were written by Craig Chester and designed around 4 key areas:

    1. Key Theorists

    2. Summary of Key Research

    3. Evaluation

    4. 20 Questions (based on and around the information in the Pack)

    As far as I can tell the Packs covered 2 main areas, Family Diversity and Childhood. There may have been more but if there were, I can’t find them.

    Anyway, the Packs are short, colourful and hopefully informative – although, as I’ve suggested, they are around 10 years old so the information they contain may be a little bit dated.

    The Packs…

    Family Diversity: Marriage and Cohabitation

    Family Diversity: Divorce

    Family Diversity: Alternative Structures

    Family Diversity: Other Household Structures

    Family Diversity: Ethnicity

    Childhood: Social Construction

    Contemporary Childhood

    Study Skills Resources

    Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

    The Welsh Exam Board site seems to have undergone a rather drastic culling of it’s once-outstanding sociology resources – all I could find was a rather sad Flash movie on gender socialisation that will cease to function on January 1st 2021, some interesting and extensive Crime and Deviance resources that are definitely worth digging around and a Research Methods section that’s quite substantial, looks very nice in all its html5 glory but which, when all’s-said-and-done, doesn’t actually offer very much more than you’d find on the (static) pages of a textbook.

    A Functional PowerPoint

    There is, however, an interesting Study Skills section – a mix of Word and PowerPoint documents – that seems to have survived and even though most of the documents were created a good few years ago (and then some – although we are at least talking 21st century) there’s no reason why some – or indeed all – couldn’t happily find a place in your teaching.

    The materials broadly cover things like essay-writing, evaluation and revision and while they’re clearly aimed at WJEC students they’re generic enough to apply to other exam boards.

    Although the materials are fairly basic in terms of presentation (and occasionally weirdly-strident in tone – the Guide to Revision reads like it was written by a teacher who was particularly frustrated by their students inability to follow simple instructions and is writing on the verge of some sort of apoplectic explosion…) but they’re generally functional enough and the PowerPoint’s in particular are informative and helpful.

    McDonaldisation resources

    Sunday, November 1st, 2020

    Ritzer’s concept of McDonaldisation is a well-known phenomenon that’s characteristic of modernity and modern societies and there are a range of simple resources that can be used to get the idea across to students:

    An Amazon Warehouse that could be anywhere in the world…

    This poster, for example, identifies and outlines 5 distinctive processes in the rationalisation of society and culture.

    This textbook has a short section (Focus on Research, page 20) that applies the concept to Higher Education.

    This PowerPoint includes McDonaldisation (among other useful things) linked into ideas about global culture.

    Global Homogeneity or Diversity is an exercise that uses McDonaldisation to illustrate the homogeneity side of the argument.

    Finally, “Our fake book exposed Amazon’s fatal flaw” is an article that provides a contemporary example of the application of McDonaldisation on a global scale and proves, once again, that Amazon is the sociological gift that just keeps on giving…

    New Media: The Rise of the Selfie

    Sunday, November 1st, 2020

    Sociology Media Specifications have, in recent years, started to focus a little more on the rise of new forms of media, particularly social media like Facebook and Twitter, but one area that’s not particularly well-covered is the idea of Selfie culture – either as a personally-shareable form or, increasingly, as an integral aspect of something like Instagram-culture (which is, as they say, a whole other story that’s probably better left to another day).

    If you want to explore Selfie-culture in a little more detail this set of 22 slides on the Sociological impact of Selfies is a useful place to start.

    Once you’re done with that, if you want to take things a little further, you can use incorporate selfies into a lesson plan as a tool through which to explore areas like Simulacra and Hyperreality.

    Global Development: The Purpose of Aid?

    Sunday, November 1st, 2020
    The Reality of Aid?
    Up-market flats and “east Africa’s largest shopping centre”.

    When looking at areas like Global Development and the “Aid vs. Trade” debate, it’s easy for students to simply assume that “Aid” involves richer nations donating money and resources to poorer nations which is then used to improve the general life and living-standards of their citizens (a sort-of “Comic Relief” version of Aid).

    The reality – at least when it comes to nations such as Britain – is that Aid not only involves “donated resources” being used to support the behaviour, activities and share price of private Corporations (the idea of “Aid as Big Business”)

    it may also involve “development aid” going not to those who probably need it most (the desperately-poor, in case there was any confusion) but rather to various forms of speculative enterprises: from expensive residential developments, through up-market hotel complexes to exclusive gated communities designed for and inhabited by the super-wealthy…