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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.

At the time of writing (October 2018) there are over 500 individual posts on the Blog, so we’ve included a range of functions (on the bar to the right) to help you find the stuff you want:

• Search Box: if you’re looking for something specific (it’s not very clever so try to Keep It Simple).
• Popular Tags: identifies the most popular keywords used in posts (the larger the word, the more posts there are about it).
• Popular Posts: identifies the post that have had the most views.
• Categories: allows you to filter posts by Sociology, Psychology, Simulations and Toolbox.

Finally, you can use the Subscribe box to be notified by email each time a new post appears on the Blog (we guarantee not to do anything with your email address other than send automatic notifications).

Psychological Studies: A Free Text

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

40 Studies that Changed Psychology is a free (presumably because it’s around 10 years old and out-of-print) text I discovered while rooting around the Web that offers-up a selection of influential psychological studies that, in the opinion of its author Roger Hock, changed the way we think about – and in some cases do – psychology.

Whether or not you agree with the author’s claim (an alternative title – “A collection of psychological studies, a lot of which you’ve heard of, some of which you haven’t” – probably doesn’t have quite the zing of the actual title), students and teachers will definitely find something here of interest in its 10 chapters that cover:

• Biology and Human Behavior (sic)
• Perception and Consciousness
• Learning and Conditioning
• Intelligence, Cognition and Memory
• Human Development
• Emotion and Motivation
• Personality
• Psychopathology
• Psychotherapy
• Social Psychology

Each chapter contains 4 readings (Social Psychology, for example, features Zimbardo (1972) “The pathology of imprisonment” / Asch (1955) “Opinions and social pressure” / Darley and Latané (1968) “Bystander intervention in emergencies” / Milgram (1963) “Behavioral study of obedience”), each of which is sub-divided into sections covering:

• theoretical propositions
• research methods
• results
• discussion
• criticisms.

This consistency of presentation is an attractive feature that makes it relatively easy for students to hone-in on the main ideas in each reading, how the research was carried-out, the results it gave and a short discussion of the main criticisms it has attracted over the years.

Although the majority of the studies will only be of interest to psychology teachers, a few – Rosenthal and Jacobson, Rosenhan, Zimbardo, Asch, Milgram – will also be useful to sociology teachers.

Psychology Learning Tables | 6

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

It’s been a while (March 2018 if anyone’s interested. Anyone?) since I posted any psychology Learning Tables / Knowledge Organisers so I thought it might be helpful to post a few more to add to your growing collection.

As you may have noticed, I’ve decided to post the Tables in a slightly different way, as small collections of related areas rather than individually, on the basis that this is an easier and less cumbersome way of downloading the Tables. I have, however, indicated below exactly what each Collection contains.

The majority of the Tables have been created by, or under the direction of, Miss K. Elles and while some take the standard Knowledge Organiser format others take a more-sophisticated approach – an indication of A / C / E grade answers in a PEEL format. (more…)

School Climate: Narrowing the Gender Gap?

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

In a UK context, the relationship between gender and educational achievement – whereby girls consistently outperform boys at all levels of the education system – is both well-known and persistent. More-interestingly, per

Canford Public School: school climate may be affected by a range of external factors, such as the public perceptions of a school and its value.

haps, this situation is not, as Legewie and DiPrete (2012) note, confined to the UK, given that “boys generally underperform relative to girls in schools throughout the industrialized world”.

As you might expect, numerous explanations for the “gender gap” in achievement have been put-forward – biological, psychological and sociological – that variously focus on:

• outside school factors, such as poverty, innate intelligence or family background.
• inside school factors, such as teacher labelling or different types of pupil subculture.

More-recently, however, there’s been a tentative shift in (sociological) focus towards a more-integrated, holistic, approach to understanding the precise mechanics of differential achievement, one that places the concept of school climate centre stage.

School Climate

One of the benefits of a standardised secondary education system is that all students, regardless of social attributes like class or gender, follow the same basic curriculum, sit the same exams and are evaluated to the same basic standards. All things being equal, therefore, we might statistically and sociologically expect a fairly random distribution of achievement across a general population.

The fact there is a distinctly non-random distribution – higher socio-economic status (SES) groups achieve more than lower SES groups, girls generally achieve more than boys in each SES grouping – suggests things are far from equal. The problem, as we’ve suggested, is how to explain these skewed achievement distributions?

The concept of school climate involves the idea that a combination of material and cultural factors, centred in and around “the school”, inhibit or foster academic achievement.

The school, in other words, is the place where a range of processes – from social class backgrounds through pupil subcultures to pupil-teacher interactions – meet and interact and the main question to resolve, in terms of differential achievement, is whether or not schools are simply conduits through which wider social and economic inequalities pass. In other words, do schools simply reflect and refine wider inequalities or are they capable of mitigating and transforming them?

The Male-Female Gender Gap…

Legewie and DiPrete’s (2012) research in Berlin, Germany, suggests that school climate may be a significant, if largely-overlooked, factor in differential achievement, at least in relation to gender (although the research does have wider implications for both class and ethic differences).

Drawing on a range of research from Willis (1977) onward, they argue that one of the crucial variables in both achievement and underachievement is the concept of “gender differentiated adolescent cultures”, developed and reinforced in peer groups, that are “important influences on how children view school, whether they take school seriously, and how hard they work as students”.

In a nutshell they argue that adolescent constructions of masculinity in contemporary industrial societies generally foster a range of anti-school attitudes and behaviours that impact on boys’ levels of achievement relative to girls. While it’s not necessarily the case that these attitudes are overtly hostile to schooling, per se, Legewie and DiPrete argue there generally exists a “peer culture that constructs resistance to schools and teachers as valued masculine traits”. To put this another way, Younger et al (2005) suggest there’s strong evidence that, in the UK at least (and very probably elsewhere), the most valued ways of “doing boy” tend to be “anti-school”, with academic work closely associated with femininity “and effortless achievement as the ideal”.

While this resistance appears in male peer groups right across the class spectrum – upper-class girls, for example, generally show greater levels of achievement than upper-class boys – its effect diminishes the higher up the class structure we look: upper and middle class boys, for example, consistently outperform lower class girls.

One reason for this, Legewie and DiPrete suggest, is that “High-status parents generally foster an orientation for their boys that is at least instrumentally focused on high performance in school. These parents also have resources to intervene in their children’s lives to counter signs of educational detachment or poor performance”.

For lower-class males whose families lack such resources the types of successful interventions common among their higher-class peers necessarily fall on the school. Or not, as the case may be. Female peer groups, on the other hand, “vary less strongly with the social environment in the extent to which school engagement is stigmatized as un-feminine”.

In other words, female peer groups right across the class structure don’t see “resistance to authority and disengagement from school as core aspects of feminine identity”. One important consequence of this non-association, therefore, is that girls don’t see “attachment to teachers and school” as unfeminine.

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Gender and Subject Choice

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Another little bonus to add to yesterday’s offering from the work I’m currently doing on the concept of school climate and its possible effect on achievement.

This one comes in the form of a couple of pieces of research commissioned by the Institute of Physics that cover gendered subject choices at A-level.

Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools (2013) provides a raft of information on male-female representation across 3 “comparable pairs” of 6 A-level subjects:

• English and Mathematics: both core subjects at GCSE
• Biology and Physics: two science choices at A-level
• Psychology and Economics: A-level subjects not normally taught in earlier years.

Although the presentation, findings and commentaries are probably a little too dense to be given directly to students, there’s plenty here for teachers to get their teeth into and selectively use. There is, however, a neat summary of the research right at the start that students will find helpful.

It’s Different for Girls (2012) is a companion piece to Closed Doors focused much more tightly on Physics A-level. Once again, probably not something to simply hand-out to students but, again, it’s a piece of research that teachers’ might find selectively rewarding.

If, for example, you were looking for examples of a “school climate” effect in relation to gender, it’s interesting that while the socio-economic background of a school has, as you might expect, a significant effect in terms of the raw numbers of those studying physics at A-level, there is little effect on cohort proportions. That is, the proportion of girls and boys studying a-level physics is similar across all socio-economic groups – an observation that suggests factors additional to social class impact on subject choice.

DEA: Mythbusters

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

I’ve recently been looking at the idea of school climate and its possible relationship to the gender gap in educational achievement for a forthcoming blog post, a fact I mention for a couple of reasons:

firstly, because I think the notion of school climate and its possible impact on educational achievement is an interesting idea, both conceptually and practically, that’s not really been adequately, if at all, addressed in the A-level literature and, secondly, by way of trying to create the impression that I actually plan these blog posts. I’ll leave you to decide which, if any, of these is more important (but I know where I’m placing my bet).

I mention this by way of introducing a useful and informative document I chanced across called Addressing Gender and Achievement: Myths and Realities (2009) and published by what was then the Department for Children, Schools and Families (it’s anyone’s guess what it’s called now).

In a nutshell, the document sets-out to bust-some-myths about gender and educational achievement in a simple and straightforward way:

• state the myth (“Coursework favours girls and ‘sudden death’ examinations favour boys”).
• bust it with evidence (“Changes in assessment practice reducing the value of the GCSE coursework component have had little impact on gendered achievement patterns”).
• briefly explain the evidence.

As such, it’s not only a useful and informative little document, it’s also one that’s a decidedly student-friendly read (which is quite handy if you like to get your students to read stuff).

Crime and Deviance Theories

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

A little while back (maybe 5 or 6 years ago – I lose track) I created 3 Crime and Deviance Presentations that were, I like to think, quite ground-breaking at the time for their combination of text, graphics, audio and video – and while they may be looking a little dated now they still have a little mileage left in them. Probably. You can be the judge of that, I suppose.

Anyway, I think I only ever posted an early version of the Functionalism file and having rediscovered the files on one of my many hard drives I thought it might be nice to update the files slightly, mainly to fix a few little irritating bugettes, such as text not conforming correctly to the original font size and post them here.

The Presentations, which can be downloaded as PowerPoint Shows (.ppsx) in case you want to use them without the need to have PowerPoint, were, I think, originally designed as some sort of revision exercise, but I could be, and frequently am, wrong.

(more…)

Themes and Directives: Essay Planning

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

This short PowerPoint Presentation is a classroom tool teachers can use to introduce their students to a way of planning answers to high-mark, extended answer (essay) questions. As such, it’s designed to:

1. Introduce the idea of Themes and Directives as planning tools.
2. Show students how to use these tools through a worked example.

The Presentation is effectively in two parts:

• if you only want to introduce the planning tools you can do this and then end the Presentation. The worked example is based on an essay question (“Outline and Assess Interactionist Theories of Crime and Deviance”) you may not want to use, which is one reason for dividing the Presentation in this way.

• if, on the other hand, you want to show your students how to use the tools you can use the complete Presentation. Each of the slides has full explanatory Notes if you need them.

However, you decide to use it, the Presentation is built around two ideas:

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(Knife) Crime, Deviance, Media and Methods

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Because. LONDON!

“Knife Crime” as you’re probably aware, is increasingly in the news, particularly, but not exclusively, in London (because, quite frankly and a little rhetorically, is there anywhere else of any great significance in England?).

And while there are Definitely | Maybe | Probably (please delete as inapplicable) all kinds of reliability issues surrounding what counts as “knife crime” (and, indeed, how what counts can actually be counted) that you could explore if you were so inclined, a more pressing social (and, as it happens, sociological) problem is “Who’s responsible?”.

This, of course, is not an idle question and happily, if that’s the right word, both the social and the sociological problem meet around the notion of “gangs” (and “youth gangs” in particular).

However, before we start to develop some sort of hypothesis that might explain the relationship between “youth gangs” and the increase in serious knife crime (“knife crime with injury”) you might want to try this simple, single question, quiz on your students as a prelude to the serious stuff of explaining the data.

As befits my sociological inexactitude I’ve formulated the quantitative quiz in either of two ways (one open-ended, the other closed-ended):

And you call that a Staffie? Really? Sort it out!

Either:

Q1. In your own words, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” in London is committed by youth gangs?

Or:

Q1. In London, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” is committed by youth gangs?

1. 45%?
2. 4%?

(more…)

Stealing to Offer: A Market Reduction Approach

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

While Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) strategies come in many forms, the majority focus on identifying and developing ways to stop an offence taking place.

Market Reduction Approaches, however, while sharing a similar crime reduction / elimination objective, are a little different because their focus is on preventing offenders profiting from various forms of economic crime, such as theft, by reducing the markets for stolen goods.

While this may seem a little counter-intuitive – how effective is a “crime prevention approach” that says little or nothing about actually preventing crime? – there is evidence to suggest (Sutton, 2008) that preventing offenders liquidating stolen assets is an effective form of crime prevention and control.

In general, ideas about Situational Crime Prevention fall into two main categories:

1. Reducing the potential benefits offenders get from their crimes.

2. Increasing the potential costs offenders face when deciding whether or not to commit a crime.

Most situational crime prevention initiatives have generally given greater attention to the latter, while less interest has been shown in the former. Although there may be a number of reasons for this, one possibility is the belief that increasing costs reduces crime and therefore obviates the need to address the “benefit reduction problem”: reducing levels of crime by increasing costs, so this argument goes, effectively takes the “benefit problem” out of the equation.

However, the idea that increasing the costs of crime actually reduces crime – as opposed, for example, to displacing it – is one that has come to be increasingly questioned, partly because it doesn’t address an offender’s underlying motivations for crime.

If, for example, one motive is to commit a crime, such as theft, in order to sell stolen goods for cash to buy drugs, making it harder and riskier to steal simply ups-the-ante for the offender, rather than necessarily preventing a crime from taking place.

A Market Reduction Approach (MRA) to crime takes the opposite view: rather than controlling crime by making the act itself more difficult and riskier, it argues that making it more difficult or, ideally, impossible, for offenders to benefit from their crimes – by restricting or eliminating their ability to convert stolen goods into cash for example – is a highly-effective form of crime prevention.

What’s their value if you can’t sell them?

In this respect, MRA suggests the costs of crime shouldn’t be treated as being separate from and unconnected to its potential benefits. Rather, such costs are, in effect, rolled-up into “a lack of benefit”, such as an inability to sell the goods you have stolen.

The logic here is that if you can’t convert what you’ve stolen – such as a mobile phone or computer – into cash, it takes away the incentive and motivation to steal them in the first place. This follows for two reasons:

1. There’s little point in taking the risk of stealing something if it is worthless to you (unless, of course, you particularly like hoarding mobile phones, computers, various electrical goods and the like)

2. You are left to store a range of worthless goods that, if discovered, may lead to jail time.

Sutton argues here that an effective MRA involves reducing:

• the number of offers of stolen goods made by thieves to potential buyers
• the outlets for stolen goods
• the number of thieves and handlers by encouraging them to explore non-criminal alternatives, rather than just alternative crimes.

The logic here is one that reduces the need to increasingly “raise the costs of crime” (with all its attendant private and public expenditure, inconvenience and so forth) by focusing police and public attention on reducing the benefits of crime. If an offender knows they will gain no benefit – because they can’t convert their crimes into cash – this removes most of, if not all, their motivation for crime.

This has the additional social benefit of both reducing the costs of dealing with offenders (through arrests, prosecutions, prisons and so forth) and reducing the risk of offending / re-offending; if a potential offender is demotivated by a sound knowledge of a lack of perceived benefit, there is little reason to suppose they will continue to offend.

(more…)

SWOTing for Success

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

A flexible organisational tool to help students identify, apply and evaluate perspectives, theories, concepts and methods.

A couple of previous posts (Make a Pitch and Selling Sociological Sausages) outlined a simple “branding activity” that could be used as a classroom-based exercise / simulation whereby students try to “pitch” or “sell” a perspective, theory or method and the pursuit of this idea led me, in a roundabout way, to SWOT – a standard type of organisational assessment-based tool built around four ideas: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The basic idea here is that by focusing on the key SWOT categories an organisation can assess:

• the things they do well (strengths)
• the things they do badly (weaknesses)
• their future goals (opportunities)
• the things that may prevent them reaching those goals (threats).

It occurred to me that this kind of simple organisational tool could – with a bit of tweaking – be used to help students identify, apply and evaluate their knowledge and understanding to just about any perspective, theory, concept or method, albeit in a similar way to the “Selling Sociological Sausages” idea.

However, on the basis that you can never have too many good ideas in your Teaching Toolkit, I thought it might be useful to at least outline the SWOT tool as a further option, mainly because it’s:

• easy-to-understand
• simple to apply
• clearly-organised and consistent
• applicable across any course (in this case sociology and / or psychology a-level).

(more…)

Make A Pitch: selling sociological sausages

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

In response to the silent clamour (that only I could hear apparently) for something a little more substantial and pdfeffy, I’ve created a short booklet based around the “Selling Sociological Sausages” Lesson Outline I’ve previously posted.

It’s basically a pdf version of the post, although it both clarifies the different versions and changes a few bits and pieces relating to the simulation / activity. While these changes are relatively trivial they do, I think, help to firm-up the exercise and, in one instance, make it a little more coherent.

The other thing I’ve done is change the name of the activity to Make A Pitch, with Selling Sociological Sausages as more of a sub-heading now. It doesn’t really change anything or make much of a difference but perhaps gives the casual browser a bit more of an idea about the nature of the activity.

The only other thing to note is that although I’m much too lazy (probably) to create a separate booklet, if you’re a psychology teacher it’s perfectly possible to apply the activity to your subject. All you really need to do is change “sociology” to “psychology” (oh yes) and substitute your own favoured perspectives, psychologists, theories or methods.

Selling Sociological Sausages

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

An outline for a simple “branding” activity that can be used to teach a wide range of ideas (from perspectives to methods). In providing a lesson outline the idea is to make the activity fairly loose to allow teachers to adapt it in ways that suit their particular style and level of teaching.

Although this is really just a simple evaluation exercise disguised as something a bit more interesting it does have its benefits. Things like:

• students more-actively engaged in their learning.
• targeted teacher time for those who need it.
• greater student investment in their learning.
• A focus on both knowledge and higher skills.

While you can make the activity as simple or as complex as you like (by adding or removing different layers), the basic idea involves choosing a sociologist / perspective / theory or method and asking students to “market it” as if they were selling sausages (other meat / vegetarian options are available).

• Divide the class into small groups (or work individually if you prefer).

• Each group takes on the role of a Marketing / Design Agency tasked with selling whatever you want them to learn (such as different sociological perspectives on education).

Simple Version

For a short version of the exercise:

• give each group a perspective on education to sell.

• their task is to “represent the brand” by designing an advertising proposal that shows it off in the best possible light to a customer (i.e. the focus will be on identifying and emphasising the strengths of the perspective).

• if you want to extend this you can also commission each group to design a proposal for “attack adverts” that aim to show competing perspectives in a poorer light (i.e. you identify and emphasise the weaknesses of competing perspectives).

For both tasks you need to remind students that as reputable agencies they must always be factual in their statements. If they are less than truthful their proposal may be rejected for falling foul of advertising regulations.

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Lend Your Mind To Science

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Testable Minds seems to be an off-shoot of Testable – a web site that provides a relatively simple way to create behavioural experiments and surveys (there’s a free option if you want to give it a try. Alternatively, if you’re merely curious about what the site can do there are a few examples to explore, including a picture naming test and a face detection test).

While Testable focuses on the creation of on-line experiments, for Testable Minds the focus is squarely on participating in online psychological and behavioural experiments.

In other words, it’s a way of recruiting respondents for whatever psychological experiment the researcher is currently running.

While this gives students, as the site suggests “the opportunity to contribute to our quest to understand how the mind works”, participating in the various experiments on offer has a couple of further attractions:

1. It gives students first-hand experience of psychological research. This could be useful for teachers who want to introduce a little real-world relevance to their classes.

2. Not only do students get to participate in and contribute to various real-life psychological experiments currently being conducted worldwide, they also get paid for the privilege of participating.

Admittedly the fees aren’t huge – typically $1 – $3 (around 75p – £2) per experiment – but given that you’re actually being paid to advance the sum store of the world’s knowledge (possibly), that doesn’t seem like too bad a deal.

Interactive Ethics

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Following-on from the previous post where I suggested how it might be possible to spin-off a discussion of research ethics from a naturalistic observation simulation, my attention was drawn towards this interesting offering from the Open University – an online “interactive challenge” designed to help students understand “why research ethics is really a researcher’s best friend”.

As you may have noticed, the OU Marketing Department seems pretty gung-ho in they’re advocacy of ethical considerations in social research.

And rightly so.

Probably.

Anyway. In this simple interactive challenge you’re “taken through a case to look at where and when you think the ethics committee might step in and why this would be necessary. Meet a fictional committee and become a member!”.

In other words, you’re introduced to a range of characters who might conceivably be part of a University Committee and then asked to give your opinion, based on the evidence presented, as to whether the research submission under consideration (“the role of the police and their attitudes towards sex worker ‘zones of tolerance’ i.e. the way sex workers may be allowed to operate in certain controlled areas in some UK cities) is ethical across four main criteria:

• Valid Consent
• Do no harm
• Data Protection
• Researcher safety

In basic terms you’re presented with some text about the proposed conduct of the research and then asked to give an opinion about its ethicality (a word I may just have invented) in relation to any of these categories.

The challenge only takes a few minutes (probably 15 at the most) and it’s a really neat way to introduce students to ethics, ethical issues and the role of an ethics committee.

It’s also Quite Good Fun.

Not words usually associated with a lesson on Ethics.

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Naturalistic Observation Lesson Plan

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to teaching research methods you can never have too many examples of lesson plans that either simulate the process of “doing research” or, as in the case of Bernard C. Beins (Counting Fidgets: Teaching the Complexity of Naturalistic Observation), turn it into a simple, but effective, lesson activity that:

• is easy to set-up and run
• requires very few resources
• involves very little pre-preparation
• is unobtrusive and relatively short
• produces a large amount of data for discussion, analysis and evaluation.

While the lesson plan is explicitly aimed at psychology students it’s equally useful for sociologists, because the overall objective is simply to provide a context – the classroom activity – that can be used to analyse and evaluate naturalistic observation in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.

And if you want to introduce your students to these ideas you could always throw a short video into the pre-discussion mix: Naturalistic Observation is available On-Demand to buy or rent as well as being available on our Non-Experimental Research Methods DVD that also includes Self-Report Methods, Correlations and Case Studies.

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